GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers went 8-1 last season in one-score games, perhaps the most noteworthy nugget from a 13-3 regular season that ended in the NFC Championship Game.
Clutch play by the team meant clutch play from individuals. Pro Football Focus saluted those big-moment performers with its all-clutch team. PFF’s Ben Linsey selected the players who graded the best in the fourth quarter and overtime of one-score games, defined as a game decided by eight points or less. Three Packers made the team.
Earning first-team honors at running back was Aaron Jones. Among Linsey’s notes: “Jones produced a few big-time daggers as both a runner and a receiver. He scored the go-ahead touchdown reception from 67 yards out against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 8 and a long touchdown run that put the Packers out of reach of the Minnesota Vikings in Week 16.”
Joining Jones on the first team was left guard Elgton Jenkins. As part of Linsey’s writeup: “Jenkins allowed just one pressure on over 100 clutch pass-blocking snaps all year.”
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Jenkins’ linemate, center Corey Linsley, was a second-team pick behind Atlanta’s Alex Mack.
The Smith Bros. – aka Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith – did not make the team. Preston Smith ranked among the league leaders with 3.5 sacks in the fourth quarter. One of those put the final nail in the coffin in the Week 1 win at Chicago. Za’Darius Smith added 2.5, including 1.5 in the Week 16 win at Minnesota.
“I’ve said character. I think character is really important,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said before last year’s playoff win over Seattle. “And it’s not like the kind of character that maybe comes to mind first. I’m not talking about good guys or a good feeling. I’m talking about understanding how to win and in those moments, the character that comes through is a hyper focus, I think, and an understanding of what it takes in those moments to win, and that’s a learned trait. I don’t think it’s something you start the season out with. It’s a learned trait. You learn throughout the year. We’ve, thankfully, had a number of those games that have gone our way and we’ve learned how to get it done in those moments.”