Perhaps none have been as impressive as his cornhole shot to Romeo Doubs on fourth-and-1 vs. the Chiefs Sunday night, but the big-time throws have been there all season long. Yes, even when the Packers lost four consecutive games and five of six earlier this season.
The difference now is that Love is seeing the field quicker, buying himself extra time to lob high-arching throws to only where his pass-catches can make plays. Love is analyzing defenses and using 50–50 throws to his advantage because of his strong arm.
Love delivered a standout performance for everyone to see in primetime during the Packers’ 27–19 upset win against the Chiefs. With a three-game winning streak, Love has Green Bay on track for the postseason. Most importantly, he’s on the right path toward becoming the Packers’ next star quarterback to keep his winning franchise in the playoff mix for years to come.
Two years after a dreadful starting debut in Kansas City, Love outdueled Patrick Mahomes to give the Chiefs star a poor Lambeau Field debut and hurt Kansas City’s odds of capturing the AFC’s No. 1 seed. The Packers (6–6) returned to .500 and are tied with the Vikings, Seahawks and Rams for the final two wild-card spots in the NFC. Green Bay currently holds the No. 7 seed because of tiebreakers.
The Chiefs (8–4) had an opportunity to send the game into overtime, but Mahomes’s heave to end zone landed on the ground next to a group of Chiefs’ pass-catchers. The officials made the questionable decision to not call pass interference on the final play, and another non-call earlier on the drive that sent social media ablaze.
Again, the bad officiating was part of the story, but let’s not let that overshadow what Love and the Packers accomplished Sunday night. Love finished 25-of-36 for 267 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions—he hasn’t thrown an interception during the winning streak.
Love is the next star QB for Packers
Love started the season trusting his coach Matt LaFleur to call the right plays, but then a rash of injuries occurred to key players, forcing Love to do more on the field with his physical gifts. He had too much confidence in his strong arm, leading to costly interceptions in crunch time, as defenses made adjustments after getting more film on Love. After a few losses, the confidence appeared to have left the signal-caller tabbed to replace Aaron Rodgers.
Love regained that confidence against the Chargers’ poor secondary, recording a career-high 322 yards and no interceptions during the come-from-behind victory. That was followed by LaFleur telling Love to use his strong arm on the opening play last week against the Lions—a 53-yard completion to Christian Watson as the Packers recorded the upset win on Thanksgiving.
Love’s surge has also put on display the Packers’ abundance of young talent, including the versatility of rookie wideout Jayden Reed and a pair of seam-stretchers in rookie tight ends Tucker Kraft and Luke Musgrave (who’s currently dealing with a kidney injury). Doubs has been Love’s go-to target in crunch time—he caught a 27-yard pass on pivotal drive in the fourth quarter on Sunday.
Doubs, the second-year wideout, hauled in Love’s 33-yard pass that was compared to a cornhole shot by NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth during the third quarter. That drive was capped by Love tossing a 50–50 touchdown pass to Watson, the Packers’ most talented wide receiver who brushed off a sluggish start to the season due to injury. Watson, however, sustained an injury while picking up a pivotal first down late in the game.
Green Bay is also receiving offensive contributions from Malik Heath and Dontayvion Wicks—two wide receivers that were probably Googled by many people outside of Wisconsin during Sunday Night Football.
Love wasn’t perfect against Kansas City, but he’s no longer making the killer mistakes. His sack late in the game allowed the Packers to burn more clock, leaving Mahomes only 1:09 to work with for a potential game-tying drive. Love might have forced a ball downfield a few weeks earlier for a costly interception. Instead, he avoided disaster and allowed kicker Anders Carlson to drill a 48-yard field goal to extend the lead to eight points.
Love opened the game 10-of-11 for 109 yards and two touchdowns to help the Packers jump to a 14–3 advantage. Kraft helped ignite both scoring with lengthy completions.
LaFleur called a terrific game, especially in the first half, with a balanced attack that ate plenty of clock and kept Mahomes & Co. on the sideline for long stretches. The Chiefs only had two possessions to work with in the first two quarters—the third drive was a kneel down from Kansas City’s 1-yard line with nine seconds left before halftime.
The focus Sunday night was on Love and the Packers’ offense (and bad officiating), but the Packers’ defense deserves plenty of credit for containing the Chiefs’ offense.
Chiefs still on track for AFC’s No. 1 seed
The Chiefs’ offense continued to struggle and the defense has regressed in recent weeks. But Kansas City is still in a good spot to end the regular season with the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
Kansas City has a tough matchup against the Bills next week, but get them at home. The Chiefs then close the season against the Patriots, Raiders, Bengals and Chargers—four teams currently not contending for a playoff spot. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Chiefs win out to improve their record to 13–4. They hold the head-to-head tiebreakers against the Jaguars and Dolphins—two teams in the race for the top seed with harder remaining schedules. Kansas City is also going to need Baltimore to lose a game or two.
Mahomes has never played an AFC postseason game on the road, and this might be the year the sluggish Chiefs will truly need home field advantage.
As for the Packers, they too have an easy schedule to end the regular season. Green Bay plays the Giants, Buccaneers, Panthers, Vikings and Bears. Love’s first starting season is on par with Rodgers’s in terms of stats, but Rodgers didn’t guide the Packers to the postseason in Year 1. After Sunday’s showing, Love has a strong chance to do just that.