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Packers’ special teams, pass protection disasters are difference in 13-7 loss to Chiefs

Jordan Love was the story coming in, and he played inconsistently in his first start. But two units around him cost the Packers dearly as they dropped to 7-2.

Green Bay Packers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Jordan Love was not the reason that the Green Bay Packers lost to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday afternoon in week 9. Love was hardly great in his first start as an NFL quarterback, but he generally kept pace with former NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes statistically through 60 minutes at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Packers’ defense did almost everything it could to keep the game close for the team’s young quarterback. They limited the Chiefs to 13 points, three of which came after one of several massive special teams mistakes that gave Kansas City the football inside the ten-yard line. A late third-and-long conversion allowed the Chiefs to kneel out the clock, but the defense put together perhaps its best performance of the season against one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses.

Instead, it was two other units that share the primary responsibility for the Packers’ 13-7 loss on Sunday. First up was the special teams, which had three devastating errors in the first half and nearly had a fourth in the third quarter. Those mistakes effectively cost the Packers nine points before the break, with missed field goal resulting from a poor hold, a blocked field goal (also potentially affected by a bad snap and hold), and a muffed punt off the foot of gunner Malik Taylor that led directly to a Chiefs field goal.

On offense, the Packers had no answers for the Chiefs’ pressure packages up front. The Green Bay offensive line, particularly on the interior, struggled all game long to keep Love clean. The young quarterback escaped as best he could, but he was pressured quickly throughout the contest, particularly when the Chiefs brought creative blitzes on third downs.

Love would finally find at least a bit of a rhythm in the fourth quarter, however, as he moved the football and connected with Allen Lazard for his first career touchdown, coming with about five minutes remaining. Those would be the Packers’ only points of the game, but they pulled Green Bay to within a touchdown, giving the defense a chance to get the ball back for a comeback attempt.

They nearly did so, forcing a third-and-long from midfield. But a vintage Mahomes scramble resulted in a conversion to Tyreek Hill to allow Kansas City to kneel out the clock. It was Mahomes’ finest play of the game, and it was perhaps the only truly impressive play of the day for the Chiefs quarterback. Unfortunately for a Green Bay defense that had held Kansas City at bay all game long, it came at the most inopportune time.

Love finished the game 19-for-34 with 190 yards, a touchdown and an interception as the Packers fell to 7-2 on the season. Mahomes compiled an unimpressive stat line, going just 20-for-37 for just 166 yards and a score.

The Packers received the opening kickoff after the Chiefs won the toss and deferred, and it was a quick three-and-out in Love’s first series. He was pressured on both of his two pass attempts on that opening drive, going 0-for-2 on that set of downs as the Packers had to punt and put their defense on the field early.

Even before the game, Green Bay’s defense suffered a significant loss. Cornerback Eric Stokes injured his knee during warmups and was unavailable for the game, robbing the Packers of their fastest cornerback and a likely shadow for Tyreek Hill. The defense would also lose Kenny Clark late in the first half to a back issue, and with Kingsley Keke already inactive with a concussion, that led to more snaps for young linemen like T.J. Slaton and Jack Heflin.

Kansas City ripped off a lengthy 15-play drive on their first opportunity with the football, eventually taking a 7-0 lead on a short touchdown pass from Patrick Mahomes to Travis Kelce. The Chiefs converted an early 4th-and-short and three other third downs on the series, including the touchdown on a third-and-goal from the one-yard line. The drive took nearly eight minutes off the clock as Mahomes completed six of eight passes for 28 yards.

The Packers had a chance for points on the ensuing series thanks largely to AJ Dillon. On the Packers’ second drive, Dillon picked up 26 yards on three carries and 15 yards on a screen pass, but pressure on a third down caused another errant throw from Love. Mason Crosby missed a 40-yard field goal to end the series in disappointment, as holder Corey Bojorquez did not spin the laces outward to contribute to the kick going just wide left.

The Packers’ 2019 first-round draft picks then delivered a big play to give the ball back to the team’s 2020 first-rounder. After a great third-down stop by Oren Burks, Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage combined for a massive fourth-down stop in Chiefs territory. Gary provided pressure in Mahomes’ face and after he got the football out to Darrel Williams, Savage completed the tackle for loss to turn Kansas City back and give Jordan Love and the offense the football at the Chiefs’ 37.

