Jones, Williams Outshine McCaffrey as Packers Find Running Game

Bill Huber

The Green Bay Packers’ offensive approach had grown increasingly one-sided over the previous three weeks. Coach Matt LaFleur knew it. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers knew it. The pass-happy approach had to change, and it did against the Carolina Panthers.

Aaron Jones rushed for 93 yards and three touchdowns and Jamaal Williams added 63 yards – a combined 156-yard day as the Packers’ one-two punch shined brighter than Carolina’s MVP candidate, Christian McCaffrey, in a 24-16 victory at snowy Lambeau Field on Sunday.

Jones, who earlier in the week said one of his goals was to lead the NFL in touchdowns, pulled into a 14-14 tie with McCaffrey on the touchdown leaderboard.

“I know Christian is a very talented player, and he’s been mentioned in the MVP race, so maybe it’s time to start talking about Aaron Jones,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said.

That’s unlikely, not with McCaffrey leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage and posting his sixth game this season with at least 100 rushing yards and one touchdown, but Jones became the Packers’ first running back since Hall of Famer Jim Taylor during his MVP season of 1962 to have multiple games of three-plus rushing touchdowns in a season. He finished just short of his third 100-yard game of the season.

Jones fueled Green Bay’s second-best rushing day of the year with 163 yards, behind only the team’s 170-yard performance against Detroit.

Green Bay ran for 109 yards in the second half, rolling right out of the locker room. After a huge 38-yard pass to Davante Adams to convert second-and-26, Jones exploded for a gain of 28. One play later, Jones blasted through the middle, broke one tackle and scored on a 13-yard dash that gave Green Bay a 21-10 lead.

“He’s very good at setting up blocks,” right tackle Bryan Bulaga said. “He’s very good at pressing the line of scrimmage, understanding defenders’ gaps and responsibilities and where they’re supposed to be, and he has a great feel and he’s able to peel off of blocks and cut behind guys. And he’s not the tallest guy in the world, so he’s able to hide behind blockers and put his foot in the ground and get north and south. He’s a slippery guy to tackle. He’s very low to the ground, he runs hard. Once he gets to the second level, I don’t think there’s too many safeties or anybody, for that matter, that can tackle him in the open field one on one. He’s a dynamic runner. When he’s toting the rock, just give him some space and he’ll make guys miss.”

Jones’ 14 touchdowns are one more than his combined total from his first two seasons.

“If we are 8-2 with Aaron Jones scoring 82 touchdowns, that’s fine,” said receiver Davante Adams, who still hasn’t scored this season. “I love it. I love seeing him go over there. I think I’m getting in better shape chasing his ass down going over to the end zone to find him every time.”

It was Williams’ turn on the next possession, with consecutive runs of 15, 10 and 16 yards against one of the NFL’s worst run defenses setting up Mason Crosby’s 47-yard field goal to make it a 14-point game.

“We feel like we can run on anybody,” he said. “It’s just us and the mentality. It’s just a football mentality of imposing your will on the other person. I feel like we did that. We’ve still got a lot more to go, but we’re not scared to run the ball on anybody.”

The game took on added significance for Jones, the son of military parents. Monday is Veterans Day, and his parents were in attendance.

“It means a lot,” Jones said. “I came out right before we came in from warmups, I shook my dad’s hands, and he saw my gloves and said, ‘I like those.’ I was like, ‘They’re yours after.’ So, this game was everything for me. Those three touchdowns are for them, and I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done for me and my family and everybody else. So just a little appreciation for them, and I love you parents.”