GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It doesn’t take long to go through Jordan Love’s performance -- play by play, throw by throw -- from Sunday’s relief appearance against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Green Bay Packers' backup quarterback took only 10 snaps, nine of which were throws.
But there was so much that coach Matt LaFleur liked in there that for the first time since Love arrived in Green Bay more than 2½ years ago, there’s reason to wonder whether he would be the better choice this week for the Packers at quarterback.
Not because of a decline in Aaron Rodgers, who was equally as effective against the Eagles before he left with a rib injury late in the third quarter. But rather because a healthy Love might be better a option than a banged-up Rodgers, who also has a seven-week old thumb injury in addition to his rib issue.
LaFleur made it clear that as long as Rodgers is healthy, it’s his team to quarterback. But at the same time, he detailed what he liked about what Love did in the fourth quarter.
“We feel confident in what we know of Jordan and got a lot of confidence in him,” LaFleur said. “I think his teammates have a lot of confidence in him, as well, and I think that was evident in how they all went out there and executed.”
The highlight, of course, was Love’s 63-yard touchdown to Christian Watson, who did most of the work after the catch.
“He was really calm and composed,” Watson said. “I thought he came in and didn’t skip a beat. I feel like when he came in, it felt like he had been in there before with all of us. I think we had a good shot with it. Obviously, we had a really good drive, got in the end zone and obviously had an opportunity [to come back].”
But there was nuance in some of Love’s other plays that stood out and showed Love’s promise, albeit in mostly up-tempo, come-from-behind fashion in which the Eagles defense was playing coverage that even Love himself described as “soft” at times.
“It was really nice to watch,” Rodgers said Tuesday on McAfee’s show. “I feel like an older brother watching him do well. I care about the kid a lot. Fun to see his growth, fun to just see him just kind of relax out there. I think as any young player, same thing with Christian, once you can make a few plays, it kind of takes the anxiety out of the body and the tension out of the body, and to see him make accurate throws and do what he’s been doing has been fun to watch.”
Several plays by Love, in addition to the touchdown, stood out:
Third-and-5 from the Packers’ 37-yard line
Up to that point, the Packers were 0-for-5 on third down -- all with Rodgers in the game. Love recognized that the Eagles were not pressing the two receivers to his right, Randall Cobb in the slot and Allen Lazard on the outside. He threw a quick out to Lazard for a 7-yard gain.
On the next play, they called a play-action slant to Watson for the touchdown.
“They were off coverage on Allen on the outside and threw the alert to Allen, got the first down and then we came with a play-pass and did a really good job in terms of just all the mechanics and fundamentals and the rhythm and timing that are so critical in terms of being successful in the pass game,” LaFleur said. “And he hit Christian in stride, and you could really see and feel his speed on that play, so that was an impressive play by both those guys, really all the guys out on the field at that moment.”
First-and-10 from the Eagles’ 38-yard line
The first play after the 2-minute warning could have been a big one. Love perfectly placed a back-shoulder fade that running back Aaron Jones dropped at the 18-yard line. It’s a tough catch for a running back but one the Packers think he can make considering he made a difficult grab for a 23-yard touchdown from Rodgers in the second quarter.
“That hole shot he threw to Aaron Jones is not necessarily something that we’re coaching, it’s just he saw it, and he threw a heck of a ball,” LaFleur said. “It had a lot of heat on it … I think Aaron would definitely like to have that one back. That catch [Jones] made on the scramble drill with him and Aaron Rodgers was pretty spectacular. There’s not many backs in the league that can do that, so I know he’s fully capable of making that play in the two-minute situation.”
Third-and-4 from the Eagles’ 15-yard line
Love was flushed from the pocket and rolled to his right. There appeared to be enough space for Love to run for the first down, but instead, he tried a throw to Cobb in the end zone that Eagles safety K’Von Wallace broke up. Down 10 at that point, LaFleur opted to kick the field goal to make it a 40-33 game with 1:08 and three timeouts left, but the Packers never got the ball back.
“If he would’ve taken off and run, I would not have been upset,” LaFleur said. “I think there was potential for him to maybe get a first down. We’ll never know. I just want him to go out there -- this goes for any of our players -- but just go out there and be decisive and trust what you see. Especially for a young guy that hasn’t played a ton of ball in these games, just be decisive and let it rip.
“Certainly, you look at that ball to Cobby there. I think it was questionable if the defender got there early and they didn’t call it. That’s part of the game. It gave us an opportunity to kick an onside for a chance to go tie the game or potentially win the game.”