By Eric Goska
|Vince Lombardi would have approved of Green Bay's|
rushing effort (199 yards) against the Patriots.
Aaron Jones is the Packers’ 6,000-yard man.
Jones, one half of Green Bay’s impressive ground-gaining tandem, led all runners Sunday at Lambeau Field. In surpassing 100 yards from scrimmage in the Green and Gold’s 27-24 overtime victory against New England, the elusive back gained entry into a highly select group.
Jones, and running mate AJ Dillon, again powered the Pack on the ground. The two hewed out 183 of the team’s 199 rushing yards with Jones earning 110 on 16 totes.
As usual, Jones also chipped in on the receiving front. He picked up five yards on three catches.
Against the Patriots, Jones secured seven of Green Bay’s 10 rushing first downs. He popped off five runs of 10 or more yards.
Never was he more vital than on fourth down early in the third quarter. With his team trailing by three and needing a yard at the New England 28, Jones scooted for 17.
That effort was a key component in a 10-play, 81-yard advance that put Green Bay up 14-10. It also helped fuel an uptick in yards – 238 in the third and fourth quarters following a meager 125 in the first half – that kept the Packers plugging away until Mason Crosby’s 31-yard field goal sealed the deal with no time remaining.
In amassing 115 yards from scrimmage, Jones surpassed 6,000 in his career. He joins Ahman Green, Jim Taylor, Gerry Ellis, John Brockington and Dorsey Levens as the only running backs in team history to accomplish that feat.
And, with 73 just games under his belt, he got there quicker than all but Green (51) and Taylor (73).
When Jones reaches 100, the Packers usually win. He’s done it 23 times in the regular season, and Green Bay has lost just twice – against the Saints in 2017 and at Seattle in 2018.
In fact, the team has won its last 19 straight when Jones breaks that grass ceiling.
This season, yards have come in chunks for Jones. Twelve of his 48 carries (for 327 yards) have stretched for 10 or more.
As such, his average per carry (6.81) is higher than it has ever been after four games. It ranks third best in the league behind that of the Lions’ D’Andre Swift (8.56) and Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson (8.54).
In general, this part of Jones’ game (average per carry) has registered large throughout much of his career. It has been said – in this column if nowhere else – that No. 33 can spot daylight in a solar eclipse.
That has helped propel Jones into fourth place on the Packers’ all-time rushing list. He trails Green (8,322), Taylor (8,207) and Brockington (5,024).
But those three backs carried far more often than he. Looking solely at average per carry, Jones’ number (5.16) is tops in team history (minimum 500 attempts), more than a half yard better than second-place Ellis (4.58).
Moreover, that robust average ranks among the best all-time regardless of team. His output against the Patriots moved him past Mercury Morris and into seventh place in league history (minimum 750 attempts) according to Pro Football Reference.
In the last 100 years, just six players did more with the opportunities afforded them than Jones. For now, at least, he is ensconced behind Michael Vick (7.00), Randall Cunningham (6.36), Russell Wilson (5.51), Jamaal Charles (5.38), Nick Chubb (5.32) and the immortal Jim Brown (5.22).
That’s some pretty heady company. The Packers can only hope Jones continues to run with that fast crowd.
At least not through the first four games this season, and nowhere was that more apparent than Sunday’s 23-20 loss to Buffalo. It marked the second time in three games the Ravens blew a lead of 17 points or more, and it caused coach John Harbaugh to make a controversial … and fatal … decision late in the fourth quarter.
You know the scenario. Tie game. Four minutes left. Ravens sitting fourth and goal at the Buffalo 2. Harbaugh can kick the go-ahead field goal or go for the touchdown. He went for the TD, and he failed.
Worse, the ball was intercepted in the end zone.
“I felt like it gave us the best chance to win the game,” he said later.
The decision provoked a cascade of criticism, but it’s not hard to follow Harbaugh’s logic. It comes down to this: He didn’t trust his defense vs. Josh Allen, and can you blame him? Two weeks earlier it failed to protect a 21-point fourth-quarter lead vs. Miami and surrendered four TDs in 12 minutes. After falling behind early, Buffalo strung together 17 consecutive points, and there was no reason to think the run would stop there.
