Jordan Love is “the guy.”
In his first ever start at Lambeau Field and the home opener of the 2023 season, Love tied the record for the largest 4th-quarter comeback in Green Bay Packers history. Love and the Packers defeated the New Orleans Saints, 18-17, after entering the 4th quarter down 17-0.
The other time that happened? Aaron Rodgers and the Packers were down 20-3 entering the 4th quarter in the 2018 home opener against the Bears before Rodgers’ legendary performance on a bad leg led the Packers to a 24-23 win. Not bad company for Love and this Packers squad.
I’m finding it harder and harder to consider the idea that Love isn’t the Packers’ quarterback of the next decade. Sure, he was fantastic in Week 1 against a putrid Chicago defense. Then Love was great again for three quarters against Atlanta, before he and the Packers crumbled in the 4th quarter, and the comeback opportunity seemed too great a feat for the young Packers. It hurt, but it made sense. I didn’t necessarily expect those moments to be fulfilled, at least not this year.
That’s partly why this game against this Saints was so special, so poetic considering the prior game in Atlanta. This Packers team does have that in them. Jordan Love has that in him. I truly believe I’ve seen enough to know he is special, and I’m about at the point where I won’t be convinced otherwise.
Not only did Love tie a legendary Packers’ quarterback for the largest 4th-quarter comeback in the franchise’s history, but he did it with some huge names penciled into the injury report this week. David Bakhtiari, Aaron Jones, Christian Watson, Elgton Jenkins and Jaire Alexander did not play against New Orleans. That’s five starters, four of which are on offense, all of whom are Pro Bowlers except Watson who is undoubtedly the team’s best receiver.
It’s still worth noting the offense looked abysmal for the first three quarters of the game against a quality New Orleans defense that had only allowed one touchdown in the first two games. The Packers drives from the beginning to the end of the game went: Turnover on downs, punt, punt, interception, punt, turnover on downs, field goal, touchdown, touchdown. The 4th quarter was miraculous, but it was ugly for a solid 49 minutes.
A 4th & 2 during Green Bay’s first drive of the game failed due to a completely botched trick play attempt that really should have worked if Emmanuel Wilson doesn’t fumble and Love doesn’t slip on the throw after the recovery. The Packers’ next drive stalled after Love missed a wide open Luke Musgrave streaking down the middle of the field for what likely would have been a 62-yard touchdown. The game felt over when the Packers received the ball to start the second half and Love threw an awful interception three plays in.
The Packers field one of, if not the best, pass blocking offensive lines in the NFL, but the run blocking has been spotty. A healthy Aaron Jones helps cover up this possible weakness, but their run game hasn’t looked the same in his absence. AJ Dillon ran 11 times for just 33 yards. Love was the team’s leading rusher with 39 yards and a touchdown. The Packers also committed 11 penalties for 90 yards, most of which came in the first half by the offensive line.
All of this to say, the Packers deserve all the credit for not giving up. One thing that was apparent from Love since Week 1 is the way he plays with so much confidence and poise. Even when the Love and the Packers failed to capitalize on a game-winning drive in Atlanta last week, he rifled some fearless (though maybe questionable) throws into tight windows, a couple of which probably should have been caught. Despite the hole he helped dig Green Bay into throughout the contest with New Orleans, Love never looked shaken and always maintained good body language. He continued to be aggressive when the Packers needed it most and it’s what won them the game. In the end, Green Bay had the better quarterback.
It’s apparent by how the Packers talk about Love and the way they rallied around him in this game that they view him as their undisputed leader. Postgame, players in the locker room echoed the same sentiment to reporters – they knew they were never out of this game with Love at the helm. I think it says a lot about the way Love carries himself, the way this team has unwavering confidence in him. An underrated factor to being a successful quarterback in the NFL is the way you carry yourself and rally teammates behind you.
There have been countless quarterbacks in the NFL that came and went, petering out not just because they didn’t get it done on the field, but because they don’t have that “it” factor that makes someone “the guy.” Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, even someone like Joe Burrow – they have “it.” Zach Wilson, Rodgers’ backup in New York, for example, does not have that confidence and mentality needed to survive and prosper. Another week, another game where Love shows something that tells me he has that potential to be special.
After burying Joe Barry and the Packers’ defense last week, I need to acknowledge how exceptional they were this week. This comeback isn’t possible without their persistent, great performance. It’d be easy for the defense to be gassed and give up after the offense consistently let them down for three quarters, yet the defense got even better as the game went on. Without their top cornerback Jaire Alexander, the Packers allowed just 252 yards of offense and limited the Saints to 4-14 on 3rd down conversions. The Saints only scored 10 offensive points (the other 7 resulted from a punt return touchdown) and didn’t score at all in the second half.
Rashan Gary is all the way back. After suffering a season-ending knee injury last year, Gary racked up 3 sacks, 3 tackles for loss and 4 QB hits this game. He bullied Saints All-Pro tackle Ryan Ramczyk all day long. Gary could content for All-Pro honors this season, and his return to form is massive for Green Bay’s defense.
Next up, the Packers face their biggest test of the season so far against the division rival Detroit Lions. The two clubs are tied for the lead in the NFC North, and Thursday’s game could affect both teams at the end of the season.——————