GREEN BAY – As Davante Adams closes in on a potentially historic season for Packers receivers, and Aaron Rodgers tries to keep his interception total at a record low, running back Aaron Jones has a shot at something special, too.
And he wasn’t even aware of it.
With a rushing touchdown in each of his last five games, Jones is approaching the franchise-record streak of Hall of Famer Paul Hornung, who scored a rushing TD in seven straight games back in 1960.
So if Jones can keep his string going through the end of the regular season, he’ll break a nearly six-decade-old team mark in just his second NFL campaign.
“Let’s get it done!” Jones said when informed Thursday of the possibility, flashing the big grin becoming one of his social hallmarks. “I think it’s something I can pull off. Let’s get it done. You’ve got me excited. I didn’t know that.”
Keeping that streak alive against Chicago is a whole ’nother matter, of course. Not only are the Bears ranked second in the league in rushing defense, they’ve allowed only four rushing touchdowns all season – and the number was just two through 10 games before Detroit’s LeGarrette Blount got two on Thanksgiving, when the Bears still won anyway.
Jones actually has six rushing touchdowns in his current five-game streak, which started with his first career two-TD game against Miami back in Week 10. His streak is the longest by a Packers running back since Ryan Grant’s six-game run in 2007.
If there’s a milestone Jones actually has been thinking about, it’s the 1,000 yard-mark. At 720 with three games to go, he’ll need to average 93.3 rushing yards over the last three games to get there.
It didn’t help that he missed the first two games of the season to a suspension, and that he was given double-digit carries in a game only once prior to the bye week, but he’s still holding out hope.
“That was definitely my goal coming into the season,” he said. “I have it written down. I feel like any running back’s goal is to reach 1,000 yards. It’s sort of their base goal.”
Another goal was to hold up to the rigors of the NFL better in his second season, and so far Jones has passed that test.
Injuries in both knees as a rookie limited his playing time and prompted an offseason focus on building lower-body strength. A lighter workload early this season also was designed with an eye toward going the distance.
How much duty is thrust upon him is no longer an issue, and his position coach, Ben Sirmans, sees Jones as a potential top 10 rusher in the NFL down the line.
“Being in Year 2, I know how the schedule works here, I know what I need to do,” Jones said. “I’m a better professional.
“My body feels good. We just came from a Thursday practice. Last year I’d be limping in here or something. I feel fresh like I could play right now.”
If his legs truly are fresh in Week 15, that certainly won’t hurt against a Chicago defense that didn’t face Jones in Week 1.
The Bears are allowing an average of just 83.2 yards per game on the ground, which Jones attributes to a defensive front that keeps linebackers like Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith “free and clean.”
Interior defensive lineman Akiem Hicks is probably the Bears’ most disruptive run defender up front. Center Corey Linsley calls some of Hicks’ moves “unconventional,” making him a handful for anybody, but others take their turn wrecking opponents’ running games as well.
“Probably the best front seven we’ve played,” Linsley said. “They’re at least as talented as anybody we’ve gone against, and combine that with the scheme, obviously Coach (Vic) Fangio has a reputation being a great defensive coordinator.
“It’s a huge challenge, but we’ve played these guys before, been ready for these guys before, and we just have to do it again.”
Don’t count out Jones’ potential in the passing game Sunday, either.
While he noted his receiving skills will be an offseason priority this time around, Jones appreciated the opportunity interim head coach Joe Philbin gave him on a screen pass last week vs. Atlanta – one play after a screen pass the other direction got blown up at the line of scrimmage.
“We’re going to call it again?” Jones said, chuckling at the surprise. “It means he trusts me a lot, and I’m glad he trusts me a lot.
“I can get a lot better at it. I feel that can be one of my strengths.”
Right now, the Packers need his strength to get the tough yards against the Bears. Green Bay needs production on the ground to help protect Rodgers, which in turn will help protect the ball from Chicago’s turnover-happy defense.
From his perspective, Jones said the key to running the ball against the Bears is to be decisive. Any hesitation could be a missed opportunity.
“You just have to hit the holes hard and find those vertical cuts, and as soon as you do, when you make that cut, you have to get it north as quick as possible, because there’s going to be backside defenders,” he said. “Their defense swarms and it’s fast.”