GREEN BAY – Extra help makes a difference.
As Packers running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams combined for 156 rushing yards against the Panthers, Green Bay's offensive line was outstanding in controlling the line of scrimmage.
So this breakdown takes nothing away from the stellar job the starting five did up front. Another highlight reel, including these plays and more, could be put together with their key blocks.
But the work the Packers' receivers and tight ends did as extra blockers in the running game really stood out on several productive runs, and it's worth focusing on those in this segment.
Here's a sampling.
Play No. 1: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 10, first quarter, 11:44 left
Result: 9-yard run by Jones
Right from the first offensive snap of the game, the Packers establish their perimeter players' role in the ground game. While TE Marcedes Lewis (89) seals stand-still LB Bruce Irvin (55) on the edge, TE Jimmy Graham (80) gets a solid block on DT Vernon Butler (92) and WR Geronimo Allison (81) charges forward to get S Eric Reid (25) as Jones nearly breaks it.
Play No. 2: Second-and-10 from the Green Bay 25, second quarter, 14:49 left
Result: 8-yard run by Williams
Once again the bunch formation on the right side clears the way. Lewis takes on LB Luke Kuechly (59), Allison goes and gets Reid, and WR Jake Kumerow (16) knocks S Colin Jones (42) back a few yards with an initial shove. Kumerow takes his man so far toward the middle that it's too bad Williams doesn't hesitate for just a tick and cut to the right off Kumerow's block. If he had, he'd have been one-on-one with CB Ross Cockrell (47) with a chance to break a tackle and be off to the races.
Play No. 3: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 47, third quarter, 13:25 left
Result: 28-yard run by Jones
Now we're into the second half when the Packers' running game really starts picking up steam. One play after a 38-yard completion to WR Davante Adams gets the offense out of a second-and-26 hole, Rodgers gives a head nod to motion Kumerow inside, and he points to stop him right between the two tight ends, Lewis and rookie Jace Sternberger (87). Lewis spins Kuechly around – much the same way RT Bryan Bulaga (75) spins DT Gerald McCoy (93) around on the other side of the hole, creating a rather pretty-looking double-pirouette whiff – as Kumerow crashes down and takes Reid right out of the play, and there goes Jones.
Play No. 4: Second-and-10 from the Green Bay 20, third quarter, 7:03 left
Result: 15-yard run by Williams
Just as he did on the last play (though it's not highlighted), Sternberger simply holds his ground against the stand-still Irvin on the edge. Lewis effectively seals off McCoy after some initial double-team help from LT David Bakhtiari (69), and it's WR Allen Lazard (13) who comes to get Reid this time. Williams breaks the ankle-tackle attempt by CB Javien Elliott (23) and has another big gain.
Play No. 5: First-and-10 from the Carolina 49, third quarter, 5:12 left
Result: 16-yard run by Williams
A slightly different formation here, with Sternberger in an offset backfield position before he leads through a huge B gap with a block on LB Shaq Thompson (54). From the slot on the other side of the formation, Allison comes across and locks up Elliott, shoving him well downfield.
Play No. 6: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 25, fourth quarter, 11:58 left
Result: 9-yard run by Jones
Much like Play No. 3 above, Rodgers motions Kumerow in to block, which he does on Reid, who is in tight as a box safety at the linebacker level. The one-on-one blocks by C Corey Linsley (63), RG Billy Turner (77) and Bulaga are all sustained in textbook fashion.
Bonus play: Third-and-6 from the Green Bay 26, second quarter, 2:53 left
Result: 48-yard completion to Graham
This play has nothing to do with the running game, but it's worth showing for two reasons. First, it's another example of how masterful Rodgers can be at manipulating defenders, even the best of them. Second, he does so this time with a pump fake, which is something of a lost art in this day and age of timing routes, quick screens and jet sweeps. With Allison and Graham lined up side by side to Rodgers' right, Allison runs a curl right at the first-down marker and Graham runs a go route behind him. Watch how the pump fake by Rodgers, staring down Allison, gets Kuechly to bite. The All-Pro linebacker's step up toward the curl route opens up the throwing lane down the seam to Graham, who turns in his second-longest play in a Packers uniform.