Well, what do you know? Maybe these young Green Bay Packers are learning how to win. Then again, maybe the Los Angeles Chargers are just really good at knowing how to lose. A handful of inexplicable drops by LA’s receivers were probably most responsible for the Pack’s 23-20 win on Sunday. However, Green Bay did some nice things that show they may be figuring things out.
Of course, the singular goal of the 2023 season is to gather enough information to learn whether Jordan Love can be this team’s franchise QB. In an imperfect world, the Packers probably won’t make that decision until about a year from now. But Love has shown considerable growth in his last two performances – one in a loss and one in a win.
In both games, Love got the ball deep in his own territory in the closing moments, needing to drive his team down the field for a go-ahead touchdown. He closed the deal against the Chargers. Love gave Romeo Doubs a chance to make a great contested catch for the score and posted Green Bay’s first 300-yard passing day in almost two calendar years.
We’ve been spoiled for so long, knowing that if our QB got the ball back late and needed to lead his team on a touchdown drive, we would probably get the payoff. Love is starting to show signs that he has what it takes to do the same thing. He’s still missing some throws he shouldn’t. He still has some accuracy issues, and he’s missing some explosive opportunities on deep throws. But Love is beginning to make progress each week, and he’s starting to develop some chemistry with all of Green Bay’s rookie pass-catchers.
The second-year guys found the end zone on Sunday, but the rookies made most of the key plays throughout the game. Jayden Reed has earned the chance to get the ball in his hands more often, and the Pack did it both on the ground and through the air on Sunday. And with injuries decimating the running back room, they may ask Reed to do some more heavy lifting as a runner. His speed is special, and he’s talked about how much more comfortable he is in the offense than he was even a few weeks ago. Dontayvion Wicks is also emerging as a reliable target who can turn small gains into big ones. The offense looks much better overall than it did a few weeks ago.
The defense figured to have its hands full with Justin Herbert, Keenan Allen, and Austin Ekeler, especially with such an inexperienced secondary forced into action. They gave up nearly 400 yards. But Green Bay’s defense was tough in the red zone, allowing the Chargers to find the end zone only once in four trips. Kenny Clark made one big stop by stripping Ekeler, and a couple of key drops stalled them two other times. Seventh-round rookies Carrington Valentine and Anthony Johnson are learning on the fly. While opposing receivers have beaten them a couple of times, they’re starting to look like Day 3 finds.
For a while, it looked like we were in for a repeat of last week when a blocked extra point took a potential game-tying field goal out of the equation. Anders Carlson’s missed PAT meant the Pack needed a touchdown when they got the ball with five minutes left. But the offense bailed Carlson out this time, meaning he wouldn’t have to face a crush of media after the game.
We knew that going with a rookie kicker might swing a few games this season – that’s the nature of the beast. As a whole, Green Bay’s special teams have been extremely disappointing all season. From kicking operation snafus to a league-leading amount of penalties, Rich Bisaccia’s pedigree has done nothing to change what has perennially haunted this team.
The Packers entered this game with an 0-4 record this season when losing a fourth-quarter lead, and they finally bucked that trend. Of course, it took an embarrassing drop by rookie receiver Quentin Johnston to secure that win, but we’ll take it.
Matt LaFleur took the blame for the ultra-conservative playcalling in the Pack’s final offensive series that gave Justin Herbert plenty of time to engineer a comeback. He’s been around long enough to know better. The margin for error is razor-thin with this team, and he had a chance to make things much harder on Herbert and the Chargers but went into a shell instead.
Love will continue to be judged and put under the microscope every time he takes the field. We’re starting to see growth from him, his pass-catchers, and the offensive line. The defense is getting healthier, with Jaire Alexander and Darnell Savage expected back on the field. If they’re not back on Thursday, they will be the following Sunday night.
The progress the Packers are showing is evident, with the outcomes of most games being determined by which team makes fewer mistakes late. On Sunday, it was the Chargers who literally dropped a chance to get to .500 in the rugged AFC. Now we’ll see what progress they’ve made when they face two teams with serious playoff aspirations in these next two weeks.