GREEN BAY – The Packers went into Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears optimistic about the difference Aaron Jones could make after he sat out the previous meeting between the two teams earlier this season.
Instead, the second-year running back exited with a knee injury in the first quarter and didn’t return, finishing with only four carries for eight yards and breaking his streak of five consecutive games with a rushing touchdown.
The eeriest part for Jones was the injury occurred under almost the exact same circumstances as when he injured his knee in last year’s game at Soldier Field after running to the left in the first quarter.
“Was going the same direction, first half, first quarter – it felt like deja vu,” Jones said.
With Jones out, the Packers turned to Jamaal Williams to carry the load for the remainder of the game. The 2017 fourth-round pick didn’t disappoint, rushing for 55 yards and Green Bay’s only touchdown on 12 carries.
Williams also finished second on the team with four catches for 42 yards, including back-to-back receptions for 34 yards on the first two plays after Jones left the game with less than two minutes remaining in the second quarter.
“Just be ready,” said Williams of his mindset. “Next man up, always stay prepared, stay mentally prepared like you are going to be the starter. Just go in and do your job.”
The Packers entered Sunday’s game with only Jones, Williams and fullback Danny Vitale on the active roster after Tra Carson was recently placed on season-ending injured reserve with a rib injury.
While Williams’ opportunities had been limited over the past month, the second-year running back had started the first five games of the season and served as the Packers’ primary back in the opener against the Bears when Jones was serving a two-game suspension.
In addition to his pair of catches in the first quarter, Williams also rattled off a season-long carry of 20 yards before halftime and scored a 10-yard touchdown in the third quarter. It tied the game at 14 after a successful two-point conversion pass to receiver Davante Adams.
The full extent of Jones’ injury wasn’t immediately known, with Jones adding he was set to undergo further tests on his knee with team doctor Pat McKenzie and the training staff.
Although Jones wanted nothing more than to be on the field Sunday, he was proud of how his close friend held the position down in his absence.
“I feel like he did a great job,” Jones said. “I told him, ‘Hey, we’re going to need you,’ and right after that, he scored a touchdown. I think Jamaal did a great job protecting, catching the ball and running the ball. It just shows what kind of back he is and what he can do.”
New faces up front: With Kenny Clark sidelined with the elbow injury he sustained last week against Atlanta, the Packers leaned heavily on rookie Tyler Lancaster and recently added Fadol Brown to round out their base defensive front with Dean Lowry.
Lancaster finished the game with a team-high seven tackles (six solo), while Brown had two of his three tackles on back-to-back plays midway through the third quarter.
The first stopped Bears running back Taquan Mizzell two yards short of the first down on third-and-3. When Chicago tried a fake punt with a direct snap to Benny Cunningham on the next play, Brown and receiver Jake Kumerow combined to stop him for a 1-yard loss.
“Just trying to make a big play, man. Tried to give this team some juice,” said Brown, who was claimed off waivers from Oakland two weeks ago. “I knew that we needed the ball back, try to tie this thing up, get the momentum swing. I told the guys that, for the rest of the game, I’m going to give you all I’ve got. It just happened to fall in my favor.”
Despite the changes, the Packers managed to hold Chicago to only 97 rushing yards on 29 attempts (3.3-yard average).
Breeland returns: Bashaud Breeland was back on the field Sunday after being away from the team on Wednesday and Thursday following the death of a childhood friend.
Breeland, who had a pass breakup and tackle for a loss after starting in the nickel defense, said he chose to play because he felt like his friend would have wanted him to. The Packers’ secondary appreciated Breeland stepping up despite the circumstances.
“As a football player, we have things going on in our personal life not a lot of people know about, but you go through things and football in this locker room is kind of a sanctuary to get away from some of those problems,” defensive back Tramon Williams said. “When you get to the locker room and you get out on the field, you forget about those problems, however long it is that you're there. To get him out here, (he) was able to play and be prepared to play out there today, it was good for not only us, but it was great for him personally.”
Game Photos: Packers at Bears
The Green Bay Packers traveled to Chicago's Soldier Field to face the Bears in a Week 15 matchup.
Patrick’s day: Coming off his first start of the season at left guard last week against Atlanta, second-year offensive lineman Lucas Patrick was called upon to start at right guard Sunday in Chicago.
With every great opportunity comes with it even greater responsibility. In Patrick’s case, it meant being frequently matched up against Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, who finished with just three tackles.
“Going against a player of that caliber is a great learning experience for me, a great (thing) to build my toolbox,” Patrick said. “I thought it was a good battle. He came up to me after the game and agreed it was a good battle.”