So Harbaugh gambled and lost. Now you know why.
“That shows me that coach Harbaugh has no confidence in his defense,” said Hall-of-Fame coach and NBC analyst Tony Dungy.
And why should he? In two home games, Baltimore has given up 65 points – or an average of 32 per.
“This is one of the worst defenses I’ve seen with the Baltimore Ravens,” said NBC analyst and former safety Rodney Harrison. “Missed tackles. Penalties. Lack of discipline. Not keeping the edge. Time and time again. Just disappointing.”
And historic. The loss makes the Ravens the second team in NFL history to suffer losses after leading by 17 or more in their first four games (the 2011 Minnesota Vikings are the other). It should also compel Harbaugh to take another “long, hard look” at what’s going on with his team.
And what’s not.
SUNDAY SCHOOL: FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED
1. The Bills scored two heavyweight victories. Most people know that they conquered the Ravens and Lamar Jackson after falling behind 20-3. In Baltimore, no less. But they also beat the odds. They had been 0-7 in their last one-score games since Week 9 of 2020. Not anymore.
2. Maybe we overrated Tampa Bay. The Bucs were supposed to be one of the teams to beat in the NFC because they have Tom Brady, they play in the NFC South and because they have what Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes said was the best defense in the league. Then Mahomes and the Chiefs came to town, and the Bucs dropped their second straight at home. But that’s being kind. They got torched, 41-31, in a game where the Chiefs didn’t punt until the last minute, converted 12 of 17 third downs and produced more points than in any game where Todd Bowles was a defensive coordinator or head coach. Where the Bucs allowed just 27 points the first three games, they were ripped for 28 in the first half alone. In short, they looked … well, like a vulnerable team that makes a raft of mistakes on both sides of the ball. I know, it’s early, but beware. The signs are disturbing for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
3. Kenny Pickett’s time is now. Steelers’ coach Mike Tomlin says he’s non-committal about his starting quarterback, but I don’t buy it. You don’t roll a rookie out there for a half, have him score your only two TDs, then send him to the bench again. Granted, Pickett also threw three second-half interceptions, but there was an energy to the offense with him that was missing with Mitch Trubisky. With Pickett, the Steelers have a lot of upside. A future. With Trubisky, they don’t. Now that Pickett has been unleashed, I can’t see the Steelers sitting him for anything but an injury. It’s called on-the-job learning, and it worked for a rookie first-round pick in 2004.
4. Charles III isn’t the only king of England. He’s been joined by the Minnesota Vikings, now 3-0 in London and one of only four unbeaten teams (minimum two games) in Britannia. That’s the good news. The bad: No NFL London game featured two teams that each advanced.
5. The NFC East is top heavy with winners. No, that’s not a misprint. The Eagles are 4-0, the Cowboys 3-1 and the Giants 3-1. That’s a combined record of 10-2. No other division is that strong at the top, and this from a division two years ago that was so weak that nobody finished with a winning record.
THIRD AND 15
1. In the wake of the Tua Tagovailoa fiasco, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-New Jersey) asked “how seriously the NFL is taking its commitment to player safety.” It’s a good question for a league that schedules Thursday games, 17-game seasons and just put a young quarterback at risk.
2. Then there’s this: Tampa Bay’s Cameron Brate on Sunday night took a violent hit to his head, left the field, then returned … only to be ruled out at halftime with a concussion. What in the name of Roger Goodell is going on here? Someone? Anyone?
3. A GM I trust measures quarterbacks by how they respond under duress in the last two minutes of games. Well, then, consider that a big step forward for the Jets’ Zach Wilson. He completed 10 of 12 fourth-quarter passes, including all five on the Jets’ game-winning drive.
4. Welcome back Austin Ekeler. Until Sunday, the Chargers’ running back topped the Missing Persons list. Then he scored his first touchdown of the season. Correction: He scored his first three. He had 20 a year ago.
5. Jerry Jones once said he’d welcome a quarterback controversy in Dallas. Sure. He won’t have one, of course, when Dak Prescott returns … but he could. The Cowboys are 3-0 A.D. (After Dak) this season with Cooper Rush and 4-0 with Rush in two seasons. So what? So Rush is the first Cowboys’ quarterback to win his first four career starts.
