Finally, after several tries in recent weeks, the Green Bay Packers managed to finish out a close game with a victory. Facing the Los Angeles Chargers at home, the Packers fought back with a fourth-quarter comeback and got a go-ahead touchdown. But they needed a pair of defensive stops inside the final three minutes of the game to preserve a victory, and the defense delivered.
Kenny Clark broke up Justin Herbert’s pass attempt on 4th-and-1 with less than 40 seconds left, clinching a 23-20 win for the Packers. Meanwhile, the Packers’ passing game managed to build on last week’s season-high yardage total, and the team scored more than 20 points for the first time since week two. Jordan Love’s highest career passing yardage total gave him more than 300 yards for the first time. and he finished with a passer rating over 100 for the fourth time this season.
However, the game was not without its nerve-wracking points. For the second straight game, a failed extra point cost the Packers a chance to tie a close game with a field goal late, keeping them down by four points and requiring them to go for a touchdown. Unlike last week in Pittsburgh, they found the end zone this time, taking the lead on a late scoring pass from Jordan Love to Romeo Doubs. However, the Packers’ defense needed to force two late stops to preserve the late lead that Love and the offense provided them.
Green Bay also got a career day from Dontayvion Wicks, whose 91 receiving yards were the second-highest total by a single Packers receiver in a single game this season (behind Romeo Doubs’ 95 yards in week 4). Meanwhile, Jayden Reed was a factor both on the ground (3 carries, 46 yards and a TD) and as a receiver (4 catches, 46 yards). A key sack by Rashan Gary late in the game also helped ensure that the Packers could run off some clock and Chargers’ timeouts before Clark’s tipped pass finished off the win.
The Packers and Chargers traded turnovers on downs on either side of midfield on the first two drives. Green Bay started the game at their own 8-yard line after two penalties on Dallin Leavitt during the opening kickoff, then reached midfield behind the passing game. But on 4th and 1, they tried a quick pass to Luke Musgrave in the flat and he was tackled for a loss. The Chargers then failed on 4th down as well, as tight end Donald Parham dropped a wide-open pass over the middle.
Green Bay went three-and-out on the next series before the Chargers got on the board. A 37-yard run by Austin Ekeler was the big play, taking Los Angeles inside the 15, but Keenan Allen dropped a pass on third down, leading to a short Cameron Dicker field goal to open up the scoring.
After another solid kickoff return from Keisean Nixon took the football out to the 30 yard line, the Packers made it across the 50 at the end of the first quarter with a 20-yard catch-and-run from AJ Dillon. On the first play of the second quarter, Jayden Reed took an end-around up the right sideline, got blocks from Malik Heath and Luke Musgrave, and coasted into the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown. Anders Carlson added a PAT for a 7-3 Packers lead, but the touchdown is worth reliving:
Wisconsin native Alex Erickson moved the chains for the Chargers on the next drive before Jonathan Owens whiffed a tackle and gifted Los Angeles a touchdown. Justin Herbert hit tight end Stone Smartt, who shook off Owens and ran in for a 51-yard score to take the lead back for the Chargers.
It took only three plays for the Packers’ offense to respond and reach field goal range, even after a sack on first down. On 2nd and long, Love scrambled and hit Dontayvion Wicks for 29 yards, then a 9-yard Aaron Jones run to midfield got an extra 15 yards on a facemask penalty, setting the Packers up at the Chargers’ 35. The Packers eventually reached the 23-yard line after a few runs, but a sack and a bobbled snap by Love pushed them back to the 34. A bad snap on a 52-yard field goal attempt appeared to affect Carlson’s timing, and he pushed his attempt wide right.
Following a 3-and-out by the Chargers, Love continued his solid start. After a false start on Christian Watson set up a 3rd-and-12, Love hit Reed for a gain of 17 yards to move the chains. A screen to Reed just inside the two-minute warning picked up another 19 yards, thanks in large part to a good block from Watson, as the Packers tried to run down the clock before halftime. Emanuel Wilson got into the act on the drive, picking up 12 yards on three carries and adding a 9-yard reception for a first down at the 12-yard line. Green Bay eventually settled for a field goal, tying the game at 10 just before the end of the half.
