Jordan Love was a big reason the Green Bay Packers won late in Week 16. He made a number of high-quality throws versus Carolina and gave his offense chances on nearly every drive to score points. For a quarterback who endured some inconsistency this season at times, this is exactly what we needed to see, and he led a game-winning drive despite the defense letting the team down late in the game.
This wasn’t a game that he should’ve led a game-winning drive in as the Packers led 30-16 at the start of the 4th quarter. But by the 4:05 mark remaining in the game, the defense had let the Panthers crawl back to tie it at 30.
Early in the game to get the Packers on the board though, Love recognized the imminent pressure and went right away to his hot route into the blitz.
The Packers are running a double-stick route from a 3x1. The defender on the blitz starts to take off but he’s too deep and is about six yards off the line of scrimmage. The Panthers rotate to a cover-0 pressure but the backside safety has man coverage responsibility on Tucker Kraft.
He’s still 10 yards off when Kraft turns around on his stick route. Love recognizes the blitz right away and throws to replace the leverage lost by the defense for a quick 8-yard gain.
One of LaFleur’s favorite concepts for Love in the second half of the season is their dagger stick concept. They killed the Chargers with this concept and it gives Love a good pure progression that he can read.
It’s a 3-step concept initially where Love has the option to reset and find the dagger or intermediate crosser. The progression goes from flat (1a) to the stick (1b) where he reads the leverage of the defenders to the crossing route (2) from the slot to the dagger (3). You can see the progression as he resets from the stick/flat side to the crossing route to the dagger as the 3rd option.
Later in the half, Love converted two 3rd-and-long plays to cap off a drive at the end of the half with a touchdown that would end up being a crucial score.
On the first one, Love showed his ability to throw from multiple platforms because of his arm strength. He gets pressure up the middle as the Panthers send five rushers initially before one drops off into coverage. The pressure pushes the center of the pocket back and takes away his ability to step up and throw. He does a fadeaway from the pressure and finds Bo Melton on the over route with a throw that he was not able to step into.
Three plays later, Love had to go off script to find Dantayvion Wicks at the goal line 21 yards downfield for the touchdown.
The pocket compresses up the middle and Love gets pressure off the edge as the route concept develops. It’s a longer developing play so Love has to escape as the pocket collapses. He rolls to his right and climbs through and fires a pass to Wicks as he loses the defender on the scramble drill.
Later in the third quarter, Love recognized a blitz off the edge again and threw to replace the leverage.
Love threw into the blitz again to Romeo Doubs on the stick route. Doubs gained 25 but fumbled at the end and luckily Josiah Deguara was there to recover it. Eventually Love would throw a touchdown pass to Doubs a few plays later at the start of the fourth quarter.
The touchdown pass showed off where he’s really made the most improvement recently, his quick game accuracy at the goal line. He narrowly missed a touchdown pass to Christian Watson on a similar concept against the Chargers and then hit it a few weeks later against the Giants.
Here again, he showed his precision and accuracy and ability to play on time with a highly accurate pass that carried Doubs over the goal line just inside the pylon. His footwork is a bit off with the extra hop back but he’s open to his target to the left and is able to plant and throw and play on time to hit his receiver.
That same footwork almost cost him on another crucial throw. This has been an issue all season and there really isn’t a reason for it to keep happening but at this point, it won’t be something he’ll be able to correct until the offseason.
The Packers have a fade route, something they call a “stomp” route, though it’s not clear why it’s called that, though Dusty Evely over at CheeseheadTV offered a convincing theory. Love hits the top of his drop and hops back as he throws, causing the ball to fall short enough that Doubs had to make a difficult adjustment to catch it.
A few plays later, Love threaded the needle to get into field goal range on another stick route on a concept called “patriot” or “shock.”
The concept is run from a 3x1 formation, here with a tight end and two receivers. Tucker Kraft, as the inline tight end, is running the stick route and ends up at a depth of six yards. As Kraft cuts out at the top of the route, he faded away about one yard downfield away from the ball, making the pass tougher than it needed to be.
Fortunately Love put enough on it that the pass snuck through the defenders and Kraft was able to turn it into a 20-yard gain to set them up for the game-winning field goal.
The Packers have a crucial game this Sunday night as their playoff lives are on the line against Minnesota in Minnesota. This will be another good test for them and for the young first-year starter as a win would vault them to 55% odds of making the playoffs. A strong performance from Love no matter the outcome would go a long way to the Packers committing to him passed his contract terms.