The Green Bay Packers are going back to the playoffs after a one-season hiatus. This year, they will be the 7th seed in the NFC and will travel to the #2 seed Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon in the wildcard. The last time the Packers were in the playoffs, they were the #1 seed but lost their first playoff game against San Francisco, a game that could arguably be viewed as the beginning of the end of the Aaron Rodgers era.
The rest is history. First-year starter Jordan Love, who had a shaky start to the season, only got better and better as the season progressed. In his first year as the starter, he finished with 4,159 passing yards, 36 total touchdowns (32 passing, four rushing) and 11 interceptions. On Sunday in Week 18 versus Chicago, he tossed two touchdowns and made several key throws on each scoring drive to put the Packers in the playoffs.
On 2nd and 7 here backed up against their goal line, Love hit rookie receiver Jayden Reed over the middle wide open for a gain of 32 yards.
The explosive play here is a play they usually reserve for 3rd and long but in a defacto playoff game, nothing can be held back and everything is on the table. The concept is run from a 3x1 closed formation with a motion to trips from the left to right.
He gets to the second read in the progression, the deep in, by eliminating the deep over route as the first progression when the backside safety poaches the route. His eyes and feet are in rhythm with the routes and throw, one hitch at the top of his drop back, and the ball is gone on time. It hits Reed in stride and Reed gains 32 yards on the catch.
On the touchdown throw, it was just pure arm talent on a throw that found Dontayvion Wicks between two closing defenders.
The play is a staple red zone concept for Matt LaFleur, duo run action with two high cross crossing routes. The Bears are in man cover-1 coverage. From under center, Love executes the play fake and the defense bites hard toward the line of scrimmage. Love was late seeing the throw and threw the pass from an unconventional platform. Wicks was open by a couple of yards and Love’s pass nearly let the defender break it up.
Still, the arm talent is on display here as he casually lofted a pass 25 yards downfield to Wicks with two defenders closing the window. The ball floated and still found it’s target with enough time for Wicks to secure and score. It’s not an ideal way to throw that pass, but it worked.
The play here showed off Love’s ability to hit a far hash deep out throw with timing and precision while finding a way to layer it over the flat defender.
Bo Melton is to the left on this play running a “blaze out” route from an alignment inside the numbers. The backside of the concept is a deep dig route over the middle and the play is run with play action.
The Bears are in a 3-under/3-deep fire zone, making this ideal to throw the dig route. But Love chose the out route to Melton instead, believing he could layer the pass over the flat defender. And he did exactly that. As soon as Love hits the top of the drop, he opens to the target to his left, hitches one time, and delivers a strike over the defender to Melton on the sideline.
On the touchdown pass on this drive, Love has a 3-man slant concept to the left. He’s reading the zone drop of the middle linebacker and reading the slants from inside out. The linebackers sit with the inside slant from the #3 receiver so Love works to Wicks as the #2 receiver and plants the ball on his chest.
In a further article released later today, we’ll look at the third scoring drive and final drive of the game to see the key throws Love made that sealed the win.