In his debut as the starting quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, Jordan Love was able to find quite a bit of success on third and fourth downs as a passer, and the offense was able to generate big plays even without having Christian Watson.
On third downs, a key stat for every NFL team, the Packers were able to move the chains on nine of their 16 attempts against Chicago for a success rate of 56.2 percent. For some context, the Buffalo Bills led the NFL in third down success rate in 2022, picking up the first down 50.2 percent of the time. On fourth downs, Green Bay was 1-for-2 on Sunday.
The Packers’ ability to move the chains on these downs started up front with the play of the offensive line, often giving Jordan Love the time he needed in the pocket and a lot of space to operate within. This then allowed Love to go through his progressions, take what the defense gave him, and keep the ball out of harm’s way while waiting for the right pass catcher to become open. The more time a quarterback has in the pocket, and the longer the secondary has to defend, the more difficult things become for the defense.
The end result of all this was an incredibly impressive and dominant performance from Love and the rest of the offense in those situations, as he completed eight of his 10 pass attempts for 141 yards and two touchdown passes.
"“The O-line as a whole,” said Love after the game, “the protection was great. There was a couple times I was able to go through my whole read and there was no one around, and I was able to kind of look around.”"
Even without Christian Watson, the Green Bay offense was able to generate several big plays in the passing game, a few of which came on those crucial third and fourth downs. Prior to the end of the first half, Love connected with Jayden Reed for 30 yards on an out route that led to some yards after the catch and eventually a field goal from Anders Carlson.
In the third quarter, Love connected with Aaron Jones on a beautifully designed screen that came off Love rolling out to his left off play-action and then throwing back to his right where Jones was waiting with a calvary of blockers, which resulted in a 51-yard completion.
On the next drive, Love found Jones again, this time on a choice route while matched up with a linebacker that took him over the middle for a 35-yard catch and run. And then later on, off an initial botched snap, Love hit a wide-open Luke Musgrave down the left sideline for 37 yards.
"“I couldn’t be more proud of just his performance, his poise,” Matt LaFleur said after the game. “There’s a big-time belief in that locker room for Jordan Love. I think the guys, they’re going to rally around him. They’re excited for him. They love him. They respect him. He comes to work every day, great attitude, great energy. I think you saw that today.”"
Last season, prior to Watson’s breakout performance against Dallas, the Packers’ offense struggled to generate big plays, partly because of how defenses defended Green Bay by shrinking the field and playing closer to the line of scrimmage. But also, this year, with the added speed on the offensive side of the ball, the Packers are better equipped to handle Watson’s absence. Outside of the throw downfield to Musgrave, Love was able to get the ball to his pass catchers in space, where they were able to pick up yards after the catch–an important element of the LaFleur offense.
Conversely, the Bears were just 4-for-15 on third or fourth downs. The Chicago offense was also able to generate only one pass play over 20 yards and just three others that gained more than 10.
In the game of football, there are often a number of factors that go into determining an outcome, but the discrepancy in Green Bay’s efficiency on third downs and ability to create big plays were two key elements in what ended up being a dominating victory.