Aaron Jones' late TD reflected Packers' gold-zone mentality

Fourth-year running back’s 77-yard run shut the door on Eagles

Packers RB Aaron Jones breaks free on a 77-yard touchdown run in the 4th quarter of Green Bay's 30-16 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

GREEN BAY – We gotta go.

Those three words fluttered through Aaron Jones' headspace as the Packers' fourth-year running back trotted onto the field with just over two minutes remaining in Sunday's matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles.

After pressing the edges with the outside-zone run game for most of the afternoon, Green Bay's offense picked the right time to throw a counter punch in signaling for a Jones run up the middle on second-and-7.

Fifteen seconds (and three broken tackles) later, Jones crossed the plane of the goal line on a career-long, 77-yard touchdown run that closed out a 30-16 victory for the Packers.

Until that moment, Philadelphia still had hope after working itself back into the game thanks to a 32-yard touchdown pass to Greg Ward and a Jalen Reagor 73-yard punt return for a TD made it a one-score game with 6 minutes, 30 seconds left.

"We talked about it the past couple weeks, playing four quarters and finishing," said Jones, who finished with 130 rushing yards on 15 carries. "We knew we had to get out there and finish. We let a team back in. We gave them hope but the most important part is we finished."

It was the second chance the 5-foot-9, 208-pound running back was looking for after a missed opportunity earlier in the game when a crease opened but Jones got tripped in the hole before he could break a big gain.

When quarterback Aaron Rodgers called a comparable play late in the fourth, Jones was confident he wouldn't make the same mistake twice. And he didn't, with help from perimeter receivers Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Robert Tonyan.

The most pleasant surprise of all? The presence of David Bakhtiari as Jones crossed into the end zone. The All-Pro left tackle had sprinted downfield a few yards behind Jones and helped shake off Eagles cornerback Avonte Maddox as his running back scored.

"I don't know if they really had the NextGen on him for his speed or not," joked Rodgers after the game. "The real credit not only goes to the offensive line for picking up the pressure and getting him to the second level – obviously Aaron with a great run – but MVS had probably multiple good blocks on that play. That's going to be a fun one to watch when we put the film on."

By the time Jones turned around, he saw the entire offense had joined him in the end zone to partake in the Packers' "I love gold" celebration, an homage to offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett's love of the Austin Powers' movie, "Goldmember."

That never was more apparent than when Jones wore the gold glasses Hackett occasionally wears in team meetings in his postgame media availability, since the Packers' running back accidentally forgot his usual Oakley sunglasses on the sideline after the game.

It was a fitting end to a day that mostly belonged to Rodgers and the Packers' passing game, which thrived against a Philadelphia defense that frequently kept a safety down in the box.

The Packers stayed committed to the run, though, even when they had only eight carries for 18 yards in the first half. The offense's investment in working the ball outside and getting Philadelphia's linebackers moving laterally with play-action rollouts paid off with Jones' touchdown off a group effort.

"We love the gold zone," said Jones, referring to what the Packers call the red zone. "Our coaches bring a lot of energy as well as the players. It's a contagious environment here. It's something I love to be a part of. Everybody buys in and we love each other here."

Lambeau Field hosted a Week 13 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020.

If putting an empathic stamp on the Packers' victory wasn't enough, Jones was especially thrilled he was able to do it wearing the cleats 12-year-old Ethan Haley designed for him as part of the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” initiative. Ethan has been battling brain cancer for the past 2½ years.

Jones said he thought about Ethan after a slow start that included a fumble pitch on the first play of the game. That perspective helped snap him out of his doldrums before his career-long run, which made Jones the first player in team history to have two carries of 75-plus yards in a single season.

"I'm glad I was able to get in the end zone and Ethan was able to see me wear his design, running down the field and getting into the end zone," Jones said. "The game didn't start how I wanted it to but it's not how you start, it's how you finish.

"I think that relates to Ethan a little bit (and) what's going on with him, but he has a positive outlook and continues to stay positive and continues to have that smile on his face."

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