The Green Bay Packers had their chances but could not get a last-minute score to win the game and fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers 23-19. Jordan Love threw for 289 yards and two touchdowns but a late interception sealed the Packers fate. Here are 10 things we learned from the Packers 23-19 loss to the Steelers.
First Thing We Learned in the Packers Loss: The Run Defense Was Overmatched
The Packers run defense had played better in recent weeks but reverted to their previous form against Pittsburgh. The Steelers controlled the line of scrimmage and gained 205 yards on 36 carries against Green Bay. They also ran for two touchdowns.
The Packers played without Quay Walker and his absence was felt. Safeties Rudy Ford and Jonathan Owens were two of the top three tacklers on the team in part because the defensive line was being beaten so badly at the point of attack and the linebackers were often struggling to provide contain.
Pittsburgh came into the game ranked 25th in the league and were averaging 90.5-yards per game. The fact that they more than doubled that against the Packers speaks volumes about the failure of the run defense.
Second Thing We Learned: Jordan Love Showed Progress But…
Love continued to make progress although he still has more to improve upon. He made numerous deep throws in this game and was effective throwing the ball downfield.
He also made some progress on reading defenses and at finding second options when his initial target was well covered.
Third Thing We Learned in the Packers Loss: Love Still Needs Work
Love remains a work in progress and still has areas he needs to improve upon. He threw two interceptions late in the game which ended the Packers chances to win the game.
The first pick was slightly underthrown although Christian Watson again failed to do a good job of battling for a contested ball.
The second throw was a desperation heave on the final play of the game. Love and the Packers coaches expected the Steelers defenders to retreat a big from the goal line, but they didn’t. The Utah State alum was picked again attempting to find Watson.
Love is improving but he still has more to learn but at least his overall game is heading in the right direction.
Fourth Thing We Learned: The Missed PAT Was Costly
Kicker Anders Carlson had some rough moments in this game. Patrick Peterson blocked his second extra point attempt which was very costly. Had the PAT been good, the Packers would have only needed a field goal at the end of the game to force overtime.
Carlson also had a kickoff sail out of bounds which gave the Steelers the ball on their own 40 to start a drive. The Steelers took advantage of the short field and scored a touchdown that put them ahead 14-7 early in the second quarter.
Both mistakes by Carlson were costly in a game the Packers still had multiple chances to win.
Fifth Thing We Learned in the Packers Loss: A Terrible Call Hurt the Packers
A bad call hurt the Packers in this game. With the Pack trailing 17-13, Pittsburgh had the ball 2nd-and-9 at their own 16.
Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett tried to pass to running back Jaylen Warren. The ball looked like it was thrown behind Warren and behind where Pickett let it go. The Packers clearly recovered the football and would have taken over deep in Pittsburgh territory.
Unfortunately, the ruling on the field was incomplete pass. The replay clearly showed the ball was not a forward pass, that it was either a lateral or a backwards pass but for the replay officials did not overturn the call.
Had the play been properly overturned, the Packers would have had a very big opportunity to put more points on the board. They were trailing 17-13 at the time and could have taken the lead at halftime.
Sixth Thing We Learned: Corey Ballentine Overcame a Slow Start
The Packers were without Jaire Alexander who was inactive due to injuries, so the starting boundary cornerbacks were rookie Carrington Valentine and Corey Ballentine who was recently moved from the practice squad to the active roster.
The Steelers started to pick on Ballentine early in the game and they were effective especially on the opening drive.
But Ballentine finished the game strong. He made six total tackles in the game and broke up two passes.
The Packers held Pickett and the Steelers to a paltry 5.5-yards per attempt and 9.0-yards per completion. The secondary did a good job overall and Ballentine was part of it.
Seventh Thing We Learned in the Packers Loss: Christian Watson Is Still Struggling
Watson played another disappointing game. He had just two catches on seven targets for 23 yards. Both interceptions thrown by Love were intended for Watson and he should have done a better job of battling for the ball on one of them.
Although Love completed seven passes of 20-yards-or-more against Pittsburgh, none of them were to Watson, the team’s most dangerous deep threat.
Watson also dropped a pass on the Packers second drive.
Watson finished his rookie season strong but has not taken a step forward in his sophomore campaign. In six games this season, he has 14 catches for 236 yards and one score.
Injuries have been a factor for Watson. He missed three full games and parts of others. But he has been disappointing this season and needs a strong finish to the season.
Eighth Thing We Learned: Offensive Line Did OK In Pass Protection
The Steelers have a strong pass rush and that was a big concern for the Packers offense entering the game. But despite throwing 40 passes, Love was sacked only once.
T.J. Watt beat Zach Tom for the sack but that was it for the game.
Pittsburgh was credited with five quarterback hits, but for most of the game, Rasheed Walker, Elgton Jenkins, Josh Myers, Jon Runyan and Tom did a good job of protecting the quarterback from a potent pass rush.
Ninth Thing We Learned in the Packers Loss: Luke Musgrave Is Showing More
Musgrave continues to show more downfield ability with each passing game. He had two catches against Pittsburgh, and both were downfield.
One catch gained 36 yards and the other picked up 28.
Look for head coach Matt LaFleur to do even more with Musgrave down the stretch as the rookie becomes more knowledgeable and comfortable in the offense.
Tenth Thing We Learned: This Team Is Still Learning to Win
The big difference between the Packers and the Steelers right now is that Pittsburgh knows how to win while the young Packers are still learning.
Green Bay had plenty of chances to pull this game out, but they fell short on their final two drives and turned the ball over.
We are seeing progress, but the team still needs to figure out how to pull these games out at the end.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
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