CHICAGO – A lot changed on the offensive side for the Packers this offseason, but spoiler alert: Aaron Jones remains as dangerous as ever.
The Packers' go-to playmaker did what he does best during Sunday's regular-season opener in Chicago, igniting Green Bay's offense during a dominating 38-20 win over the Bears in front of 62,456 at Soldier Field.
Jones came through for new starting quarterback Jordan Love and a young Packers offense with 127 total yards and two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving) on just 11 touches.
Jones' two scores in the third quarter helped Green Bay pull away after holding a narrow 10-6 halftime lead. He started the second half with a 1-yard TD dive up the middle before adding a 35-yard TD catch across the middle on fourth down.
It's the third straight season Jones has had a rushing TD and a receiving TD in a victory over the Bears.
"I really think Aaron is … one of the best veteran leaders/players I've ever played with in my entire football career," receiver Romeo Doubs said. "I'm just fortunate to have somebody like him around. Without him, who knows what happens? Jonesy got us going with his big plays on the ground and in the passing game."
Jones rushed five times during Green Bay's first offensive series, which ended with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Love to Doubs. He wasn't called upon again until the third quarter and he made all six of his touches count.
Even before the two scores, Jones and the offensive line combined for the play of the day when he caught a misdirection pass from Love off a rollout and ran 51 yards to the Chicago 7.
With Rasheed Walker declaring eligible as a sixth offensive lineman, the play looked more like a fast break than a screen pass. After rolling left, Love stopped, turned back, and delivered a dart across the hashes to Jones.
The 5-foot-9, 208-pound back followed the lead of guards Elgton Jenkins and Jon Runyan, and center Josh Myers, to charge into Bears' territory on what would be the second-longest catch of Jones' career, behind his 67-yarder against Kansas City in 2019.
While running in front of Jones, only one thing crossed the mind of the two-time Pro Bowler Jenkins.
"It's going to be a parade," Jenkins said. "Go step on somebody's toes. Put your hands on somebody. Somebody like (number) 3-3, he don't need too much to make an explosive run."
AJ Dillon ran the ball twice for six yards before Jones punched in the TD on third-and-goal, one of nine third downs Green Bay converted on Sunday, to extend the Packers' lead to 17-6.
Green Bay's defense then forced a three-and-out, and Jones kept the production coming. The Packers fell into a fourth-and-3 situation from the Chicago 35, but Head Coach Matt LaFleur chose to keep the offense on the field.
The ball was destined for Jones, who motioned pre-snap, came free across the middle and ran untouched to the end zone.
"I knew it was coming to me. I knew I was the first read," Jones said. "I won my route and then I looked up and seen where the safety was and where the defense was converging from, and I was like, run as fast as you can to the end zone."
Jones tweaked his hamstring at the end of the play and didn't return to the game but told reporters afterwards it was only precautionary.
Jones became just the fourth Packers running back to have at least 40 rushing yards and a rushing TD, and 80 receiving yards and a receiving TD, in the same game, joining Paul Hornung (1965), Donny Anderson (1967) and Dorsey Levens (1997).
The Green Bay Packers kicked off the 2023 regular season against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023.