Rookie tackle Nate Potter blocks Packers linebacker Clay Matthews in his first extended playing time Sunday.
GREEN BAY, Wis – Nate Potter's time had come.
After a week of extra reps in practice and extra questions in the locker room, the rookie left tackle finally stepped onto the field early in the second quarter Sunday. It was his first significant playing time, nine weeks into his rookie season with the Cardinals.
And who was waiting to welcome Potter to the NFL?
On Potter's first play, seven seconds into the second quarter of the Cardinals' 31-17 loss, Green Bay's All-Pro linebacker lined up to the outside of Potter and tried to bull rush off the corner. But Potter stayed true to his technique and steered Matthews, who left the game in the third quarter with a hamstring injury and did not return, away from the pocket, allowing quarterback John Skelton to compete a 40-yard pass to Andre Roberts which set up the Cardinals' first touchdown.
When he looked back on that play, all Potter could was laugh.
"I was just focused on my technique, and just trying to do the best I can on that play," Potter said. "Luckily it worked out.
"It's always good to get that first experience and game under your belt."
Potter knew all week he was going to play Sunday. He split practice reps with D'Anthony Batiste, whom he replaced in the second quarter, and the coaches stayed on the Boise State product to be ready.
Potter is just the latest solution to plug an offensive line that allowed 39 sacks heading into Sunday's game, in which Skelton was sacked just twice – once in the first quarter and once in the second. Potter played the final three quarters and gave Skelton enough time to pass for 306 yards and LaRod Stephens-Howling to run for 51.
Immediately after the game was too early for Potter's teammates to evaluate his performance – they usually review tape on Monday – but center Lyle Sendlein said the only time people pay attention to the offensive line is when something bad happens.
"I didn't notice anything, so that's a good start," he said. "You would've noticed if he was struggling."
Coach Ken Whisenhunt agreed.
"Looked like he did a good job," Whisenhunt said. "We'll look at it on tape, we'll see if we can confirm that. (Playing him) was our plan going in, and that's exactly what I'm talking about. Seeing if guys can do some things to help us get better."
What stood out most to Potter was how physical and fast the Packers' first-team defense was. But that's what he'll see week in and week out if he continues to get play this season. Potter tried to deflect the attention of getting his first significant playing time – he played one snap on a quarterback sneak against St. Louis – but he said there's room for improvement.
"It obviously feels good to get in there and get some experience but with a loss you can't really celebrate anything," Potter said. "You just go figure out what you need to do get better and just do it."
FLEMING, GAY SO CLOSE ON TD PASSES
Some might say they were great passes and others might say they were great catches. Either way, Jamell Fleming and William Gay had front-row seats for two Aaron Rodgers' touchdown passes and both nearly knocked them down.
Gay was targeted first, on a 21-yard pass to Randall Cobb midway through the second quarter that put the Packers ahead 14-7. The ball came right over Gay, who turned his head a second too late.
"That's just what you call good football," Gay said. "They got us and that's what the nature of the game is."
Fleming was up next, except he got his hand on a pass to James Jones in the front left corner of the end zone. Jones went up and caught it over the rookie cornerback late in the second to give the Packers a 21-7 lead at halftime.
"I thought I was going to be able to knock it down and it just slipped right through and he was able to get it," Fleming said. "So it's a little growing pain I've got to get through and next time be able to make a play.
"The best thing about that guy is he gets rid of the ball so quickly, so when you're defending him you got to try to make a play, try to turn your head around. The receiver already knows, so he can see where the ball's going already. That's the toughest thing that kind of hurt us today."
GAY'S FIRST INTERCEPTION
Gay's first interception of the season nearly didn't count.
He picked off Rodgers on the first play of the second quarter with a rolling catch that he took away from Cobb as both tumbled to the ground together. The officials reviewed the play, unsure if Cobb had possession before he hit the ground. But the call was upheld.
"I'm just glad it happened," Gay said. "We wanted to just come out and dominate. It was a great offense we were going against and we came up on the short end of the stick."
SCHOFIELD LEAVES WITH ANKLE SPRAIN
Linebacker O'Brien Schofield left the Cardinals' locker room on crutches after suffering a low ankle sprain in the third quarter.
He left the game and did not return.
"(Darnell) Dockett kind rolled up on me," Schofield said. "We were both chasing Rodgers to get a sack."
Schofield said an MRI on his ankle was scheduled for Monday.