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Packers' offense looks to keep momentum building

Trick plays, run calls and “Love Shoves” helped produce most efficient performance of the year

QB Jordan Love
QB Jordan Love

GREEN BAY – Jordan Love was thinking completions, not statistics.

It was only after the Packers put away the Los Angeles Rams for a much-needed 20-3 victory on Sunday that Green Bay's first-year starting quarterback dug into the numbers and saw the efficiency with which the offense operated.

The Packers posted season highs in total yards (391), rushing yards (184) and time of possession (35:16), while Love registered his highest completion percentage of the year (76.9%) after completing 20 of 26 passes for 228 yards and a touchdown.

Much of that had to do with how Green Bay finished the game. After surviving two turnovers in the third quarter, the Packers scored 13 points in the final 17 minutes, 13 seconds to shut the door on LA.

Love threw just one incompletion – a third-and-16 pass intended for Aaron Jones – but was otherwise flawless in completing 12 of 13 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown (137.2 passer rating) in the second half.

"You don't even really realize the stats that are going on during the game," said Love on Wednesday. "That's one thing that I was trying to focus on going forward is just finding those completions and getting those positive plays, and it felt like that."

Across the board, Green Bay's offensive players felt they had their best practice week of the season going into the Rams game. Coincidentally, the Packers are also the healthiest they've been on that side of the ball all year.

Back from a lingering hamstring injury, Jones posted season highs in both touches (24) and snaps (41). The return of the former Pro Bowler seemed to have a cascading effect on the rest of the offense, which scored its first touchdown in the first half in more than a month.

Love pushed the ball downfield like he has been but did so with increased accuracy, especially in the second half. Five of Green Bay's six longest passing plays came in the final two quarters, including Love's 37-yard deep shot to Christian Watson.

Watson got the wind knocked out of him when he came down with the ball but was otherwise fine. The 6-foot-4, 208-pound receiver practiced in full on Wednesday.

"I think we knew right out the gate that had a good plan, and we were going to be able to get it done," said Watson, who leads Green Bay with 17.1 yards per reception this year. "A lot of the times this season it's come down to us doing it to ourselves. The more we can eliminate mistakes that set ourselves back, the more successful we'll be, and I think we saw that on Sunday."

Love also was synced up with rookie tight end Luke Musgrave on a pair of 20-plus-yard completions, a sign of progress after the two missed on a few explosive tries earlier in the season.

The 6-foot-6, 253-pound rookie towered for a 25-yard completion on the third-quarter series that extended Green Bay's lead to 10-3 before traversing the middle of the Rams' secondary on a 20-yard TD pass from Love in the fourth quarter.

The team repped the play just once in practice but executed it perfectly with Jones and fellow running back AJ Dillon selling fake outside screens on both sides of the field to open the middle for Musgrave.

"You have a certain amount of trick plays you practice during the week and sometimes they get called, sometimes they don't get called," Love said. "When it came in, I think everybody was excited and it turned out exactly how we ran in practice. Same look, everything."

To cap the afternoon, Green Bay gave into the recent "Tush push" craze when it attempted a trio of fourth-and-short sneaks. With the NFL cracking down on the play, however, officials twice called right guard Jon Runyan for lining up in the neutral zone.

The third proved to the charm, as Love pushed forward for two yards on fourth-and-1 from the Green Bay 47. The conversion helped the Packers run out the clock on perhaps their most efficient offensive performance of the season.

The only question now is what Green Bay plans to name its variant of Philadelphia's popular "Brotherly Shove."

"I've heard the 'Love Shove,'" said Runyan with a smile. "It's an effective play. I think defenses are going to have start trying to game plan. I really don't know how you can stop it; it's tough. It's going to be difficult to cover and I feel like as long as it worked, we're going to keep doing it."

Sunday was still far from perfect, but it was a much-needed jolt for a Packers offense that battled through injury, inconsistency, and a deluge of penalties in the first half.

This Sunday, Green Bay looks to take another step when it travels to face a Pittsburgh Steelers defense that ranks second-to-last in total defense (377.3 yards per game) but is also third in takeaways (16).

For Packers, protecting the football, running with purpose, and pushing the ball downfield will again be on the menu.

"That's what we're trying to build," Runyan said. "Even last week, there's a bunch of mistakes – we had the offsides, a few false starts, couple holdings. There's still a lot of stuff out there to clean up, and I still think offensively we had a pretty good game, threw the ball well and rushed for almost 200 yards. Anytime you can do that, it's going to be good for us."