The Chiefs' Defense Will Be Toughest Test Yet for Jordan Love

Kansas City has one of the best pass defenses in the league. How do you think Jordan Love will fare?

Have you ever looked back at yourself and realized how far you have come over a certain period of time? Maybe you’re not the self-reflective type, so instead, you have realized that someone close to you (or anyone, really) has grown and matured over a certain period of time. For the purposes of this exercise, let’s take a look at Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love ahead of his Week 13 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs, the same team he faced off against in his first career NFL start. 

Love, who was inactive for every game of the 2020 season, was thrust into starting duty during Week 9 of the 2021 season after Aaron Rodgers was ruled out four days prior to kickoff due to testing positive for COVID-19. The 2020 first-round selection did not have a memorable NFL starting debut, as he looked beyond uncomfortable in the pocket as a result of the full-on pass rush attack by the Chiefs on the road in a hostile environment. He finished 19 of 34 for 190 yards and one touchdown, with one interception. If you were to mistakenly judge Love’s future based on his first NFL start, you would emphatically say, while pounding both fists on the table, that he is not an NFL-caliber quarterback and a waste of a draft pick that instead could have been used on a player to build around Rodgers. And during stretches of the 2023 season, those same thoughts resurfaced for many. His deep-ball accuracy was all over the place. He had happy feet in the pocket. He was throwing bone-headed interceptions. 

However, the tide has turned over the last four weeks. Love is third in the NFL in expected points added per dropback and explosive play rate, while ranking fourth in success rate, over that stretch. He set a career-high in passing yards (289) against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 10 and followed that up with another career-high in passing yards (322) against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 11. Depleted of offensive weapons against the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day, he led the Packers to a wire-to-wire 29-22 victory, highlighted by a career-high passer rating of 125.5. Point blank, he has been making plays that he did not make earlier in the season and looks infinitely more comfortable in the pocket. The California native has grown and matured immensely over the course of the season. It is incredibly difficult to dispute any of that. So, will he continue his ascension on Sunday Night Football in front of a national audience, or will he come back down to earth? Either way, Sunday’s showdown will be Love’s toughest test yet. 

The Chiefs’ defense, led by defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, ranks fourth in passing yards allowed per game (170.8) and third in points allowed per game (16.4) entering Week 12. They are also fourth in DVOA and second in expected points added per dropback per play allowed. In other words, they have one of the best pass defenses in the entire NFL. Despite the Week 11 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football, Kansas City limited quarterback Jalen Hurts to 14-of-22 passing for 150 yards and one interception. He was sacked five times (all in the first half), a season-high, and finished with a passer rating of 64.6, his second-lowest output of the season. 

One of the reasons why the Chiefs have enjoyed so much defensive success in 2023 is because of the multitude of looks they present; Spagnuolo does not hone in on one particular coverage or look as a bread and butter. “They have six or seven linebackers or defensive backs who might blitz. Their defensive linemen line up everywhere. They’re so good at changing the coverage pre- and post-snap,” Doug Farrar detailed on an episode of Xs and Os with Greg Cosell and Doug Farrar before the Chiefs’ Week 12 matchup against the Eagles. 

Cosell pointed out on that same episode that when Chiefs employ a dime defense (six defensive backs), which they do at the second-highest rate in the NFL and are allowing a quarterback passer rating of 60.5, “they have three safeties that are in many ways interchangeable. (Justin) Reid is predominantly the tight end matchup when they play man, but (Mike) Edwards, (Bryan) Cook, and Reid, those guys all can pretty much do everything. So, they have very versatile players. … You could argue that over the last four or five weeks while this offense has struggled, the defense has been their driving force.” 

It is anyone’s guess how Spagnuolo will exactly defend against Love and his offensive weapons, which will likely not include running back Aaron Jones for the second straight week. But there is a good chance that the Chiefs’ game plan will incorporate zone coverage. Prior to the Week 12 victory against the Lions, where Love threw three touchdowns and zero interceptions, Love owned a 12:0 touchdown-to-interception ratio against man coverage, but had a league-high 10 interceptions against zone coverage, according to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky

Sunday’s matchup at Lambeau Field will surely be a chess match, one in which Love has not faced such an opponent in any of the previous 11 games this season. Unlike in his first career start, though, Love now knows how to move the pieces on the chess board. 

__________________________

Rex is a lifelong Packers fan but was sick of the cold, so he moved to the heart of Cowboys country. Follow him on Twitter (@Sheild92) and Instagram (@rex.sheild). 

