Rob DemovskyESPN Editor5 minute read
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Even if Jordan Love and the Green Bay Packers (4-6) take a step back Thursday against the NFC North-leading Detroit Lions (and how could they not, given their struggling to run back in a short week), it may not change the perspective on what the first-year starting quarterback and his young offensive teammates did Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Years from now — if Love is still the Packers’ starter and still starting players like Jayden Reed, Dontayvion Wicks, Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson — the 23-20 Week 11 win at Lambeau Field might be identified as the moment when everyone knew that Love would be “him”.
The deciding factor came late in the fourth quarter with the Packers leading 20-16. Love & Co. took the field with 5:24 left. Started by a Chargers pass interference penalty on third down, Love hit rookie Wicks for a 35-yard catch-and-run, then threw a 24-yard touchdown pass that the second-year Doubs pro made pivot to catch. the winning score with 2:33 left.
It capped a 322-yard, two-touchdown, no-interception day for Love. It was his first career 300-yard game and the first by a Packers quarterback in nearly two years (Aaron Rodgers went the entire 2022 season without one).
“I think he proves us all right,” said Watson, who caught Love’s other touchdown (an 11-yarder in the third quarter). “We’ve seen what he can do from the moment he got the starting job. Obviously we knew there was going to be adversity that we were going to face and so on, but he keeps going. moving forward, and I think he has a bright future.”
Perhaps the most promising sign on the Doubs score was that it was the result of a receiver’s hand signal to let Love know that, based on the coverage, he was taking his way upfield from the field instead of going to the apartment, and the two shot him. disabled.
This might not have happened earlier in the season, when the offense didn’t seem to be on the same page. A month ago, skill position players and quarterbacks began meeting on Tuesdays (the players’ day off) to get a head start on the next opponent.
The Doubs touchdown was Love’s third fourth-quarter touchdown of the season — the most by a Packers quarterback since Rodgers in 2012. They just hadn’t won every time he did it.
“I promise you there was no difference,” Doubs said. “It just came down to a few plays, fine-tuning the details the week before. Coming into this week, we definitely fine-tuned those details and got a win.”
Watson’s touchdown was another sign of the offense’s growth. A week after the Watson-Love connection broke, they fixed it with an elaborate midgame play on the sideline. Coach Matt LaFleur credited tight ends coach John Dunn with the idea, and Watson sprinted through the secondary and found himself wide open.
“There was a play earlier on that drive…and we saw something there, and he suggested a play, and then we called it and covered the coverage, and those guys went there -down and executed it,” LaFleur said. “It was a great job by Christian to just carry the butt across the field, and Jordan made a good throw, but credit definitely goes to John Dunn in that situation.”
Love may still not have a reference man. No pass catcher had more than five receptions (Doubs) and none had 100 yards (Wicks had 91 on three catches).
Reed might have been their most dynamic player with 92 total yards on three carries (including one for 32 yards) and four catches. He became one of only two Packers players (Watson in 2022) in the last 40 years to have at least 40 rushing yards and 40 receiving yards in a game, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
The sum has proven to be greater than the parts, with the caveat being that the Chargers have the 31st-ranked defense in the NFL. And it’s not like Love is perfect. He missed tight end Luke Musgrave with a bad overthrow and threw a deep ball to Doubs. But at 27 of 40, he had a solid completion rate (67.5%).
For those who were skeptical about whether the previous week’s loss to the Steelers — when the Packers had seven plays of 20-plus yards — was a sign of progress, Green Bay added seven more such plays against the Chargers. They’ve had 19 plays totaling 20-plus yards in their last three games, after having 19 in the first seven games combined.
“It’s like we’re trying to find our rhythm right now, and we’re getting into that rhythm and finding that rhythm,” Love said. “Starting the game fast, eliminating three-and-outs that just kill the drive, limiting turnovers, things like that. So it feels like we’re getting into that rhythm where everyone is settling in, where the chemistry is built day in and day out, so I think we’re in a really good place right now. We just have to continue to build on that foundation.
Backup quarterback Sean Clifford had a front-row seat to it all. After Sunday’s game, he said he and Love were just talking about what happened for the offense. Although Clifford said he thought progression was constant, there may have been a point where everything changed.
“Maybe today,” Clifford said Sunday. “Today was impressive, but I think it was a little bit everyone. I think it started last week to be honest with you. We saw guys catching and getting YAC (yards after capture), which we hadn’t seen guys do. “That was important. It was just a matter of time. We know what we have in terms of skill level. I think it’s just (No.) 10 to be super confident in everyone. And it showed today. “
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