GREEN BAY – The Packers managed to hang on Sunday for a 23-20 victory over the Chargers at Lambeau Field.
Here are five takeaways from the down-to-the-wire triumph:
- The situation for the offense in the fourth quarter was awfully familiar.
Down by four points, the Packers got the ball back with 5:24 left, needing a touchdown. It was a late-game scenario Green Bay has faced on multiple occasions this season, and this time, the offense came through.
A defensive pass interference penalty bailed the Packers out on third-and-20 to start the drive, rookie receiver Dontayvion Wicks had a 35-yard catch-and-run after bouncing off a tackler, and QB Jordan Love found receiver Romeo Doubs for a 24-yard go-ahead TD with 2:33 to go.
The defense got two stops sandwiched around an offensive three-and-out to make it hold up, and the Packers improved to 4-6 on the year.
"Well, it certainly feels good to be on the other side of one of these tight ballgames," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said.
"I think just guys made plays. That was evident in the second-to-last offensive series and then defensively to hold them there on the fourth down."
- The Chargers hurt themselves plenty along the way.
The game came down to a fourth-and-1 from the LA 35 with 23 seconds left, and Packers defensive lineman Kenny Clark batted away Justin Herbert's pass at the line of scrimmage.
But on the previous play, Herbert fired deep down the sideline to an open Quentin Johnston, who dropped the ball, which hit him in both hands. He might've scored with a catch, or at a minimum put the Chargers into game-tying field-goal range.
It was the fourth costly dropped pass of the game for the Chargers, who saw tight end Donald Parham drop a fourth-down throw over the middle on the first possession of the game, and star receiver Keenan Allen (10 catches, 116 yards, TD) drop two passes inside the 5-yard line that both might've gone for touchdowns.
LA settled for field goals instead, and then in the fourth quarter they didn't even score despite having goal-to-go from the 2. Running back Austin Ekeler slipped on a handoff and then fumbled the ball on a punch out by Clark, with Rashan Gary making the recovery.
Check out photos from the Week 11 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Chargers at Lambeau Field on Nov. 19, 2023.
- The Packers squandered their own share of opportunities as well.
Green Bay turned it over on downs at midfield to open the game. Two other possessions reached field-goal range but went backwards due to penalties and/or negative plays. One resulted in a long missed field goal, another ended with a punt.
A missed extra point by rookie kicker Anders Carlson was added to the mix and, just like last week, played a huge role in how the conclusion unfolded.
"There's definitely a lot of opportunities that we didn't capitalize on," Love said. "It could have been a completely different game if we did. It's something we've got to continue to grow and learn from and move forward."
The biggest growth, though, was Love's first career 300-yard passing game (27-of-40, 322 yards, two TDs, 108.5 rating), a second TD connection on the year with Christian Watson, and getting that go-ahead TD to Doubs (five catches, 53 yards) in crunch time.
"We finished it off," Love said. "The message in the second half was it's a 0-0 ballgame, let's go finish."
- LaFleur was kicking himself because the offense didn't put the game away, though.
After a Gary sack on third down forced the Chargers to punt, the Packers had the ball with 1:47 left, leading 23-20. LA had all three timeouts. One first down would've sealed the game.
Two AJ Dillon runs gained just four yards as the Chargers burned their first two timeouts. Third-and-6, 1:38 left, and another Dillon run gained just two yards. Final LA timeout at 1:35. Punt.
"That was on me," LaFleur said of the conservative series, explaining he gave Love a running play on third down hoping for a certain defensive look, but with instructions to call a timeout if the look wasn't there. LaFleur almost called the timeout himself and wishes he had.
"I've just got to be better in that situation and pop the timeout. I think that's too much to put on his plate at this point in time where it wasn't even something in the game plan. That was a bad deal."
- Injuries continue to pile up, and a short week has arrived.
By game's end, the Packers were down to just one healthy running back, as both Aaron Jones (knee) and Emanuel Wilson (shoulder) exited in the second half. LaFleur said Jones' injury does not appear long-term.
Maybe receiver Jayden Reed will have to get even more involved in the running game. His 46 yards on the ground, including a 32-yard TD on an end-around, led the team in rushing. Reed added 46 receiving yards, too, as the rookie continues to develop into a major offensive piece.
Meanwhile, a flight to NFC North-leading Detroit is less just 2½ days away, and game-planning for the Thanksgiving clash began last Friday. The Dan Campbell-coached Lions will be looking to make it five straight wins over the Packers in the divisional rivalry.
"These guys gotta recover," LaFleur said. "We've got a great task in front of us, a team that's really gotten after us.
"Got a lot of respect for Dan and what he's been able to establish there, the culture. They got a good thing going right now, so we're going to need our best effort, no doubt about it, to go into their building and come out on top."