In Friday’s press conference with the Green Bay Media, Packers RB Aaron Jones described the Colts defense as “fast and penetrating”. He also said that he was simply “Excited to get out there and play”. Understandably so.
It was Monday Night Football in late December of 2019. The Packers, a 5 point underdog on the road, had 1st and 10 from their own 44 yard line. The hostile Minnesota Vikings crowd roared, as they pleaded to keep their team in the game. Packers 17, Vikings 10. Exactly 6 minutes to go in the 4th quarter of a pivotal game that had major playoff seeding implications.
Rodgers took the snap, as Tyler Ervin came from left to right on a potential jet sweep. The ball didn’t go to Ervin but to Aaron Jones, lined up to the right of Rodgers out of the shotgun. Packers Left Guard Elgton Jenkins got his paws on one defender, and then another, as WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling simultaneously sealed CB Xavier Rhodes as he crashed inside from the left.
56 yards later, it was a touchdown for Aaron “Showtime” Jones and the Packers, giving them a 23-10 lead against their division rivals. With that, it was the whip cream on a sundae with an NFC North Championship title and ensuring a Silent Night in Minneapolis, two days before Christmas.
This is what you call owning the line of scrimmage. Aaron Jones knifes his way through the Vikings defense and the Packers now have a 23-10 thanks to Jones’ NFL leading 19th touchdown of the season. pic.twitter.com/k410fmCfpm
— George Balekji (@GeorgeBalekji) December 24, 2019
As the 7-2 Green Bay Packers prepare to battle the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium tomorrow, there’s a lot of things that will have to go right to ensure a victory for Matt LaFleur’s squad. One of the primary factors to make sure that happens is getting Aaron “Showtime” Jones going.
Jones is no stranger to big time games, despite playing his collegiate football at UTEP. The 2017 5th round pick has starred in the NFL ever since he got his first opportunity. As fate would have it, that was a Thursday Night primetime game against the Bears in September of 2017, Jones’ rookie year.
Former Packers RB Ty Montgomery got injured in the 1st quarter of that game and opened the door for Jones, who went on to rush for 49 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown. In the following week, Jones rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown in an intense road win against Dallas, proving to everyone that he was more than equipped to be a good NFL player and perform under pressure.
Fast forward 3 years later and Jones is one of the best running backs in the league. In 2019, he finished the regular season tied for 1st in the NFL with the most rushing touchdowns (16) and added another 3 on the receiving end. In the playoffs against the Seahawks, Showtime added another 2 touchdowns in a 28-23 win.
When we look back at the Packers’ big games last season, I point to the Week 5 game at Dallas when the Packers were 3 point underdogs, their Sunday Night Game in Kansas City and the game I mentioned, the Monday Night Game in Minnesota. All three games were on the road, 2 were in primetime and the Cowboys game was Fox’s “America’s Game of the Week”. This is how Jones and the Packers responded:
Week 5 @ Dallas: 19 carries, 107 yards rushing, 4 rushing touchdowns, 7 receptions, 75 yards receiving: Packers 34 Cowboys 24
Week 8 @ Kansas City: 13 carries, 67 yards rushing, 7 receptions, 159 yards receiving, 2 receiving touchdowns: Packers 31 Chiefs 24
Week 16 @ Minnesota: 23 carries, 154 yards, 2 rushing touchdowns: Packers 23 Vikings 10
Enough about the past, yet I thought it was important to emphasize Jones’ performances in big games, as the Packers have another one this Sunday. The vaunted Indianapolis Colts defense ranks 1st in total yards allowed per game, 4th in rushing yards allowed per game and 2nd in passing yards allowed per game.
Understandably so, most of the media attention this week has been on Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams and the return of WR Allen Lazard, who is expected to play for the first time since week 3. Passing is flashy and passing is fun.. and I recognize the importance of the ariel success, particularly in this game against the Colts.
With that said, football starts in the trenches. In this upcoming game against the Colts, it will be very important for the Packers to run the ball effectively for a number of reasons: Move the ball down field, control the clock, open up the passing game, put less pressure on the offensive line and Aaron Rodgers, give the defense a break; the usual reasons of course, yet important.
The Packers haven’t played in a big game since their week 6 debacle in Tampa Bay. Jones played in that game and was stifled to the tune of 10 rushes for 15 yards and a touchdown. The statistics can’t go unnoticed but if we’re being honest, that was a “Burn the Tape and Forget about it” kind of game for the Packers as a whole. In their two other “big” games this season (Week 1 @ Vikings, Week 3 @ Saints), Jones rushed for 66 yards and a touchdown and 69 yards and a touchdown, both Packer wins.
As we head into Thanksgiving, the season continues to thicken and the games intensify for Super Bowl hopeful teams. This weeks game for the Packers will provide an excellent measuring stick on just how serious Green Bay is for a 5th Lombardi Trophy, as they come off a narrow, uninspiring victory against a 1-8 Jacksonville Jaguars team. The Colts are 6-3 and like the Packers, are in 1st place in their division. Indianapolis impressively won in Nashville last Thursday against the Titans and their momentum and confidence is high.
If history is indicative of future results, look for an under-the-radar Aaron “Showtime” Jones to show-out in another big game, even against an impressive Colts defense. They don’t call him “Showtime” for nothing.——————
Alex grew up in a family of Chicago Bears fans in the suburbs of Chicago but was always a Packers guy. Alex\'s AIM name when he was in elementary/middle school was PackerAlex. He now lives in Nashville, Tennessee and you can follow him on twitter at @Alex_Mayer93.