This Week’s Hot Hand, It’s Jones to the Rescue

Bill Huber

GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers were in a bit of trouble as they faced a third-and-14 form from their 7-yard line with eight-and-a-half minutes remaining. The woeful Washington Redskins were hanging around, trailing just 17-9, and were poised to get the ball on the Packers’ side of midfield.

Instead, it was the Redskins who were in trouble. Jones lined up as the man in the middle of a three-receiver set to the right of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Washington put linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton against him. Since torching the Chiefs in Week 8, Jones hadn’t lined up across from too many linebackers.

“A linebacker or bigger safety, I do get a little excited because, naturally, I’m just faster and can move well,” Jones said.

Jones got behind Dion Hamilton and Rodgers threw a strike for a 25-yard gain and a first down that allowed the Packers to drive to the clinching field goal while burning 7:24 off the clock.

“I saw (the linebacker) and I didn’t allow him to get hands on, and I saw the safety over the top,” Jones said. “I can’t recall the other receiver who’s running deep with me [Davante Adams]. The safety was kind of in between both of us. I knew if he threw it to either one of us, it wasn’t going to be over the top or over the shoulder. As soon as he let go of the ball, I could see where it was going. You get smart. You see the safety and you know he’s not throwing it over the top. It was a little hole shot and it was perfect.”

Rodgers’ ball was perfect, even if his call was not. The pass floated just over the outstretched fingers of cornerback Fabian Moreau and got to Jones just before safety Montae Nicholson arrived on the scene.

“I called the formation wrong but it worked out maybe even better, just because we three receivers in the boundary,” Rodgers explained. “It made the boundary safety [Nicholson] a little more aware of Davante, I think. I don’t think it was a great throw as far as how it came off, but he’s got pretty damn good hands, so that was a good catch by him.”

Jones carried the load on a day when the Rodgers-led passing attack didn’t have much going for it. With team-leading figures of 134 rushing yards, six receptions and 58 receiving yards, Jones piled up 192 yards from scrimmage. It was his fourth day this season with at least 150 total yards. The 134 rushing yards was his best day of the season.

Of Green Bay’s four plays of longer than 20 yards, Jones was responsible for three of them with a 42-yard run in the second quarter and a 23-yard run in the third quarter preceding his critical catch. Of Green Bay’s nine plays of 15-plus yards, Jones had five.

While coach Matt LaFleur and Rodgers were questioned about Jones’ touches – he had 16 runs and six catches for a total of 22 touches – the Packers have a good thing going in the backfield. The previous two weeks, in a win at the Giants and loss at San Francisco, those teams held Jones to 56 yards on 24 carries (2.3 average) and 13 yards on four receptions. In those games, Jamaal Williams jumped to the forefront with 108 yards on 24 rushes (4.5 average) and 61 yards on 11 receptions. Before that against Carolina, Jones was the hot hand with 93 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries (7.2 average).

On Sunday, it was Jones’ turn as Williams had 24 yards on seven carries and no catches.

“I think we need to be smart about his touches,” Rodgers said of Jones. “It’s a long season. I enjoy having Jamaal out there. He’s a smart guy, he’s a good player, does a lot of things for us. He’s had a nice season. I thought we got Aaron the ball 22 times today. I think that’s a good amount; 20 to 25 is what we want to be.”

With Jones striking first with a 4-yard touchdown run to start the game, he increased his career-high total to 15 touchdowns. With 779 rushing yards, he needs 221 in the final three games to reach 1,000. Williams has 401 rushing yards. His career high was 556 as a rookie in 2017. Williams has six touchdowns, giving them a total of 21.

“I think I’m doing what I’m doing, and I think that’s good and that’s what this team needs,” Jones said. “Jamaal is a great back. He comes in and gives me a spell, and he’s explosive too. you see it with how many touchdowns he has this year, and what he does when he has the ball in his hands. I mean, I feel like we’re doing a great job, and coach is doing a great job.”