NFL Categories: 
5 points
 

Comments (36)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
T7Steve's picture

November 27, 2023 at 12:18 pm

This game is not about Love. It is about the O-line and defense.

Actually, the same as his first game at Arrowhead in '21. The D did a good job that night.

If he can stay upright, he'll be able to overcome some mistakes. Not if the guys get penalties and they get run all over the field by the Chiefs' offense.

I didn't realize his shortcomings against zone. His coach better know these and help him out. Tight ends please.

9 points
9
0
SicSemperTyrannis's picture

November 27, 2023 at 12:48 pm

I agree that this game isn't about JL. Still, the article raises a valid point that it will be the hardest challenge of the season. It's really not fair to even TRY to evaluate JL without a viable running game, and I don't fantasize that will magically gel against KC.

It's very possible that GB gets beat up so bad that we can't begin to see anything JL has learned have any chance to show up in this game. That would suck but would not be on JL. If they manage anything better than that it will require mental toughness, and a LOT more to go right.

I make no predictions about any of that, but I'm not dreading this game the way I was ...

GPG!

4 points
4
0
T7Steve's picture

November 27, 2023 at 01:02 pm

I'm looking forward to this game/test and think we'll have a good showing.

Remember. The Chiefs have played at their opponents' level for most this season. Much like Philly, they have the ability to overcome their mistakes. The Packers have played to most of their opponents' level also (more or less). They just have to learn how to win.

I can't believe I'm saying this but, they have to make them pay for their mistakes like the Lions did. I'll soften that by saying the Lions learned some of the Packers' ways.

1 points
1
0
Bure9620's picture

November 27, 2023 at 02:40 pm

This game is about the O-line and can we run the ball consistently? KC is giving up well over 4 YPC. I would like to see the Packers come out pounding the ball on the ground. Running the ball solves everything will take pressure off Love having to go blow for blow with Mahomes.

5 points
5
0
T7Steve's picture

November 27, 2023 at 02:48 pm

Does it sound like a bad weather game yet? Good chance of it at night in December.

The Chiefs may be used to it, but I'd like to see Dillon do one of his Tennessee romps again, if he can get healthy.

1 points
1
0
jannes bjornson's picture

November 27, 2023 at 03:57 pm

Love has to take command and execute the passing game. The O line has to be able to control Chris Jone and recognize l the slot blitzes Spags will deliver. Tucker Kraft and Ben Sims have to control the edge. Now you need a blue chip at LT.

2 points
2
0
Packers2020's picture

November 27, 2023 at 04:02 pm

I think it is a balance though, Bure.

We can't get away from what the Packers do best which passing the football but you are correct. We need to run the ball to keep the Chiefs honest and hopefully we can gain some yards while we are at it.

1 points
1
0
dblbogey's picture

November 27, 2023 at 03:58 pm

Start Rhyan at RG and see if we can get some movement with Zach Tom next to him. It's time to see Rhyan, we know Runyon isn't cutting it.

5 points
5
0
CanPackFan's picture

November 27, 2023 at 01:07 pm

JL will only be as good as his Oline holds up. Spagnola is creative in how he blitzes and the Pack like intermediate routes which will require more protection. Will LaFleur stay aggressive? All good questions.

It's hard to say which GB defense will show up as well? An aggressive one like we have seen the last 2 weeks? Will Mahommes be running a lot?

At least the game is at home and GB is starting to play better. I'd love to see an upset but certainly not expecting one.

Stay aggressive! GPG

5 points
5
0
Bitternotsour's picture

November 27, 2023 at 01:19 pm

History suggests that when the pressure rises, LaFleur falters. Look for him to cower with his play calling as the heat elevates.

0 points
5
5
Minniman's picture

November 27, 2023 at 08:29 pm

"It's hard to say which GB defense will show up as well? An aggressive one like we have seen the last 2 weeks? Will Mahommes be running a lot?"

Winfree is the most penalized RT in the league (false starts) - attack the heck out of him with both Gary and Van Ness (or S Blitz)

Learn from last week and continue with the increase of beef in the middle of the D - that clearly works.

2 points
2
0
GregC's picture

November 27, 2023 at 01:53 pm

I have to take issue with one item in this article. I don't think that Jordan Love has had happy feet in the pocket at any point this season. There have been other problems, but he has stood tall in the pocket even when things were going badly.

