Jones immediately became Aaron Rodgers’ No. 3 receiver, and Janis could barely get off the bench.
As productive as Jones was at various times this season (he had eight touchdowns and a career-high 890 yards), Saturday’s 26-20 NFC divisional playoff loss to the Arizona Cardinals showed Jones’ limitations and once again brought up one of the most popular questions of the season: Should Janis play more?
For all of Janis’ flaws -- his hands aren’t the greatest and his route-running skills are unrefined, as was evident again Saturday when he and Rodgers were on different pages on a throw to the end zone in the second quarter -- he gets open.
Yet he played only 132 snaps in the regular season and just four in last weekend’s wild-card playoff win over the Washington Redskins. His only two catches this season came in Week 6.
On Saturday, with Davante Adams inactive because of the knee injury he sustained in Washington combined with the chest injury Randall Cobb sustained in the first quarter against the Cardinals, the Packers had no choice but to play Janis along with Jones and Jared Abbrederis. They were the only three receivers the Packers had left.
Sure enough, Janis produced.
Seven catches, 145 yards and two touchdowns later, Janis strengthened the argument that he should have been playing all along. His 4.42-second 40-yard dash speed and 6-foot-3 size gave the Packers something they could never replicate after Jordy Nelson blew out his knee in the preseason.
But the Packers mostly ignored Janis all season. Before Saturday, Rodgers was just 2-of-11 with an interception while targeting Janis in his two-year career.
“He’s taken advantage of some opportunities, and he’s just a young man who needs to play,” McCarthy said Saturday after the game. “He’s got a lot of raw ability. He made some huge, huge plays tonight.”
Not only did Janis remarkably have two catches for 101 yards on the final drive of regulation, including an improbable 41-yard touchdown as time expired, he also caught an 8-yard touchdown in the third quarter that put the Packers ahead 13-7.
“We felt pretty confident that anybody in our room could step up,” Janis said. “It’s unfortunate when someone gets hurt. When your time comes, you’ve just got to step in and act like you’ve been there.”
Here’s a breakdown of the offensive performance in Saturday’s season-ending loss:
Total offensive plays: 73
James Jones: 73
Jared Abbrederis: 72
Jeff Janis: 40
Randall Cobb: 15
Notes: Cobb spent the night in an Arizona hospital after he sustained a chest injury in the first quarter. With Patrick Peterson covering him, Jones was shut out on only two targets (including one Rodgers bounced to him on fourth down on the second-to-last series of regulation). It was the third time in 18 games this season Jones was held without a catch, and he had three other games this season with only one catch.
Aaron Rodgers: 73
Notes: Rodgers’ 41-yard touchdown to Janis was his second successful Hail Mary attempt of the season. He was 2-of-3 on Hail Mary tries this season. The rest of the NFL was 3-of-10, according to ESPN Stats & Information. It was his second completion on a pass thrown 40 or more yards downfield on that drive. He had only three such completions all season before Saturday.
Notes: Lacy had 75 of his 89 yards on consecutive carries in the third quarter to set up Janis’ first touchdown. Lacy averaged just 1.4 yards on his other 10 carries. Starks had just 23 yards on seven carries.
Notes: Rodgers was targeted eight times and had five catches for 45 yards.
Notes: Bakthiari played for the first time since his Week 15 ankle injury. Rodgers’ only sack came with less than two minutes left in regulation. He was sacked eight times in the Week 16 loss at Arizona.