Just four games remain in the Green Bay Packers’ regular season and two will be road contests against divisional rivals. The first, an indoor matchup, takes place this Sunday afternoon against a re-energized Detroit team looking to begin a winning streak after coming from behind last week.
Will the Packers be able to replicate their offensive prowess from the teams’ first meeting this season, specifically in the running game? Aaron Jones had a breakthrough day back in September, but posted his longest rush of the season just last week in what figures to be a top play of the 2020 season for the Green and Gold. Today’s musings take a look back at each of those memories, while re-examining one of Green Bay’s finest transactions of the past three years.
When APC reviews the season’s top plays, Packers-Eagles should boast two of them
At the conclusion of each season, APC runs down the top 10 plays of the Packers’ campaign. Impact on outcome and sheer brilliance are two of the major factors playing into the countdown, and last week’s contest offered two such plays.
From the first criterion, Aaron Jones’ 77-yard touchdown scamper to seal the game late in the fourth quarter ranks high on the list. With the game suddenly hanging in the balance after a series of unfortunate events led to the Eagles drawing within a touchdown, the Packers needed at least one first down to maintain possession past the two-minute warning. Jones did better than that on second down, breaking several tackle attempts on his way to the end zone. Funny enough, before juking a defensive back downfield, it appeared Jones was just trying to stay in bounds to run out the clock. With one fancy move, he ended up earning six points. But how about the blocking from the receivers and an impressive sprinting effort from David Bakhtiari?
From a pure brilliance standpoint, it is also difficult to beat the goal-line pass from Aaron Rodgers to Davante Adams early in the third quarter. That is, except for a nearly identical pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling against Indianapolis a few weeks back. How many times can you have passes of 40-plus yards into triple coverage that drop out of the sky and into the hands of the receiver, much less from deep in the team’s own territory? It was a day for stalwart plays from the Packers’ offense.
Aaron Rodgers launched this from 8 yards in his own endzone and Davante Adams came down with it in triple coverage for 42 yards. pic.twitter.com/TH7kUmHnfl— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) December 6, 2020
Brian Gutekunst’s draft selections have had their share of ups and downs, but his first draft-day move still has been his best
The jury is still out on the first three draft classes credited to Brian Gutekunst, particularly the 2020 class which has only had a few role players emerge to this point. But with each passing week, one thing that has become quite clear about Gutekunst’s draft history is that his first transaction has been the best.
In 2018, the Packers made the deal to trade their 14th overall pick to the New Orleans Saints for the 27th pick, a fifth-round selection, and the Saints’ first-round choice in 2019. That deal for the Saints landed defensive end Marcus Davenport, who has accumulated just 12.5 sacks in his first 33 NFL games.
Meanwhile, Green Bay subsequently traded that 27th pick and third- and sixth-round picks to Seattle for the 18th pick and a seventh-round selection. The 18th pick netted one of the top corners in the game, Jaire Alexander, at a time in which the Packers had struck out repeatedly in acquiring talented defensive backs via the draft. A year later, the extra first-round asset gained from New Orleans ultimately turned into starting safety Darnell Savage.
While Savage has had his shortcomings in coverage and as a tackler at times over his first two seasons for Green Bay, he has also produced some impact plays like his four turnovers over the past three games. While two of the other draft choices gained by way of the deal -Oren Burks and Kendall Donnerson - have not panned out as hoped, getting Alexander and Savage through essentially one pick in the mid-first round remains a coup.
What kind of impact will Aaron Jones make in round two at Detroit?
A whopping 236 yards from scrimmage (168 rushing and 68 receiving) were gained by Jones in the Week 2 matchup between the Packers and Lions, the most in a single game this season by the fourth-year back. On top of that outburst, Jones also reached the end zone three times to aid Green Bay’s offensive barrage. However, though limited by injuries, Jones’ highest total yardage total since that game was 111 yards back in Week 4 until last week.
As in other seasons, Green Bay has tried to limit the wear-and-tear on Jones’ tires with no more than 18 rushing attempts in any game this season. But he has also been bottled up since the midway point, averaging 4.1 yards per attempt or lower in three of his last five games against some tougher defensive fronts. Even last week, prior to the 77-yard touchdown that padded his stat line, Jones had gained just 53 yards on 14 carries amid offensive line shuffling.
Although the Packers certainly could see some adjustments along the line again this week, the unit, along with Jones, should benefit from a Lions rushing defense allowing the fifth-most yards per game in the league at 133.9. In round two against Detroit with an offense fresh off another stellar performance, will Jones be able to duplicate his previous success?