The Green Bay Packers came out of Saturday night’s game against the Carolina Panthers with a victory, but it was a less-than-impressive win on the offensive side of the football. The Packers did get a big game from running back Aaron Jones, but all in all the game plan looked ugly and the whole unit was sluggish following a hot start.
Perhaps one reason for this was the injury to running back Jamaal Williams. The Packers used him and Aaron Jones together on a few occasions early in the game, but he left the contest with a quad injury and did not return. With Williams out, the Packers gave Aaron Jones a season-high in carries and snaps, but it too often felt that they were passing up on room to run in favor of a short passing game that was not working.
Whether Williams’ absence truly affected the game plan is a question only those inside the building know, but #30 does all of the little things that you can ask a running back to do, from pass protection to his receiving contributions. Thankfully, the Packers expect him to be fine moving forward, but if he misses time again in the next few weeks, the team must find a way to function better without him.
Here’s a look at the playing time and the stats from Saturday’s game.
OFFENSE (62 total plays)
Aaron Rodgers 62
Although Rodgers was responsible for a pair of touchdowns, including his third rushing score of the year and a passing touchdown that brought him up to 40 on the season, it was a particularly inefficient day for the MVP candidate. Although he completed 69.0 percent of his passes, close to his season average of 69.6%, he averaged a brutal 4.93 yards per attempt, in part because the Packers had practically no downfield passing game.
Rodgers also took five sacks, a couple due to good coverage by the Panthers but several as a direct result of missed blocks or assignments by the offensive line — more on that later. As a result, the Packers actually netted less than 100 passing yards, so the running game’s near-200-yard day became even more critical.
Aaron Jones 56, AJ Dillon 5, Jamaal Williams 4
Jones took almost every snap in this game, in large part because Williams left with an injury early on and did not return. Despite the fact that Jones had 20 carries — his first time hitting that mark all season — it felt like the Packers never really committed to the run game, instead preferring to try RPOs and wide receiver screens with consistency even despite a lack of production on those plays.
When he got the ball in his hands, Jones was excellent. Even if one were to ignore his 46-yard run on the Packers’ opening series, he still averaged over five yards per carry, despite a few carries into nine- and ten-man boxes on the final drive. Jones now sits 20 yards short of 1,000 for the season, as he posted has an impressive 434 rushing yards at 6.5 yards per carry over the past four games.
The Packers did use both running backs together for a few snaps early on in the game, giving an effective look that might have been a big part of the game plan. It’s tough to know how much they had planned to use the Pony package, but Williams’ injury seemed to come around the time that the Packers’ offense bogged down.
Dillon had a single carry in the game, but he took it for an impressive 18-yard gain.
Davante Adams 62, Allen Lazard 48, Marquez Valdes-Scantling 40, Equanimeous St. Brown 11, Malik Taylor 1
This was a forgettable game for basically all of the Packers’ wideouts. Adams caught seven of his ten targets, but two of those incompletions were clear drops by the Packers’ top receiver. He also gained just 42 yards on his catches, with his longest grab going for 14. Lazard had the best day by far, with five grabs on six targets for 56, including the longest gain through the air by far at 22 yards. MVS had just a single target that went incomplete as the Packers essentially did not push the ball down the field at all.
Robert Tonyan 39, Marcedes Lewis 30, Dominique Dafney 11
In this contest, Tonyan was again a relatively low-target, high-efficiency player, catching all three of his targets for 18 yards and a one-yard touchdown. All three of his catches went for first downs as well. Lewis and Dafney were not targeted and effectively played as blockers only.
David Bakhtiari 62, Lucas Patrick 62, Elgton Jenkins 62, Billy Turner 62, Rick Wagner 62, Jon Runyan 1
This was a brutal day in pass protection for an offensive line that had been excellent lately, and it came against a Panthers team that had one of the worst pass rush units coming into the game. The left side in particular had trouble, with Lucas Patrick having a difficult time with rookie Derrick Brown throughout the game and David Bakhtiari struggling with Brian Burns. Each of those two players had two sacks (though Burns’ second sack came unblocked off the other side of the line).
The run-blocking was solid, however, as they helped the team average 7.2 yards per carry overall.
DEFENSE (69 total plays)
Kenny Clark 50, Dean Lowry 44, Kingsley Keke 24, Tyler Lancaster 21, Anthony Rush 1
The Packers’ defense at least kept Carolina’s run game contained in this game, allowing no carries longer than 13 yards and just four of ten or more (two of which came on scrambles by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater). Clark’s four total tackles led the line group, while Lowry had a pass breakup at the line of scrimmage. Keke was once again active in the pass rush, failing to record a sack but landing two hits on Bridgewater.
Za’Darius Smith 60, Preston Smith 52, Rashan Gary 35, Randy Ramsey 4
The edge group was able to pick up a pair of sacks on Bridgewater, one each for the Smith Brothers, while Gary got a QB hit of his own.
Christian Kirksey 49, Krys Barnes 31, Kamal Martin 22
On the inside, the Packers turned to Barnes at the middle linebacker spot for this game, giving him the communications helmet to start and shifting Kirksey over into the Will linebacker position instead. Barnes continues to show more athleticism and he appears to be the team’s number one choice at the Mike moving forward.
His alert swat of the football at the goal-line was a massive play, a momentum-shifter as it looked like the Panthers were about to close back to within a few points of the Packers. Instead, Kevin King’s scoop of the fumble set up Green Bay to extend their lead to 21-3. Barnes finished the day with six tackles including one for a loss, but he left in the second half with an eye injury and could not return.
That shifted Kirksey back to the Mike with Martin coming in at Will, as the two had rotated there a bit early in the game. Kirksey finished the game with the team lead at nine tackles, while Martin finished with four.
Adrian Amos 69, Darnell Savage 69, Will Redmond 22, Vernon Scott 10
Amos had one of his finest games as a Packer in this contest. He had seven tackles in this game, one of which went down as a zero-yard sack of Bridgewater, but he saved his most impressive plays for the football. Amos broke up three passes, including two in a three-play span to help force a punt.
Savage had a nice game as well, with a pass breakup of his own and six tackles, including a TFL. It seems that things are clicking for him and that he is getting more opportunities to roam and use his speed and instincts, a good thing for this team moving forward.
Jaire Alexander 69, Kevin King 69, Chandon Sullivan 58
As usual, Alexander had a good day in coverage, keeping Robby Anderson locked down for much of the game. The Panthers targeted King early and often in this game, however, particularly with D.J. Moore. They also ran his way consistently to force him into getting off blocks to make tackles. King did have the fumble recovery and he technically forced a fumble out of Curtis Samuel, but he was consistently struggling in coverage. Sullivan had a solid day as well on the inside, coming up with a big pass breakup of his own.
SPECIAL TEAMS LEADERS
Oren Burks 22, Ty Summers 22, Ramsey 20, Redmond 19, Henry Black 16, Martin 15, Ka’Dar Hollman 13, V. Scott 13, Sullivan 11