Skip to main content
Advertising

Game notes: After fifth straight 100-yard game, Aaron Jones sees bright future ahead for Packers

Keisean Nixon caps All-Pro season with 73-yard kickoff return

RB Aaron Jones
RB Aaron Jones

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – A season that Aaron Jones once feared might end in injury saw the Packers running back register a fifth consecutive 100-yard rushing game during Saturday's NFC Divisional playoff at Levi's Stadium.

While the San Francisco 49ers did enough late to squeak by with the 24-21 victory, Jones gave seventh-seeded Green Bay a shot at upending the NFC's top seed with 18 carries for 108 yards.

With his 53-yard run midway through the fourth quarter, Jones snapped the 49ers' streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher in 50 straight games (including postseason). Unfortunately, it just wasn't enough to pull off the upset.

"You come out, you play some good ball and just don't finish it. It's definitely tough," Jones said. "Definitely didn't feel like they were better than us. They are a great team – don't get me wrong, but I think it just comes down to execution at the end of the day."

Jones looked fast and fresh since returning from the sprained medial collateral ligament he suffered during a November game against the Los Angeles Chargers that he initially feared might prematurely end his season.

The former Pro Bowler luckily avoided significant injury and returned in time to contribute to the Packers' late-season resurgence. He tallied 653 total yards and three TDs over Green Bay's final five games of the year.

In addition to his on-field contributions, Jones also worked to be more vocal in a young locker room that saw a team-record 14 rookies play during the playoffs, which added even greater meaning to his seventh NFL season.

"I feel like this is the hottest we've been in my time here, going into the playoff stretch," Jones said. "I feel like we caught lightning in the bottle. The chemistry, how all the guys came together, bought in. I felt like we were playing for each other."

As difficult as a third postseason loss to San Francisco in five years was to swallow, Jones was filled with pride when reflecting on the Packers' improbable run to the NFC Divisional round of the playoffs.

Not only did the NFL's youngest team silence doubters when it reeled off three consecutive wins to advance to the postseason, but it also opened eyes with a dominant 48-32 win over second-seeded Dallas in the wild-card round.

"We're all like family. We're all related somehow," Jones said. "It's truly fun when you know those guys care about you. You can just look on the field and it's evident we're playing for each other. That's why it hurts a little bit more because we were playing for each other."

Nixon's big return: Keisean Nixon picked the right time to bust his longest kickoff return of the season when the two-time All-Pro burst into the open field for a 73-yard return to the San Francisco 27 midway through the third quarter.

It was the second-longest postseason kickoff return in Packers history, trailing only Desmond Howard's 99-yard touchdown return in Super Bowl XXXI. Green Bay used the field position to set up a four-play, 20-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard TD pass to Tucker Kraft to give the Packers a 21-14 lead.

Nixon's return wasn't without a little drama. He had the ball punched out at the end of the play, but veteran linebacker Eric Wilson quickly jumped on it to maintain possession.

Asked afterwards if he owed Wilson a steak for recovering that ball, Nixon replied: "(Shoot), I owe Eric more than a steak."

It was an emotional end to a career campaign for Nixon, who also made 13 starts as Green Bay's nickel cornerback. The former undrafted free agent had a career-high 80 tackles with six passes defensed, one interception and a half sack.

An unrestricted free agent this offseason, Nixon expressed his gratitude to the Packers when asked about what the past two seasons have meant to him.

"This meant everything to me, man," said Nixon, who had five tackles and came close to an interception of 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy. "I feel like I grew so much as a person, more than just a football player. The moment I signed my contract and put that G on my helmet, man, it meant everything. They pour everything into me in this organization and I pour everything back into them and two All-Pros later."

Check out photos from the NFC Divisional playoff matchup between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024.