Packers special teams, pass protection disasters make difference in 13-7 loss to Chiefs


Jordan Love was not the reason the Green Bay Packers lost to the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday afternoon of Week 9. Love wasn’t great on his first start as an NFL quarterback, but he generally kept pace with former NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes statistically for 60 minutes to Arrowhead Stadium.

The Packers’ defense did almost everything they could to keep the game close for the team’s young quarterback. They limited the Chiefs to 13 points, including three after one of the many massive special team mistakes that gave Kansas City the football inside the ten-yard line. A late third conversion allowed the Chiefs to kneel down, but the defense may have put in their best performance of the season against one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses.

Instead, it’s two other units that share the primary responsibility for the Packers’ 13-7 loss on Sunday. First, the special teams made three devastating mistakes in the first half and almost made a fourth in the third quarter. These mistakes effectively cost the Packers nine points before the break, with a missed basket resulting from a bad catch, a blocked basket (also potentially affected by a bad snap and a bad catch) and a punt at the foot of the shooter Malik. Taylor which leads directly to a Chiefs field goal.

On offense, the Packers had no answers for the Chiefs’ pressure packs up front. Green Bay’s offensive line, especially on the inside, struggled throughout the game to keep Love clean. The young quarterback escaped as best he could, but he was quickly put under pressure throughout the game, especially when the Chiefs brought in some creative blitzes in the third downs.

However, Love would eventually find at least a little bit of rhythm in the fourth quarter, as he moved the football and connected with Allen Lazard for his first career touchdown, around five minutes to go. Those would be the Packers’ only points of the game, but they brought Green Bay back to a touchdown, giving the defense a chance to reclaim the ball for a comeback attempt.

They almost did, forcing a third and long midfielder. But a vintage Mahomes rush resulted in a conversion to Tyreek Hill to allow Kansas City to kneel down. It was Mahomes’ best game of the game, and it was perhaps the only truly impressive game of the day for the Chiefs quarterback. Unfortunately for a Green Bay defense that had kept Kansas City at bay throughout the game, it came at the most inopportune time.

Love finished the game 19 for 34 with 190 yards, one touchdown and one interception as the Packers fell to 7-2 this season. Mahomes compiled an unimpressive stat line, scoring just 20 for 37 for just 166 yards and one scoring.

The Packers got the opening kickoff after the Chiefs won the draw and delayed, and it was a quick three-and-out in Love’s first set. He came under pressure on his two passing attempts in that first practice, going 0-2 on that streak of lows as the Packers had to kick and put their defense on the pitch early.

Even before the game, the Green Bay defense suffered a significant loss. Cornerback Eric Stokes injured his knee during warm-ups and was unavailable for the game, robbing the Packers of their fastest cornerback and a likely shadow for Tyreek Hill. The defense would also lose Kenny Clark at the end of the first half due to a back problem, and with Kingsley Keke already inactive with a concussion, which led to more snaps for young linemen like TJ Slaton and Jack Heflin.

Kansas City pulled off a long 15-game practice in their first football opportunity, eventually taking a 7-0 lead on a short touchdown pass from Patrick Mahomes to Travis Kelce. The Chiefs converted a short, fourth start and three more third downs in the series, including a touchdown on a third and a goal from the yard line. The ride took nearly eight minutes on the clock as Mahomes completed six of eight passes for 28 yards.

The Packers had a chance to score points on the series that followed thanks in large part to AJ Dillon. In the Packers’ second practice, Dillon tallied for 26 yards on three carries and 15 yards on a screen pass, but the pressure on a third down caused another wandering throw from Love. Mason Crosby missed a 40-yard field goal to end the streak with disappointment, as starter Corey Bojorquez didn’t turn the laces out to help with the just left kick.

The Packers’ first-round picks in 2019 then delivered a big game to give the ball back in the team’s first round in 2020. After an excellent third save from Oren Burks, Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage combined for a huge fourth stop in Chiefs territory. Gary put pressure on Mahomes’ face and after handing the football over to Darrel Williams, Savage finished the tackle for loss to put Kansas City back and give Jordan Love and the Chiefs 37 offensive football.

