Aaron Jones just looked happy to start strong when he pushed into the end zone for the first time Sunday afternoon against the Dallas Cowboys.
On his second trip there for Green Bay Packers, the third-year running back was much more energized. He quickly found a sideline camera and screamed into the national TV broadcast: “This my house!”
None of his four scoring trots, though, drove home his message to the Cowboys quite like his third. Jones turned and waved goodbye to cornerback Bryon Jones with a smile on his face just before crossing the goal line for a 5-yard touchdown, epitomizing his career performance in Sunday’s 34-24 win over the Cowboys.
“I was just in the zone, I didn’t realize I did it until I came off the field,” Jones said in the postgame via The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman. “No disrespect to him, he’s a great player.”
Jones made sure his second visit to AT&T Stadium was even harder to forget than his first, notching his second 100-yard rushing game of the season and gaining a career-high 182 scrimmage yards. He caught seven passes for 75 yards and took 19 carries for 107 yards and four touchdowns, tying a franchise record for most single-game rushing scores.
A native of El Paso, Texas, Jones also became the first-ever running back to rush for four touchdowns against the Cowboys in their 60-year history as an NFL franchise.
Packers coach Matt LaFleur gave the game ball to Jones and he tried giving it to his offensive linemen, but they wouldn’t take it, according to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky.
“It’s my first game ball,” Jones said. “I tried to give it to the linemen because without them I’m nothing, along with the rest of the blocking unit, but the linemen gave it back to me. They were like, ‘No you’re home, you’re in Texas.’ You take this ball.”
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Aaron Jones Proves He Can Deliver for Packers
During their 34-27 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last week, the Packers lost one of their playmakers on the first play of their opening drive when Jamaal Williams took a nasty helmet-to-helmet hit from Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett and was carted off the field to a local hospital.
The league fined Barnett $28,075 for the hit, but the damage was done for Williams, who was diagnosed for a concussion and ultimately ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Cowboys.
LaFleur had been trying to split carries more evenly between Williams and Jones, as both rushers had been effective enough on their feet and in the passing game to form a two-headed attack. But some concerns arose as to whether Jones alone could carry the responsibility after gaining just 21 yards on 13 carries after Williams’ departure.
By the time Sunday night rolled around, the Packers were sitting at 4-1 and all doubt had been snuffed out.
Carving up the Cowboys defense with both his pass-catching and rushing not only saw Jones cross over the 100-yard rushing plateau for the fifth time in his career, but it solidified him as a reliable scoring threat for the Packers’ offense. With four rushing scores Sunday, Jones has now reached eight touchdowns on the season to match his 12-game total from last season.
It also confirmed to Cowboys fans that he should be feared inside their stadium after a dominant encore to his first visit two years ago. Jones got the first start of his career against the Cowboys in Week 5 of his 2017 rookie season and made it memorable with a 125-yard rushing performance that buoyed the Packers to a 35-31 victory.
What Comes Next for Packers Run Game?
Jones is a piece the Packers hope is only just getting started, but the injury to Williams reminds how quickly plans can change. Whereas a star talent like Jones was ready to step into a larger role without his running partner, the same can not be said about those who wait behind Jones on the depth chart.
The Packers had an interesting competition at the running back slot in the offseason. While Wiliams and Jones both sat for much of training camp with injuries that have not seemed to linger into the regular season, rookie Dexter Williams contended with Tra Carson and fullback Danny Vitale for snaps.
Williams beat out Carson for the initial 53-man roster spot, but he had not yet played a snap through the first four weeks as the Packers have expressed some hesitation with putting him in the game. They doubled down on that Saturday when they promoted Carson from the practice squad to the active roster and later ruled Williams a healthy scratch Week 5 against the Cowboys.
Carson certainly took a backseat role to Jones during Sunday’s win, but he didn’t play poorly in his supporting role. He got little done on the ground with just six carries for 14 yards, but he managed to haul in all four of the passes thrown his way for a total of 18 receiving yards.