The Packers lost a tight game in Kansas City Sunday afternoon 13-7 to fall to 7-2 on the season. The game was 13-0 until late in the fourth quarter when Packers backup quarterback Jordan Love found receiver Allen Lazard for a touchdown pass. The Packers defense was unable to get the ball back for the offense as Patrick Mahomes found a receiver on a 3rd and long to ice the game.
Jordan Love threw for 190 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The running game went for over 100 yards again (99 between Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon and 23 yards of which were from Jordan Love scrambles) but the offense was unable to move the ball against a generally bad Chiefs defense.
It was Jordan Love’s first start and he didn’t play particularly well, though he should shoulder very little blame as he was thrust into the starting role due to Aaron Rodgers' absence. At times he looked nervous, at others he looked erratic.
Those are the growing pains a team goes through with a quarterback who has seen no real game action since he was drafted (though he did play in garbage time in week one versus New Orleans). LaFleur did not really try to get him into a rhythm with defined throws and easy play action.
Defensively though, the defense played as well as they have all season without Jaire Alexander, ZaDarius Smith, and later losing Kenny Clark. Rashan Gary is developing into one of the league’s more dominant pass rushers and DeVondre Campbell had another solid game as well and is easily one of their best, if not their best, linebacker right now.
Joe Barry’s gameplan did not differ all that much from the last two teams the Chiefs faced, the Titans and Giants. In those games, the defenses bracketed Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce at times in zone coverage and got physical with them in man coverage, allowing those defenses to disrupt the timing of the Chiefs offense. Sunday for the Packers was no different.
Erasing Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce with man and zone coverages
On this 1st-and-10 play late in the first quarter, the Chiefs came out in 11 personnel 3x1 trips to the right with Tyreek Hill (No. 10) singled up on the left side of the formation. Hill is going to run a go route down the field. On the trips, Kelce as the number three receiver is running a whip route to the outside.
The Packers are in a cover-5 shell (cover-2 man) across, eliminating Hill from the progression as the single receiver since the corner would have him bracketed with the safety to that side. This leaves Kelce 1-on-1 with Campbell in the slot. Campbell, with no inside help, looks to be playing a wall technique where he immediately jumps inside and his responsibility is not to let Kelce cross his face.
At the snap, Campbell sticks on Kelce pretty cleanly and forces Mahomes to throw the ball in the dirt rather than risk a potentially bad pass that could be tipped and lead to an interception.
Later in the second quarter, the Packers bracketed Hill with quarters coverage on a double post shot play. The defense was content to give up Kelce underneath in order to erase the posts down field and Mahomes overshot his target as a result.
In quarters coverage, the deep safeties will bracket anything deep down the field with the corners unless they’re occupied by their own deep vertical routes. In this case, Kevin King (No. 20) is bracketing Hill with Darnell Savage (No. 26) on Hill’s deep post. Safety Adrian Amos (No. 31) has no vertical threat so he immediately looks for any vertical or deep crosser from the other side.
Mecole Hardman (No. 17) is running the deep post toward Savage with Chandon Sullivan (No. 39) underneath in trail across the field. Mahomes looks for Hill, sees the bracket, and moves to Hardman, also bracketed and is forced to throw where no defender can get it. He had Kelce open underneath for the easy conversion but passed him up. He has to take that throw.
Mahomes was forced to throw deep again later in the quarter when he overshot Hill by about five yards after looking for Kelce underneath. The bracket coverages employed by the Packers were very effective in throwing off the timing of the routes and delaying Mahomes decision making.
The Chiefs are trying to run a slot fade concept with Hill from the trips side while Kelce works underneath. The Packers are in cover-1 hole where the middle linebacker drops into a shallow middle of the field zone looking to rob anything that comes underneath, creating a bracket on Kelce with his defender.
Mahomes drops back looking for Kelce but has no throw. By now Hill is too far downfield for Mahomes to have any real shot a completion but throws it up anyways and overshoots him down the left sideline with Sullivan in coverage.
Here’s another good bracket coverage in zone with King in man-to-man singled up against Hill.
King gets physical with Hill at the snap and presses him into the sideline, limiting Mahomes throwing window and throwing off the timing of the play. Mahomes tries to throw a back shoulder throw but King is physical with him just long enough to throw off Hill’s awareness of the pass. The pass lands out of bounds incomplete.
When Mahomes couldn’t get to Hill or Kelce, he was forcing passes into coverage that just were not there due to the Packers coverage designs.
The Chiefs are running a play action dagger concept to the left out of shotgun. On dagger, the quarterback reads from the deep crosser to the dagger to the checkdown. Kelce is on the checkdown in the flat while Hill is running the deep crosser and Josh Gordon (No. 19) is running dagger/dig route.
The Packers are in quarters coverage again, allowing them to bracket Hill on the crosser with Amos and underneath with Campbell. Mahomes works the progression and leads Savage right into the throwing window to Gordon where the pass is broken up.
The defense also got physical with Kelce and threw off the timing of this play between Mahomes and Kelce.
The Packers bracketed Hill deep with a corner and safety combination where the safety had time to get over top. Pre-snap decision shows there’s no good option downfield on a throw to Hill.
Mahomes works underneath to Kelce, wants to throw in rhythm and the pass falls incomplete when safety Henry black (No. 41) jams up Kelce off the line. Kelce works free from the jam eventually but is not ready to catch the pass as it hits him in the chest and falls incomplete.
Rashan Gary continues to impress
Defensive end Rashan Gary continues to build on his development as a pass rusher each week and in this week, he added five total pressures to his stat line including one sack and two quarterback hits.
On his sack, he used sheer speed to power to long arm rush the offensive tackle into the backfield before sacking Patrick Mahomes on a third down play early in the third quarter.
On his quarterback hits, he played a key role in forcing a hurried throw on a fourth down stop at the start of the second quarter and on his second quarterback hit, the defense eventually gave up the game sealing third down conversion but his full effort nearly led to a sack on Mahomes. Still great effort to finish the play and that’s exactly the kind of effort needed for this defense to remain successful.
Offensive line struggles starting to creep up
The Packers offensive line gave up 14 pressures though Jordan Love used his mobility to avoid sacks except on play. Eight of the 14 pressures came from the interior with Royce Newman giving up six total with the one sack. It’s hard for an offense to get into a rhythm with a new quarterback when you can’t give him a clean pocket to operate from.
(Video by Acme Packing Company writer Tyler Brooke)
The offense only converted 2-of-12 third downs due to their inability to move the ball. Perhaps a little more commitment to the run game and subsequent keeper play action, getting Love out on the move, and getting him easy completions would’ve slowed the game down for him and produced more offense.
Instead they tried to run the Aaron Rodgers offense with iso routes forcing 1-on-1 matchups with incredibly tight throwing windows when he wasn’t being pressured. If he has to go versus Seattle in Rodgers absence, then they will not be able to go with the same game plan. For more on Jordan Love’s first start, check out Tyler Brooke’s article from earlier this week.
The schedule has some tough teams coming up on the back end of the schedule starting with a Seattle team that is not as bad as their record shows. As of right now, it is uncertain whether or not Aaron Rodgers will play on Sunday at home versus Seattle so Jordan Love could start his second game and get more experience. But LaFleur and the offensive staff are going to have to scheme up some help for their rookie left guard and second year quarterback.
Defensively, Joe Barry is coaching about as well as anyone can ask for and as long as the defense stays consistent by generating pressure and eliminating the opposing teams’ best threats, then the team as whole will be just fine moving forward after a wonky week.