Dexter Williams powers Packers’ offense on go-ahead drive

RB Dexter Williams
RB Dexter Williams

GREEN BAY – Dexter Williams had only four touches all night when the Packers’ rookie running back trotted into a tie game with the Kansas City Chiefs at the start of the fourth quarter.

Wanting to end the preseason on a high note, however, Williams looked at rookie quarterback Manny Wilkins and the rest of his teammates in the huddle, and laid everything on the table.

“I was like, ‘We have to finish this drive,’” Williams said. “‘Let’s leave with a win. Let’s leave on good terms.’”

And that’s exactly Williams and Co. did during a 10-play, 73-yard scoring drive that culminated in Williams’ 3-yard touchdown run, giving Green Bay the go-ahead score in an eventual 27-20 preseason win at Lambeau Field Thursday night.

Williams, a sixth-round pick out of Notre Dame, had seven touches for 44 yards on the series, including a 21-yard pickup off a screen on third-and-7 that kept the Packers on the field.

The most memorable play of the drive, and perhaps the entire evening, was Wilkins gaining 12 yards after hurdling Chiefs cornerback Mark Fields.

Williams, admittedly energized by Wilkins’ heroics, punched in the touchdown two plays later by following newly signed right guard Dejon Allen into the end zone for his first Lambeau Leap.

Williams had his share of ups and downs during his first NFL training camp but finished with his best statistical performance of the preseason (11 touches for 64 yards and a touchdown).

“Every day is not going to be perfect,” said Williams, who rushed for 128 yards and a touchdown on 37 preseason carries (3.5 avg). “Just have to learn from my mistakes and continue to grow wherever it is. I just have to keep on learning, keep on improving, and control what I can control.”

Williams has been locked in a close competition with third-year veteran Tra Carson and Keith Ford for the third-string job behind running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams.

Carson, who started all four preseason games, had six carries for 25 yards against Kansas City, while Ford rushed for 21 yards on six attempts, including a 17-yard rush in the fourth quarter.

About that hurdle: While his hurdling of Fields drew a roar from the Lambeau crowd and ignited the Packers’ sideline, Wilkins didn’t know what all the fuss was about.

If you look back at his tape from Arizona State, the rookie quarterback “had like 15 in college.” Either way, it was an impressive display of athleticism that’s been years in the making.

“When you become a runner, what I’ve been taught is to stare a dude in his eyes, see what he’s looking at,” Wilkins said. “I had about 15 yards as I was staring at him, and the whole time he never once looked at me in my eyes. He was looking at my hips. … So I just knew that no matter what, I was going to be able to get over him if I would just jump. So I just jumped.”

Wilkins didn’t get much playing time this preseason (2-of-6 for 33 yards, seven carries for 24 yards), but was grateful for the chance to compete this summer.

“It’s part of the game, man. I’m an undrafted free agent,” Wilkins said. “I came off grade-three MCL surgery, last play of my bowl game. So I’m not supposed to be here, you know what I mean? I’m very fortunate, very grateful, very blessed that I’ve had this opportunity, and I hope I have some more opportunities.”

Green Bay closed its preseason out with a matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs at Lambeau Field.

Take it away, take it away now: All summer, Mike Pettine has preached to his defense the importance of generating more turnovers in 2019.

Based on the preseason, the unit appears to be off to a decent start.

The Packers’ defense generated two more takeaways for its coordinator Thursday night, with the first coming in the form of a 74-yard Ty Summers interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter. It started thanks to a quarterback pressure from outside linebacker Markus Jones.

“I was like, ‘Oh, no way. Those don't come that easy very often,’” Summers said. “‘Gotta catch that one.’”

Twenty-four game seconds later, Jones recovered a Kyle Shurmur fumble at the Kansas City 29-yard line, which led to backup QB Tim Boyle finding tight end Jace Sternberger for a 3-yard touchdown to give Green Bay a 13-3 lead.

Jones, a prolific pass rusher at Division II Angelo State, was one of only three outside linebackers the Packers suited up against Kansas City. He finished with three tackles, two deflections, a quarterback hit and the fumble recovery.

“It meant the world, especially coming from a Division II (school), to where I am now is a blessing,” said Jones of the opportunity. “I thank God for everything that happened up until now and all the support from everyone. It’s surreal.”

Final kick: The Packers took their kicking competition between veteran Mason Crosby and Sam Ficken all the way down to the preseason finale.

Crosby missed an early extra point but made his second before halftime to finish the preseason 7-of-8, including a 43-yard field goal against Baltimore. Ficken stayed a perfect 6-of-6 in the preseason with two made extra points against the Chiefs.

“I think at the end of the day, there’s lots of teams out there looking for good quality kickers,” Ficken said. “I feel like I’m one of them. Hopefully I’m here, but that’s not in my control. I did what I could and we’ll see what pans out.”

Back in the fold: Sternberger had to wait all the way until Thursday to make his preseason debut for the Packers.

Once he was on the field, however, it didn’t take long for the Packers’ rookie third-round pick at tight end to find the end zone – catching a 3-yard TD on a wide-open pass in the flat.

Unfortunately, Sternberger hurt his ankle before halftime and didn’t return – though he said it was a minor injury.

“After not being able to play, it was definitely good to be out there,” he said. “You get to experience Lambeau Field. Individually, I obviously wish I could’ve played long but the ankle didn’t let me to do that. But it’s all good. It’s a little sprain. I’ll be fine.”

Learning on the fly: With the Packers holding out nine offensive linemen against the Chiefs, the team signed Allen hours before Thursday’s game.

The former Chicago Bears offensive lineman got the call Wednesday morning and flew from his home in Compton, Calif., to Green Bay. After signing, Allen had a 30-minute meeting with assistant offensive line coach Luke Butkus to learn a few plays in hopes of playing against Kansas City.

He lined up the last two series at right guard, paving the way for Williams on his game-winning touchdown run. Although Allen knows his odds are slight of making the roster, he’s hopeful the Packers might take a look at him on their practice squad.

“If that’s their decision, I would love that decision,” Allen said. “It’s up to them. It’s not up to me. If they call me up there, let’s do it. Let’s make it happen. If not, I’ll be back home.”

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