Coming out of Sunday’s loss to the Carolina Panthers, one of the common refrains from those who cover the Green Bay Packers (as well as their fans) was that Aaron Jones did not touch the football enough.
Jones broke a pair of explosive runs in the first half of the game, then seemingly disappeared from the game plan entirely. Why is that? We don’t know, but he actually still took the field on a substantial number of plays; he just did not get the football.
In fact, this game saw Jones play the most snaps since he got hurt and Jamaal Williams took over as the starter, as the two broke out about a 60/40 split of the snaps. That should have been a recipe for some good success for the two backs, but neither one was given much of a chance to make an impact against an admittedly strong Panthers run defense.
Meanwhile, Damarious Randall continued to shut down opposing receivers, but found his teammates’ coverage of All-Pro tight end Greg Olsen lacking. Here are the snap numbers from week 15.
OFFENSE (70 plays)
Aaron Rodgers 70
In his last return from a collarbone injury in 2013, Rodgers threw a pair of interceptions, one each on the first two drives of the game. Early on in this game, Rodgers missed a couple of throws but settled in quickly, leading a touchdown drive on the Packers’ second series.
However, arm strength issues reared their ugly heads, as Rodgers proved to be unable to make some of the throws that make him so special as a quarterback. Two of Rodgers’ three picks came with him not setting his feet, and the third appeared to be on a play that Rodgers thought he had a free shot due to a penalty on the defense.
This team cannot afford those kinds of mistakes, even as #12 delivered several typical Rodgers-like throws. In the end, those turnovers were far too much to overcome.
LT David Bakhtiari 70, LG Lane Taylor 70, C Corey Linsley 70, RG Jahri Evans 70, RT Jason Spriggs 70
Once again, the offensive line stayed intact, and they held up very well in the early going. However, as the game wore on Spriggs began to struggle, culminating in back-to-back sacks allowed on third and fourth down with about five minutes left. That should have put an end to the game, but another furious comeback attempt kept hope alive for a few more minutes before the final turnover.
Meanwhile, David Bakhtiari pitched a shutout, as according to Pro Football Focus he did not allow a single pressure on Rodgers all game long.
Jamaal Williams 43, Aaron Jones 26, Aaron Ripkowski 9
Much of the hand-wringing about this game involved the usage of the running backs, particularly Jones. Williams clearly has a valuable role on this team as a bruising runner and pass protector; however, Jones has a burst that Williams doesn’t, and the UTEP product showed it with runs of 23 and 20 yards on the same drive.
However, after that Jones only had two more touches the rest of the game, despite playing a respectable 26 snaps — about 37% of the team’s plays. The fact that he was on the field that much but only saw four touches is an indictment of the coaching staff for not giving him more opportunities.
Meanwhile, Williams carried the football ten times for just 30 yards.
Jordy Nelson 70, Randall Cobb 68, Geronimo Allison 46, Davante Adams 27, Trevor Davis 1
Adams’ concussion put the Packers in a bind midway through the game and forced Geronimo Allison onto the field for one of his heaviest workloads of his career. Had Adams been available, he almost certainly would have been the player catching the pass on the slant route on the Packers’ final possession, and perhaps he would not have fumbled. Instead, Allison did, finally sealing the Panthers’ victory.
Even with Rodgers back, Nelson was mostly a non-factor, catching just three of six targets for 29 yards. Cobb was targeted a whopping 14 times, but hauled in jut seven of them for 84 yards and a score. Perhaps worse than anything else was the fact that Adams going out bogged down the offense entirely until Richard Rodgers started making big plays towards the end of the game.
Richard Rodgers 38, Lance Kendricks 22
Speaking of Rodgers, he had his best game all season by far, primarily because of his two catches on the Packers’ final touchdown drive. Rodgers took one pass up the sideline for 26 yards before splitting the defense down the middle for a 24-yard touchdown. He finished the day with four catches on four targets for 77 yards and the score.
Kendricks was an afterthought for much of the game, with just one reception for five yards.
DEFENSE (75 plays)
Kenny Clark 55, Mike Daniels 46, Dean Lowry 40, Quinton Dial 17
Against the Panthers’ rushing attack, it would have made sense for the Packers to load up the line and play mostly base defense. Naturally, that didn’t happen, as they averaged just 2.1 linemen per play. Clark actually led the way and filled up the stat sheet, recording a sack (the only one of the day for the defense) and eight total tackles — two solo stops and six assists. Daniels was solid on the day, and he recorded four tackles including a huge TFL late in the game.
The Panthers racked up 151 yards on the ground, certainly making for a frustrating day for the Packers’ front, but they did still manage to hold Carolina to 4.0 yards per carry and they held Jonathan Stewart entirely in check. It was the scrambling of Cam Newton and the shiftiness of Christian McCaffrey that did by far the most damage rather than the straight-ahead runs from Stewart.
Ahmad Brooks 47, Clay Matthews 46, Nick Perry 27, Kyler Fackrell 22, Vince Biegel 17
Perry was a game-time decision coming in, and he ended up leaving partway through with yet another injury. That left plenty of playing time for Brooks, who had a very solid game. Five tackles, a TFL, and a hit on Newton was his stat line.
Clay Matthews, however, had a poor showing after a string of strong performances. He was often out of position and struggled to make plays in space when he was in a good spot, and he finished with just four assisted tackles.
Blake Martinez 71, Joe Thomas 59
With Jake Ryan being a game-time decision as well, the Packers elected to replace him on defense with Thomas and play Ryan only on special teams. The two linebackers had eight total tackles apiece, with Thomas recording one TFL and Martinez breaking up a key third-down pass to Christian McCaffrey.
However, McCaffrey was a pass-catching demon for the Panthers all game long, putting up stellar numbers: six receptions for 73 yards and a score. Not all of that came against the linebackers, but they were indeed responsible for allowing a good portion of that production.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix 75, Morgan Burnett 75, Josh Jones 70, Jermaine Whitehead 16, Marwin Evans 4
As has become the case in recent weeks, Burnett manned the slot corner position for the most part while Jones lined up at safety. The Panthers picked on both players, however, and Jones allowed a pair of touchdowns — one due to his inability to shed a downfield block by Greg Olsen when Christian McCaffrey was running an angle route and the other on an awful bite on Olsen’s route that left the All-Pro tight end wide open.
Clinton-Dix continued to play tentatively and avoid attacking the football, while Burnett tried to match up with McCaffrey on a couple of occasions himself, with little success.
Perhaps the highlight for this entire group was on the onside kick, which saw Evans fall on the football after McCaffrey could not reel it in.
Damarious Randall 75, Josh Hawkins 59, Lenzy Pipkins 4
Randall continued his streak of excellent play on Sunday, matching up with Devin Funchess for essentially the entire game and shutting him down entirely. Funchess was targeted four times but caught just one pass for 19 yards.
Instead it was Olsen, McCaffrey, and surprisingly Damiere Byrd who hurt the Packers’ defense. Byrd’s two touchdowns were the first two of his career, and presumably he can thank doing unbalanced squats with a focus on his left side for that left butt cheek touching down in bounds before the rest of his body on the first score.