Matt LaFleur and Jordan Love Caused Packer’s Offensive PerformancePosted:Nov 8th, 2021 1:00 am
You hear coaches fall on the sword all the time when their teams come up short. Matt LaFleur is just the latest; but he deserves a fair share of the blame for the Pack's offensive performance with Jordan Love under center.
With Chiefs DC Steve Spagnuolo dialing up blitzes as often as Aaron Rodgers swallows ivermectin pills, Love was put in a no-win situation, taking five-step drops on long developing plays that LaFleur conjured up. You figured the offensive blueprint would be a bunch of dump offs to the running backs and quick slants to take advantage of the one on one coverage the receivers faced. But LaFleur waited until the fourth quarter to try to combat the pressure and by then it was too late.
It was an uneven performance by Love, obviously, which really was to be expected. He's had virtually no time to practice with the receivers, playing in one of the loudest stadiums in the league and was given no help from special teams, which routinely caused opening drives to start inside the 15 yard line. I thought Love did a great job when he was backed up inside the one to start a drive in the first half--moving the team 30-40 yards and out of danger.
For those of you who want to make grand pronouncements about Love's future based on his first game, I got no time for that. Yes, he's a long way from being a QB ready to lead a Super Bowl caliber roster. Maybe the learning curve will be short, maybe it will take longer. As I said before the game, no matter how Love played against the Chiefs, the best case scenario for the Pack is that we don't see him on the field again until 2022 at the earliest.
I expected Jones and Dillon to get more than 20 carries between them and the fact that Jones didn't catch a pass astounds me, especially after torching the Chiefs through the air the last time these teams met in 2019. More of a reliance on the running game would have also protected Love from the interior of the offensive line, which had a horrendous day. Jon Runyan left with an illness and Lucas Patrick and Royce Newman had no answers for the blitz packages the Chiefs dialed up. When David Bakhtiari returns and Elgton Jenkins moves back to left guard, Runyan may be asked to replace Newman.
Now let's talk about special teams, shall we? Talk about an oxymoron. Apparently it doesn't matter who coaches this unit, the Packers appear to be cursed. Long snapper Steve Wirtel's debut was not great--he played a part in the timing being off on Mason Crosby's miss and blocked field goals. Needless to say, if the team can't figure out the field goal situation, it could vey well cost them the season in January.
Then there's the punt return fiascos. From Amari Rodgers muffing one to gift wrap the Chiefs three points to Malik Taylor getting in the way and giving the Chiefs another first and goal, the Pack handed them six points--which turned out to be the difference in the game. I've seen enough of Rodgers back there. He's never looked comfortable, and like most of you, I hold my breath and plead with him to just catch the ball every time a punt is in the air. Put Randall Cobb back there, or find a volunteer among the CBs--anything but Rodgers at this point.
It was not all doom and gloom though on this afternoon. The defense shined after giving up the opening touchdown drive--the only one Patrick Mahomes would manage all afternoon. On a day when the Pack would lose Eric Stokes to a knee injury in pregame warmups (that Rasul Douglas signing may have been the biggest move Gutey has made in season) and Kenny Clark in the first half to a back injury, the defense forced more three and outs than the Chiefs had sustained all season combined.
Once again the defense was led by its inside linebackers, De'Vondre Campbell and Kris Barnes, who combined for 16 tackles and were flying all over the field. The corners did their jobs preventing big plays by the Chiefs' stars, other than one or two plays by Travis Kelce and the last big catch by Tyreek Hill that sealed the game. Mahomes was held to his lowest passing total in his career and the Chiefs did very little on the ground. Granted, this is not the KC offense we're accustomed to seeing, but the defense made them look even shakier than usual.
My takeaways from this game: the Packers would have won this game by double digits if Rodgers had played. Jordan Love will learn from his first start and showed some good things but clearly has a lot to learn. Special teams is the biggest obstacle for this team to get where it wants to go.
And last, and most importantly, Joe Barry's defense has a chance to be really special. It would be so nice to see this unit healthy in January, with Jaire Alexander and Za'Darius Smith rejoining this ascending group. The Packers finally have a fast, physical, talented defense--now they just need to get healthy.
The Pack caught a break with the Cowboys and Rams losing at home and showing some serious warts. We may look back at this lost opportunity at the top seed eight weeks from now, but with Rodgers back soon and the defense flying around, they appear to be built to travel, as well.
As long as they can figure out how to kick field goals and field punts.