In Week 3, the Green Bay Packers hosted the New Orleans Saints for the teams’ home opener of the 2023 season. The Packers were once again headed into battle without 5 key starters, including 4 of whom are on offense. Wide receiver Christian Watson and running back Aaron Jones, who were both listed as questionable with hamstring injuries were held out once again. The Packers were also going to be without their two starters on the left side of the offensive line. One of which is LT David Bakhtiari, who is still struggling with swelling in his knee. Also out was LG Elgton Jenkins, who suffered a sprained MCL in the Week 2 loss in Atlanta. Rounding out the group of inactive’s was CB Jaire Alexander with a back injury. After an abysmal first half that was plagued by penalties and poor execution on offense, the Packers were destined to lose their first home game of the season. Despite struggling all afternoon, the youngest team in the NFL was able to pull off a 17-point 4th quarter comeback. Led by quarterback Jordan Love, the Packers persevere and defeat the Saints 18-17 in dramatic fashion.
Forgettable First Half:
The Packers offense in the first half was lackluster to say the least. After a stellar opening from the defense, the offense was put in great field position to start the day. Like last weekend against the Falcons, the Packers failed to capitalize on the opportunity. Green Bay’s first two plays were penalties. Jon Runyan was called for holding on 1st down, and Royce Newman committed a false start on 2nd down, which set up 1st and 25 to start the game. On the same drive, the Packers went for it on 4th and 2. It was a trick play that fell on its face, and they turned the ball over at midfield. Shortly after, the Saints went downfield and scored a touchdown. Being without four starters is tough, but the Packers made things so much harder on themselves as the first half progressed. Drive after drive, they continued playing sloppy, and had a hard time getting anything going. Another holding penalty, along with an illegal formation stifled two drives in the 2nd quarter. The Packers had 60 penalty yards at halftime.
A big contributing factor to the Packers comeback on Sunday were performances from key players. One of those players was star pass-rusher Rashan Gary. The 5th-year man out of Michigan recorded the first 3-sack game of his career on Sunday. With 10:54 in the 3rd quarter, Gary sacked Saints quarterback Derek Carr. Carr suffered an injury on the play and had to leave the game. Carr was rolling up until that point, and him having to leave the game is something that helped turn the tide for the Packers. Coming off a torn ACL less than a calendar year ago, Gary is proving early that he is worthy of a lucrative contract extension from the Packers. It can’t be stressed enough how much his presence in the Packers front 7 adds to the unit’s success.
You can’t talk about Sunday’s comeback without talking about Jordan Love. The 4th-year quarterback out of Utah State made his first start in Lambeau Field as QB1 of the Packers. Just as the offense struggled in the first half, so did Love. At halftime, Love had completed 7 of 16 passes with a mere 74 yards in the air. After a field goal that got the Packers on the board with 11:00 remaining in the 4th, Love was able to secure the first Packers touchdown of the afternoon with a scramble from the 2-yard line on 4th and goal. Matt LaFleur then rolled the dice by going for the two-point conversion. Love completed a pass to Samori Toure to cut the deficit to 17-11. On the next possession, Love was able to connect with second-year receiver Romeo Doubs to the right corner of the end zone, leading to the Packers snagging an 18-17 lead. After the fact, New Orleans drove down field and missed a field goal with a little over one minute left in regulation. Jordan Love then came back out on the field to secure the victory by kneeling the ball 3 times. He finished the game with a stat-line of 22/44, 259 yards, 2 total touchdowns and an interception. He also had 39 yards rushing. On paper his stats don’t look great, but Love made big plays when he needed to the most. In the end, he was the catalyst that led to the only statistic that mattered: a win for the Green Bay Packers. It may not have been pretty, but Jordan Love continues to show that he is the guy for the Packers. In the face of adversity, he stayed solid, and was clutch for his football team.
There is still a lot to clean up on both sides of the ball, but the resilient performance on Sunday shows that this team is growing and forging a new identity of Packers football going forward.