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The Aaron Jones TD machine propels Packers over Panthers

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Jones, touchdown machine.

The Green Bay Packers running back, thanks to three rushing scores, moved back into a share of the NFL touchdown lead — by about a foot — with the back he opposed on Sunday at Lambeau Field. In the process — and only after Christian McCaffrey was stopped inches short of the goal line on the game’s final play — the Packers regained their mojo after last weekend’s clunker in California on the way to a 24-16 win over the Carolina Panthers.

Jones lost the touchdown lead to McCaffrey last week after Jones went scoreless in the loss at the Los Angeles Chargers. Three touchdowns later — to one for McCaffrey — Jones was back on top with 14, tied with McCaffrey. Ahman Green has the team record for touchdowns in a season (20 in 2000).

All three of Jones’ scores on Sunday came on the ground, giving him 11 rushing touchdowns on the season.

It was Jones’ second three-touchdown game of the season. He’s the first Packers player since Sterling Sharpe in 1994 with multiple three-TD games in a season and the first Packers running back since Jim Taylor in 1962 with multiple three-TD games in a season (Taylor did it three times that season).

The Packers not only found a mix between Jones and Jamaal Williams — the two combined for 156 yards rushing — but also enough targets for Pro Bowl receiver Davante Adams to make a difference. He went over the 100-yard receiving mark late in the third quarter when his 38-yard deep ball got the Packers out of a second-and-26 from their 9-yard line hole.

While Jones (13 carries for 93 yards) and Williams (13 for 63) did it on the ground, Adams caught seven passes for 118 yards.

It gave the Packers (8-2) a bounce back win heading into their bye week.

Pivotal play (that wasn’t): Packers coach Matt LaFleur is not a take-the-points kind of guy. At least he wasn’t at the end of the first half when a Panthers penalty gave the Packers a first-and-goal at the 2-yard line with 2 seconds left. LaFleur could have opted for a gimme field goal and a 17-10 halftime lead. Instead, he went for it, and Panthers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy beat left tackle David Bakhtiari to the inside and blew up Williams for a 3-yard loss. Given that the Packers received the second-half kickoff, the safe play would have been to take the three points. It became a non-factor because the Packers scored on the opening drive of the second half and cruised.

Promising trend: The Packers improved to 7-0 in games with a takeaway (but 1-2 in games without one). The first, a fumble by Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen, fell into the hands of defensive tackle Montravius Adams. The second was an interception by Tramon Williams off a pass deflected by Adrian Amos. That was the Packers’ fourth interception on a pass thrown into the end zone this season, the most in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Troubling trend: The Packers allowed three more plays of 20 yards or more — passes from Allen to DJ Moore (for 38 and 24 yards) and Jarius Wright (21 yards) — meaning the defense has yielded 42 plays of at least 20 yards this season. Their 39 such plays entering Sunday was sixth-most in the NFL.

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