10 points
10
0
TXCHEESE's picture

November 27, 2023 at 02:07 pm

My sentiments exactly, Love has show pretty good composure in the pocket all season. I do believe he and the receivers are getting their timing down. As mentioned above the OL has to ball out this week.

I watched a big chunk of yesterday's game against the Raiders and when they let Mahomes break the pocket, he would kill them with improvised throws when the DB would come up to stop his run. GB has to keep him in the pocket with a big push up the middle. The pass rush has to really be disciplined, or KC will make them pay with Mahomes' scrambles and the screen game.

5 points
5
0
T7Steve's picture

November 27, 2023 at 02:14 pm

Wouldn't hurt if the Packers could come up with a screen passing game too.

That leads back to the O-line though. Seem like whenever they try, they whiff on their blocks or someone is too far downfield.

1 points
1
0
Packers2020's picture

November 27, 2023 at 04:34 pm

GregC,

Yes and no. His feet were not great in the beginning of the season. Now they have gotten better the last 3 games. Although, it helps when your o-line is actually giving you protection to throw the football.

I know about the feet thing because I played QB and coached QB's. :)

-1 points
0
1
jannes bjornson's picture

November 27, 2023 at 06:06 pm

He has to get on his mark faster with the pass rush in his grill. He just needs to keep his momentum going forward with his throwing motion to drive the ball better and stay off his back foot.

1 points
2
1
SicSemperTyrannis's picture

November 28, 2023 at 12:02 am

Greg -

while you have to look closely, many times JL10 has been taking extra steps, foot movement, and hops in the pocket. Times when if he just stayed still he could have thrown on time instead of late. Obviously we cannot know a hypothetical, but it's most likely that this habit hurts his consistency and accuracy.

These are small amounts, and is 100% due to getting pressured, hit, and sacked rather than having a dominant O line. He had 0 tendencies towards this before his O line kept getting beat. This weakness is the absolute worst thing for the development of any QB.

Further, I do not believe for a minute that it's due to any lack of talent in the O line as a position group. Instead, the biggest deficit is in coaches allowing poor footwork. From there, constant teaching to optimize body position to achieve the desirable pad level is entirely an individual thing. None of that is taking place. Until that is corrected, hand position and use isn't going to matter. Neither will personnel changes or additions via draft or FA. "Draft and develop" is dead in the water, the O line is THAT important to the whole organization. LVN still having nothing more than a bull rush might be an indicator of the same coaching deficit across the board.

Butkus is the O line coach and has to be considered a Chicago plant, sent to ruin the Packers. Stenovitch was at least good in that position. At some point he and MLF both take the blame for not correcting this abysmal situation, even though some obvious improvement has happened in recent weeks. Look how productive #28 is with a little blocking, for example. That's not really due to him changing anything. His early season tripping over his shoe laces was probably coaches messing with his fundamentals, ill advisedly. He overcame that and returned to just running hard. They've similarly messed with JL10's throwing mechanics, wanting him to put more air under his long passes, which they now regret. One similar adjustment they made was to slow down Carlson's kicking motion, trading a little power for increased accuracy. That might be a good adjustment, only contributing to one miss so far. I don't know if this is something he can put back together in the off-season, or if it proves to alter his entire career.

0 points
0
0
dobber's picture

November 27, 2023 at 02:32 pm

Sure, KC is an outstanding pass defense unit, but they're 19th in rush yards allowed per game--which means pound the rock and create opportunities for play action. Mix up the calls on early downs...dare I say: be creative? KC has a fast back 7, but they can be bullied.

Sure, it's harder to sustain drives using the run game (unless you're breaking off chunk plays regularly), but they can't get away from it or this game will get away from them.

3 points
3
0
T7Steve's picture

November 27, 2023 at 02:43 pm

Yes.

They can't get away from TRYING to run. Love needs to sell the run better on play-action too.

Punting the ball deep isn't as bad as people think either. The D has to keep KC in poor field position and create more turn overs. The O didn't score points off turnovers against the Lions, but will have to in this game.

1 points
1
0
SicSemperTyrannis's picture

November 28, 2023 at 12:06 am

Dobber,

yup. Can't afford to be one dimensional against KC. Can't expect to magically produce a viable running game out of nowhere, either. Could be ugly.

If GB can show any of their recent progress in this game, it will mean a LOT has gone right. It's even less likely for more progress to be visible.

Some serious mental toughness is in order

GPG!

