Jordan Love Will Bother Vikings — Here’s Why
The 3-4 Minnesota Vikings face the 2-4 Green Bay Packers. All eyes, no matter the side, from the two neighboring states will be on Lambeau Field. It might be the last chance for the Packers to really turn the season around, coming off two straight losses against subpar teams. The Vikings, meanwhile, have won two straight, including Monday’s masterclass against the scary 49ers.
Jordan Love Will Bother Vikings — Here’s Why
One guy in the spotlight will be first-year starter Jordan Love, who took over the reins from Aaron Rodgers. Before Rodgers, it was Brett Favre quarterbacking the green rivals. Minnesota had to face Hall of Fame passers for three decades while having many different signal-callers, some good, some bad. For the first time in a while, it is fair to say that the Vikings have the better quarterback. But Love could still be a problem for the Vikes and defensive coordinator Brian Flores and his defensive unit.
The young quarterback sat behind Rodgers for three seasons and entered 2023 as the starter with a total of 83 career pass attempts through three seasons. Learning by just watching the starter play doesn’t work, as the Broncos found out when Peyton Manning retired, and they put their faith into his backup, the guy who watched him day in and day out, Brock Osweiler. No Patriots backup over the years, or Kyle Trask in Tampa Bay turned into Tom Brady. The guy has to have enough talent himself and get the right coaching.
Love was a total mystery when he entered the season. Had he looked like an MVP candidate like Patrick Mahomes in his first year as a starter, folks would’ve shrugged and said, sure, the Packers found another great player. And it certainly looked like it for a couple of games when Love had 6 TDs without an interception. But those numbers regressed to 10 scores and 7 picks.
He is prone to mistakes, and those kept him from getting drafted higher than with the 26th overall pick in 2020. Love led college football in INTs in his final season at Utah State, throwing to the opposing team 17 times in 13 games. He is a playmaker, trying to scramble outside the pocket, consistently looking for the big play. Those things can backfire, and his risk-taking tendency was viewed as a problem in the draft and as a problem coming into the season. Surely, a young QB struggles when the defense pressures him, especially when he encounters a blitz, right? Well, not in this case.
Love has been excellent against the blitz. According to Pro Football Focus, Love was blitzed on 29.2% of his dropbacks, and he has yet to turn the ball over but found the end zone three times. His four big-time throws rank him close to the top, and his two turnover-worthy plays are also among the league’s best. His grade is 8th among QBs with at least 60 blitzed dropbacks.
On the flip side, Love threw seven touchdowns and interceptions when he wasn’t blitzed, and his grade dropped to 25th of 26 QBs. He produced three big-time throws and five turnover-worthy plays. His yards per attempt declined from 6.8 to 6.5.
So blitzing Love doesn’t seem like the smart move. This is where the chess game begins. Flores, Vikings’ defensive coordinator in his first season, has been blitzing on 56.4% of the pass plays this season, by far the most in the NFL. His crazy approach could backfire. However, it has been a staple of the defense and has worked more often than not. Sending extra rushers will put the passer in conflict and could hurry his process, leading to more mistakes. At least in theory.
The Vikings also lead the league in three-man rushes, which is also how Love made a couple of mistakes against the Raiders in Week 6. Flores will most likely mix up his defensive play calls all game, forcing Love to quickly read pass-rush and coverage right after the snap.
The Packers haven’t encountered a defense like the 2023 Vikings this season because there simply isn’t another one that is even close to them. It could go either way if Love continues to make the right plays against the blitz, but a couple of bad plays are enough to decide the game, which is what Flores is banking on. The Vikings have caught a couple of interceptions in back-to-back weeks.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt