Rushing for a Packers' rookie record 171 yards on 29 carries, Gado played the prominent role for a struggling Packers' offense to help it and the team to a 16-13 overtime victory over the Lions.
In an evening of unusual twists and good breaks for the Packers and Gado, the Nigerian-born running back was somewhat at a loss for words shortly after the game as to what had happened - first, for posting the seventh-highest single game rushing total in Packers' history, and second, for being part of an unusual play in the end zone that looked to be a Lions go-ahead safety.
"It's hard to believe," said a humbled Gado of his performance. "I don't know when it will end. I hope it doesn't. I think the expectations that I've set for myself, even after I surpassed the ones that weren't set, just keep being broken…"
Gado joined the Packers' active roster in Week 8 only because of injuries to the running back position and quickly has become the team's top rusher and more than just a necessary fix. Though he is far from being polished, as he showed again on Sunday night, he keeps getting better and is attracting attention around the league.
"Samkon has improved week by week by week," said head coach Mike Sherman. "I think he's beginning to prove he's not a one-time wonder."
"I thought he played a hell of a game," added quarterback Brett Favre. "I thought he played great last week, too. When guys get an opportunity, like Sam Gado, some take advantage of it, some don't, and I think he's making the most of his opportunity."
Gado's 64-yard touchdown run, the longest offensive play of the season for the Packers, was an indicator of just how far he has come in his short stay in Green Bay. Running a stretch play to the right side in the second quarter, a play Gado said the coaches have been working on with him because of his tendency to cut it up the field, he stayed patient, and it paid off. With help from pulling center Mike Flanagan, fullback Vonta Leach, who took out two Lions on the play, and wide receiver Donald Driver, who secured a block on the edge, Gado stretched the handoff to the sideline and then went virtually untouched up the field for the Packers' lone touchdown of the game. It was a play more reminiscent of the finely-tuned rushing attack of the 2003 Packers, as was the play of the offensive line on the night and the Packers' jumbo formation running packages.
"It's really humbling to be a beneficiary of all their hard work," said Gado of his teammates.
Not everything was so memorable on the evening, however, for Gado. He was part of a critical play in the fourth quarter, with the game tied at 13, which could have been disastrous. With the Packers' offense backed up to its own goal line, Gado was stuffed by linebacker Earl Holmes at least a yard deep into the end zone for what should have been a safety for the Lions. Saying he was just reacting, Gado appeared to intentionally throw the ball over the goal line. The ball was recovered by the Packers at the one-yard line, but the debate regarding the play was just beginning.
After a long discussion by the officials, so long that even the Packers' free kick unit was on the field, Gado's toss was ruled an incomplete forward pass having occurred behind the line of scrimmage and outside of the ‘pocket.' Further complicating matters was that tackle Mark Tauscher was called for holding on the play, but only because it was determined that the infraction occurred at the line of scrimmage, the Lions were not given a safety. Thus, the Packers benefited from the ambiguity of the difficult situation and held onto the ball when clearly the Lions had them stuffed.
Both Sherman and Gado were uncomfortable discussing the goal line play, probably because both were not exactly sure what happened. They would not expand upon it afterward, rather just appearing fortunate that they retained possession of the ball, no worse on the scoreboard for what could have been a deciding score in the game.
"I wasn't thinking," said Gado. "I had to do something. Either way you look at it, it probably wasn't the best decision to make, but that's all I wish to say about that."
Later in the same drive, Gado was also fortunate to be ruled down on a 10-yard run where it appeared that the ball was coming out before his knee was down. It easily could have been ruled his fifth fumble in the last five games.
Gado was fortunate to get the benefit of the doubt against the Lions, but also gave the Packers much more to think about over the final three games and in the off-season because his record-setting performance. Not even a blip on the Packers' radar at the beginning of the year, he is expected to be in the running for the starting running back position next season with the uncertainty that lies ahead. The Packers' top two running backs, Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport, are scheduled to become free agents as they recuperate from season-ending injuries, and Gado moved ahead of former No. 3 Tony Fisher on the team's depth chart this year.
Like Sunday night's performance, the Packers cannot be too sure what they have or what they will continue to get with Gado, though they cannot help but be impressed.
Editor's note: Matt Tevsh lives in Green Bay and is in his 10th season covering the Green Bay Packers for Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.