As there are every week in the NFL, several different plays altered the course of Week 9’s contest between the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. Change the outcome of just one of them, and it’s entirely possible the final outcome is completely different. The game of football is so damn fragile that even if a single player slips, it could have a dramatic butterfly effect on the rest of the day.
That is to say that Sunday’s upset victory for the Lions will not be defined by one play or one player. But at the same time, critical performances on critical downs deserve some special recognition. If there’s one thing this franchise has been missing for the past five or six decades, it’s players capable of making consistent plays in pivotal moments.
So today’s Question of the Day is:
What was the Lions’ play of the game vs. the Packers?
My answer: To define the play of the game, it has to fill two criteria for me: it has to be a phenomenal play and it has to come at a critical moment. While I think a pair of Kerby Joseph interceptions fit one or both of those criteria at times, my play of the game comes from a different member of the Lions secondary.
In a 0-0 football game, the Packers got aggressive on the Lions side of the field, opting to go for it on fourth-and-3. Rather than calling a more conservative chain-mover, the Packers dialed up a deep shot, and Aaron Rodgers laid a gorgeous pass 26 yards downfield to Allen Lazard. At first, it appeared Lazard made the catch in tight coverage, but upon review, it’s clear the active hands from Lions cornerback Will Harris and the contact with the ground jarred the ball loose, forcing the incompletion.
it's almost certainly gonna be overturned, but tremendous effort from Allen Lazard on 4th down pic.twitter.com/T4l3qmL2R6— Christian D'Andrea (@TrainIsland) November 6, 2022
This one is coming back. Would’ve been an amazing catch, but ball hit the ground when Allen Lazard landed. pic.twitter.com/tVTwaOSZdW— Ryan Wood (@ByRyanWood) November 6, 2022
On the play, Harris is slightly out of phase, being just a half-step behind Lazard on the deep shot. But the Lions cornerback uses excellent technique. Instead of turning to look for the ball and risking further separation (or losing sight of the ball), he reads the hands of Lazard. As soon as the Packers receiver’s hands go up, Harris attacks them in an extremely well-timed pass defense. That disruption was good enough to force the incompletion.
Not only did the play result in a turnover on downs—and erase at least three points off the board—but the good field position eventually turned into eight points for the Lions offense. We’re talking about, at least, an 11-point swing right before halftime, all thanks to an impressive play from Harris.
That’s my play of the game.