GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Whether it was running through safety Darryl Roberts to start the game or breaking Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams’ tackle attempt to score a touchdown, Green Bay Packers running back Jamaal Williams had the best game of his career in Sunday’s victory at the Jets.
Williams carried 15 times for 95 yards and one touchdown, added six receptions for 61 yards. In total, Williams accumulated a career-best 156 yards from scrimmage to help Green Bay earn its first road win of the season, 44-38 in overtime.
“I’m just grateful. Grateful,” he said after the game. “I just feel like my hard work and everything is paying off. Just coming out in the game showing the results of all my hard work and everything I’ve been going through. I want to come out here to show my team that I’m ready and working hard every time: the week practices, everything, walk-throughs, doing whatever I can to make sure I’m ready for them in this game.”
If that hard work continues to pay off, the Packers might have a good problem next year at running back. Williams, a fourth-round pick last year, opened the season as the team’s No. 1 back, only to be supplanted at midseason by Aaron Jones, a fifth-round pick in 2017. Jones led the NFL in yards per carry before suffering a knee injury in the first quarter last week at Chicago that ended his season. With no other proven options on the roster, Williams played 86 of 91 offensive snaps against the Jets. He responded with the most explosive game of his career.
In the first 14 games of this season, Williams didn’t have a single run of 12-plus yards. Jones, meanwhile, had 15 carries of 12-plus yards despite serving a two-game suspension to start the season. In the last two games, however, Williams has four such carries, including runs of 13, 15 and 19 yards against the Jets.
“I like both of those players,” interim coach Joe Philbin said on Monday. “I like the way they practice, I like the way they prepare. I think they’re good teammates. I think they’re good in the locker room and they have a good skill set. They can run (and) they can catch the ball.”
While Jones is one of the more explosive runners in the league, Williams brings the well-rounded skills. The Jets blitzed relentlessly on Sunday but, other than giving up one sack, Williams was sturdy in providing time to help Aaron Rodgers throw for 442 yards.
“There’s a couple where there’s a bunch of green grass,” Philbin said. “They ran some twists and brought guys the other way, they’re coming up the A-gap, and he’s got a lot of space to defend just by the nature of the protection. I thought overall he did a good job there. I like the fact he’s got versatility. You don’t have to take him out of the game if you want to do something specific. He had a nice game.”
The Packers will close the season at home against Detroit on Sunday. With undrafted rookie Lavon Coleman, promoted from the practice squad on Saturday, and Kapri Bibbs, added off waivers last week, being the other options on the roster, expect Williams to be heavily involved in the game plan again.
“Same mindset I have all the time, no matter if I’m starting or not starting,” he said. “I’m just going in there doing my job, working hard … trying to punish defenders and see what they about and just give my team juice, just let them know I’m here to help. Block, run, do whatever I can for us to get a ‘W.'”
NOTES: The players will be off for Christmas while the coaches were to be off Christmas Eve night and Christmas morning before convening around noon Tuesday to work on the game plan for Detroit. . Why are the Packers playing to win these games at the risk of injuries to key players or worsening their draft positioning? “These are football players. That’s what they’re paid to do,” Philbin said. “They’re paid to represent this great organization and play as well as they possibly can every time they get an opportunity. We understand injuries can happen at any point in time. That’s football. It can happen at any point. I think when you start distinguishing all those different things, I think you lose sight of the real fabric and the heart and soul of what a football team is.” . After a rocky season, Rodgers accounted for 474 total yards and four touchdowns vs. the Jets. “It was a special performance by him, without a doubt,” Philbin said. “Certainly, he helped us score 44 points. There’s no doubt about it, without him we probably wouldn’t have scored 44 points.”