The Packers dropped their Week 4 game at home to the Lions by a score of 34-20. They pulled to within 10 points, 27-17 by the start of the fourth quarter, but their fate was sealed by a Lions offensive drive that lasted for eight minutes and 52 seconds in the fourth quarter, a drive extended by inside linebacker Quay Walker’s leaping penalty. In the end, the Packers fell to 2-2.
The defense stole the show early with an early third down interception of Detroit quarterback Jared Goff but after that, gave up big play after big play and put the team in a hole that the offense could not climb out of. The offense struggled in several areas and Packers quarterback Jordan Love shoulders some of that with two interceptions and five sacks, with several missed throws peppered in there.
One interception was more on the wide receiver than it was on Love, but Love, who has struggled with accuracy this season — particularly downfield — was off-target on several plays that he shouldn’t have missed. Out of the five sacks, I truly felt that only 1.5 were on the quarterback, the other half in there was a lazy effort by the route runners, two were on the offensive line, and one was at the end of the half in a low percentage situation just trying to make something happen.
Jordan Love was sacked five times
On the first sack of the game on second down on the first drive, I put half of this sack on Love and the other half on the wide receivers. At first glance, it looks good for Love as he goes through his progressions with time and just eats a sack as no one looks open. Digging deeper, the ball should have come out quickly to receiver Romeo Doubs on the lookie slant.
The play call, not easily discernible at first, is what’s commonly called “lookie squirrel” in the Shanahan tree, and thanks to Kurt Benkert’s breakdown of it, it makes more sense that that is the right play design.
The defense is in Cover-1 hole or “plug.”
Love begins looking to the left on his dropback for the #1 read here, the lookie slant to Doubs in the slot. On a lookie slant, Doubs is reading the leverage of the defender for his key to slant or cut outside.
The coaching point is “slant until you can’t” but Doubs gets his key with the coverage. The defender has outside leverage with a single deep safety so they can funnel the routes inside. Doubs is open with about two yards of separation initially and the ball should probably come out. He comes off of it and scans to the right for the second and third reads, the stick nod by tight end Luke Musgrave and the return route by receiver Jayden Reed.
Musgrave didn’t run the correct route and against a single deep safety, he should work outside the defender and back up the field away from the middle. There’s not throw there so he looks for Reed as the third option but Reed is lazily coming out of his route. Love just has to eat the sack.
Benkert mentioned the difference between how the 49ers receivers run the routes and how the Packers receivers run it here.
Here’s the 49ers running the same play from 2019 and what the stick nod should look like with the receiver working outside the defender before cutting upfield.
Here’s the same play from the Packers last week versus the Saints with Love throwing the backside lookie slant to Doubs again but missing. Notice how Musgrave runs the route.
The next sack I put on Love was fully on him as there was no reason for the turndown throw. The play call distributes like a 4-man snag concept to the strong side with a backside quick slant as the alert.
This is a play that the 49ers have had a ton of success with with quarterback Brock Purdy and this is the first time I’ve seen the Packers call it for Love. The 4-strong side has a snag route, a corner route, and a swing route with what looks like a lead blocker in space if the ball goes to the swing. The single receiver on the backside is running the quick slant as the alert.
Love makes the right read here. Doubs is the single receiver with the Lions playing quarters to that side, essentially leaving him 1-on-1 with the corner and no inside help as the defense has eyes on the strong side route distribution. He drops back looking for the slant but doesn’t throw it. By the time he comes back to the front side routes, everything is covered and he has to eat another sack. That ball should have come out on time to Doubs.
Interceptions and off-target passes
For the season, per Sports Info Solutions, Love is ranked 19th in on-target throw percentage in the 10-20 yard range downfield at 66.7%. On Thursday night, he finished at…66.7% on throws in the same range. Goff was worse in the same range but there were throws that Love just should not have missed that could have had an impact on certain drives and the game overall.
On his first interception, I originally put it fully on him for seeing that window and throwing it anyway. But receiver Christian Watson appears to run the wrong route stem from his alignment.
The play call is their staple play action pass, drift/strike bench (bench is the deep out route on the other side). The offense is in a “solo left book” formation (primary tight end on the left, receivers aligned inside the numbers with Watson as the Z receiver in a reduced split.
Depending on the alignment, the initial stem is either vertical or widened. From this cut split, Watson should be widening 1-2 yards outside his alignment before breaking across.
Instead, Watson drives straight up and breaks across. Love’s window, based on where Watson ends up, is not cut in half. You can see how Watson has to slow and chop down to catch the pass because he was ahead of the timing. But it got tipped anyway by the linebacker. I think primary responsibility is with Watson here but Love should still see that window closed. Maybe with more reps, he will. Ideally, he would see it and progress to the bench route or check-down.
On his second interception, the receiver, Romeo Doubs, just flat had a mental error when he went into scramble drill mode before Love ever left the pocket.
In fact, Love never left the pocket and threw the pass just as Doubs was reversing course, causing it to go right to the defender who cut under Doubs.
Perhaps more alarming are his off-target throws, as referenced above. He’s completing 56% of his passes this season and the receivers only have five dropped passes. Some of this is due to Love having 19 pass attempts already in the 21+ yard range downfield, first in total attempts at that range and 6th highest rate as a percent of total passes per Pro Football Focus.
It makes sense that he has a lower completion percentage but there are some throws he simply cannot miss that have been an issue this season at all levels of the field this season, especially in this last game.
A couple of these throws are difficult but ones that he’s hit before. Most are ones he should almost never miss over the middle.
This offense is doing Love no favors but as an individual performer, he has to find ways to hit the other throws he missed because it’ll go a long way toward keeping his offense ahead of schedule. He also can’t take the unnecessary sacks and I suspect as he gets more reps, he’ll let some of those turndowns rip in the future. But at 2-2, I think the Packers are at the very least meeting expectations for a very young roster.