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Packers HC Matt LaFleur: Quay Walker's penalty 'was bad' but 'not going to sit here and blame Quay'

Linebacker Quay Walker was one of the few Green Bay Packers players performing well Thursday night, gobbling up ball carriers by the handful against Detroit.

But once again, Walker committed a head-shaking penalty that put his club in a tough spot.

The Packers dug their way back into the contest, cutting the lead from 27-3 at halftime to 27-17 in the fourth quarter. Green Bay surrendered a long drive but forced Detroit to settle for a field goal, keeping it a two-possession game with half a quarter to play.

However, after a commercial break, officials announced a penalty on Walker for illegally leaping over the line. The mistake gave Detroit a fresh set of downs inside the 10-yard-line, which they eventually cashed in for a TD to push the lead to 17 points -- three scores -- all but ending the Packers' hopes of a miraculous comeback.

"You have to be within one yard of the line of scrimmage. You cannot get a running start and do that," coach Matt LaFleur noted of the penalty after the 34-20 loss. "It was bad. It was a bad deal."

LaFleur, who was seen by Prime cameras talking with the linebacker on the sidelines after the play, shouldered the blame for not making the rules clear to the second-year player.

"I'm not going to sit here and blame Quay," the coach said. "Obviously, we need to do a better job educating our players on what the rules are. Again, that's on me."

The context of Walker's penalty matters. Last year, in the team's Week 18 matchup against Detroit, Walker was ejected for pushing a member of the Lions training staff who attempted to tend to an injured player. That penalty proved huge in the loss that kept the Packers from making the postseason. We'll never know if Green Bay could have finished off a comeback Thursday had they only been down two scores. Walker's penalty made it moot.

The shame was that Walker was actually having a good game until the penalty. The second-year player recorded a whopping 19 tackles, several keeping Detroit from turning a modest gain into a big play. The 19 tackles are the most by a Green Bay player since at least 2000, per NFL Research, and the most by a player thus far in 2023.

Thursday's performance epitomized Walker's career thus far. The linebacker owns enticing talent to become a dangerous playmaker, but the other aspects of the game seem to bite him.

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