6. To channel Aaron Rodgers … Relax, New England fans. Granted, it’s the second straight season where the Patriots started 1-3 (they had none 2002-20). But look what’s ahead: Detroit next week … Cleveland after that … then the Bears … the Jets … Colts … Jets again. I think you get the idea. R-E-L-A-X.
7. Now, let’s get something straight: The Pats go nowhere if they don’t clean up their mistakes. Their nine turnovers are the most through the first four games of any season since 1994.
8. Somebody introduce Trevor Lawrence to glue, Velcro or Lester Hayes. Lawrence lost four fumbles, and look no farther for why Jacksonville couldn’t survive the Eagles. According to ESPN Stats and Info, it’s the first time this century where anyone in the NFL lost four fumbles in one game. An interception brought his turnover total to five that led to 23 Eagles’ points. Result: Ballgame.
9. So the Raiders finally won with Josh McDaniels, now 2-10 in his last 12 games as a head coach. I would’ve rehired Rich Bisaccia. He deserved nothing less after what he did as the team’s interim coach last year.
10. Can’t wait to hear what Washington offensive coordinator Scott Turner has to say to Terry McLaurin. It was last week that he assured the Commanders’ wide receiver that “he’s not being overlooked.” Then Sunday happened. McLaurin had two catches for 15 yards.
11. Nobody scores more than Detroit (140 points), and it’s not close. So why are the Lions 1-3? Because nobody leaks more than Detroit. The Lions have surrendered 141 points.
12. Another sign that it’s never been easier to play quarterback: Geno Smith’s 77.3 completion percentage is, according to ESPN Stats and Info, the highest figure of any quarterback through the first four games of a season (minimum 125 attempts). Geno. Smith.
13. For those counting at home, that’s seven straight regular-season wins for Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts. He’s 11-2 in his last 13 starts.
14. With Sunday’s win in Carolina, Arizona is 10-1 in its last 11 road games. Just sayin.’
15. Through their first four games Russell Wilson and Geno Smith each are 2-2. Wilson has completed 61.1 percent of his passes for 980 yards, with four TDs, one interception. Geno Smith, meanwhile, completed 77.3 percent of his passes for 1,037 yards, with 6 TDs and 2 interceptions. Advantage: Geno.
SUNDAY’S GOLD JACKET STATS
When the Giants (3-1) and Packers (3-1) meet next week in London it will be the first time both teams in an NFL London game have winning records.
Mike Evans’ second-quarter TD catch was the first offensive touchdown for Tampa Bay in the first half this season.
Tampa Bay’s 3 yards rushing are the fewest by any Tom Brady quarterbacked team.
Home-field advantage is alive and well in Green Bay. That was the Packers’ 15th straight regular-season win there, upping their record to 24-2 at Lambeau over their last 26 games.
According to CBS Sports, New England quarterback Bailey Zappe is the first player ever to make his NFL debut at Lambeau Field and throw a TD pass. Lambeau opened in 1957.
Tennessee won its last nine divisional road games, a franchise record and the second longest streak of its kind (13 by Kansas City).
SUNDAY’S GOLD JACKET QUOTES
“It’s frustrating losing to people that you know you’re better than, more talented than.” – Pittsburgh safety Minkah Fitzpatrick after the Steelers’ 24-20 loss to the Jets.
“In the end, Aaron Rodgers was just too good.” – New England coach Bill Belichick.
“I don’t think anybody can beat us right now.” – Philadelphia running back Miles Sanders.
By Clark Judge
(EDITOR’S NOTE: To listen to Upton Bell, click on the following link: https://www.spreaker.com/user/fullpresscoverage/eyetest-20220927-1128)
When we talk about epic achievements in pro-football history, look no farther than what one backup quarterback did 71 years ago Wednesday: He set the NFL’s single-game passing record for yards.
And that record still stands.
On Sept. 28, 1951, the Rams’ Norm Van Brocklin – starting only because Bob Waterfield was hurt – threw for 554 yards in a 54-14 demolition of the New York Yankees. Since then, nobody – not John Unitas, not Dan Marino, not John Elway, Peyton Manning or Tom Brady – has eclipsed it.
