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Packers pass big-time test with game on the line

Clinching drive from own 2-yard line killed final 5:04 to beat Chiefs

WR Allen Lazard, QB Aaron Rodgers
WR Allen Lazard, QB Aaron Rodgers

KANSAS CITY – It was a tough spot to be in.

Up by seven, on the road, backed up to their own 2-yard line, the starting right tackle out of the game, and 5:04 on the clock.

No worries, right? Not with these Packers, apparently.

Eight snaps later – seven straight runs and one well-executed pass – gave the Packers three first downs, 39 yards, and success at the ultimate game of keep-away to preserve a 31-24 Sunday night triumph over the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

It was an old-school way to polish off a victory in an old-school building.

"We were kind of struggling a little bit to run the football," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said of his offense at that point, which hadn't yet crossed 100 rushing yards against one of the league's struggling run defenses.

"Our guys came off the ball and we started moving people. You could see the surge in the line of scrimmage. Our backs did a great job hitting the hole and making some good runs there at the end."

It was mostly Aaron Jones, who powered his way to six yards on the first carry to get things going, and then ran for two, four, nine and five on the next four snaps for a first down at the 28-yard line.

The Packers were out of danger, but the Chiefs weren't out of hope. They were burning their timeouts and used their last with 2:41 left after a 2-yard run by Jamaal Williams.

Jones' sixth carry in seven plays, a 3-yard plunge to give him 26 of his night's 67 rushing yards on the final drive, took the clock down to the two-minute warning and set up the big decision.

On third-and-5, the Packers could play it safe and try to run for the first down, and if they didn't get it, they'd be able to run the clock under 1:20 before punting back to the Chiefs, who would need a touchdown.

Or, they could definitively go for the kill, even though they risked an incomplete pass that would give the Chiefs nearly two minutes to mount a final charge.

LaFleur chose the latter, almost without hesitation, and a quick pass to Jones on an out route for the game-clinching first down was made to look easy. The simple pitch and catch gave Jones 159 receiving yards and 226 total from scrimmage in a dynamite performance.

"Just a risk we were willing to take," LaFleur said of the crucial decision. "I totally trust our quarterback, I trust Aaron Jones as a receiver.

"I didn't want to just pound it up in there try to get five yards. I had full confidence we were going to get the necessary yardage and I thought the best way to do that was through the air."

His quarterback was just as confident, if not more so, saying "it was time to win the game."

"I loved it," Rodgers said of the call. "It's close-out. I loved the whole drive. I think that was really special to finish that off.

"We've done it a couple times this year but not backed up on the 2-yard line in a tough environment. That was classic four-minute offense to finish the game out in the right way."

The other time Rodgers referenced was in Week 2 against Minnesota, when the Packers drained the final four-plus minutes in a one-score game. But that was at home and with much more favorable field position.

This was a whole different matter, and with Alex Light subbing for veteran right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who left the game with a hand injury. Former practice-squad tight end Evan Baylis, recently promoted to the active roster, was in to block on some snaps, too.

It's a situation a lot of home teams would take defensively, expecting to get the ball back to their offense for one last shot. Kansas City had to be liking its chances.

But the Packers are 7-1 for a reason, mostly thanks to their ability to rise up in the fourth quarter and be the better team when it matters most.

This was the sixth time in eight games the Packers were definitely the superior squad in the fourth quarter. Only in the games against Philadelphia and Dallas they weren't, and they survived against the Cowboys because they had built a 28-point lead in the second half.

This was also Green Bay's third road win in three tries in 2019, further distancing the team from last year's, which didn't win a road game until the final trip of a lost season.

"It's fun, it's fun," Rodgers said of being 7-1. "We're having a lot of fun. It's a good locker room and guys really enjoy each other. Winning is a cure-all, but it's fun when you're winning with the right people."

The Green Bay Packers faced off against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday Night Football.

They're playing winning football at the right time, too, even if the 2-yard line in one of the NFL's loudest venues wasn't exactly the right, or most comfortable, place.

But as LaFleur likes to say, they didn't blink.

"It just shows how resilient our guys are just to keep fighting, and also the confidence if it gets down to crunch time that we're going to find a way," he said. "Remarkably tonight it didn't always feel like it was going that way, but we found a way. I'm really proud of our guys."

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