Rodgers, LaFleur defend MVS after fumble in OT

  • Covered Packers for Green Bay Press-Gazette from 1997-2013
  • Two-time Wisconsin Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association

Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s fumble on the second play of overtime to set up the Indianapolis Colts’ game-winning field goal came just moments after the Green Bay Packers’ receiver hauled in a 47-yard deep ball from Aaron Rodgers that led to the game-tying field goal in the final seconds of regulation.

That’s Valdes-Scantling in a nutshell: an electrifying catch deep down the field one play and a maddening mistake the next.

“I know he’s really hurting right now,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said after Sunday’s 34-31 loss. “He made so many plays for us and not only in the pass game but in the run game, stuff that you guys probably don’t even notice that we’re not getting the yardage that we get if he’s not blocking his ass off.

“So I can live with MVS. I’ve got more confidence in him now than probably ever. I think he continues to get better each and every day. Every time we go out there, he’s providing big plays.”

Although Valdes-Scantling had only three catches for 55 yards, LaFleur pointed to the pass interference penalty that he drew late in the second quarter that set up a touchdown to give the Packers a 28-14 halftime lead. It was a 51-yard penalty on Colts cornerback Rock Ya-Sin.

“I can live with MVS, and we’re going to continue to live with him and just hope that he can continue to get better and better and better,” LaFleur said. “And I’ve got all the confidence in the world in him.”

Rodgers professed something similar.

“I have a lot of love for Marquez,” said Rodgers, who threw a swing pass to Valdes-Scantling in the left flat on the second play of overtime, only to see the ball knocked away by Julian Blackmon and recovered by DeForest Buckner. “I see the guy every single day, see how much he cares about it. It happens, unfortunately. A lot of it is fundamentals, carrying the ball, but I’ve had my fair share of fumbles. It was just bad timing, obviously. … But that stuff happens. He made a big play at the end of regulation to kind of get us going on third-and-10. Disappointed for him, disappointed for us.”

Valdes-Scantling, who was not made available for postgame interviews, said in a tweet that he received death threats after the game but noted that his team had his back.

It was Valdes-Scantling’s first career fumble in 42 games, but he has been plagued by drops and missed opportunities. He came into the game ranked 152nd among 153 qualified receivers in catch percentage (50%), according to ESPN Stats & information. He was below 50% until he caught four of his six targets against the Jaguars last week, and he ranks second among qualified receivers in drops (five).

The Packers were hoping that he’d be more consistent after his previous two games — four catches for 133 yards against the Jaguars and two touchdowns the previous game against the 49ers. Instead, it was another overtime game in which Rodgers barely got a chance to work some of the magic he did at the end of regulation, though there were questions about the last field goal drive and why he spiked the ball twice instead of taking another shot or two at the end zone.

“It’s something we’ll go back and look at and see how we can do things better,” LaFleur said of the two spikes. “You know, hindsight is 20/20, and we ended up kicking a field goal on fourth down with not a lot of time left to give them an opportunity to go back down and score. Certainly, I’m sure there are some times we could do better, but I was also proud of our effort in order to go from the 6-yard line against a really good defense and get it all the way down the field. I thought Aaron, I thought he battled. I thought he played his ass off, made so many plays for us. It always hurts when you don’t come out with the outcome that you want.”

There were also questions about the fourth-and-1 decision — and playcall — from the Colts’ 34-yard line in a 31-28 game with 3:11 left in regulation. Rodgers threw an incomplete pass intended for running back Jamaal Williams.

“The play was for Davante [Adams], and they doubled him,” Rodgers said. “We really got beat on the back side. That’s what didn’t allow me to kind of extend the play. I just threw it a little too far for him, but again, the play was for Davante. I liked the aggression from Matt.”

Rodgers dropped to 2-8-1 in overtime games, including playoffs. He has attempted 17 passes in overtime of those games and lost four times without touching the ball and three times on turnovers. Two of the three turnovers were by Rodgers.

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