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Packers defeat Saints 20-10 behind accurate Jordan Love, playmaking Isaiah McDuffie

Love’s stat line won’t show his improvement thanks to some drops, but he looked more decisive, accurate, and consistent throughout the Packers’ second preseason game.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers Dan Powers-USA TODAY Sports

Jordan Love looked better on Friday night than he did in the Green Bay Packers’ first preseason game. The Green Bay defense looked solid throughout the game, particularly on the defensive line and the inside linebacker group. And of course, we got another big play from rookie receiver Romeo Doubs.

On Friday night, the Packers defeated the New Orleans Saints 20-10, but as is always the case in the preseason, the final result does not really matter. Instead, it’s how the players looked, especially compared to last week, and in the case of Love, he showed some notable improvement in his consistency.

Love had multiple pinpoint-accurate deep balls on Friday at Lambeau Field, a few that went for completions and a few that unfortunately will go down as drops in the box score. Maybe the best was a spot-on throw to Samori Toure in the third quarter that the rookie receiver could not quite haul in. But Love’s confidence and ball placement in general were improved across the board from his performance a week ago against the 49ers, which is a great sign moving forward for the young quarterback.

However, as alluded to above, the inconsistency that Aaron Rodgers has been complaining about in his young wide receivers continued, starting off early in the game. On the Packers’ first series, Romeo Doubs couldn’t track a nice deep ball from Love. Doubs got open against starting cornerback Bradley Roby, but he turned over the wrong shoulder and couldn’t haul in the football on third down. The Toure drop, with rain coming down in the third quarter, was another example. So too was an absolute bullet to Amari Rodgers over the middle a few plays later that was initially ruled a catch but was overturned to incomplete on review as Rodgers failed to maintain possession when going to the ground.

Doubs made a great catch on the Packers’ second drive, however, as Love fit in a pass perfectly between two defenders for a 17-yard gain. Love showed good accuracy throughout that second series, hitting Josiah Deguara on a play-action rollout to the left and Juwann Winfree on a quick out. Love was off on a second-down pass to Deguara and was pressured on third and goal, however. Love’s lengthy scramble ended with him giving Patrick Taylor a chance to make a highlight-reel catch on the sideline, but he could not haul it in so Ramiz Ahmed put the Packers up 3-0 with a field goal.

Check out the throw from Love here:

The third drive saw a slow start for Love and the offense, but they picked it up with a little help from New Orleans. The Packers shuffled up the offensive line a bit in the second quarter, going with Yosh Nijman, Cole Van Lanen, Josh Hanson, Royce Newman, and Zach Tom from left to right. After an early hold on Tyler Davis and a sack of Love, a roughing the passer call on the Saints gave the drive new life.

Love and Tyler Goodson did the rest, leading the Packers to the first touchdown of the game. Goodson broke off multiple big runs on zone calls, while Love settled back in and made multiple pinpoint throws, including a big 21-yard gain to Juwann Winfree between a linebacker underneath and a trailing defensive back. Eventually Love would go back to Doubs on an end zone fade and the rookie elevated for a tremendous catch, his second touchdown of the preseason.

Early on defensively, the Packers got a great performance from linebacker Isaiah McDuffie, who clearly looks to be the team’s third option at the position behind starters De’Vondre Campbell and Quay Walker. McDuffie made a great stop in the run game and tracked down Saints quarterback Ian Book on a third-and-long scramble to force a punt, continuing his strong play from week one. McDuffie made yet another third-down stop on the second drive as well, bringing Chris Olave down on a wide receiver screen after a gain of eight yards on third-and-16, and he would finish the day second on the team in total tackles with six.

Bad special teams reared their ugly heads on the Packers’ first kickoff coverage attempt on the day, unfortunately. Poor angles by Tipa Galeai and Shawn Davis led to a 59-yard return from Kirk Merrett. The only silver lining was seeing Ahmed, the kicker, making a fearless tackle on the sideline. Another 59-yard play finished the drive, with Wil Lutz drilling a field goal from that distance to tie the game at 3-3 as the clock expired on the first quarter before the touchdown to Doubs gave the Packers a 10-3 lead.

Green Bay got a big turnover late in the first half, as safety Shawn Davis scooped up the football off a fumbled exchange by Ian Book:

However, a quick three and out brought out Ahmed for a field goal attempt, and he hit from 45 yards to extend the lead to 13-3.

On the Saints’ ensuing two-minute drill, the Packers lost safety Vernon Scott to an injury, bringing on former USFL player Micah Abernathy in his place. Abernathy made an instant impact, hauling in a diving interception along the left sideline to give the ball back to the Packers’ offense at their own 30-yard line with 54 seconds and two timeouts left. He would later make another big play, stuffing a third-down pass into the flat for a loss of five yards to force a punt.

However, tight end Tyler Davis coughed up the football for the second time in two games, this time fumbling after a short reception over the middle and giving the ball right back to the Saints. They converted quickly before the half, as Ian Book had all day to find Chris Olave for a touchdown to cut the Packers’ lead to three.

Coming out of halftime, the Packers kept Love on the field under center, but rolled out an offensive line of Caleb Jones, Van Lanen, Hanson, Sean Rhyan, and Tom in front of him. Love continued his strong play through much of the third quarter, but his receivers failed him with the drops by Toure and Rodgers costing him some big plays in the box score.

Aside from Love’s great throws that ended in drops, the second half was largely uneventful until Danny Etling sent a lightning strike through the Lambeau Field crowd midway through the fourth quarter. On a read-option from near midfield, Etling kept the football and sprinted to the edge with no Saints in pursuit, then outran the Saints’ defensive backfield to the end zone for a 51-yard touchdown. That play happened in the middle of Aaron Rodgers’ mid-game interview, and the four-time MVP was pumped up for his teammate:

In general, the Packers’ pass rush struggled to get home throughout most of the game, with none of the reserve edge rushers particularly impressing after a good week of practice. Instead, it was defensive tackle Chris Slayton who had the best performance in the second half, often disrupting plays in the backfield and putting some pressure on Saints quarterback Ian Book.

The Saints put a late drive together in the fourth quarter down ten points, but with the drive stalling out inside the red zone, the Saints attempted a field goal to pull back to within a touchdown. Unfortunately, backup kicker John Parker Romo missed wide left from 35 yards, keeping the Packers’ lead at two possessions and allowing Green Bay to melt off the rest of the clock with three kneel-downs to finish off the ten-point victory.

Stats Leaders

Jordan Love: 12/24, 113 yards, 1 touchdown, no interceptions, 77.3 passer rating
Danny Etling: 1/1, 0 yards; 4 carries, 48 yards, 1 TD

RB Tyler Goodson: 10 carries, 42 yards; 1 reception, 10 yards
RB Patrick Taylor: 8 carries, 27 yards

WR Juwann Winfree: 6 targets, 3 catches, 41 yards
WR Romeo Doubs: 5 targets, 3 catches, 24 yards, 1 TD

LB Ray Wilborn: 7 tackles (6 solo), 1.0 sack
LB Isaiah McDuffie: 6 tackles (4 solo)


The Packers saw Vernon Scott, their second-string safety, go down with an apparent shoulder or pectoral injury late in the first half.