Even with Davante Adams already out for a second straight game with turf toe and Geronimo Allison knocked out of the game with a head and chest injury, the Packers still didn’t immediately turn to Lazard.
In fact, it wasn’t until after rookie receiver Darrius Shepherd dropped a pass at the Lions’ 1-yard line — it actually ricocheted off his facemask and was intercepted — that the Packers finally went to the relatively unknown 6-foot-5 receiver.
And not until Rodgers asked for him.
“I may have put in a good word there in the fourth quarter to get him some opportunities,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers said he went to receivers coach Alvis Whitted and asked “if [No. 13] could come in for a little bit.”
Four catches, 65 yards and a touchdown later, the Packers had a new hero. Yes, Mason Crosby officially finished off the 23-22 victory with a 23-yard last-second field goal — with his wife, Molly, in the stands a mere six weeks after she underwent surgery to remove a cancerous spot in her lung.
But if not for Lazard, who before Monday night had never caught a pass in a regular-season game from Rodgers, the Packers might not be 5-1 and atop the NFC North.
Down 22-13, Rodgers first went to Lazard on deep ball that fell incomplete. One play later, Rodgers went back to him, and it turned into a 35-yard touchdown.
It was Lazard’s first catch of the season and just the second of his career.
Last season, the former undrafted free agent from Iowa State who originally signed the Jaguars and then was signed by the Packers off Jacksonville’s practice on Dec. 18 played one snap and caught one pass for 7 yards. It came in the regular-season finale against the Lions after Rodgers had left the game because of a concussion.
Before Sunday, Lazard had played just 21 snaps and his only target wasn’t even an official target because pass interference was called in the Week 4 loss to the Eagles.
Yet there was Lazard after Monday night’s game oozing confidence.
“I’m made for this s—,” Lazard said.
Lazard’s other three catches all came on the game-winning drive. Two went for first downs.
“I actually sit next to him in the team meetings, and we’ve struck up a pretty good friendship,” Rodgers said. “The thing that got me was, which you love as a quarterback, and that’s receivers coming back and telling you he wants the ball and what routes he wants to run. The big first down we had to him on the out route, that was him coming back to the huddle and telling me what play he wanted. For a young guy to do that, how can you not have confidence in that.”
Rodgers said coach Matt LaFleur had two play calls in mind.
“I said go with the first one because I’m going to throw it to Allen and we’re going to move the sticks,” Rodgers said. “And we did.”
All this for a player the Packers cut at the end of training camp in favor of Shepherd.
“I was definitely worried he was going to get picked up because the production was there in preseason,” Rodgers said.
After no one claimed Lazard off waivers, the Packers re-signed him to their practice squad immediately and then promoted him to the active roster the day before the season opener at Chicago.
“I honestly just believed in myself,” Lazard said. “I knew what my capabilities were. I know the talent that I have, I know the production that I produced before. It’s a different stage, but it’s the same to me.”
It’s unclear when Adams will return; he said last week that his toe “doesn’t feel how I want it to feel at the moment.” And Allison’s injury could potentially be serious. But it’s clear Rodgers thinks he has a new reliable weapon in Lazard.
“I think sometimes you have an injury or whatnot or for whatever reason and that’s how some guys become who they are,” LaFleur said. “He was given his opportunity and to his credit, he was ready for that opportunity.”