Aaron Jones’ breakout as one of the best receiving running backs in the NFL — if not the best — is complete. The Green Bay Packers got a magnificent performance out of their top running back on Sunday night in Kansas City, as he accounted for over 200 yards of total offense and a pair of touchdowns. Most critically, Jones helped run out the clock for the Packers late in the game as they clung to a 31-24 victory over the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium as the team moved to 7-1 on the season.
Jones had two massive, explosive plays as a receiver in addition to a solid rushing day. All told, Jones accounted for 226 yards — 67 on the ground and 159 through the air — and provided the first and last touchdowns of the game. He hauled in a 50-yard catch early in the game, then added a 67-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to provide the Packers’ margin of victory.
It was a team effort in the backfield, however. Jones, running mate, Jamaal Williams, also came up with huge plays in this game. Each back scored a pair of touchdowns, helping to take some pressure off of a Packers offensive line that struggled against a ferocious blitzing Chiefs defense all night. Kansas City schemed up pressure on Aaron Rodgers all game long without their best two defensive linemen, but the rush got home and sacked Rodgers five times, hurrying and hitting him repeatedly as well.
Jones’ long catch-and-run was the biggest play in the game, but Jamaal Williams’ second score — which came a few minutes earlier — was every bit the highlight that Jones’ would be. That Williams score came on Rodgers’ most ridiculous throw of the season, which came with the rush in his face. Early in the third quarter, the Packers lined up in an empty backfield on third-and-one from the Chiefs’ three-yard line; under heavy pressure, Rodgers lofted a ball into the back corner of the end zone and into Jamaal Williams’ arms, giving the Packers a 24-17 lead at the time.
The throw has to be seen to be believed. This writer even looked away from the television when Rodgers released the football, thinking it was just another throwaway. Instead, this throw gave the Packers a 24-17 lead early in the fourth:
After the Chiefs tied the game up on the next series, Jones’ explosiveness took over. He caught a quick pass on second-and-two and turned up the field, getting some great down field blocks from Jimmy Graham and a convoy of Packers as he found open space and sped his way to the end zone.
The big day for the Packers’ offense got off to a blistering start, courtesy of Aaron Rodgers’ arm. Rodgers connected with Jake Kumerow on a tremendous play on the opening drive, with the 34-yard catch setting up the offense in the red zone. An angle route by Aaron Jones went for 17 yards, then he found the end zone on a quick jet sweep pass from Rodgers for the opening score of the game.
Two series later, Jones landed his first big blow in the passing game, split out wide left and running a slant-and-go. He burned a Chiefs linebacker in coverage easily, and Rodgers found him for a huge 50-yard gain — which was only stopped shy of the end zone by Jones stepping out of bounds at the ten. Two plays later, Jamaal Williams bulled his way into the end zone for a 14-0 Packers lead.
Kansas City fought back, however, fighting back into a tie in the second quarter as Andy Reid’s playcalling and the Chiefs’ speedy playmakers ate up the Packers’ defense. The first score came on a pass from Matt Moore to a wide-open Travis Kelce, who broke open after heavy misdirection after the snap. Then Mecole Hardman made the defense look silly, taking a jet sweep 30 yards to the house for a tying score and setting up a go-ahead field goal with a blistering gain on a screen pass.
But just before the end of the third quarter, the Packers’ defense came up with the big turnover it needed. Tyler Lancaster knocked the football out of LeSean McCoy’s hands, recovering the fumble himself and setting the offense up with a short field. That play came on the first snap of a Chiefs drive following a Packers field goal and led to the absurd Rodgers-to-Williams throw, helping the Packers turn a 17-14 deficit into a 24-17 lead in less than three minutes of game time.
The Packers’ defense got some pressure on Matt Moore in this game, with Za’Darius Smith landing a pair of sacks and the team recording a total of seven hits on the veteran backup. But Moore made some big plays, thanks in large part to Andy Reid’s game plan. Mike Pettine’s unit struggled mightily in the second quarter, but they got some timely stops after that, including forcing a punt after the Packers took the 31-24 lead.
At that point, Jones did the rest. He ran for two first downs and converted one final third-down opportunity through the air to clinch the victory for the Packers, fully putting his stamp on this game. He now is on pace for over 700 receiving yards and 900 rushing yards this season, while recording a whopping 11 touchdowns through the first half of the season.
Give Matt LaFleur credit. He has found ways to get Jones the football in creative ways, allowing him to use his vision and explosiveness to turn modest gains into big gains and big gains into huge plays. With a complement like Jamaal Williams alongside him, Jones looks like every bit the running back that Packers fans believed he could be in his first few seasons, and this offense appears to be hitting its stride at the perfect time.
And, most importantly, the Packers are 7-1 and look like a Super Bowl contender.