CHICAGO – James Jones said he spent a lot of time talking with Aaron Rodgers over the last couple of days.
They must have been productive conversations.
Seven days after signing a contract to return to the Packers after a one-year absence, Jones caught four passes for 51 yards and two touchdowns in the Packers’ 31-23 victory over the Bears in Chicago on Sunday.
The veteran receiver beat Bears cornerback Alan Ball on both of his scores, one with a tough catch over the top and the other much more easily on a quick slant. The variety on those two plays alone showed just how rapidly Jones got back on the same page with his longtime QB.
“It felt good. We got back out there and it looked like we just didn’t miss a beat,” said Jones, who also drew a 34-yard pass interference penalty on a deep ball to set up the Packers' last touchdown, giving him a big hand in three of the offense's four TD drives on the day. “He gave me some opportunities today, and I went up and made the play. Should have had three (TDs). Let that last one go, which I’m probably not going to be able to sleep tonight about, but glad we got the win.”
In the aftermath of Jordy Nelson’s season-ending injury, the Packers opened the season with Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and Jones in their primary three-receiver set. Given Jones’ experience and his previous success in the Packers’ offense with Rodgers, no one was surprised at his instant impact.
“He’s a pro’s pro,” right guard T.J. Lang said. “He came in on Monday, and he worked hard to pick up the new stuff we were doing. Obviously the playbook hasn’t changed dramatically in the last couple years, but it’s good to have him back. Especially after Jordy went down, it’s good to get another playmaker.”
Released by two non-playoff teams, the Raiders and Giants, over the last four months, Jones has made no secret of feeling like he has something to prove. He began proving it in Week 1.
“I’m just going to say I’m playing with a little chip on my shoulder,” he said. “I am. Somebody tells you you can’t do something, you want to go out there and prove them wrong. It’s the first step, but I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Cool cat, cool catch: Probably the best catch of the day by the Packers came from running back Eddie Lacy, who reached out one-handed to haul in a high backhanded flip from Rodgers for a 9-yard gain in the first quarter.
The catch picked up a first down and led to Jones’ first TD.
“I had no idea how the ball came out,” Lacy said. “I just looked and saw the ball in the air. I don’t know how he threw it. I thought he was going to run it, so I was looking to block. Weird play.”
Lacy gave himself the nickname “Randy Moss” last year in recognition of his pass-catching abilities, so he didn’t doubt he could come down with it.
“Of course. I’m Moss,” he said. “That definitely was a cool catch. It looks cool and I can’t wait to see it somewhere.”
Model of efficiency: Aside from one kneeldown at the end of each half, the Packers had just seven possessions in Sunday’s game, yet they managed to produce four touchdowns and a field goal.
On top of that, Rodgers wasn’t sacked in 23 pass attempts as he compiled a 140.5 passer rating, and the running game churned out 133 yards, led by Lacy’s 85.
“A pretty good day at the office,” said Lang, adding that the offensive line was especially proud of helping power Lacy to a rushing TD from two yards out for Green Bay’s final points, making it 31-16 with 1:55 left.
“That’s one of those plays where you realize, you put that in the end zone the game is probably over,” Lang said. “I think it was (assistant offensive line) Coach (Mike) Solari’s play, so you can probably give him the credit for it. Nice to give Eddie a touchdown there after he put in a lot of good work.”
Filling in: The Packers’ only reported injury in the game was to inside LB Sam Barrington, who left with an ankle injury. Nate Palmer replaced him, and Palmer was glad he only had to wear a splint on his injured hand, rather than the club cast he wore most of training camp.
The club was on the sideline, Palmer said, in case he needed it, but the splint allowed two of his fingers to be free, which was “better than none” with the club.
“Yeah, I had to be ready,” Palmer said. “Anytime you’re a backup, you have to be ready when your number is called, and it got called pretty early today.”
Palmer looked as though he might come out of the game at one point, after getting crunched on a tackle attempt by teammates Julius Peppers late in the first half. Rookie Jake Ryan took the field, but because the Packers had to use a timeout due to the injury occurring in the final two minutes of the half, Palmer was able to come back in without missing a snap.
“He just squished me like a fly,” Palmer said of Peppers, who has five inches and about 40 pounds on him. “I just had to shake it off.”
Palmer was credited with seven tackles and considered his own performance up and down, much like that of the defense as a whole. He was credited with seven total tackles in the press box statistics.
“There’s obviously some stuff in the run game we have to get corrected as a team, and that I have to get corrected,” he said. “But with the teammates I’ve got around me, the coaching staff we’ve got, and me being a huge perfectionist, I know I’m going to get them corrected.”
Watch: Full game highlights
Read: No Hangover! -Game recap
Read: Locker room report
Read: Crunch-time win clears air