While Jordan Love stays red hot, Aaron Jones is the key to shocking 49ers
Aaron Jones could have just kept running.
As the second ticked away at the end of the first half on a frigid night in January with a San Francisco 49ers defensive back giving chase, the Green Bay Packers running back slowed up and tried to cut back inside. Who knows if Jones scores on what was an incredible play from Aaron Rodgers to escape trouble and find his back streaking down the right sideline.
Of the myriad things that are different about the matchup this time around, Jones isn’t one of them, right? Except that’s dead wrong; he’s the key to the Green Bay Packers springing the upset on Saturday night.
And he’s a different player this time around, a different cog in an entirely new wheel for the Packers offense.
For all the plaudits Jordan Love received in the aftermath of his demolition of the Dallas Cowboys defense, Jones and the run game punched the ball in for three touchdowns. The last month has been the best of Jones’ career with 476 yards in four games with four consecutive 100-yard performances. Green Bay punished the Cowboys with split-flow zone runs and didn’t even have to resort to some of their special run calls with all the eye candy that comes along with it.
That alone will be different this time around. Back in 2019, 49ers corner Richard Sherman made waves when he said the team was more focused on Aaron Jones than the other Aaron.
“We played a lot of man-to-man. (Defensive coordinator Robert) Saleh called a lot of man-to-man today and we felt like that was the plan to try and stop the run and stop Aaron Jones,” Sherman said after a 37-8 thrashing of the Pack.
And that plan has worked. In the five seasons under head coach Matt LaFleur, Jones hasn’t gone over 60 yards in a game against the 49ers. Part of that is a game script where Green Bay is constantly playing from behind, but the Packers’ offensive approach with Rodgers’ skepticism of play-action and unwillingness to use more pre-snap motion also hurt the run game.