With Green Bay down to one healthy running back, Jordan Love realized the Packers’ hopes likely rested on his right arm. The first-year starting quarterback responded with the best performance of his young career.
Love threw for 322 yards and found Romeo Doubs for a 24-yard touchdown with 2:33 left to give Green Bay a 23-20 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. It was a milestone rally for a young Packers team that continually had come up just short late in games this season.
“That’s always in the back of my head, just the past experiences that we’ve had, being in this situation and not capitalizing,” Love said. “Our message was just, ‘Go finish. Go compete. And go be great.’ I think we did that.”
Love went 27-of-40 and became the first Packer to throw for more than 300 yards since Aaron Rodgers had a 341-yard day against the Chicago Bears on Dec. 12, 2021.
“I wasn’t aware of that,” Love said. “That’s a pretty crazy stat, to be honest.”
Both teams have struggled in close games.
Four of the Packers’ six losses have been decided by a total of 11 points. Five of the Chargers’ six defeats have a combined margin of 14 points.
“It’s tough, bro,” Chargers safety Derwin James said. “Like I said, we’re playing hard. It’s tough. We’re one or two plays away. I say you’ve got to find a way to get it done.”
However, the most inspired defense the Los Angeles Chargers offered Sunday may have come during coach Brandon Staley’s postgame news conference. Staley bristled when asked again after the game whether he’s considered giving up the defensive playcalling responsibilities.
“I have full confidence in our way of playing,” Staley said. “Full confidence in myself as the play-caller and the way that we teach and the way that we scheme. Full confidence in that. We’ve got to bring this group together and do it consistently, and that’s where it’s at. You can stop asking that question. I’m going to be calling the defenses, so we’re clear. So you don’t have to ask that again.”
Plenty of other questions remain about a defense that was allowing the second-most yards per game of any NFL team even before the Chargers couldn’t protect a fourth-quarter lead at Lambeau Field.
And now the Chargers might have to try to fix their problems without star edge rusher Joey Bosa. He was carted off the field after injuring a foot on the game’s opening series, and Staley didn’t have a postgame update on the five-time Pro Bowl pass rusher.
“It sucks, man,” linebacker Tuli Tuipulotu said. “I wish he was out there. I love watching him play. It’s just a bummer.”
This latest defensive breakdown came against a pedestrian offense. The Packers snapped a string of seven consecutive games in which they failed to exceed 20 points.
The Packers also suffered significant injuries. Green Bay running backs Aaron Jones and Emanuel Wilson were carted off the field late in the second quarter, leaving AJ Dillon as Green Bay’s only ball carrier.
Staley had no update on Bosa’s condition after the game.
Jones said initial reports regarding his anterior cruciate ligament were positive, though he was awaiting an MRI.
“I was feeling like, ‘Man I can’t catch a break,'” Jones said. “But caught a break. Hopefully it’s not anything serious, and I’m back here pretty soon.”
Justin Herbert threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Keenan Allen on third-and-9 to give the Chargers a 20-16 lead with 5:24 remaining. The Packers (4-6) answered on their next series, getting a boost when Los Angeles’ Asante Samuel Jr. was called for pass interference on a third-and-20 incompletion.
Once again, the Chargers couldn’t protect a lead.
“We haven’t found that rhythm consistently in the secondary right now,” Staley said. “I thought we did a really good job against the run in this game. I thought we rushed well enough to win. We weren’t able to turn them over, and there’s these plays that really hijack our rhythm in the passing game.
“That’s where we need to put our focus, that’s where it’s been and until we get that solved consistently, you’re going to continue to see results like today because there’s a lot of good defense being played out there. But you can’t foul on third-and-20, you can’t let people loose, you can’t miss tackles. We’ve got to play cleaner football.”
Two plays later, Love found Dontayvion Wicks for a 35-yard gain. Doubs made his touchdown catch two plays after that, snaring the ball as cornerback Michael Davis tried to break up the pass.
Love’s other touchdown pass was an 11-yarder to Christian Watson with four seconds left in the third quarter.
Jordan Love throws for career-high 322 yards with two TDs in Packers’ win
“He showed great poise,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “I think he showed that all game long.”
The Chargers had a final chance when they got the ball at their own 20 with no timeouts and less than one and a half minutes left. Kenny Clark batted down a pass by Herbert on fourth-and-1 from the Los Angeles 35 to put the game away.
One play earlier, Quentin Johnston had his arms outstretched but couldn’t hang onto a pass around the Green Bay 35.
Herbert was 21-of-36 for 260 yards with two touchdowns. He connected with Stone Smartt for a 51-yard score in the second quarter, less than three minutes after Green Bay’s Jayden Reed scored on a 32-yard rush.
The Chargers entered the day ranked second in the NFL in red-zone touchdown percentage, but they totaled six points on their first three trips inside the 10. Two of those possessions ended in short field goals and the third with a lost fumble by Austin Ekeler.
“There are a lot of other things [besides the defense] that caused us to lose today,” Staley said. “It certainly wasn’t our defense. It was the way that we played as a team.”
The Chargers trailed 16-13 and had second-and-goal from the two-yard line early in the fourth quarter when Ekeler took a handoff, fell down, got back up and lost the ball. Clark forced the fumble that Rashan Gary recovered.
“We had plenty of opportunities today and just didn’t capitalize on enough of them to finish the game,” Staley said. “This is a tough one.”
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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