Raiders won the second quarter, driving 62 yards on 14 plays, the last a four yard run for a touchdown by Josh Jacobs. Jacobs led the league last year in rushing. The Packers defense held him to 69 yards on twenty carries.
Objectively, it was still Jacob’s best performance of the season. After the Raider touchdown, Jordan Love threw a truly ugly interception that gave the Raiders the ball back in the red zone. The Packer defense held firm, but an easy field goal put the Green and Gold down 10 at halftime.
The Packer defense held the entire Raider team under 100 yards rushing, a first for this 2023 Packer club. This occurred even though the Packers were without inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell for the whole game and Quay Walker for half the game with injuries.
Another injured player that left was Darnell Savage who succumbed to an injured calf. The Packers played Jonathon Owens, Rudy Ford, Keisean Nixon, Isaiah McDuffie and Eric Wilson up the middle. Ford had an interception that set up the Packers touchdown and the top tacklers were McDuffie, (10), Ford (9), Wilson (8), and Nixon (6). Instead of the potential blowout you might expect, the Packers battled on defense, forcing 4 punts, an interception, a blocked field goal and a missed 52-yard field goal by the brother of Packers kicker Anders Carlson, Raider kicker Daniel Carlson.
The blocked kick was possibly the best play Yosh Nijman has made all year. The 6’7” lineman stretched his arm as far as possible, just deflecting the ball with a finger.
The Packer offense scored 13 points, even though they were helped by a defensive interception that gave them good field position on their lone touchdown drive.
Except for one long pass on a roll out by Love where he found Christian Watson wide open on a deep crosser, the offense looked anemic. After the 77-yard catch and run by Watson, the packers had first and goal at the 3. Then second and goal at the 5.
Then third and goal at the 4. Then they kicked a field goal. While up 13-10, you could feel the momentum shift as the Raiders took the ball 75 yards in 10 plays for the go-ahead touchdown. The Packer offense responded with an interception, a 3 and out punt, and the final Love interception in the end zone on their final three drives of the game.
The Packers first drive started with three straight A.J. Dillon runs for a first down. The Packers relied on Dillon and short passes by Love but after 23 yards gained, Love went deep on third and three trying to hit a well-covered Jayden Reed.
Love played his worst game as a pro statistically, but he was not helped by his receivers. In the final drive, Doubs and Musgrave both dropped easy, uncontested catches.
On the final play and on Love’s second interception, Christian Watson was pushed around by a smaller defender making no play on either ball. He sat in the end zone looking for a referee flag that was not coming. He showed in those two plays how far he has to go before he is a complete NFL receiver.
The offense had no answer to stop Raiders’ defensive end Max Crosby. Multiple times tight ends and lineman failed in their assignment to slow him down. Rasheed Walker had his struggles, but overall, Love was only sacked twice for seven lost yards.
The offense, under Love, just can’t consistently drive the field. He has now gone from no interceptions in his first start, to one interception in his third, to now three interceptions in his fifth game.
Not all the faults of the offense should be placed on Love’s shoulders. A mediocre offensive line, tight ends that are young and still learning to block, a set of wide receivers that are too young to know what they don’t know, and a missing All-Pro running back all contribute to the inconsistencies.
But a number of passes by Love were to receivers that did not appear open or were under-thrown. The play calling by LaFleur seems conservative to a point that you wonder if he does not fully trust the offense, be that the offensive line, the receivers, or Love.
The Packers now have a bye week that is coming at a good time for a team wracked by injuries. There will be lots of time to review game tape. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
When the short rest is over, there is a Bronco team waiting in Denver. For the Packers, this was a must win. If only to keep the naysaying pundits at bay. But it will take more than words and desire. It will take execution on a professional, NFL, level. Young players often learn the best when they make critical errors. Hard lessons learned the hard way. Hopefully, on October 22nd the lessons learned will be demonstrated on the field.