By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA
Green Bay’s running attack grows legs; Dolphins’ offense sacked by Pack ‘D’
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Run, Aaron, run.
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Green Bay’s game plan Sunday read more like a children’s book than an NFL playbook. Simple, straightforward and educational, it was a road map to success. And if it continues, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy won’t be sweating it out on the hot seat.
He’ll be too busy working up a lather stacking successes.
In the Packers’ 31-12 victory over Miami at Lambeau Field, Aaron Jones joined Davante Adams to form an electrifying 1-2 punch that provided much-needed offensive balance.
Jones rushed 15 times for 145 yards and two touchdowns. He also had six carries of 10-plus yards, including a 67-yard lightning bolt that brought 78,076 fans to their feet.
Adams caught four passes for 57 yards, including two touchdown receptions to give him an NFL-leading nine. Still, he was more than happy to discuss Jones’ huge game.
“He’s a very dynamic player,” Adams said. “I’d like to say I was one of the first to call that this was going to happen – like within maybe two weeks when he first got here – I saw something in the way he runs the ball. He doesn’t mess around. He gets up on people and everything is full speed. I think he just plays too fast for everybody.”
Jones’ average of 6.8 yards per carry is tops in the NFL.
When Jones wasn’t slicing through gaps in Miami’s defensive front seven, Aaron Rodgers was picking the secondary apart through the air.
Rodgers hit on 19 of 28 passes for 199 yards, two touchdowns and a 112.1 passer rating. The Packers’ offense went 4-for-4 in the red zone and played mostly mistake-free football.
Jones’ emergence was a major reason. If the Packers can run the ball in the red zone, it’ll make throwing it that much easier.
“We needed to win,” Rodgers said. “We got the run game going. We had a lot more balance, which we haven’t had all season.”
The Dolphins (5-5) tried but couldn’t keep up with Jones.
The Packers’ defense also did its share and then some.
It held the Dolphins to four field goals while reasserting itself in the red zone.
The Packers’ defense notched its first red-zone takeaway in 31 games to thwart the Dolphins’ opening drive. It came when Reggie Gilbert recovered a fumble after a bad snap. It was the Packers’ first since Micah Hyde picked off Kirk Cousins in a 42-24 loss at Washington on Nov. 20, 2016.
On Miami’s second drive, the Packers posted their first red-zone sack in 25 games. It occurred when Kyler Fackrell got to Osweiler on third-and-8 at the Green Bay 19. It was the Packers’ first since Julius Peppers brought down Matthew Stafford in a 31-24 win at Detroit on Jan. 1, 2017.
Hyde’s been in Buffalo for two seasons and Peppers has since retired. Suffice it to say it’s been way too long.
“For sure this is the type of game we needed from our defense,” Rodgers said. “We held them to four field goals. Every time there was the potential for momentum swings … those were big plays from them.”
Rodgers continued, “We needed that. If (the defense) plays like that, and we run the ball like that, we’ll be tough to beat. (Jones) got going, he really did. He’s a really good back, a slasher, fast (and) tough to take down. The first guy doesn’t bring him down a whole lot.”
The Packers (4-4-1) defended their turf. Now they’ve got to prevent the Seahawks (4-5) from doing likewise Thursday night.
Seattle is on a two-game losing streak, but don’t be fooled. The Seahawks’ losses include a two-point setback to the Rams when a late holding penalty and fourth-down fail cost them a win. In their narrow loss to the Chargers, a false start followed by a tipped pass prevented Seattle from a game-tying two-point try.
On Sunday, Seattle lost a hard-fought game to the Rams, 36-31, after a last-ditch drive fizzled in Rams’ territory.
Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner isn’t into moral victories. He is used to Seattle pulling a rabbit out of the helmet at the end. He hopes to change that Thursday night against Green Bay.
“I’ve been here for a while and we’ve had a lot of these games where (we’ve won), and to be on the opposite side, it sucks,” he said. “But I have confidence that we can flip that around.”
While Seattle searches to re-establish its 12th man, Green Bay is focused on winning its first road game of the season.
“We need to win games – that’s the obvious,” McCarthy said. “I think we’ve played well at home and we played well again today. Everyone knows what our record is. We haven’t won on the road yet. That’s an obvious emphasis this week.”
The Packers also need to heal up.
Safety Kentrell Brice (knee) and linebacker Nick Perry (ankle) were lost in the first half. Offensive lineman Lucas Patrick is in the concussion protocol and cornerback Bashaud Breeland, who had a second-half interception, left with a groin injury. In addition, corner Kevin King is already out with a hamstring.
On a short week, the Packers are staring a great opportunity in the face mask. With a win in Seattle, the Packers would be in decent shape with 10 days to prepare for the Vikings.
If that happens, it’s going to be a terrific stretch run – with the emphasis on “run.”