Unfortunately, another Bojorquez mistake on a hold contributed to the Packers coming away scoreless from that great opportunity. After being held to a field goal attempt following a false start on Royce Newman, Bojorquez did not even attempt to spin the laces away from Crosby on a 37-yard attempt. It was a rough snap by new long snapper Steven Wirtel, but the Chiefs’ Alex Okafor broke through the line and blocked the attempt anyway to deny any possibility of the kick sailing through the uprights.

A Chiefs punt pinned Love and company back on the Packers’ two-yard line. Love and Dillon quickly connected to get out of the shadow of the goal line, with Love checking out of a run and throwing to the flat, where Dillon was able to pick up 21 yards. Green Bay would approach midfield but sputter out once again, as Love tried a deep throw to Davante Adams up the left sideline. But instead of throwing high and to the sideline, Love’s throw was short and Adams had to break up a potential interception, sending Bojorquez out to punt for the second time.

Yet another special teams disaster struck after the Packers’ defense forced a tremendous three-and-out. Punt returner Amari Rodgers allowed a ball to hit the turf, and it hit a falling Malik Taylor in the foot before bouncing towards the end zone. Kansas City recovered inside the ten-yard line, but the defense held for a red-zone stop as the Chiefs extended their lead to 10-0.

With over a minute left in the first half and two timeouts, the Packers tried to get back to within a possession before the break. Love heaved a deep duck on the first play of the drive, but Randall Cobb made a tremendous catch for a 35-yard gain. Love could not connect to move the chains again, however, and he sailed a back-shoulder throw to Adams short with the receiver running a go route instead of looking back for the football. Instead, it was Kansas City that had the best chance to score just before the half, thanks to a big play from Travis Kelce. A dropped interception by Kevin King just before the half led to a 55-yard field goal from Harrison Butker to make the halftime score 13-0.

Gary and Savage would deny the Chiefs a double-up coming out of the half, with Savage breaking up a first-down pass and Gary sacking Mahomes on third down. Amari Rodgers tried to give the Chiefs another free possession by muffing the ensuing punt, but he was narrowly able to recover possession to get the offense on the field.

Both defenses dominated the third quarter, with the Chiefs consistently harassing Love with their blitzing and the Packers swarming to the football. Neither team moved the ball much until early in the fourth, when the Packers finally got Love and the passing game going. Starting from their own five after another good punt by the Chiefs’ Tommy Townsend. Finally getting some decent pass protection, Love connected with Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling to move the chains as the Packers crossed midfield. Love would connect with Adams to move the chains on 4th-and-1. A few plays later, however, Love sailed a ball high for Adams and L’Jarius Sneed picked it off to end the Packers’ best-looking drive of the game.

Yet another three-and-out for the Packers’ defense led to the offense picking up its first third down conversions of the day. Randall Cobb turned a short pass into a big gain on 3rd-and-10 and Aaron Jones ran for nine yards on a 3rd-and-6 as the Packers reached the 20. Love would finally get the Packers on the board on a 4th-and-5 as he found a wide-open Allen Lazard for the conversion. Lazard kept his feet inbounds, shook off safety Daniel Sorensen, and tiptoed up the sideline into the end zone for the Packers’ first touchdown of the game and Love’s first career touchdown pass. That pulled the Packers back to within a possession at 13-7, setting up the defense to deliver Love a chance to execute a comeback.

But needing a big stop to give the ball back, the Packers’ defense could not. A big gain to Travis Kelce moved the chains early, but the unit had a chance to force a punt just inside the two-minute warning. Although the front got pressure on Mahomes, he escaped the pocket and delivered an off-balance throw to Tyreek Hill, who hauled in the 13-yard pass to move the chains and clinch the Chiefs’ victory.

The 7-2 Packers will return home next week to face the Seattle Seahawks. Whether or not Love will play next week will remain to be seen, as Aaron Rodgers will be eligible to return to action on Saturday, should he pass the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols.