GREEN BAY – When the other team knows what you're going to do and you still get the best of them, that's execution at its finest.
The Packers' game-clinching drive in Kansas City to drain the final 5:04 off the clock started with seven straight running plays. Three of the first four are highlighted here for various reasons.
Whether it was outstanding individual blocks, decision-making by the quarterback, or superb teamwork, the Packers got the job done when they absolutely had to. Here's how and why the key running plays worked.
Play No. 1: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 2, fourth quarter, 5:04 left
Result: 6-yard run by RB Aaron Jones
Getting off on the right foot from the 2-yard line was paramount, and the lion's share of the credit on the opening snap goes to All-Pro LT David Bakhtiari (69). First, he comes off the ball double-teaming DT Khalen Saunders (99) with rookie LG Elgton Jenkins (74). As soon as Saunders is pushed out of his gap, Bakhtiari then gets a piece of LB Anthony Hitchens (53) on the second level. While Hitchens makes the tackle, Bakhtiari generates enough leverage to keep driving him back so Jones can gain six yards. To Jones' left, TE Marcedes Lewis (89) also runs just enough interference on DE Tanoh Kpassagnon (92) for Jones to slip by. Kpassagnon probably thinks he's squeezing that hole down to nothing, but with Saunders taken care of, the two-for-one work by Bakhtiari provides enough room.
Play No. 2: Third-and-2 from the Green Bay 10, fourth quarter, 3:40 left
Result: 4-yard run by Jones
This is the first third down on the series and the most important one to convert from a field-position standpoint. Interestingly, the Chiefs are clearly playing pass, with four of the six box defenders at the line of scrimmage in two-point stances. That's not a front to stop a short-yardage run, and QB Aaron Rodgers steps up from the shotgun to make a check of some sort. Whether he checked from a pass to a run because of the Chiefs' alignment, or whether he's simply calling for the run to go to the softest spot up front – over RG Billy Turner (77), with LB Ben Niemann (56) lined up two yards off the ball – is hard to say. Either way, it's a pretty easy first down, because Turner doesn't have to do much. The key block is delivered by C Corey Linsley (63), who pancakes DT Derrick Nnadi (91) with a strong finish in the middle, and Rodgers emphatically signals first down.
Play No. 3: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 14, fourth quarter, 2:57 left
Result: 9-yard run by Jones
Here's an absolute thing of beauty, and it's this gain that really puts the pressure on the Chiefs, who use their three timeouts on each of the next three snaps. Jones couldn't have asked for this to be blocked any better. Starting with Jenkins and going left to right, the rookie LG walls off Saunders, Linsley gets a clean look at Hitchens, Turner locks up Nnadi, RT Alex Light (70, filling in for an injured Bryan Bulaga) gets proper inside leverage on DE Emmanuel Ogbah (90), and Lewis pushes LB Reggie Ragland (59) wide as well. At the moment Jones takes the handoff, everybody's blocked, all five defenders on the play side, and he bursts through a huge hole between Turner and Light to set up another short-yardage situation the Packers convert with ease. From here, all the Packers need is one more first down to seal the deal, and they get it with a quick pitch-and-catch to Jones on third down just after the two-minute warning.
Bonus play: Third-and-10 from the Green Bay 38, third quarter, 7:25 left
Result: 11-yard completion to TE Jimmy Graham
As mentioned, Light subbed in on the final drive for Bulaga at RT. In the third quarter, he also took three snaps at LT when Bakhtiari came out momentarily, so it's worth highlighting a key play from the swing tackle in that sequence. Rodgers motions Graham from the outside to line up in the backfield as extra protection against a possible blitz. But with no blitz coming from that side, Graham is able to slip out into a route and Jenkins, who is unengaged, has the presence of mind to help on blitzing S Daniel Sorensen (49) coming from the other side. Meanwhile Light is doing just enough to steer DE Alex Okafor (97) past Rodgers, allowing the QB to step up and flip the ball to Graham and get the offense moving on what becomes a game-tying drive.