Today on APC’s countdown of the Green Bay Packers’ top plays of 2018, we have the 8th best play of the year, in a game dominated by the “other” extremely talented Aaron on Green Bay’s offense. Mr. Jones almost single-handedly righted the Packers’ ship after tough losses the the Rams and Patriots. This play, a 67-yard scamper up the middle, highlighted an impressive effort.
The Packers entered the game on a 2-game losing streak to a few of the NFL’s truly elite teams. While it was disappointing to not steal at least one of those games, there’s also no shame in those losses, and a rebound against the mostly hapless Dolphins would go a long way towards restoring confidence in the team.
The Dolphins, to their credit, came into this game with a .500 record and a nifty win over the Bears, but they suffered several injuries (most notably to Ryan Tannehill and Albert Wilson), and they were a shell of themselves entering this game.
It was late in the first quarter, and your basic first and ten with the Packers leading 7-3. The Packers had just gotten the ball back after a 37-yard field goal by Jason Sanders after the Miami drive stalled on a Kyler Fackrell sack of Brock Osweiler. The Dolphin defense finished 24th against the run by DVOA, and Aaron Jones got to work immediately.
This is a fun one at the molecular level. Mike McCarthy’s biggest fault was probably a lack of deception in his playcalling. When the Packers showed pass, they almost always passed. They would throw out of play-action pretty frequently, but teams were almost never fooled, and were mostly happy to take the risk that it might be an actual running play. With Aaron Jones back there, that can be a mistake. I’m fairly sure that the Dolphins expected a pass here, but regardless, the key was Miami linebacker Kiko Alonso, who has no idea what is happening. Keep your eye on number 47.
The Packers come out in good old 11 personnel with Davante Adams and Equanimeous St. Brown out wide, Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the slot, and receiving tight end Jimmy Graham capping a 6-man front.
ESB goes in motion, and the Dolphin linebackers are extremely confused. They flip spots ,with Alonso setting up in the middle while Raekwon McMillan follows the receiver across the line along with corner Bobby McCain. By the time everyone resumes their positions, the Packers have a huge advantage on the right side of their line.
The problem for McMillan and Alonso is that Jones has his choice of gaps to hit. The Packers already have this blocked well, and if Jones picks the right hole, they are in trouble.
They are in trouble.
McMillan has an issue because he has his eyes on Rodgers, who has sold a roll-out pass to ESB, and he commits that direction.
Alonso reads Jimmy Graham heading up field outside, and engages with him. The only problem for Alonso is that this is a running play, and on this rare occasion Graham is equal to the task. Here he is looking back at Jones and realizing he has made a terrible mistake.
Jones, for his part, reads the linebackers engaging outside, and uses his outstanding burst to attack the middle. From that point forward, it’s off to the races, and while Jones wouldn’t quite take it all the way, as Xavien Howard would drag him down from behind, he would punch it in a few plays later.
Watch the whole play here.
This game was a nice temporary respite from what was ultimately a lost season, and the big run from Jones essentially put this one away. The Dolphins would cut the lead on a series of field goals eventually drawing to within two points, but a 3rd-quarter Aaron Jones touchdown from ten yards out would put them right back up. This turned out to be Mike McCarthy’s final win as coach, as the team would drop their next three games. It’s strange to think just how much the running game dominated that win.
Top Plays Countdown
#10: Rodgers scrambles and finds MVS with a back-shoulder throw
#9: St. Brown sets up the Packers for a game-winning field goal