Jordan Love is holding up his end. It's time for the Packers defense to do the same
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The version of the Green Bay Packers imagined in the halls of 1265 Lombardi Ave. during the spring must have resembled the team general manager Brian Gutekunst and president Mark Murphy have seen lately: Jordan Love finding chemistry with new receivers, attacking the middle of the field, and a dominating pass rush terrifying opposing offenses.
But that has mostly been against bad offenses. As the Packers get set to face the best quarterback in the sport and an offense that, even for its new-found flaws, lands in the top five in nearly every offensive category, it’s the defense rather than Love that has not been what it’s needed to be this season.
For his part, Love has given the Packers what they needed from him. Carnival barkers like us said Green Bay needed him to play somewhere between the 12th best and 18th best quarterback in the league while the run game stays as potent and the defense takes a step forward with better health and added investment.
Coming into Week 13, Love ranks 11th in expected points added per play and, while he hasn’t performed like a top-10 quarterback all season, it’s hard to make a case for many of the players behind him as having had better seasons.
For just this year, Matthew Stafford and Lamar Jackson are the only players behind Love in EPA/play that I’d say have definitely been better and more consistent. Jared Goff lit up the league earlier in the season but lately can’t stop turning the ball over. Baker Mayfield throws to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, not the youngest skill group in the league like Love. And Russell Wilson, while improved over his “maybe he’s not a starting quarterback” level of bad from 2022, fails to carry the Denver Broncos offense the way Love carries the Packers while the run game works in fits and sputtering starts.
In short, Love has been that quarterback the Packers needed him to be, even if there were obviously shortcomings in some late-game moments.
It’s also the case that Love led the offense to second-half leads in all but two of their six losses. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry’s group unequivocally blew a win with a 15-point fourth-quarter disaster against the Atlanta Falcons. The Packers let an impotent Las Vegas Raiders offense drive for the winning score in the fourth while holding a lead. Ditto for the Broncos. And a fourth-quarter field goal prevented the Packers from being able to kick one of their own to take the lead in two late-game situations against a Pittsburgh Steelers offense that ran for 200 yards mere weeks before firing its offensive coordinator.
In fact, the Packers lost games on blown defensive opportunities to not one but two coaches who ended up getting the boot within a month thanks to an embarrassing loss in Las Vegas. Love didn’t play his best in that Raiders game, but he played more than well enough to win against Pittsburgh.
And sure, Barry’s defense ranks 10th in points per game allowed, but it’s only 18th in DVOA, and that’s after creating a slew of turnovers against the Lions. Before Thanksgiving, the Packers sat 24th in total defense adjusting for the opponent. They finished 25th last year.