'What an incredible run': How Aaron Jones weaved his way to 57-yard gain

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GREEN BAY - Aaron Jones knew he’d have to make a safety miss. If the Green Bay Packers running back wanted to finally break his first long run this season, he couldn’t let his blockers do all the work. 

As he left the huddle with 3:27 left in the fourth quarter Sunday at Cincinnati, Jones couldn’t have known his first home run of 2021 was imminent. Coach Matt LaFleur had called a pass play from the sideline. When quarterback Aaron Rodgers scanned the defense, he audibled to a run. 

Jones, standing behind Rodgers, had keyed Bengals safety Vonn Bell before the snap. Had the play remained a pass, he might have needed to block Bell on a blitz. Instead, Jones got the ball in his hands and saw Bell waiting in the hole, unblocked. 

Jones needed to make him miss. 

“I saw the safety coming down,” Jones said, “and I knew if I could get him to stop his feet, I’d probably make him miss. I was able to get him to stop his feet.” 

Once Bell stopped his feet, Jones was off. 

Packers running back Aaron Jones takes a hand-off from quarterback Aaron Rodger on Sunday.

The Packers star tailback’s first long run this season went 57 yards through a maze of Bengals defenders, the type of scamper highlight reels were made to show. Wiggled past Bell with a wicked juke move before he even reached the line of scrimmage. Cut inside a Yosh Nijman block, high stepped out of unblocked safety Jessie Bates III’s tackle, and finished with a vicious stiff arm against cornerback Mike Hilton. 

The stiff arm sent Hilton backward, landing on his back. 

“I didn’t know I was that strong,” Jones said, “but I proved myself wrong.” 

To that point, Jones had gone almost five full games without a big run. He hadn’t run for 20 yards on any carry this season, surprising for a big-play back with 11 runs of at least 20 yards over the past two seasons. The Packers believed Jones was ready to bust a long one. 

LaFleur said Jones’ run was especially impressive because, for him, it was unconventional. 

“What an incredible run,” LaFleur said. “To make two guys miss – one guy in the backfield, the other guy in the open field – and he’s typically not a guy who breaks down to shake a guy. He just beats him with speed, and to watch him do that was pretty spectacular.” 

In a game less wild at the finish, Jones’ run might have been pivotal. It set up the Packers in field-goal range inside three minutes of a tied game. Of course, Sunday’s game included five missed field goals down the stretch, three from Mason Crosby. 

Still, Jones said it will be memorable. 

“I felt,” Jones said, “like that was probably one of my better runs in my career. I felt like I showed a number of things, just completeness, making somebody miss. Being able to show a little wiggle, stiff arm and then another stiff arm at the end, jump cut in there as well. So I think as a back, it kind of just showed everything.”

Packers receiver Malik Taylor on COVID-19 list

The Packers will be without one of their key special teams performers for Sunday's game after placing receiver Maik Taylor on the reserve/COVID-19 list. 

The NFL does not comment on whether the player tested positive or had a close contact with someone who tested positive. Either way, the potential for return in time for Sunday's game is low.

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The week's final injury report produced mixed results. Center Josh Myers (finger) was dropped from the list and is ready to play after missing last Sunday's game at Cincinnati. Left tackle Elgton Jenkins (ankle) is questionable.

For the Bears, edge rusher Khalil Mack (foot), defensive lineman Akiem Hicks (groin) and receiver Allen Robinson (ankle) are questionable.

Sticking with A-Rod

Statistically, rookie Amari Rodgers has not been productive on punt returns.

He has averaged 5.7 yards on six returns with two fair catches, which would rank him 15th in the NFL if he had enough attempts to qualify.

However, special teams coach Maurice Drayton isn’t giving up on him because he thinks Rodgers is starting to show signs of being more aggressive.

“Amari is doing a better job of attacking the ball, attacking the returns,” Drayton said. “From Game One, Amari would catch the ball, he would process, look, then run. Now, he's getting more comfortable as he's catching the ball putting it in the catch pocket, moving in the direction of our return. So, he is getting better.”

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