GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers’ improved play showed up in a 23-20 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. The good news is Jordan Love delivered a clutch drive for the winning touchdown. The bad news is the Packers needed a considerable amount of good fortune.
Here are our weekly Overreactions.
1. Jordan Love’s Legit
With Week 11 in the books, quarterback Jordan Love is 31st out of 33 qualifying quarterbacks with a 59.7 percent completion rate. He’s 21st with 6.86 yards per attempt, 30th with 10 interceptions and 22nd with an 83.8 passer rating.
That’s not good enough. Not in a league in which quarterback success usually means team success.
However, has now been stated 100,000,001 times, this season is and has always been about forward progress. To expect a first-year starting quarterback throwing to a bunch of rookies and second-year receivers to look like Vintage Aaron Rodgers was sheer folly.
So, let’s look at the last three games against the Rams, Steelers and Chargers. To be sure, none of those teams are fighting to finish No. 1 in the league in total defense. But the Steelers are sixth in opponent passer rating and the Rams are 12th, and the Chargers have plenty of high-profile players.
From Week 9 through Week 11, 30 quarterbacks have thrown at least 40 passes. Love ranks ninth in passer rating (96.4), 17th in completion percentage (64.2) and seventh in yards per attempt (7.92).
“Jordan has been playing phenomenal,” receiver Romeo Doubs said. “He knows just like I do that we’re in this together and the ultimate goal is to keep grinding and keep stacking up points.”
Aside from the red-zone interceptions at Pittsburgh last week, Love has been playing winning football, which explains why the Packers are 2-1 in their last three games and had a chance to be 3-0.
Love has won over the locker room. And, week by week, he’s probably winning over general manager Brian Gutekunst, who at some point must decide whether Love is the worthy successor to the quarterbacking throne or simply the bridge between Rodgers and the next first-round pick.
“Works his ass off,” defensive tackle Kenny Clark said. “He made some great plays. He threw for over 300 yards. The guy, he got it. He’s got to just keep doing what he’s doing and keep playing ball how he’s playing.”
Now, the elephants in the room …
2. Zach Tom Is the Team MVP
The Packers should have lost, Part 1. And they probably would have had right tackle Zach Tom not delivered the understated play of the game.
On the second play of what turned out to be the game-winning drive, Love had the ball knocked free by Chargers star Khalil Mack. Tom recovered the fumble to give the Packers a breath of hope, which Love parlayed into the game-deciding touchdown to Doubs.
Because of Tom, Love went from goat to hero. Because of Tom, the Packers are 4-6 instead of 3-7.
If you had to pick a team MVP through 10 games, it might be Tom, who has come up big again and again and again against high-quality defenders.
Against the Chargers, he allowed just one pressure out of 44 passing plays, according to Pro Football Focus. Against Pittsburgh stud T.J. Watt a week earlier, he allowed three pressures out of 46 passing plays. On Thursday at Ford Field, the matchup will be against Lions star Aidan Hutchinson, who rushes mostly against the opposing right tackle and ranks third in the NFL with 58 total pressures, according to PFF.
Looking ahead, the Packers have some big questions on their offensive line. With David Bakhtiari on injured reserve and facing an uncertain future, they alternated Rasheed Walker and Yosh Nijman at left tackle vs. the Chargers. Sean Rhyan has taken some playing time away from Jon Runyan at right guard. Nijman and Runyan will be free agents this offseason.
But there’s little question that Tom, the 2022 fourth-round pick who’s playing a position manned by 13 first-round picks, is going to be a lynchpin on the offensive line for years.
3. Joe Barry Is the Luckiest Man Alive
The Packers should have lost, Part 2. And they probably would have if not for an abundance of mind-blowingly enormous mistakes by the Chargers. Had the great Keenan Allen not dropped two passes around the goal line or running back Austin Ekeler not coughed one up at the 2, then rookie Quentin Johnston would not have been in position to drop a 70-yard touchdown on the final possession.
“Our red-zone defense was really good today,” LaFleur said.
Not really. The red-zone defense was really lucky.
That’s sports, though. Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve is the reality most weeks.
The Chargers, playing without two of their best receivers and their best tight end, gained 394 yards against a defense that was down four of its five Week 1 starters in the secondary and lost linebacker De’Vondre Campbell in the second half to another injury. A great quarterback is the heaviest stone on any old-school arm-balance scale, so Herbert’s success was predictable.
But, as has been the case for far too many games in Barry’s three-year run as defensive coordinator, his side of the ball almost always leaves you wanting more.
At least the Packers limited running backs Ekeler and Joshua Kelly to a manageable 77 yards on 16 carries. A much tougher task awaits on Thursday against a mauling Lions offensive line that cleared the way for 211 rushing yards at Lambeau Field in Week 4.