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Key to the game: Packers' aggressive pursuit slams door on Chargers

Offense and defense pull together in complete fourth quarter

Packers LB Rashan Gary sacks Chargers QB Justin Herbert
Packers LB Rashan Gary sacks Chargers QB Justin Herbert

GREEN BAY – The Packers came into Sunday knowing they needed takeaways and red-zone stops to turn back Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers.

As fate would have it, Green Bay accomplished both on the same play during the opening minutes of a fourth quarter that proved pivotal in the Packers' 23-20 win over Los Angeles.

Clinging to a field-goal lead at the time, the Packers were backed up at their own 2-yard line when Chargers running back Austin Ekeler slipped on a second-and-goal handoff.

Pro Bowl defensive lineman Kenny Clark powered through the clutter to punch out the ball from Ekeler's possession while he was trying to regain his footing.

Linebacker Rashan Gary recovered the ball at the Green Bay 6, while the Chargers fell to 0-for-3 in the red zone on the afternoon.

"Just trying to make a play," Clark said. "It's something we work on every day in our (drills) at practice, punching the ball out and ended up getting it. Usually when the ball carrier tries to get up, they have the ball loose. I just happened to be right there and punched it out."

It was the type of momentum-tilting play that Green Bay, as a team, had struggled to get in its recent string of fourth-quarter losses, including last week's 23-19 defeat in Pittsburgh.

Even after the Chargers retook the lead, 20-16, after a 10-yard touchdown pass to Keenan Allen on the next series, the Packers and first-year starting quarterback Jordan Love didn't panic.

Green Bay's offense darted back down the field with a six-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Romeo Doubs plucking a 24-yard touchdown pass out of the air to put Green Bay back ahead.

"I promise you there was no difference," said Doubs when asked about this win compared to recent close losses. "It just came down to a few plays, honing in on the details the week before. Coming into this week, we definitely honed in on those details and got a win."

The defense was lights out from there on two defensive stands during the final 150 seconds. The Chargers were even forced to punt at the two-minute warning after two Herbert incompletions and a Gary sack for a 10-yard loss.

Gary finished with two tackles, two quarterback hits, that sack and the fumble recovery that kept momentum in Green Bay's favor at the start of the fourth quarter.

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 past two games the offense has been doing great, catching their rhythm, and the defense has got to match their energy," said Gary, who had two tackles, two QB hits, the sack and fumble recovery. "Us being able to do that helped the team and helped us get this win today."

The Chargers had one final chance after burning all three timeouts to get the ball back. LA's best chance came on a Herbert deep ball on third-and-6 down the sideline that Quentin Johnston dropped.

After Gary was flagged for being offside, the game came down to a fourth-and-1 play from the Chargers' 35. Clark pushed forward and threw his hands up to bat Herbert's pass down at the line of scrimmage.

It was Clark's first pass deflection since a 23-10 win over Minnesota on Dec. 23, 2019.

"I owe Kenny a steak, man," said Gary, smiling. "Having players like that in times like that, that's why they get paid the big bucks. So I'm happy that Kenny is my teammate and he saved my butt on that play."

On the scoresheet, Herbert had a strong day with 260 passing yards and two touchdowns. He also finished as the Chargers' leading rusher with 73 yards on eight scrambles.

But when the Packers needed to make a stand in the fourth quarter, the offense and defense pulled together to make it happen.

The ball finally bounced the Packers' way in the fourth quarter on Sunday. After a series of close calls over the past 1½ months, Green Bay now hopes this victory grows into something more.

"This team, we've been fighting all year," Clark said. "We've been on the other side of these games, so for us to come out on top of this one is huge for us, huge for our confidence, and we've got to keep that rolling."

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