Dustin Colquitt punted the Packers into a deep hole with a kick that died at the 2. If Green Bay was going to get out of Kansas City with a victory, it would be up to the offensive line and running back Aaron Jones to block out the deafening Arrowhead Stadium crowd as well as the Chiefs’ swarming defense.
“Just three to four first downs and the game’s over and we’re in victory formation,” Jones said of the message when the offense trotted on the field with 5:04 remaining. “Best play in football, and that’s how we were going to win.”
Sure enough, the Packers got their three first downs and ended the game with three snaps in the victory formation. Green Bay held off the Chiefs 31-24 by delivering a clutch drive.
The clinching play came at the 2-minute warning. After five consecutive runs by Jones gave the Packers two first downs – the first came as Jones got a key block from right guard Billy Turner on third-and-2 – they faced a third-and-5. Coach Matt LaFleur had the Packers line up in an empty formation, with Jones flanked wide to the right.
“We’re over there talking on the sideline. ‘How do we want to close that game out on third-and-5?’ The consensus was, ‘Let’s throw it to Jonesy.’”
The Packers tormented the Chiefs’ linebackers all night and they did it one more time with the game on the line. Jones ran an out and linebacker Ben Niemann wasn’t close to preventing the completion. The 8-yard gain sealed the deal for the surprising Packers, who have eclipsed last year’s win total of six games.
Calling a pass was a calculated gamble by coach Matt LaFleur. He could have gone conservative and handed the ball to Jones, with the worst-case scenario being a punt with about 1:10 remaining.
“Just a risk that we were willing to take,” LaFleur said. “I totally trust our quarterback and I trust Aaron Jones as a receiver. He made some great plays all night long. When you have a quarterback like we have and players like we have on the offensive side of the ball, I didn’t want to just pound it up in there and try to get 5 yards. I had full confidence that we were going to get the necessary yardage and I thought the best way to do that was through the air.”
It marked Green Bay’s second game-clinching drive of the year, having run off all but 6 seconds of the final 3:14 against Minnesota. It also had a game-winning drive a couple weeks ago against Detroit.
“I loved it,” Rodgers said of LaFleur’s third-down call. “It’s closeout. I loved the whole drive. I think that was really special to finish that off. We’ve done it a couple times this year but not backed up on the 2-yard line in a tough environment. We ran the ball out to the 30 or whatever and then hit a first down there. That was classic 4-minute offense to finish off the game the right way. A lot of credit to the offensive line, to Big Dog (Marcedes Lewis) for blocking the way he does, Evan (Baylis) was in there, and the running was very solid. We ran some plays we feel good about, got to third-and-5. They were out of timeouts, and it was time to win the game.”
The Packers are 7-1, having responded to a Week 4 loss to Philadelphia by winning four straight – all without star receiver Davante Adams. In Week 6, they beat Detroit with the Lions coming off a full bye. In Week 7, they beat Oakland with the Raiders coming off a full bye. And on Sunday night, they beat Kansas City with the Chiefs coming off the mini-bye.
“Last year, we couldn’t win a game on the road. This year, we’ve won in Chicago, Dallas and Kansas City. That’s three pretty tough places to play,” Rodgers said. “We’re playing a lot better. We’re finding ways to win these games. The really good teams find a way to win when adversity hits.”