Even in sloppy defeat, Jordan Love shows critical growth
The Packers may have lost in New York, but Jordan Love's clutch play gave them a chance to win, something he couldn't claim during team's losing streak.
Down five to the New York Giants with under four minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Green Bay Packers found themselves in a familiar position: go score to give yourself a chance to win the game.
Against the Atlanta Falcons, Las Vegas Raiders, and Denver Broncos, games Green Bay also blew in the fourth quarter thanks to defensive lapses, Jordan Love and the offense likewise blew chances to go win the game. Love threw two picks against the Pittsburgh Steelers with chances to go take the lead, though they didn’t ever hold a fourth-quarter lead in that matchup.
But this time, Love came through.
It was a moment, albeit a small one in a loss, that showed some subtle growth for Green Bay’s impossibly young offense and its first-year starting quarterback.
And it still took baby steps. If not for Giants running back Saquon Barkley inexplicably losing the ball -- the one time it benefitted the Packers to have no one around the ball carrier to touch him down -- and cornerback Carrington Valentine alertly grabbing it and returning deep into New York territory, Love’s display in the final minutes wouldn’t have happened.
But the assist set up the opportunity, and Love still had to cash it in. In fact, he had to cash it in twice because Malik Heath dropped the first bit of Love magic as he danced in the pocket, sliding, and scraping to find space before firing the ball into the hands of the rookie wide receiver. Heath, filling in for the injured Dontayvion Wicks, managed to get two feet down with control of the ball, but a third step is required in the end zone because the rules of the NFL make perfect sense and no one has ever questioned them.
Heath couldn’t hang on as a Giants defender deftly knocked the ball out of his hands.
On the next play though, Love identified New York defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale would send the house. Love changed the play and got into the perfect man-beater call with a rub route to the bottom of the formation with Jayden Reed, Romeo Doubs, and Heath to the top.
Though the Giants busted the coverage and left Reed for a would-be walk-in touchdown, Love may not have believed they would have time to make that mesh work, so he alerted to the single receiver side and fired a seed to Heath for the go-ahead touchdown. The route lacked whip at the top to create separation, but Love put it where only his guy could get it.
A perfect throw thanks to pre-snap identification in a clutch moment. That’s what a franchise quarterback does.