KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has a new go-to receiver. Make that two new go-to receivers.
And neither one of them actually plays the position.
Sunday’s 31-24 win over the Kansas City Chiefs was Exhibit D in how first-year Packers coach Matt LaFleur and Rodgers have adapted without Pro Bowl receiver Davante Adams, who sat out his fourth straight game because of turf toe.
Running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams showed their versatility and improved receiving skills. Jones caught two touchdown passes (a 4-yard shovel pass and a 67-yard bubble screen) and Williams an improbable one (a desperation heave for a 3-yarder in the back right corner of the end zone). It marked the first time in Rodgers’ career that he has thrown three touchdown passes to running backs in a game.
Since Adams limped off the field in Week 4 against the Eagles, still the only team to defeat the Packers eight games into the season, the running back duo of Williams and Jones has six touchdown catches. At the midway point of the season, the Packers are 7-1 and didn’t lose in the four games without Adams, who has a good chance to return next week at the Los Angeles Chargers.
Jones, who has three TD catches this season and dropped another potential one against the Lions in Week 5, caught one touchdown pass in his first two NFL seasons combined. With seven catches for 159 yards, Jones also became the first Packers running back to top 150 yards receiving in a game since the AFL-NFL merger 1970. He’s the fifth running back with 150 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns in the past 30 seasons. Jones finished with 226 yards of total offense.
Rodgers threw multiple touchdown passes to running backs for the second straight week. He had never done that in his career before this stretch.
Williams, who also had a touchdown catch in Week 2, has four total this season and three since Adams’ injury. Rodgers’ seven touchdown passes to running backs this season tied his most in any one season (he had seven in 2015). He had thrown five total touchdown passes to receivers in the previous three seasons combined.
Describe the game in two words: No Mahomes. NFL fans were cheated out of the Rodgers-Patrick Mahomes showdown, and it almost turned into an opportunity lost for the Packers. How often do you get to play a Super Bowl contender without its starting quarterback. In fact, the Chiefs were minus six starters: Mahomes, left tackle Eric Fisher, left guard Andrew Wylie, defensive end Frank Clark, defensive tackle Chris Jones and cornerback Kendall Fuller.
Promising trend: Jake Kumerow has had quite a week plus. Last Sunday against the Raiders, he caught one of Rodgers’ five touchdown passes. Two days later, he had his own bobblehead released. He opened this game with two catches on the first drive for 48 yards, including a 34-yarder on a deep corner route. The reception on third-and-9 was Rodgers’ fourth pass this season that was both 30-plus yards in the air and into a tight window. It had 42.1 yards of air distance, and Kumerow had a separation of just 0.6 yards. Kumerow covered nearly 47 yards and reached a max speed of 20.55 mph.
Promising trend II: Tyler Lancaster was featured this week in ESPN’s list of best value players on each team. Lancaster, a minimum-salaried player, backed that up with a third-quarter forced fumble and fumble recovery that set up Williams’ fourth-quarter touchdown catch.
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