GREEN BAY – Aaron Jones felt good enough to cut it loose on Sunday and the heavier dose of the Pro Bowl running back produced positive results for the Packers' offense.
Following Jones' lead, Green Bay rushed for a season-high 184 yards during a 20-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams at Lambeau Field.
With Jones feeling the healthiest he's been in two months, the Packers found solid footing behind their trusted backfield combination of Jones (24 touches for 99 yards and a touchdown) and fourth-year veteran AJ Dillon (nine carries for 40 yards).
Asked about Jones on Friday, Head Coach Matt LaFleur said the Packers were ready to "cut him loose" after weeks of being cautious with Jones' reps due to a lingering hamstring issue.
"I do feel like I was cut loose," said Jones when asked about LaFleur's comments on Friday. "He just let me go out there and play. Put '33' on the field and put the ball in his hands so he did that, and I love when I can impact the game."
The Packers were deliberate about feeding Jones early on. His number was called six times on the opening possession and five on the second, which marked Green Bay's first scoring drive.
Jones and Dillon combined for 34 of the 41 yards on the seven-play series that ended in Jones' 3-yard touchdown up the middle. It propelled the Packers to a 7-3 halftime lead, while the run game had 90 yards on 18 carries at the break.
"I think the mindset was we're going to go get it going no matter what," Dillon said. "We knew it wasn't going to be pretty all the time. We know we're going up against great players on the other side of the ball and we knew they were going to make their plays. They made some plays, too. But it's about not bending, it's about keeping going and it's about fighting all the way through."
One of the tricky things about Jones missing three games and being limited in three others with the hamstring is it took Green Bay out of its "Pony" package, a two-back scheme that features both Jones and Dillon.
The Packers implemented that more against the Rams, along with plays that maximize Jones' versatility as a pass-catcher (four catches for 26 yards) while also posing as a threat on pre-snap motions.
With Dillon's 40 rushing yards and rookie Emanuel Wilson adding 43 on four carries late in the game, it marked the first time Green Bay had three RBs each register 40-plus rushing yards in a game since Dec. 11, 1994, vs. Chicago (Edgar Bennett, Reggie Cobb, LeShon Johnson).
Jones did have one regret Sunday – his lost third-quarter fumble – but Green Bay's defense got the ball right back on one of its six forced three-and-outs of the Rams' offense.
"We know we've got to be better in those situations," Jones said. "It didn't cost us then. Luckily our defense, they always have our back. But we know in critical games or close games that can cost you, so I gotta be better and I'll make sure the guys around me are better as well."
Jones' 24 touches were his most since the Packers' 31-28 overtime win over Dallas in Week 10 of last season. The seventh-year veteran said he felt fine after the game and hopes to be another step closer to full health when the Packers travel to Pittsburgh next weekend.
"It didn't feel bad at all. I liked being out there," Jones said. "I liked feeling like I can provide a spark or provide a boost and feel like we came out and moved the ball well, got a faster start – which we needed – and feel like it carried us through the game."
Check out photos from the Week 9 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Rams at Lambeau Field on Nov. 5, 2023.
Musgrave's first score: In the fourth quarter, rookie tight end Luke Musgrave caught his first NFL touchdown off a look Green Bay developed out of its "Pony" package.
The Packers ran fake screens to Jones on the left side and Dillon on the right side, opening the middle of the field up for Musgrave to run a seam route on what turned out to be a 20-yard touchdown.
Musgrave said they ran the play once in practice this week.
"That's how it goes. I mean, all plays build off each other, so it's not like it's a totally new scheme," said Musgrave, who finished with three catches for a team-high 51 yards. "We've played enough football that we have a feel for it."
Clark's status: Defensive lineman Kenny Clark finished the game on the sideline after exiting in the first quarter with a shoulder injury.
Clark has some tests lined up but said, "I'll be all right." He was proud of the defense's collective effort in holding the Rams to just three points, the fewest LA has scored in a regular-season game during Sean McVay's six-plus seasons as head coach.
"It was awesome," Clark said. "A lot of work was put into the week, and we had a lot of guys step up this week with the trade and with all the injuries on the back end and myself. To see all the guys step up, make plays, playing fast, that's what you want to see."
More on the defense: LA's three points were the fewest Green Bay allowed at Lambeau Field since a 17-0 shutout win over Seattle on Nov. 4, 2021.
All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander, who was unable to play in that game due to a shoulder injury, said the victory reminded him of the Packers' 22-0 win over Buffalo his rookie season.
"It almost reminded me of back in '18 when we held Josh Allen to zero points here in Lambeau," Alexander said. "It was fun. I wish we could've held them to zero, but we'll try against next week."