The Packers had multiple opportunities to score points in the second half and while they accumulated more yards than Pittsburgh, the Steelers prevailed in a close game. To win, Pittsburgh executed their game plan while the Packers could only come close.
Pittsburgh’s block of the Packers extra point attempt on their second touchdown was a game changer. It required the Packers to bypass a field goal attempt , down 4 in the fourth quarter, twice. Both attempts ended in interceptions that could do nothing but put another seed of doubt in Jordan Love.
Love played his best game to date as the Packer starter. From start to finish, he was accurate and his deep balls were connecting. His final stat sheet does not do his performance justice. (21-40/289 yards/2TD’s/2 INT) – Love was the victim of some crucial drops, one by Aaron Jones to kill a drive.
Jones dropped another pass/lateral from Dontayvion Wicks on a trick play, killing another drive. Jones ended the day with 35 yards rushing, 19 passing and those two drive killers.
Jones runs hard and can spark the offense as he did in week one, but the Packers are not good enough to overcome multiple drive killers by their offensive leader. The Packers offensive line did a decent job protecting Love, but struggled mightily in the run game. The first run play for both teams was telling.
While the Steelers’ Najee Harris and his line moved the Packers for 5 yards on their first play, the Packers were stoned, Jon Runyon getting blown back by the Steelers linebacker who met him running full speed in the hole at the line of scrimmage.
The Packer run defensive failures were present from that opening snap. The Packers line was not holding up Pittsburgh’s offensive line, giving them clean looks at Packer linebackers.
Isaiah McDuffie and De’Vondre Campbell were getting blocked, sometimes for 5-8 yards downfield. The Steelers matched their season high in rushing yards, with ten minutes remaining in the second quarter. They ended the game with over two hundred yards on the ground.
The difference between the two defenses reacting to a running play was eye opening. By the time the Packers runners hit the line of scrimmage, Pittsburgh linebackers and safeties were there to meet them. When the Steelers ran the ball in the first half, Packer linebackers seemed frozen in their tracks, rarely penetrating the line, and safeties were still out of camera range.
This game was frustrating because the defense rallied, holding Pittsburgh to 2 field goals in the second half. Unfortunately, the Packers scored two field goals in the third quarter, giving the Packers a one point lead for a short time late in the third quarter, but came up empty in the 4th.
Two plays, one by Nixon, and the other by Campbell, could have created a game changing turnover. Nixon’s was overruled. Campbell’s went through his outstretched arms.
The first play of the 4th quarter epitomized the frustrations of the day. Facing 3rd and 11 at the Packer 33, LeFleur draws up a trick play.
Love quickly passes to Dontayvion Wicks who tosses back across the field to Aaron Jones, a lateral. Jones had 3 lineman and Romeo Doubs in front of him, with three on rushing Steelers coming towards him.
Jones then bobbles the catch, putting it on the ground while at the same time Doubs, Tom, Meyers and Runyon all whiff on their blocks. Maybe the dropped ball changed the angle of the defenders contributing to the complete misses of every attempted block on the play, but it is the ugliest execution of a play on film at a critical moment in the game. The Packers never regained their momentum and two forced ball interceptions were the final result.
Love had some great throws in the 4th quarter, driving deep into Steeler territory, a great improvement over most of his previous games. There was visible improvement in deep throws, on third down conversions and in making quicker decisions.
Unfortunately, one special teams gaff, Josiah Deguara letting Patrick Peterson fly in virtually untouched to block an extra point, completely changed the play calling down the stretch.
A play that should never happen. A play that got the former special teams coach fired when it happened in the playoffs in January 2022, rears its ugly head again. And maybe that is why this stings so badly. That 2022 play still brings a sour taste to Packer fans, and January 2022 seems like a lifetime ago.
Then we were discussing our playoff run chances. Now, we are struggling to find comfort in the improved play during a road game loss to a winning but vulnerable opponent.
Perhaps the Packers will execute next week against the Chargers. Let’s hope so.