GREEN BAY – The second half belonged to Aaron Jones.
In need of a lift after a first half in which the offense turned the ball over three times, the Packers fed their third-year running back all the way to a landmark 23-10 road win over the Minnesota Vikings Monday night.
Jones, who finished with a career-high 154 rushing yards, carried the ball 13 times for 109 yards and two touchdowns in the final two quarters to power the comeback.
Now entering Sunday's regular-season finale against Detroit, Jones is within 16 rushing yards of his first 1,000-yard season and one touchdown away from matching Ahman Green's franchise record of 20 total touchdowns in a single season.
But as Jones so often does, he was quick to divert the credit after the game – not only to the offensive line blocking for him, but also to his receivers for the role they played blocking downfield on his career day.
"They take hits off of you. Not only open up lanes, but extra hits off of you," Jones said. "Anytime you have a receiver putting their bodies on the line and going in there and doing that, you know you're going to have a good day running the ball. It just tells you what kind of guys we have on this team: Unselfish."
Green Bay has a rich history when it comes to receivers embracing the less glamorous responsibilities of the position. For years, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb set the tone for the room as willing blockers.
Davante Adams learned under those two veterans and leads the current receiving corps with a similar approach. So far, Geronimo Allison, Jake Kumerow, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard have all done well in carrying their weight in assisting the ground game.
Asked about the receivers' blocking effort this year, quarterback Aaron Rodgers singled out Allison first for doing "some things this year that have changed schematics because you can see what he can do at the point of attack – he's blocking defensive ends or outside linebackers at times."
In Monday's win, Allison set a key block on a third-and-1 screen pass to Adams on what turned out to be an 11-yard pickup.
The collective impact of Kumerow, Lazard and Valdes-Scantling was felt against the Vikings, as well. Lazard won a key one-on-one block to clear a lane on Jones' 12-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, Kumerow pulled like a guard on a successful 5-yard Jones run and Valdes-Scantling sealed off the outside to spring Jones on his 56-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
"I think combined it's perhaps the best group of blockers that we've had," Rodgers said. "That's what being a good teammate's all about, that's what embracing your role is all about, and I'm really proud of those guys the way they've played."
A disciple of Mike Shanahan, Head Coach Matt LaFleur has emphasized the importance of receiver blocking everywhere he's coached. That core belief has meshed perfectly with Packers receiver coach Alvis Whitted.
Lazard said the receivers' motivation to perform well in that aspect of the game is half the continued emphasis of the coaching staff and half their own pride in doing what's asked of them.
It might not make highlight reels as easily as a touchdown or a clutch reception, but an argument can be made a key block like Valdes-Scantling's Monday can be just as critical to the overall success of an offense.
"It's great to see them take pride in that aspect of the game," center Corey Linsley said. "We know how unappreciated it can be at times and how we just take pride in ourselves. They're in the limelight 24/7 making catches and everything, so for them to go out there and sacrifice their bodies and kind of join us a little bit, it's great."
Now in his fifth season, Adams says he gets as amped for a game-changing block as he does a catch. For example, when Kumerow created a lane for Jones on a 42-yard pickup against Washington, Adams said he thought "that's the highest I've ever jumped" in congratulatory excitement.
Adams has been a big fan of Jones dating back to when he first arrived as a fifth-round pick out of UTEP in the 2017 NFL Draft, tabbing Jones as his "dark horse" to become an impact player for the Packers' offense.
Two years later, Jones has his sets his sights on several milestones and records this Sunday against the Lions. Wanting to help a teammate, Adams and the rest of the Packers' receivers are eager to do whatever's asked of them against the Lions to secure a first-round bye.
"When he first got here, I called out and said that he's going to be the player he is today, so I like to take a little bit of credit for that," said Adams, jokingly. "But yeah, he's a great player. He's obviously contributed a lot to this team's success as far as putting points on the board. I love it."