The Green Bay Packers’ 27-17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers felt like a comfortable game for the most part, at least on the scoreboard. But what was uncomfortable was seeing Pro Bowl cornerback Jaire Alexander head to the locker room on a cart and not return.
Alexander will likely be out at least a couple of games, which will force the Packers to make some tough decisions in the secondary. Will Isaac Yiadom enter the starting lineup? And can the Packers add any bodies to the cornerback room to help bolster their depth?
While those questions loom large, another large, looming presence that is instead dangerous for Green Bay’s opponents is that of the Packers’ rushing attack. AJ Dillon ended up leading the way on the ground on Sunday, splitting carries with Aaron Jones but making the most of his opportunities. Dillon attacked the Steelers with a punishing, downhill running style that was more effective in this game than Jones working the ball to the outside. Both players contributed significantly in this game, however, even as Jones continues to be on the field for a significantly larger portion of the team’s offensive snaps.
Here’s a look at playing time from Sunday.
OFFENSE (72 total plays)
Aaron Rodgers 72
Rodgers’ passing day was effective, though not an elite efficiency day like he has had recently. He completed just 55.6% of his passes (20 for 36), missing on five targets each to Davante Adams and Robert Tonyan. he did not throw multiple incompletions to any other receivers on the day.
Still, Rodgers was able to pick up third downs with the help of a trusted old friend and he achieved a pair of touchdown milestones in this game. After rushing for a 4-yard score early, he threw two scoring passes later on. The first passing score gave him a total of 500 touchdowns of all types in his career, counting both regular season and playoffs. The second then put him at 420 passing touchdowns for his career, tying Dan Marino for 6th place all-time.
Aaron Jones 45, AJ Dillon 29
These two players were the focal point of the Packers’ offense on Sunday. Each carried the football 15 times and the two combined for four receptions out of the backfield. All told, they racked up almost 200 yards of offense combined as the Packers pounded away with the run for most of the second half.
Jones finished the day 15-for-48 rushing with three receptions for 51 yards. Dillon gained 81 yards on his 15 carries with a 16-yard reception added in.
Davante Adams 63, Allen Lazard 57, Randall Cobb 33, Equanimeous St. Brown 11, Amari Rodgers 7
While Adams continued to eat targets — he had 11 on the day — he only caught six passes for 64 yards, a step down from his massive games the last two weeks. Adams still leads the NFL in receptions with 31 through four games, however.
Instead, Cobb was the go-to guy on third downs, as he caught five of six targets for 69 yards and two touchdowns. Four of his five receptions were third-down conversions, with his only mistake on the day being to leap and try to catch a fourth-down pass that was intended for Adams.
Lazard was slightly more active in the passing game on Sunday, with three targets and two catches for 33 yards. St. Brown dropped his only target, while Rodgers was used exclusively on jet motion, though he did throw a very nice block on one running play.
Robert Tonyan 56, Marcedes Lewis 35, Josiah Deguara 33
Rodgers targeted Tonyan early and often, but with little success. The big tight end caught just two passes for 8 yards despite seeing seven targets. With a small target share in this offense typically, Tonyan’s catch rate for the season plummeted to 53% after he hauled in 88% of passes in his direction last year.
As usual, Lewis was primarily a blocker, catching one of two passes for seven yards, while Deguara was exclusively blocking, and primarily doing so out of the backfield.
Yosh Nijman 72, Jon Runyan 72, Josh Myers 72, Royce Newman 72, Billy Turner 72
Although the Packers’ line allowed three sacks in this game, the offensive line seemed to be mostly in control throughout the contest. Only one of those sacks was truly an offensive line mistake, as Runyan allowed a blitzing Devin Bush to come unblocked through the B gap for an easy third-down sack. The other two were credited to T.J. Watt, though they are both examples of how sack numbers can be deceiving. Watt’s first came when he clearly stuck his leg out and tripped Rodgers, who was looking to escape the pocket. However, the referees inexplicably decided to pick up the flag after initially throwing it on the play. His second came late in the game when Rodgers scrambled and elected to slide short of the line of scrimmage rather than take a hit, and Watt was the closest player.
In all, the line did an admirable job against a solid Pittsburgh front, paving the way for a 131-yard rushing day for the team at four yards per carry.
DEFENSE (60 total plays)
Kenny Clark 50, Dean Lowry 38, Kingsley Keke 30, TJ Slaton 9, Jack Heflin 3
What more can we say about Kenny Clark? He had another tremendous game, with four tackles (one a TFL), a QB hit, and a fumble recovery. That recovery came after Kingsley Keke destroyed RG Trai Turner with a bull rush and slapped the football out of Ben Roethlisberger’s hand for the Packers’ first sack of the day.
If Clark can get one other interior lineman to step up in each game, this unit will be good enough to win in the trenches overall. After Lowry’s nice game last Sunday, Keke had his turn.
Heflin also made his debut on defense, lining up on just three snaps after playing only a few snaps on special teams last week.
Rashan Gary 38, Preston Smith 36, Jonathan Garvin 26, Chauncey Rivers 19
Early in the game, Smith left briefly with an injury, leaving a few extra snaps for Garvin in the early stages. He would return, however, though he did not make an appearance on the stat sheet. Instead, Gary did his part, with a sack of Ben Roethlisberger and a second hit on the quarterback to go with six total tackles. The young reserves had only a single solo tackle apiece.
De’Vondre Campbell 60, Oren Burks 36, Ty Summers 9
Campbell continues to be a revelation for this defense, as he fell one tackle short of recording double-digits for a third straight game. He added a QB hit and a pass breakup to go with his nine tackles.
With the Packers holding a lead for the entire second half, that allowed them to stick to their nickel and dime packages, which kept Burks on the field instead of Summers in place of the injured Krys Barnes. Burks finished the game with six total tackles, including one for a loss.
Adrian Amos 60, Darnell Savage 60, Henry Black 16
The Packers’ defense challenged Big Ben to throw the ball deep, and he could not deliver. Amos and Savage ended up having little work in the passing game, with Savage recording only a single tackle for the entire game. Black made it on the field as a dime linebacker on a handful of occasions, though he did not record a tackle.
Eric Stokes 60, Chandon Sullivan 50, Jaire Alexander 36, Isaac Yiadom 18, Shemar Jean-Charles 6
The big question coming out of this game is how long Alexander will be out. The Pro Bowler gave up an uncharacteristic touchdown pass early, but settled in for the rest of the game until being knocked out with a shoulder injury he suffered pitching in on a fourth-down stop.
Outside of a throw or two to Jaire’s side, the Steelers challenged Stokes, and he had an up-and-down day. He took a pass interference penalty at the goal line, his third in the last two games, but he also broke up a pair of passes, including the game-sealing interception with seconds remaining.
When Alexander left the field, the Packers turned to Yiadom to replace him on the left side. Look for him to start next week if Kevin King continues to sit out in the concussion protocol, and the Packers may need to give Jean-Charles a longer look in Jaire’s absence as well. Kabion Ento could also earn a call-up from the practice squad.
SPECIAL TEAMS LEADERS
Summers 17, Black 16, Yiadom 16, Isaiah McDuffie 14, Malik Taylor 14, Burks 13, Mason Crosby 12, Jean-Charles 12, Kylin Hill 11, Deguara 10, St. Brown 10