The Green Bay Packers have been so successful inside the red zone this season that Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said his side of the ball doesn’t even call it by that name anymore.
With touchdowns on 70 percent of their trips inside the 20-yard line, the Packers simply refer to it now as “the gold zone.”
“We like to call it the gold zone in our room,” Hackett told reporters Thursday. “I think the guys have done a really good job of executing down there.”
The Packers have been able to lean on the reliable arm of star quarterback Aaron Rodgers from a range where he has historically thrived, but the breakout success of third-year running back Aaron Jones has helped make the offense harder to predict. Jones has 11 rushing touchdowns on the season with another three on receptions to make him one of the league’s best scorers.
“I think the starting point is we’ve been able to run the ball,” Hackett said. “I think anytime you’re able to give a dual-threat if you just try to focus on the pass, that typically hurts you, or just the run. So I think to be able to mix it up, and then I think the other thing is is how many different people have scored down there. That’s something I think is huge. If you’re trying to attack with one person, they obviously take that away and you’re not feeling great about what you’re trying to do.”
Follow the Heavy on Packers Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!
Two-Man Run Getting it Done for Packers
Jones isn’t alone in helping the Packers establish the run game, as his one-two punch with Jamaal Williams has proved potent this season. The Packers tandem has averaged 88.1 rushing yards and 51.2 receiving yards through 12 games this season, while Williams has been on the receiving end of a team-high five touchdown passes with another on the ground.
Nearly 40 percent of the team’s 204 first downs this season have also involved either Jones or Williams in some capacity.
The scoring load, though, has been pretty equally distributed outside of Green Bay’s backfield. Seven different receivers have caught touchdown passes with Davante Adams (3), Jimmy Graham (3), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (2), Geronimo Allison (2) and Allen Lazard (2) all coming down with multiple. Rodgers also tallied a rushing touchdown during a game in which he threw for a season-best five scores against Oakland.
“For us, we’re lucky because we have a couple guys who can do a lot of different things and allow you to do whatever it takes to win,” Hackett said. “In the end, that’s all that matters. That’s what we’d like the identity to be: Do whatever it takes.”
Getting Jones the Ball Still a Priority
Afforded the presence of Williams, the Packers have opted to split carries between him and Jones pretty evenly, but Jones has dropped off in the passing game over the past month.
Jones caught just one pass over a three-game stretch leading into last week’s road game against the Giants, a drought that came after he caught seven passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns in Week 8’s win at the Kansas City Chiefs. His production has also dipped a bit in the run game over his past two games, gaining just 18 yards on 11 carries in Week 13.
“Every game can play out a little bit differently,” Packers head coach Matt LaFleur told reporters Friday afternoon. “He’s such an explosive player, though, we’re certainly going to always try to get the ball in his hands and find different ways to do that. Just to get him out in space, that’s the goal each and every week. That’s part of the planning, how is the way best to do that.”