1 points
1
0
splitpea1's picture

November 27, 2023 at 03:43 pm

It doesn't matter how the Packers offense does it, but the idea should be to move the chains systematically, convert all of their of their scoring opportunities, and keep Mahomes parked on the sidelines as much as possible. Dink and dunk mixed in with intermediate routes sounds like a better strategy this time to keep the pass rush off of Love and sustain long drives.

We going to have to do better than hit them in the mouth early and hope to hang on in the second half this time. The offense has to be showing up for all four quarters in order to win. And yes, after the last couple of games, winning is the standard here (even though we're 6.5 point underdogs); it's nice to be back.

4 points
4
0
LeotisHarris's picture

November 27, 2023 at 04:19 pm

"... so instead, you have realized that someone close to you (or anyone, really) has grown and matured over a certain period of time..."

I think we all look to George Bailey in the classic movie "It's a Wonderful Life" for inspiration because he undergoes significant personal growth and transformation.

One of George's defining characteristics is his selflessness. He consistently puts the needs and desires of others, particularly his family and the residents of Bedford Falls, above his own ambitions. This is evident in his decision to forgo his travel and educational dreams to take over the Bailey Building and Loan after his father's death.

George had dreams of leaving Bedford Falls and traveling the world, but circumstances forced him to stay and run the Building and Loan. This creates a growing sense of frustration and disappointment in him. His dreams are continuously deferred, and he struggles with the feeling of being trapped in his small hometown.

George faced various financial challenges, particularly when the Building and Loan comes under threat from the wealthy and greedy Mr. Potter. George's commitment to providing affordable housing for the working class puts him in direct conflict with Potter, and he endures financial hardships as a result.

George's relationship with his wife, Mary, and their family played a crucial role in his personal growth. Despite the challenges, he cherishes his family and learns to appreciate the richness and depth that family life brings, finding fulfillment in love and companionship.

The pivotal moment in George's transformation occurs when he contemplates suicide on Christmas Eve, feeling overwhelmed by financial ruin and legal troubles. However, Clarence, his guardian angel, intervenes and shows George what life would have been like if he had never been born. This alternate reality serves as a powerful catalyst for George's realization of the positive impact he has had on others.

Ultimately, George comes to appreciate the value of his own life and the positive influence he has had on his community. The people he has helped over the years come together to support him in his time of need, reinforcing the idea that one person can make a significant difference in the lives of others.

This is where we acknowledge the influence Steve Spagnuolo has had on the lives of Packers fans. He is just one person. I am unable to look at Spags and not see that little effer clad in Giants gear, hands on his knees, on the sidelines at Lambeau with Tom Coughlin's cherry-red face a few yards away. Maybe he could come down with a case of scurvy this week? Or just take a family medical leave? Whatever it takes: keep that crazy little effer away from the Packers.

5 points
6
1
Bitternotsour's picture

November 27, 2023 at 04:57 pm

wow. what a turn. bravo.

i tried to run this thru the lense of Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey, and really, aren't we all a little better off with a small amount of crazy in our lives.

Ultimately this shows that what we all really want in our stockings this year is a D-Coordinator who can dial up a scheme like Spags...

4 points
4
0
Leatherhead's picture

November 27, 2023 at 06:45 pm

???

1 points
1
0
Bitternotsour's picture

November 27, 2023 at 10:04 pm

You're back!

0 points
0
0
cdoemel's picture

November 27, 2023 at 09:58 pm

Someone’s already watching holiday movies

1 points
1
0
Packerpasty's picture

November 27, 2023 at 04:30 pm

Cory wants to "sign the man" as he posted in another news section...maybe they should do it BEFORE the Chiefs game...

2 points
2
0
Firethemall's picture

November 27, 2023 at 05:14 pm

Of course we would love the win, but what really matters is GROWTH and EXPERIENCE!
Each game is a learning experience for this very young offense! The Pack is not that far away at being a serious contender....again. If Love IS the guy, we should be looking very good coming out of next years draft. I think the offense has a chance to be stellar. We will need to address the need at running back. I think Aaron Jones is playing his last year as a Packer. The defense is solid. Lets go!!!

-1 points
2
3
Minniman's picture

November 27, 2023 at 09:23 pm

I'm with you - Andy Reid is not a coach to gift games with constant low percentage play calling.

A win in this game will only be the result of growth and experience.

P.S I don't expressly wish ill to the guy, however I do want the Packers WR's to have a better day than the KC guys (incl. ex Packer MVS).

