Aaron Jones bounces back to lift Packers' offense in second half

Green Bay still has plenty left to play for next Sunday in Detroit

RB Aaron Jones
RB Aaron Jones

MINNEAPOLIS – When the chips were down and the Packers needed a big play to be made Monday night against the Minnesota Vikings, they once again turned to Aaron Jones.

And the third-year running back didn't disappoint.

After shaking off an early fumble, Jones inched closer to his first 1,000-yard rushing season with 23 carries for 154 yards and two touchdowns to power Green Bay to a 23-10 victory over the Vikings and the team's first NFC North title in three years.

Jones rushed for 109 yards on 13 carries in the second half alone, breaking a 12-yard touchdown run with 2:03 left in the third quarter to give the Packers their first lead of the evening before finding room up the sideline on a season-long 56-yard touchdown with 5:51 remaining.

It was Jones' second 100-yard performance in three games and fourth overall of the season. With 16 rushing yards next week against Detroit, Jones will become the Packers' first 1,000-yard rusher since Eddie Lacy in 2014.

"He's amazing, man. I think he's the best back in the league right now," said guard Billy Turner of Jones. "He's a special dude. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. He can take the handoff, run north and south (and) make people miss, and he's probably the best red-zone threat right now in the NFL."

Despite playing inside a deafening U.S. Bank Stadium, the Packers moved the ball effectively from beginning to end. The biggest issue was the offense's three turnovers in the first half, which included Jones' fumble on the opening series of the game.

Jones stayed the course after the miscue, finishing the first half with a modest 10 carries for 45 yards. With Green Bay's adversity defense holding the Vikings to only 10 points off turnovers, the Packers came out of halftime down by only a point.

After punting on its first possession of the third quarter, Green Bay's offense began feeding its one-two backfield punch of Jones and Jamaal Williams. And when Williams left with a shoulder injury in the third quarter, Jones had no problem whatsoever serving as the bell-cow.

Jones' 12-yard touchdown in the third quarter was just the beginning. In the fourth, he effectively weaved his way outside into the left flat and followed a Marquez Valdes-Scantling block to his league-leading 16th rushing touchdown of the year.

"The third quarter on, we had a certain mentality and we were going to run the football," right tackle Bryan Bulaga said. "And we needed to run the football. We needed to help our defense out, stay on the field and get them rest. It worked."

The Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings faced off in a Week 16 matchup on Monday Night Football.

Jones has had his eye on a 1,000-yard season since he entered the league as a fifth-round pick out of UTEP in 2017. With one more score against the Lions next week, Jones also could become the first Packer to score 20 touchdowns in a year since Ahman Green in 2003.

His 16 rushing touchdowns are now second in team history for a single season, trailing only Jim Taylor (1962). For a night that didn't start the way Jones wanted, things couldn't have ended any sweeter.

"It's not about how you start, it's definitely about how you finish," Jones said. "You've got to have a short-term memory in the game of football. Bad things are going to happen, but it's how you respond. I feel like that's in life. If something bad happens, how do you respond as a man? So I think it's a lot of carryover on and off the field."

Plenty left to play for: With the NFC North in hand, the 12-win Packers can now clinch a first-round bye with a win over the Lions next Sunday.

Furthermore, a Packers win paired with Seattle beating San Francisco would give Green Bay the No. 1 seed in the NFC for the first time in eight years. As the temperature starts to drop, the Packers want to play as many January games as possible at Lambeau Field.


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"It can be a big factor," cornerback Tramon Williams said. "There are a lot of good teams in the NFC. This NFC is stacked tight. Home-field advantage could be a key. So hopefully we can continue winning and add more games at Lambeau."

Lucky No. 13: Davante Adams made some history Monday night, tying Don Hutson as the only Packers receivers to record 13 or more receptions in multiple games.

Adams finished with 13 receptions for 116 yards, his most since catching 13 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns against Chicago on Oct. 20, 2016. With the Vikings leaving opportunities underneath, the Packers used frequent bubble screens to Adams to help move the chains.

"They weren't allowing us to throw the ball down the field, so this was a way to get us the ball on the outside," said Adams, who needs 96 receiving yards next week against Detroit for his second career 1,000-yard season. "This is something that I love to do. We worked it in more today and can continue to do so down the road."

Finding Lazard: Three of the five third downs the Packers converted against the Vikings came courtesy of quarterback Aaron Rodgers  finding first-year receiver Allen Lazard in the middle of the field.

"He's obviously one of the greatest to ever play the game, especially at quarterback," said Lazard, who finished with five catches for 45 yards. "For him to go out there and be able to call my number, especially on those third downs, is huge."

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