Green Bay Packers

Love Has Found A Way

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The last time I had that much fun on New Year’s Eve, it was the early 90s, I was living in Chicago, and my memory is a bit fuzzy. But it involved Rush Street, an abundance of alcohol, and lots of friendly ladies excited to ring in the new year.

There was plenty to Love about the Pack’s beatdown of the Vikings, but it begins with the continued emergence of their young quarterback. Jordan Love’s ascension over the past six weeks has been amazing to watch and should have now won over even the most skeptical, Aaron Rodgers-loving fans out there.

Love absolutely torched Brian Flores’ house of cards defense, which has plummeted to earth over the last month or so. The Pack’s strong offensive line swallowed up his pass rush and exotic blitzes, and his talent-deprived secondary was exposed as they sat in zone and watched Love pick them apart for the better part of 60 minutes.

Love partnered up with the emerging Jayden Reed in the first half. Reed broke Sterling Sharpe’s rookie receiving record before exiting the game at half after reinjuring his chest. His status for the season finale is in doubt. That’s a shame because this kid is a star in the making and will head into next season as the team’s No. 1 receiver. Christian Watson has a chance to claim that title, but he’ll need to prove he can stay on the field.

Back to Love: Think back to the first meeting between these teams and now consider how far he has come. The game has slowed down for him. In December, he has been as productive and efficient as any QB in the league. His stats through 16 games are eerily similar to Aaron Rodgers’, with two more touchdowns, three fewer turnovers, and the exact same passer rating, 93.8. Oh, and he has two more wins.

Four QBs have accounted for at least 34 touchdowns through 17 weeks of the NFL season: Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts, Dak Prescott, and Love. Think about the supporting casts those other three guys have, and then consider who Love has been throwing to. Yes, the future is blindingly bright for Green Bay’s offense, led by the soon-to-be very wealthy Love.

There are more bouquets to toss at the offense. Zach Tom handled his business against Danielle Hunter all night long. Rasheed Walker continues to make his case to be the future at left tackle. Once again, Aaron Jones demonstrated what he means to this offense with another strong game running the ball. And then there’s Bo Melton, who earned himself a roster spot with the team’s first 100-yard performance by a WR this season. The team’s postgame celebration of his night was so cool. Check out the video if you haven’t seen it already.

I think it’s safe to say Gutey can ignore the WR prospects in next spring’s draft. Reed, Watson, Romeo Doubs, Dontayvion Wicks, Malik Heath, Melton. That’s a fun, young group right there. Toss in Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft at tight end – Green Bay has an enviable stable of pass catchers.

Like many of you, I envisioned Jaren Hall becoming the third rookie QB in December to toy with Joe Barry’s defense and post a career game. It was obvious from the start that that was not going to happen. The beleaguered unit, missing its top two corners, played smart, physical, and fast from start to finish. Barry elected to harass the young QB, sending extra rushers on half of his dropbacks, and it worked consistently. Preston Smith led the charge, dominating tackle Christian Darrisaw all night.

It’s easy to say, Of course they played well. They faced a kid who’d thrown a total of ten passes in his career. But give him credit: Barry dialed up a great game plan, and his players delivered. They quieted an amped-up New Year’s Eve crowd, ended the Jaren Hall experiment after 30 minutes, and looked more than competent.

They took the ball away, tackled well, and made sure Justin Jefferson didn’t take over. Big picture: nothing changes – this team needs new direction, and they’ll assuredly move on from Barry after the season. If his unit can back up this performance with another, more challenging one next week, he’ll at least get to walk out of Lambeau after the season ends with his head held high.

There will be time to think about next Sunday and how history is repeating itself in Week 18, with a dangerous, red-hot division rival coming to town to try to make a statement and end the Pack’s playoff hopes.

For now, for today, I want to enjoy what we all saw on New Year’s Eve. A bare-chested Kirko Chainz blowing the Gjallahorn, whipping Vikings fans into a frenzy before a de facto playoff game, and the Packers silencing them within about 15 minutes.

They’re now 31-31 all-time in Minnesota. There have been some memorable wins in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. But this one, with what was on the line, with how dominating it was, and with how well their QB played? I think I Loved this one the most.

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