0 points
0
0
SicSemperTyrannis's picture

November 28, 2023 at 12:10 am

What should we fire the mall with? A trebuchet?

I'd like to see Goodson back. Maybe Nichols too? #31 Wilson back from injury would be nice. Any updates on how #33 is doing?

-1 points
0
1
fair_weather's picture

November 27, 2023 at 05:52 pm

Not as worried about JL as I am about our D and stopping the run game. Pacheco is the real deal and Mahomes is a threat as well. Watching Kelce run free in the middle of the field will drive me nuts. Speaking of nuts, I'll be at the game! Should be a cold one! Go Pack Go!!

5 points
5
0
SicSemperTyrannis's picture

November 28, 2023 at 12:15 am

Elevate #99 J Ford, but since they haven't played him that offers less help than it should. If JB could learn that more than 2 down linemen helps, that'd be nice. He called for that almost half time last game and - it even helped the pass rush. Who could've guessed :/

Yes, stopping this rushing attack will be a bigger challenge. Pass rush is more likely to be effective than our DBs. It sure would be nice to get some returning to 100%

I'd love to see LVN bring down Kelce; somebody has to.

-1 points
0
1
Handsback's picture

November 27, 2023 at 05:58 pm

Haven’t posted too much lately but what I posted after the third game goes for the rest of the season….not expecting playoffs. Expecting continuous improvements in all areas but not expecting that to lead to wins. See some more upsets, but think this team is pretty tight. They want to play together as a team and win. That will set the table for next year just like the Lions play last year set them up for this year.

2 points
2
0
4thand10's picture

November 27, 2023 at 10:04 pm

“Depleted of offensive weapons against the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day“. … I look at this much differently. I’d say the weapons that were on the field should stay on the field. Kraft can actually stiff arm and get YAK. Doesn’t seem to trip when he catches the ball. Heath still makes contested catches. Watson is learning to high point a ball and catch with his hands and getting Reed more involved should have been done much earlier. And let’s not forget about Doubs.

If the chiefs play dime….Dillon will run all over them all day.

Our defense is trending up.

But since the chiefs are expected to be good…the refs might accommodate them. I was watching the Bills/ Eagles game sunday night and the Bills just got shafted on crap officiating…and i’m not even a bills fan. Brown legit fumbled, three step football move fumble and new york called it incomplete.

When love got his first start in 21, it’s not like the Pack got blown out. Even this year, other than week 4 they’ve lost by a field goal or less.

I almost wish, #7 spies Mahomes… because I don’t think he can run around Quay Walker. The packers are familiar with MVS. If the D plays like they did in Detroit…it’ll be close. Detroit’s oline is much better than the chiefs. If the can contain Kelce…there’s a chance. I just want even officiating and no phantom calls and see how it plays out. But if GB doubles the playmakers like the did in Detroit…it might be a good game.

The last time they played, Mahomes limped to the sideline with a tweaked ankle like the worlds greatest actor like he is, and then 2 plays later he’s scampering down the field for 30 yards.He always does that shit. So I hope GB doesn’t fall for that BS and keeps the pressure on him for the full 60 minutes regardless of his acting skills.

1 points
1
0
SicSemperTyrannis's picture

November 28, 2023 at 12:27 am

Penalties.

They range from 60 - 84. GB has 79.

Refs have hurt us, but lots of those are self inflicted.

Kraft could have used a good stiff arm to get a first down. Not sure if that's in his bag of tricks yet but he's certainly more physical than Musgrave. That should show up in YAC and blocking. JL has to make the easy layups, and short completions to Kraft would be a great place to start. Dillon has been catching everything thrown to him!

JL should look to Reed as his #1, he's open SO often!

Our O line playing bully ball and winning would be GREAT to see! Really establishing the run? Haven't done it all season don't expect to see it against KC, but that would be GREAT strategy. Obviously it would help the passing game.

JB still has to not sabotage the effort. Pass rush is key, and more likely to be effective than our DBs. This would be a great time for LVN to step up. Who else is going to tackle Kelce?

0 points
0
0
TxFred's picture

November 28, 2023 at 08:11 am

Exactly why we should be in NO HURRY to tie the cap tin can to the teams tail.
Let's see how the season plays out
Super Bowl caliber team & teams that are better.
Real, true talent, like cream will rise to the top. Find out exactly where to spend the loot.
GPG!!

0 points
0
0