The Green Bay Packers turned back the clock and eked out another close win on Sunday.
On a day where head coach Matt LaFleur urged his players to wake up with hot piss, Mason Crosby elected to cook his whiz in a crockpot. The narrow 25-22 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals was far from a sure thing with a whopping five (!!) missed field goals in the last two minutes of regulation and into overtime. Fortunately, the kicking blunders didn’t come back to haunt the Packers or overshadow a bevy of otherwise quality performances across the board.
Old man Crosby got it done in the end eventually. De’Vondre Campbell was an absolute star. Davante Adams had a career-high in receiving yards. Hell, even Kevin King had a good game. All of these electric performances would have gone to waste if Green Bay had blown that game. This was an excellent win for a team that is both decimated by injuries and has yet to see their recent veteran reinforcement signings play a single snap.
The Packers also found a way to get back to their roots, which was by strong backfield play from Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. Jones had 14 carries for 103 yards, which included a whopping 57-yard run that should have iced the game for Green Bay. Dillon had eight carries for 30 yards, but he showcased some receiving chops with four catches for 49 yards and a touchdown.
Dillon’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield is a welcome development for an offense that relies on a two-back system to set the tone. As the de facto replacement for Jamaal Williams this year, it was imperative that Dillon embrace a more well-rounded approach to the running back position. While initially pegged as simply a power runner akin to a Derrick Henry or Brandon Jacobs, Dillon’s game is evolving before our eyes, and the Packers are reaping the benefits.
The clip below demonstrates how much Dillon’s game has grown from last season. Notice the incisive cut he makes in the open field to pick up an additional seven-plus yards, as opposed to just trying to power through the would-be tackler:
Plays like this not only add longevity to Dillon’s career, they expand his value as a multifaceted asset. When a dude that big can move that nimbly, it means trouble for the opposing team. Dillon has the ability to not only mash through contact but to skirt past it outright if the situation calls for it. This is, of course, a welcome development.
All this isn’t to say that Dillon can’t be a power runner anymore. They don’t call him Quadzilla for nothing. Despite a paltry 3.8 yards per carry on Sunday, Dillon was more a victim of poor late-game play-calling and execution than he was simple ineffectiveness. He gained most of his yards on this monster run, one that got me out of my chair and shouting:
In an offense predicated on wearing defenses down through an effective ground game, Dillon’s penchant for making his attempted tacklers pay a heavy price goes a long way. With the proper execution, this quality run play opens up the passing game. It has been working in Tennessee, a coaching tree from which Matt LaFleur sprouts, and it is working in Green Bay as well.
We’ve seen Dillon’s big-play ability, and there is always his powerful short game to be called upon when needed. If the team needs to grind out some tough yards, there are few better players to rely on. He is coming into his own in his second year in the league as he ramps up his involvement in the offense.
Despite the negative press at the time, that second-round pick that Brian Gutekunst spent on Dillon is beginning to pay off. He is setting himself up to be a regular contributor in the backfield as the team looks to keep their blue-chip player in Aaron Jones healthy for the entire season and playoffs. Dillon’s consistent snaps this season will allow him to grow and flourish as a player. The early returns look promising as he works to build upon a great start to his budding NFL career.