Unfortunately, the drive saw the Packers lose a critical piece of their offense, as Aaron Jones went down awkwardly. He appeared to have his left knee twisted and left the field in tears, then headed to the locker room on a cart. Wilson was injured a few plays later as well, appearing to come up with a shoulder issue, and he was ruled out as well, leaving the Packers with just AJ Dillon healthy at the running back position for the second half.
The Chargers started the third quarter with the football, and they drove down the field, with a 28-yard scramble from Herbert as the biggest play. Allen dropped his second pass of the day and second inside the five, this one hitting right between the numbers at the goal line. That forced Los Angeles to settle for another field goal to take the lead back at 13-10.
With no Jones or Wilson, Dillon carried the load in the second half, but Jordan Love and the passing game led the way on the offense’s first drive of the third quarter. Love completed passes to Luke Musgrave and Jayden Reed for third-down conversions, but was sacked by Khalil Mack as the Packers were forced to punt. Green Bay’s defense forced a 3-and-out from the Chargers, and the offense got going with another huge play from another rookie.
Tucker Kraft took a flat route and turned it upfield, breaking a tackle an hurdling a defender for a huge 27-yard gain. Two plays later, Love found a wide-open Watson in the end zone, taking the lead back and giving the much-maligned Watson his second touchdown of the season. Anders Carlson missed the PAT wide right, however, keeping the Packers’ margin at just three points instead of four.
The Chargers responded by reaching field goal range in one play, as Keenan Allen got wide open and picked up 38 yards. Herbert then found Donald Parham for gains of 21 and 14 yards, reaching the two-yard line in just three plays. But the Packers’ defense came up with its biggest play of the day on second and goal; Kenny Clark forced a fumble out of Austin Ekeler, and Rashan Gary fell on the ball for the game’s first turnover.
Green Bay’s offense was not able to turn that turnover into points, but it helped them flip the field position back again, as the Chargers took over at their own 37 after a punt. Herbert made a series of plays with his legs to pick multiple first downs, eventually finding the end zone. He fired a laser to Allen for a ten-yard touchdown, putting the Chargers back up 20-16.
Needing a touchdown, Jordan Love and the Packers offense got bailed out of a couple of early mistakes on the drive. Khalil Mack stripped Love of the football on second down, but Zach Tom fell on it. Then on 3rd-and-20, Dontayvion Wicks drew a pass interference penalty on Asante Samuel, Jr. to keep the drive alive. Wicks then caught a short pass underneath but broke a tackle, sprinting for 36 yards through the middle of the defense. Green Bay then took the lead back, as Love hit Romeo Doubs with a floater for a 24-yard touchdown.
That pass pushed Love over 300 yards passing for the first time in his NFL career and also gave Green Bay more than 20 points for the first time since week 2. It left plenty of time for the Chargers to come back, but Green Bay’s defense got a pair of quick incompletions and then sacked Herbert on third down just before the two-minute warning. Deep in their own territory but with three timeouts left, the Chargers elected to punt and use those timeouts to try to get a stop.
They did just that, stopping AJ Dillon for a total of just five yards on three carries before Daniel Whelan’s punt. Whelan could not keep the ball out of the end zone, and the Chargers took over again at the 20 with 1:27 remaining.
Keisean Nixon committed a pass interference penalty on an early third down to give the Chargers a first down, but it was just a short 4-yard penalty and Los Angeles was still at just the 26-yard line with 51 seconds to go. Herbert looked to have a huge gain to Quentin Johnston, who ran by Carrington Valentine, but Johnston bobbled and dropped the pass, which would have set the Chargers up in field goal range — at the very least.
An offside call on Rashan Gary set up a 4th-and-1 from the 30, but Kenny Clark knocked down Herbert’s pass at the line of scrimmage, clinching the victory for the Packers.
Green Bay improves to 4-6 on the season ahead of their Thanksgiving Day meeting with the Detroit Lions in week 12. The Chargers are now 4-6 as well and will host the 8-3 Baltimore Ravens next Sunday night.
This story originally stated that Wicks’ 91 receiving yards were a season-high by a Packers receiver in a single game. That statement has been corrected.