Young Packers team blocks out noise and embraces underdog role to shock Cowboys

This 2023 Green Bay Packers team was never supposed to get to this point–beating the No. 2 seeded Dallas Cowboys on the road 48-32 in the NFC Wild Card Round. Or at least that’s what those on the outside thought.

“I think it’s just noise,” said quarterback Jordan Love postgame. “I think that’s how everybody looks at it in the locker room. Outside noise, and we’re not worried about it. Just keep coming out here and showing what we are about is what we are going to do.”

At one point early on in the season, the Packers were 2-5 and in the midst of a four-game losing streak. They were struggling to put up points in the first half, and there were frequent instances where picking up a first down felt like a major chore.

Even as recently as last month, the Packers found themselves 6-8 with their playoff hopes barely hanging on.

However, during that second half of the season, we saw Love and the growth of the offense happening in real-time and at light speed. From Week 11 on, Love completed 71 percent of his throws for 1,828 yards with 16 touchdowns to one interception. The offense as a whole was one of the best and most efficient in football by DVOA.

“We believed in him from the beginning,” said Aaron Jones of Love. “We know it’s a process. That’s not all on him why we couldn’t pick up a first down, it’s all 11 across the board. We’ve all got to be on the same page, and you’re seeing that happening now where we are all on the same page.

“We knew it would take time. You’d hear me during the season and other players: we’re right there, we’re right there, we’re right there. We’ve been able to get over that.”

That continued improvement has led to this Packers offense being a unit that no defense wants to face right now–as the Dallas Cowboys experienced firsthand in the wildcard round of the playoffs.

The Cowboys came into this game having won 16 straight at home. Their defense, led by Micah Parsons and an aggressive, ball-hawking secondary, was allowing only 18.5 points per game. But that didn’t matter. Dallas ran into the freight train that is the Packers’ offense right now.

The Packers’ offense dropped 41 on the Cowboys and 48 in total with Darnell Savage’s pick-six. Parsons had a quiet night against the Green Bay offensive line, with Aaron Jones totaling 118 rushing yards at 5.6 yards per attempt with three scores.

For the third straight game, the Packers had a receiver eclipse 100 yards, and this time, it was Romeo Doubs’ turn to get in on the action. Doubs finished with six receptions for 151 yards and a score.

But at the center of it all and leading the way for Green Bay was Love. What we are witnessing right now is a quarterback in complete command of the offense, regardless of the situation.

A prime example of this was the touchdown pass to Dontayvion Wicks. It began pre-snap with Love identifying the blitz and making protection adjustments. Then even with pressure closing in, he remained poised, hung in the pocket, pump faked, and delivered a dime to Wicks.

Love finished the game with 272 yards on only 21 pass attempts, along with three scores. His passer rating was near perfect at 157.2.

“Jordan Love — wow,” said Matt LaFleur. “That’s about all I can say. Wow. What he did. The poise he shows. The command he shows. On that touchdown pass to Dontayvion Wicks, it was an all-out look. We were obviously in an empty set. He had Tucker, it was max protect and it was a great job by Tuck and the rest of our offensive line. For him to hang in there and get that throw, Wicks made a hell of a catch.

“But those are things that you just can’t (coach). You can try to coach it, but what a moment for him. To me, that was a big-time play. It just shows the growth he’s had from his first start versus KC to now. I’m just so proud and happy for him. He is a dude. He is a real dude.”

Along with the play of Love and the offense, it was a fairly complete performance by this Packers team overall. The special teams unit would deliver one of its more sound, all-around performances.

The defense had given up just 16 points at the six-minute mark in the fourth quarter. This included coming away with two turnovers, including an interception that went for a touchdown, and making this difficult for most of the game for a Cowboys’ passing attack that had been one of the best in football.

The Packers were able to often take away Dak Prescott’s initial reads and didn’t let CeeDee Lamb get going until the game was basically out of reach. Overall, it was a very disjointed performance by the Cowboys’ offense.

“These guys, they went for it, and it’s exciting to see,” said LaFleur of the Packers’ play style. “Every phase I thought, you could see it in the way we played, our play stable, just how aggressive we were. Really, in every phase and each phase contributed to the win.”

Within that Packers’ locker room this season, this team has been more than willing to embrace the underdog role that has been given to them by the outside world as they fly under the radar. The players know the talent that they have, and just as important, they believe in one another. Teams don’t just come out of a midseason tailspin and make a run like the Packers have without strong belief.

Their opponent in the divisional round of the playoffs will be the all-too-familiar San Francisco 49ers on the road, so the Packers will once again be the underdog. However, no longer will they be flying under anyone’s radar.

Led by the offense, this is a good football team playing at a very high level. And if you ask anyone in the locker room, it wasn’t a matter of if things get turned around, but rather when.

“We believe in each other,” said Jones. “We have faith in each other and we know we have all the weapons in the building in that room. However you want to put it, we have all the weapons we need on this team.

“People can continue to doubt us. That’s fine. We love the underdog mentality. The underdog approach. What are people going to say next? We are excited to see that.”

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire