The Green Bay Packers certainly appear to have found some gems in the fifth rounds of the last two NFL Drafts. Last year, the Packers selected running back Aaron Jones from UTEP, while this year they picked up wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling from South Florida.
On Sunday, both players had huge plays in the second half against the unbeaten Los Angeles Rams, as they each scored touchdowns that combined to give the Packers a lead early in the fourth quarter. Jones scored on a delayed handoff up the middle, bursting through the center of the Rams’ defense for a 33-yard touchdown; a few minutes later, MVS shook cornerback Troy Hill and sprinted down field for a 40-yard score that put the Packers ahead.
Both players have earned significant snaps in different ways. .For MVS, it has been steady contributions over the last few weeks with veteran receivers out, leading to him getting the second-most snaps of any player in the receiver room. Meanwhile Jones has been the most consistent and explosive runner on the team and he finally forced the coaching staff to make him the featured runner (or as featured as one can be in the Packers’ offense).
Here’s a look at how playing time broke down for the Packers on Sunday.
OFFENSE (52 plays)
Aaron Rodgers 52
Rodgers had another solid day throwing the football, and thanks to a few big plays his yards per attempt number was over nine for the second game in a row and the third time this season. He’s now up to 8.0 on the season after averaging about seven over the last three years combined. His 18 completions were a season-low and his 30 attempts tied the low on the year (with week one), but he still managed a passer rating over 100 and is now at 100.4 for the year.
Of course, the storyline for Rodgers coming out of this game will be that he was robbed of a chance to win the game late. We’ll get to that in just a second.
Aaron Jones 32, Jamaal Williams 13, Ty Montgomery 6
Finally — FINALLY! — Mike McCarthy turned the keys to the running game over to Aaron Jones, who responded with both his biggest performance of the year and the longest single rush of the season for the team. Jones had 12 carries for 86 yards and a score, while none of the other backs had more than four carries. Williams added an early goal-line touchdown but
The one quibble with how the Packers deployed their backs came on the safety, when McCarthy lined Jones up in the backfield without a lead blocker. It was a maddening playcall, and was an example of a lack of situational awareness when deciding which running back to put on the field — Williams is much more suited to running through a stacked line and picking up a tough couple of yards than Jones.
Of course, Montgomery’s special teams play will be the big story of the game, and rightfully so. He averaged just 22.7 yards per return on kickoffs on the day and 21.0 on the year, but decided to go against his coaches’ explicit instructions to take a knee and ran the ball out of the end zone. One fumble later, the game was all but over.
Davante Adams 40, Marquez Valdes-Scantling 31, Geronimo Allison 30, Randall Cobb 24, Equanimeous St. Brown 6
Are we seeing a changing of the guard already at wideout? Valdes-Scantling had the second-most snaps of the receivers, despite Allison’s and Cobb’s returns from injury. and although Cobb had more receptions than the rookie (four to two), MVS had the same number of targets (five) and put up a 40-yard touchdown. Allison, meanwhile, only had a single target for a 14-yard reception, while St Brown had bigger production (two targets, two catches, 31 yards) on just six snaps.
Meanwhile, Adams continued his blistering pace thanks to a pair of receptions for 40-plus. He finished the day with five catches on seven targets for 133 yards, burning Marcus Peters on both of his big plays.
Jimmy Graham 46, Lance Kendricks 17, Marcedes Lewis 12, Robert Tonyan 3
It was a quiet day for Graham, who caught just one of his four targets. That pass nearly went for a touchdown, however, as it was reversed upon video review when it became clear that he hit the ground just before crossing the goal line. Tonyan recorded the only other target among the tight ends, but the Packers did roll through a handful of snaps in 12 personnel.
David Bakhtiari 52, Lane Taylor 52, Corey Linsley 52, Byron Bell 52, Bryan Bulaga 52
Thankfully, the starting line remained intact once again against a stout Rams front. Aaron Donald did record a pair of sacks of Rodgers, both on third downs; the first set up Mason Crosby’s 53-yard field goal, while the second completed the Packers’ three-and-out midway through the fourth quarter with the team up by one point.
DEFENSE (78 plays)
First, let’s note the difference in snap counts between the offense and defense. All told, the Rams led in time of possession by about eight minutes, and had the ball for 9:34 in the second quarter and a whopping 10:33 in the fourth. Green Bay actually did reasonably well when starting at the 25 or beyond, but when they were closer than that they never gained more than 21 yards. That led to breakdowns for the defense towards the middle and end of the game, as they were forced to be on the field for sustained drives throughout much of that period.
Kenny Clark 63, Mike Daniels 49, Dean Lowry 38, Tyler Lancaster 8, Montravius Adams 5
Clark continued his heavy workload, and he also kept up his pass rushing productivity with a pair of sacks, bringing him to four on the season. Once again Daniels showed up only modestly on the stat sheet, with three total tackles, but he was consistently disruptive and in the backfield. Lowry provided a stout presence for much of the game as well, picking up two solo tackles.
Clay Matthews 53, Nick Perry 40, Reggie Gilbert 34, Kyler Fackrell 28
This was probably Matthews’ best game of the season; he picked up seven solo tackles and was credited with one sack of Jared Goff and another hit on the quarterback. Fackrell had the unit’s other sack, on an impressive speed rush around All-Pro left tackle Andrew Whitworth. Perry and Gilbert each recorded four total tackles — Gilbert having two for losses and a hit on the quarterback to boot.
All told, the front performed very well against an excellent Rams offensive line, with four sacks coming from the line or outside linebackers and a fifth from an inside backer.
Blake Martinez 78, Oren Burks 8
The Packers lined up largely in a Nitro front, with Blake Martinez and Jermaine Whitehead typically playing together as the inside linebackers. Martinez looked energized and active early on, and he finished the game with 12 total tackles and a sack on a perfectly-timed blitz. Burks’ bigger impact came on special teams, where he picked up a pair of tackles in addition to one on defense.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix 78, Jermaine Whitehead 75, Kentrell Brice 65
As mentioned above, Whitehead played linebacker for much of the game, but did take some snaps at safety over Brice when Burks was in at linebacker. He totaled six tackles (one for loss). Clinton-Dix had four solo tackles and Brice had a tackle and a pass breakup.
Jaire Alexander 78, Tramon Williams 78, Kevin King 76, Josh Jackson 3
Looking back at the game plan, it’s now clear why Bashaud Breeland was a healthy scratch: the Packers game-planned to use Alexander, King, and Williams as their three corners on every snap. Alexander was a menace in coverage all day, however, breaking up a ridiculous five passes in the game while adding seven solo tackles.
The coaches rotated the three corners through different positions with regularity, however, with Williams getting some of his first action in the slot all year and even playing a little bit of a deep rover position on occasion .He finished with two tackles, while King had a pair plus a pass breakup.