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Pass protection keyed Packers' third-down efficiency

Situational football was the difference in convincing win


GREEN BAY – The Packers' numbers on third down in the opener against the Bears were superb.

Green Bay converted nine of its first 14 third downs before two late misses, and QB Jordan Love was 7-of-9 for 106 yards and a TD on what's known as the money down in the 38-20 triumph.

Throw in a 35-yard TD pass to Aaron Jones on a crucial fourth down in the third quarter, and it's no surprise Head Coach Matt LaFleur called the Packers' situational football "huge" in the victory.

The biggest reason for that? The guys up front.

"I thought for the most part the protection was really solid," LaFleur said Monday. "It always starts there. I thought our offensive line did a really good job of giving Jordan time to make his decisions and go through his reads, and in some cases get back to his third or fourth read."

The third-down success began on the opening drive, with Love hitting Romeo Doubs on a slant to convert on third-and-13, which LaFleur called a "big-time moment."

Later on that drive, the offensive line opened a huge hole for Aaron Jones to run seven yards on third-and-2, and then Love had all kinds of time in the pocket to hit Doubs for an 8-yard TD on third-and-goal.

That started a day on which the offense put up 31 points without top receiver Christian Watson, who missed the game with a hamstring injury. He told reporters Monday he has a better chance of playing this week than last, but still doesn't know and has to take his recovery day by day.

Of course, the Week 1 performance makes it hard not to wonder what the offense might be capable of with Watson back in the fold, but LaFleur wasn't about to go there.

He's concerned about the number of "free hitters" that wrecked running plays due to mental errors and missed assignments with the ground game. He also acknowledged how much the offense benefited from good field position, with two of the four TD drives covering less than 50 yards each.

While it was important to take advantage of those instances, they can be harder to come by against other opponents, and the offense did fail to take advantage of Chicago's first turnover, which occurred in plus-territory. So there's plenty to work on heading to Atlanta (1-0) in Week 2.

"What's important is, that we continue to learn, we continue to grow, and we get better each and every week," LaFleur said. "Every week's going to have a little bit different of a challenge, and Atlanta's defense at first glance looks like it's going to be a heck of a challenge."

Injury update: LaFleur said the medical staff is still getting a handle on the extent of Jones' hamstring injury from the game, which occurred on his 35-yard TD reception on fourth down.

Meanwhile linebacker Quay Walker is in the concussion protocol. Walker took a big hit as he crossed the goal line on his pick-six in the fourth quarter.

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