Packers' Jones, 4 TDs, outduels Zeke, Cowboys

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Aaron Jones thought he could match Ezekiel Elliott yard for yard if the Green Bay Packers needed it.

He never said anything about touchdowns.

Jones had four on the night, becoming the first Packers player to rush for four scores since Dorsey Levens did so on Jan. 2, 2000. When the third-year running back crossed the goal line with 9:33 left in the third quarter, he became the first player to rush for four touchdowns in a single game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Without receiver Davante Adams (sidelined with turf toe) and backup running back Jamaal Williams, the Packers put together a game plan that featured Jones. It worked to the tune of a 34-24 road win over the Cowboys. At one point, the Packers led 31-3, and even though they allowed 563 yards, they left with a 4-1 record and first place in the NFC North.

When asked in the days leading up to the game if he could hang with Elliott, the Cowboys' star running back, Jones didn't hesitate, recalling a game from 2017 in which a rookie Jones rushed for 125 yards to Elliott's 116 in a Packers victory at AT&T Stadium.

"I definitely think I can go toe-to-toe with him," Jones told ESPN this week. "I feel like that's something I did a couple of years back in Dallas when not a lot of people knew me. That was my first start. I definitely think I can go toe-to-toe. I'm excited to be in the same stadium and to compete against him."

Jones finished Sunday with 182 total yards (107 rushing and 75 receiving) to Elliott's 91 (62 rushing and 29 receiving). And Jones led 4-1 in touchdowns.

"I think I made a pretty big statement showing what kind of running back I am and what I can do," Jones said. "... I like to leave it with no doubt that I feel like I'm the best out there, so I try to leave no doubt in anyone else's mind."

On his third score of the night, Jones waved to Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones as he beat him to the pylon. Aaron Jones said after the game that he did not mean the gesture disrespectfully and said he didn't even realize he did it because was "in the zone."

"I think he's confident, but he's a very humble guy," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said of Jones. "I think that that goes back to his upbringing, military background; I know [coach Matt] LaFleur was tired of him calling him 'sir' all the time. That's just who he is. He's a great, great teammate and obviously a great player."

Elliott didn't find the end zone until 13:52 left in the fourth quarter, when his 2-yard run cut the Cowboys' lead to 31-17. The Cowboys didn't find the end zone at all until they were down 31-3 before Dak Prescott threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Michael Gallup with two minutes left in the third quarter.

To that point, the Packers' defense had dominated thanks in large part to Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith.

Last week, former NFL linebacker Ray Lewis said the Packers lacked leadership in the defensive front seven. Packers outside linebacker Smith responded on Twitter with one word: "Wow."

Smith's play said much more than that. He sacked Prescott twice to run his season total to 5.0. On the first one -- a third-down play in the first quarter -- Smith appeared to mock Lewis by mimicking the dance Lewis used to do when he celebrated sacks.

Fellow free-agent signee Preston Smith came up with another timely sack -- this one on a third down in the second quarter to force another punt. It gave Smith 5.5 sacks through five games this season.

The Packers survived despite a slew of injuries: Center Corey Linsley (whose first-half concussion ended a string of 2,766 straight snaps dating to the 2016 season), tight end Robert Tonyan (hip), safety Darnell Savage (ankle), cornerback Kevin King (knee) and linebacker B.J. Goodson (neck) all did not finish the game.

But in the end, it was Jones who bested the Cowboys in a meeting of 3-1 NFC contenders.