EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Down 15 points in the fourth quarter, the Green Bay Packers ran 25 plays that counted toward erasing the deficit — and another eight in overtime Sunday to beat the New York Jets 44-38 at MetLife Stadium.
Within those 33 plays of critical offensive football, Jamaal Williams had his number called for nine of them. In total, the second-year running back touched the ball a season-high 21 times for a career-high 156 yards of total offense.
“Oh! Reminds me of BYU! Oh!” Williams quipped about his workload, referencing his lead-back college days at Brigham Young University.
Packers interim head coach and play caller Joe Philbin said during the week that Williams was going to be a big part of his game plan, and Williams didn’t disappoint — especially in crunch time. On what turned into the go-ahead scoring drive near the end of regulation, Williams ran four yards on first-and-10 from his own 17. Four plays later, a screen to the right picked up 26 yards.
“Oh, this is ‘bout to be beautiful,” Williams said of seeing the Jets clog up the middle of the field. “This is about to be beautiful. All we gotta do is get out. If we get out we can just get moving.”
The Jets brought defenders into the “A” gaps — or bracketing center Corey Linsley between guards Lucas Patrick and Justin McCray — and Williams knew it would work. He just had to sell his block.
“You just gotta bluff it and play your little actor game and ‘oh, I see you,’” Williams said of the play. “You just gotta get in there and play your game, be an actor, and once you get the ball you get up the field and you already know where they’re coming from.”
Williams sold it and then sneaked out, and got down to the Jets’ 24.
Six plays later Aaron Rodgers stuck the ball over the goal line for a touchdown and (after a two-point conversion) a 38-35 lead with 72 seconds left in regulation.
“Luckily we’ve got No. 12 back there letting us know there’s still time on the clock, let’s get yards, yards over time, so we just try to go down and score as fast as we can and win the game,” Williams said. “I feel like we handled it great. I feel like we were calm, cool, collected the whole time, just enjoying each other, high-fiving each other anytime we did something good and just trying to keep it rolling.”
There were a couple of short runs by Williams that were stuffed, including two third-and-one plays that resulted in the Packers having to go for it on fourth down. But he also peeled off runs of 19, 13 and 15 yards. On the day, he averaged 6.3 yards per carry. He also was second on the team with nine targets and six catches for 61 yards.
“That’s who Jamaal is,” Linsley said. “I feel like Aaron Jones is a special back but Jamaal is as well. They’re both great backs. They’re both extremely coachable and extremely talented and I think they got it all. It was nice to see Jamaal show it off.”
The Packers came into the game ranked No. 3 in the NFL in yards per rushing attempt (5.0) and that continued with a heavy push up front and a well-executed game plan from Philbin and run-game coordinator/offensive line coach James Campen.
Even with McCray having to fill in for injured starter Lane Taylor after the game’s second series, Williams was able to get to the second level of the Jets defense for much of the afternoon.
“Honestly with Jamaal, it’s just try to get a hat on a hat and let him run his game,” Packers right guard Lucas Patrick said. “I felt like we did that when we needed to. We had opportunities to run the ball early and late. He’s a hard runner and a fun guy to block for.”
But nothing spoke more volumes about the work Williams and the offensive line were putting in than having Philbin and Rodgers give him the ball as they played catch-up from 15 points down in the final quarter.
“It’s something I really appreciate,” Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari said. “When you go into a game, at the end of the day, you’re putting a lot of stress on your quarterback and your protection unit. I don’t say offensive line, I say protection unit as a whole. And the ability for us to mix and match and keep them honest, that’s where you get gashers. That’s where they’re like man, we’ve got to watch ourselves. That holds them back a little bit, especially when you know you’re down by three (possessions, in this case) and you gotta throw. I appreciate it. Coach Philbin did a great job play calling, giving us the ability to mix and match and you see the productivity out of it.”