Surprising? No. Downright astonishing.
Van Brocklin didn’t just break the existing record. He obliterated it, besting the previous mark of 468 yards, set by Johnny Lujack two years earlier, and raised the bar so high that it has withstood 71 years of rules changes and close calls by Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks.
To appreciate how rare his performance was in 1951, know that Van Brocklin did it in a season where only two quarterbacks – Bobby Layne and Otto Graham – threw for over 2,000 yards. And he did it in a season where he had only two … you heard me, two … starts.
“Unless the NFL finds a way to manipulate it,” said former NFL executive Upton Bell on this week’s “Eye Test for Two” podcast, “I don’t think that record will ever be broken. When it happened, it reverberated all around the NFL.”
As it should have.
Remember: This was when the NFL played 12-game seasons, only one quarterback (Layne) threw for more than 17 TDs and just four of the top-rated quarterbacks completed over 50 percent of their passes. It was unlike anything in the NFL today, with teams so inclined then to run first that only two -- the Yanks and Green Bay Packers – threw more than they ran.
You can look it up.
“No shotgun then,” said Bell. “T-formation. You dropped back and you threw. You had to get rid of the ball in like 3.2 seconds. No matter how bad the opponent might be (and the Yanks were 1-9-2), to be able to set it up and throw for hat amount of yardage still -- to me -- is one of the great modern feats of the NFL.”
Bell should know. As the son of former NFL commissioner and Hall-of-Famer Bert Bell, he’s been in and around the NFL all his life … and he soon turns 85. He saw Van Brocklin play. He saw Waterfield play. He was with the Baltimore Colts when Unitas ruled the league. He was the GM of the New England Patriots. And he is a historian with a keen eye for the best and brightest in the sport.
So how, he was asked, would Van Brocklin’s achievement translate to today’s game? Six hundred yards? Seven hundred? Layne led the league in 1951 with 2,406 passing yards, and Van Brocklin’s total – on 27 completions, no less (an average of 20.5 per) – is 23 percent of that figure. So how would it play in today’s league?
“Well, today,” said Bell, “probably about 1,000 yards. Now that may sound like an exaggeration, but think about it.”
We have. Played over a 17-game season, Van Brocklin’s 554 yards in one game would result in 9,418 for one season – or a 42 percent increase over Peyton Manning’s league record of 5,477 in 2013.
“All the great quarterbacks that I’ve seen with great arms,” said Bell, “starting with Sammy Baugh, right through to Dan Marino and John Elway and many of the magicians you have today – (I’d say) that Van Brocklin probably was one of the best long distance throwers. I mean, he could lay that ball out there, either on the line or over the top, at 50, 60 yards .
“Think about that: 1951. No training program. No quarterback coaches. No sent-in plays. Nothing. And yet this guy tore the Yanks apart.”
He wasn’t alone. Three receivers, including Hall-of-Famers Elroy Hirsch and Tom Fears, each had over 100 yards in receptions. Van Brocklin threw for five TDs. The Rams had 34 first downs (then a league high) and produced 735 yards in total offense, which – like Van Brocklin’s record -- remains the NFL’s platinum bar 71 years later. Furthermore, L.A. would go on to beat Cleveland 24-17 in the NFL championship game on a 73-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass thrown by Waterfield’s replacement.
You guessed it. Norm Van Brocklin.
“Most teams played man for man,” said Bell. “They didn’t play a lot of zone. Even if the defensive backs were not that good, they ran with you all the way. There was no penalty for hitting somebody after five yards. None of that. It was a running game, which makes (the record) more extraordinary. Because the average quarterback threw maybe … maybe … 20 times a game.
“All the things you see today, where the records have been obliterated because there are so many more games, the game is wide open, you’re penalizing the defense … all of those things, to me, add up to what I think are a lot of phony statistics.
“Great. The quarterbacks are better, all of the things that you can say. But if you were to go back then and say that this person was going to throw for way over 500 yards against a team – whether they were good or not – was just an amazing feat. I really hope that people will understand how great Van Brocklin really was.”
By John Turney
While checking out some things online we came across this piece by Sports Illustrated.com's Bear reporter Daniel Chavkin—