Quarless has breakout game—finally

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Lori Nickel, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Monday, December 9, 2013

GREEN BAY—Andrew Quarless said he was “thankful” or “blessed” at least 20 times in a nine- minute span Sunday afternoon.

That’s how badly Green Bay needed a win.

That’s how badly Quarless needed this kind of game.

The fourth-year tight end caught what ended up being the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter on a quick, 2-yard pass in the corner of the end zone. The throw from quarterback Matt Flynn was quick and decisive, and the catch from Quarless was clutch.

“It was a fly route and the end zone is jump balls most of the time. Flynn just gave me the opportunity,” said Quarless, who also fought against a linebacker who was playing inside.

“He did throw a back shoulder,” said Quarless. “Back shoulder was perfect.”

So was the ending. The touchdown held up in the 22-21, come-from-behind victory over Atlanta and kept the Packers in the conversation for the division title race. That left everyone in the locker room in high spirits.

But perhaps no one was more grateful than Quarless.

He missed the entire 2012 season after tearing his ACL and MCL at the end of 2011 and here it took until Week 14 for him to get his first touchdown of the season.

He thanked his position coach, Jerry Fontenot, who also had an ACL injury when he played for Chicago.

“I saw others with ACLs, but I could never relate, I didn’t understand how hard it was to come back from major knee surgery,” said Quarless. “He could relate. This just makes me love football again. Every Sunday. The snow, the cold, me watching the Packers since I was ...”

Quarless put his hand about 3 feet from the ground.

“The game was on the line. It’s just a great feeling. It was everything I could have asked for.”

Quarless had six catches for 66 yards, his biggest game statistically. He had racked up 51- and 62-yard games his rookie year in 2010.

He took the lead early from Flynn. When the game started in the tricky no-huddle for the Packers, Quarless studied the approach of the backup quarterback.

He saw a renewed confidence in Flynn, despite the team-wide crushing 10 days earlier in Detroit.

That set the tone.

“That was really important, and everybody else matched it,” said Quarless. “When that quarterback calls the play, you’ve got 10 guys looking at you in the eyes. We’re going to see how you interact. He had his confidence from the start.”

Whether Quarless was making a 15-yard catch on that first scoring drive, or hauling in a 21-yarder, he made the most of his day, even though he was rarely the first read.

“But you know, one of the things I always tell Flynn, as the tight end position, we can be the safety valve sometimes,” said Quarless. “Get the ball out fast. Atlanta is a high-pressure team, so Flynn definitely took advantage of me in getting it out quick with the pressures.”

Quarless fought against the minus-1 wind chill by keeping his hands in his muff whenever possible so he would be sure-handed.

But you can be sure he had them out for blocking.

That was something Fontenot hadn’t been crazy about in the run game, and Quarless acknowledged he had to give more there.

“I’m usually a good guy off the line, but it takes four, five seconds every play, so you really have to play every play all out.,” he said. “So that was my approach, just really finishing.”

At this point, you could probably ask Quarless to lasso the moon and he’d probably give it a shot. That’s what happens when a drought is broken, individually and collectively.

“I just feel blessed to be out here. Every day, I cherish every moment because I know what I had to go through.,” said Quarless. “I’m just thankful to be out here; it was amazing to get my first one of the year.”

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