Unfortunately, another Bojorquez mistake on a hold helped the Packers come out scoreless from this great opportunity. After being held to a field goal attempt following a false start on Royce Newman, Bojorquez didn’t even attempt to twist the switchbacks away from Crosby on a 37-yard attempt. It was a tough snap from new long snapper Steven Wirtel, but Chiefs’ Alex Okafor crossed the line and blocked the attempt anyway to deny any possibility of the kick going through the studs.

A Chiefs punt pinned Love and company to the Packers two-yard line. Love and Dillon quickly connected to emerge from the shadow of the goal line, Love checking a run and throwing flat, where Dillon was able to pick up 21 yards. Green Bay approached midfield but spat again, as Love attempted a deep throw towards Davante Adams on the left sideline. But instead of throwing high and on the sidelines, Love’s throw was short and Adams had to smash a potential interception, sending Bojorquez off for the second time.

Another special teams disaster struck after the Packers defense forced a huge three-and-out. Punt returner Amari Rodgers allowed a ball to hit the grass, and it hit a falling Malik Taylor in the foot before bouncing back to the end zone. Kansas City recovered inside the ten-yard line, but the defense held a stop in the red zone as the Chiefs extended their lead to 10-0.

With more than a minute to go in the first half and two time outs, the Packers tried to return to possession before the break. Love threw up a deep duck on the first play of the drive, but Randall Cobb made a huge catch for a 35-yard gain. However, Love was unable to log in to move the chains again, and he performed a back shoulder throw towards Adams with the receiver performing a start route instead of looking back for football. Instead, it was Kansas City who had the better chance at scoring just before half-time, thanks to a big play from Travis Kelce. An interception abandoned by Kevin King just before half-time led to a 55-yard field goal from Harrison Butker to make it 13-0 at halftime.

Gary and Savage would deny the Chiefs a double-up coming out of halftime, Savage smashing a first pass and Gary sending Mahomes back in third. Amari Rodgers tried to give the Chiefs another free possession by masking the resulting punt, but he was able to narrowly recover possession to get the offense on the field.

Both defenses dominated the third quarter, with the Chiefs constantly harassing Love with their blitz and the Packers rushing into football. Neither team moved the ball much until the start of the fourth, when the Packers finally pitched Love and the passing game. Starting their own five after another good punt by Chiefs Tommy Townsend. Finally getting some decent pass protection, Love connected with Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling to move the chains as the Packers moved through midfield. Love would hook up with Adams to move the chains on 4 and 1. A few plays later, however, Love sailed a high ball for Adams and L’Jarius Sneed picked it up to end the Packers’ best drive of the game. .

Yet another three-and-out for the Packers’ defense saw the offense register its first third of down conversions of the day. Randall Cobb turned a short pass into a big win on the 3rd and 10 and Aaron Jones ran for nine yards on a 3rd and 6 as the Packers hit the 20. and -5 as he found an Allen Lazard wide open for conversion. Lazard kept his feet in bounds, rocked safety Daniel Sorensen and moved up the sideline into the end zone for the Packers’ first touchdown of the game and Love’s first career touchdown pass. That brought the Packers down to a 13-7 possession, setting up the defense to give Love a chance to make a comeback.

But needing a big save to return the ball, the Packers’ defense couldn’t. A big win for Travis Kelce moved the chains early, but the unit had a chance to force a punt just inside the two-minute warning. Although the forward put pressure on Mahomes, he slipped out of the pocket and threw an off-balance pitch at Tyreek Hill, who hit the 13-yard pass to move the chains and secure the Chiefs victory.

The 7-2 Packers will return home next week to face the Seattle Seahawks. It will remain to be seen if Love will play next week, as Aaron Rodgers will be eligible to return to action on Saturday if he passes the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols.


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