Fans of the Green Bay Packers are finally getting what they wanted: Aaron Jones is receiving the lion’s share of snaps at the running back position, and he even had 20 touches in the game on Sunday night against the Minnesota Vikings.
However, the offense only had 53 plays in the game, and there were still issues with how head coach Mike McCarthy deployed his backs. He stuck to his typical script with Jones and Jamaal Williams, using a single running back for each offensive series and not substituting mid-drive. Perhaps he feels like this gets the backs in a better rhythm, but it fails to account for the fact that the two players have different strengths and can be swapped out on a play-by-play basis depending on the situation.
A few weeks ago in Los Angeles, McCarthy had his offense backed up against their own goal line and elected to run Aaron Jones up the middle. A blown block led to Jones being tackled for a safety, but that playcall would seem to be better suited for Williams, who is a much more powerful runner who can churn through tacklers with his physical running style rather than elusiveness. A similar playcall called for a physical player in Minnesota last night, with the Packers running the dive on fourth-and-inches in the third quarter. Instead of putting his bruising back in, McCarthy left Jones on the field to get stuffed on a run up the middle.
This team continues to make baffling decisions in critical situations. Even when McCarthy makes an aggressive decision, maybe in an effort to avoid being overly conservative like he was on fourth down a week earlier, he seems to confound that with a questionable playcalls or by failing to utilize his personnel properly.
Let’s look at that decision and more as we break down the Packers’ playing time from Sunday night’s 24-17 loss to the Vikings.
Offense (53 plays)
Aaron Rodgers 53
What else is there to say about Rodgers? After looking so good on the Packers’ two touchdown drives — particularly the second — he suddenly all of his mojo afterwards. After that 7-for-9 start that saw Rodgers put together 79 yards and a touchdown, he missed Jimmy Graham on a deep seam route and took a short sack on third down on the next drive and it was all over from there.
After that point, Rodgers was pressured and took two more third-down sacks. Then, after a few great throws got the Packers back into field goal range down ten points late, Rodgers missed consecutive throws on second- and third-and-one — a short pass to Equanimeous St. Brown that he spiked into the turf and an overthrow of a wide-open Adams in the end zone.
Like in past games, Rodgers made a handful of great plays, but his execution in big situations was lacking once again.
Aaron Jones 40, Jamaal Williams 13
This snap breakdown seems about reasonable for the two running backs, but their situational usage continues to baffle Packers fans. Why does Mike McCarthy refuse to substitute backs on a play-by-play basis depending on the situation? Why does he insist on giving Williams whole series rather than using him when the down and distance call for it?
Running a halfback dive on that fourth down could be understandable and defensible if it were Williams, who runs with tremendous power and can push a pile. While Jones is the more complete and explosive back, he should not be the one trying to grind out a half-yard up the middle.
All told, Jones ran relatively effectively, gaining 72 yards on 17 carries with a touchdown. He also added three receptions for 21 yards. Williams had a single carry for five yards.
Davante Adams 53, Marquez Valdes-Scantling 44, Equanimeous St. Brown 36, J’Mon Moore 11
Adams was targeted just eight times in the game, catching five balls for 69 yards and the Packers’ first score. However, he should have had a second touchdown if not for Rodgers’ overthrow, as he was consistently getting open on Xavier Rhodes before the excellent Vikings’ corner appeared to pop a hamstring in the fourth quarter.
St. Brown was the better of the Packers’ rookies on Sunday night, catching three of five passes for 53 yards. MVS had just two targets and one catch for three yards.
Marcedes Lewis 23, Lance Kendricks 22, Jimmy Graham 22, Robert Tonyan 1
Early on, Lewis got the bulk of the snaps as the in-line tight end, but Graham got a few series including the final drive of the game. On that drive, he caught both of his two receptions for 34 yards, coming on consecutive plays to get things started. Expect a pretty even three-way split for these players moving forward. Perhaps the biggest disappointment was not seeing more work for Tonyan in this game with Graham limited.
Bryan Bulaga 53, Corey Linsley 53, Byron Bell 51, David Bakhtiari 43, Lane Taylor 32, Justin McCray 23, Jason Spriggs 10
After weeks of steady, injury-free play on the offensive line, the bug finally hit the guys up front. Bell missed his two snaps because his shoe fell off, so there’s nothing to see there. But almost immediately after that took place, Taylor tweaked an ankle and did not return to the game, leading to McCray taking over the rest of the way.
Then Bakhtiari suffered two different injuries in the second half, missing some time in the third quarter before coming back briefly in the fourth. If he is determined to have any significant issues, look for Spriggs to take over on the left side.
Defense (70 plays)
Kenny Clark 66, Dean Lowry 55, Tyler Lancaster 22, Montravius Adams 19
Is it sustainable for a 325-pound lineman like Clark to play over 90% of a team’s defensive snaps game after game? That’s what he’s doing now as the lone week-one starter remaining. Clark and Lowry recorded the Packers’ two sacks on Sunday night, with Lowry and Lancaster each adding additional hits on the quarterback.
However, that was the extent of the pass rush for the Packers for the entire game. They basically got nothing from the linebackers or secondary, perhaps due in part to a lack of ability to blitz due to the depth issues in the defensive backfield.
Clay Matthews 57, Kyler Fackrell 55, Reggie Gilbert 30
Matthews had a hot-and-cold game. He totaled five tackles, including two for losses, but he was a non-factor rushing the passer and he was directly responsible for a Vikings touchdown due to losing contain on Kirk Cousins on a bootleg. Fackrell had a pair of tackles while Gilbert had one and a batted pass.
Blake Martinez 70, Antonio Morrison 46, Oren Burks 7
Martinez totaled 13 tackles on Sunday night, with six solo stops and seven assists. It seemed that there were quite a few combo tackles for the Packers on Sunday, as Morrison had three solos but four assists to his credit.
Josh Jones 57, Ibraheim Campbell 53, Kentrell Brice 24
Brice aggravated his ankle injury early in the game, but was able to return for a time before leaving the game for concussion evaluation after dropping his head on a hit along the sideline. Given the Packers’ injury issues at cornerback, they primarily used Tramon Williams as a corner instead of a safety, so that meant that Jones and Campbell ended up with the bulk of the workload.
Campbell acquitted himself well over his hefty snap total, racking up eight total tackles. Jones made two solo stops and was particularly hard on himself on Twitter after the game.
Jaire Alexander 70, Tramon Williams 70, Josh Jackson 60, Tony Brown 9
As mentioned above, Williams had to play more cornerback than safety in this game since the Packers were missing Bashaud Breeland and Kevin King again. He, Alexander, and Jackson made up the team’s typical corner trio on the evening, and each had at least four tackles. However, there were no pass breakups by the secondary on the night, and they allowed a huge day for the Vikings’ receivers, as Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, and Kyle Rudolph consistently picked the Packers apart.
Of course, it was Williams’ mistake on a punt return that will be one of the lasting images from this game. Instead of calling for a fair catch, he let the ball bounce directly in front of him and it caromed off his chest for the game’s only turnover in the fourth quarter.