Green Bay Packers

The Best Game I Never Saw

Photo credit: Wm. Glasheen-The Post-Crescent via USA TODAY Sports

Let me take you through my Sunday afternoon.

I bellied up to the bar at the Indianapolis International Airport and convinced the bartender to switch from the Indianapolis Colts game to the Green Bay Packers game. (For some reason, they couldn’t show multiple games). No one seemed to care, which caused me to start to question my life priorities.

Sitting next to me was a dude decked out in Notre Dame gear, who had been to the game in South Bend and was drowning his sorrows before heading home to Columbus. Yep, he was an Irish fan living in the heart of Buckeyes country. I told him I could relate.

I headed to my gate at halftime, frustrated by a putrid first-half performance that saw the Pack commit countless penalties and never get into an offensive rhythm. I mean, we knew this one might be tricky, considering four of the team’s best five offensive players were standing on the sidelines in street clothes. But this was even uglier than we could have imagined.

Since the game was on locally in Indy, I couldn’t watch the third quarter on my phone (the league blacked it out), so I was on the ESPN app, following the gamecast. When the Packers opened the fourth quarter by failing to convert a fourth-and-two from the 12 after an 80+ yard drive, trailing 17-0, I told myself, You picked the right week to fly home in the middle of a Packer game.

When we landed, I reopened that app and checked the final score. 18-17 Packers. I actually closed my eyes, opened them, and checked again – same thing. You’d have to ask the chatty grandma next to me to make sure, but I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped to the floor. Then, the texts and tweets descended onto my phone, and I knew it was true. The Pack had indeed won their 11th straight home opener. Somehow.

Just one week after an epic fourth-quarter collapse, the Pack engineered the second-best fourth-quarter comeback in franchise history. I remember being at the other one, the 2018 season opener, when Aaron Rodgers left the field in a cart in the first half and came back to shock the Chicago Bears. I remember how amazing that night felt.

The Packers treated the fans lucky enough to be present on Sunday to a storybook ending to the beginning of Jordan Love’s career at Lambeau. I got a chance to watch the fourth quarter on Sunday night (my NFL+ subscription paid for itself on Sunday). Love’s fourth-quarter numbers weren’t pristine (7/18 for 104 yards). However, he showed everything you want to see if you’re looking to figure out if he has what it takes to be a franchise QB.

He tested the Saints’ banged-up secondary with deep shot after deep shot, getting flags thrown for pass interference and allowing his young receivers to make big plays. He showed us flashes of his running ability with a big 31-yard tiptoe down the sidelines and a crafty deke of linebacker Demario Davis when he scored from fourth-and-two to cut the Saints lead to 17-9.

Then he showed his ability to work off-schedule with a beautiful dart across his body to Samari Toure to complete the two-point conversion. (That’s what the analytics nerds say you do now when you’re down by 14).

Unlike last week, the defense was up to the challenge, allowing only ten points all afternoon. Kenny Clark wrecking things up front, and Rashan Gary officially announced he’s back to form with a trifecta of sacks. His third knocked Derek Carr out of the game with a shoulder injury that meant Jamies Winston needed to carry them home.

The go-ahead touchdown drive featured spectacular catches by Jayden Reed and Romeo Doubs, who is growing into the team’s No. 1 receiver right before our eyes. And the Pack completed the stirring comeback without its three best linemen. Zach Tom exited early in the fourth with a knee injury (fingers are crossed). But, of course, there was still plenty of time for the Saints to spoil the fun.

Still, rookie kicker Blake Grupe lined up from 46 yards out with 70,000 Cheeseheads in full throat, and he wasn’t up to the challenge, pushing it right. Out comes Love and the offense to run out the clock with No. 10 raising his arms, asking for even more noise, soaking up the love and admiration of the Lambeau fans – something he’d waited more than three years to hear. As frustrating as it was, I’m guessing it was worth the wait.

This team showed a whole lot of resolve on this afternoon. No Jaire Alexander, Aaron Jones, David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins, and Christian Watson. De’Vondre Campbell exited in the first quarter with an ankle injury. That’s probably six of your ten best players unavailable, and you’re matched up against a 2-0 team with a nasty defense and a crafty QB with a talented receiver corps.

Through three quarters and change, this team looked dead in the water. And then everything changed. And the arc of this Packers season may have changed right along with it. I keep seeing Doubs making a heart with his hands after scoring the go-ahead touchdown. Love. He was dapping his young QB making the love sign.

I mean, you gotta Love it.

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Photo credit: Wm. Glasheen-The Post-Crescent via USA TODAY Sports

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