Defying Doubters and Expectations: Packers Final Stretch of 2023

As the calendar turned to December, the Packers were sitting at a 5-6 record and just out of a playoff spot. They would have a tall order ahead of them if they wanted to semi-shock the world and make the postseason, beginning with the Super Bowl Champions in the Chiefs. They were surely going to come down from their high, right? 



As it would turn out, the Packers began the month with a huge Sunday Night win over Kansas City at Lambeau 27-19. Coming into the game as six-point underdogs, the script would be flipped as the team played their best football to that point and probably the best game they’ve played in the last two seasons.

Jordan Love had a complete 180 of his 2021 game and out duelled the reigning MVP of the league, passing for 267 yards and three touchdowns and no turnovers, while Patrick Mahomes struggled again against the Packers’ defense, going 21/33 for 210 yards, a touchdown and an interception. 

Everyone came to play on that night and the team was now slotted in a wild card spot at 6-6 with the toughest stretch of their season behind them. Up next was another primetime matchup against the downtrodden Giants at MetLife the following Monday. Surely, they were going to continue to win against a lesser opponent on paper, right?


The Packers would end up falling to Big Blue in a very sloppy game that saw a combined five turnovers and plenty of miscues to go around. Tommy DeVito had himself a nice game against the Packers defense that seemed to revert to its old ways (thanks Joe Barry) and led the Giants down the field to set up a Randy Bullock 37-yard field goal to win the game. Love also reverted to his old ways, as he and the offense struggled against the Giants defense for most of the night. 

Up next was the Buccaneers, whom, while no slouches in their own rights, were still not a great team all season. Surely, the Packers would…ok this joke has been done enough in this article, they lost.

Baker Mayfield (who in my opinion should win Comeback Player of the Year and has been disrespected for no fault of his own by fans and the media) had a PERFECT day against the Packers defense (thanks again, Joe Barry), throwing for four touchdowns and had a passer rating of 158.3 as the Packers fell 34-20 and were sent to 6-8.

The offense didn’t have a particularly bad day against the Bucs, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a career day from the former first overall pick. The playoffs were looking in doubt now, as the team was looking like they would miss the playoffs for the second consecutive year again. 

They would travel to Carolina next where yet again, the opposing QB would have a great day on the defense (I’ve thanked Joe Barry enough, so I don’t need to do it again). Bryce Young would have his best game of his young career, going 23/36 and 312 yards with two touchdowns, as the Panthers roared back from a 30-16 deficit to tie the game with four minutes remaining in the 4th quarter.

This time however, Love would lead a game winning drive of his own and Anders Carlson put in the 32-yard dagger with almost no time left for the Panthers to come back and win 33-30. With the close call win, the Packers improved to 7-8 and had an outside shot at the playoffs. Their next two games were against division foes in the Vikings and Bears. They had their work cut out for them.

In the final game of the calendar year, the Packers traveled to Minnesota on a New Year’s Eve Sunday Night game and absolutely annihilated the injured Vikings squad 33-10. It wasn’t even close as the Packers jumped out to a 23-3 lead at the half and never looked like the Vikings were going to come back, unlike the previous week against Carolina. Love had yet another stellar game, throwing for 256 yards and two touchdowns and adding another on the ground. 

The Packers were once again sitting at 8-8 and controlled their own destiny like they did the previous year. A win and in scenario was set for Week 18 at Lambeau against a divisional foe that was looking to play spoiler and keep them out of the playoffs. The good news for the Packers this time: it wasn’t in primetime, and it was against the Bears. 


Unlike last year, the Packers would not faulter. They were able to beat the Bears in a game that was a little too close at times, 17-9. Even though it was against two teams that were devoid of offense, the Packers defense only gave up one touchdown in those last two games and a combined 19 points.

The offense did take a back seat in this game, but they were able to do enough, and Love would have another good game against the Bears like he did in Week 1 (safe to say, Rodgers taught him well).

The Green Bay Packers were back in the postseason, this time as the seventh seed (which I still think they need to go back to 12 teams, but I digress) and drew the Dallas Cowboys in the first round, on a field that the team has had great success (noticeably, their last Super Bowl victory and a playoff win over Dallas in 2016) at AT&T Stadium (or Lambeau Field II, in my eyes).

But this was a different Dallas team. This 2023 squad was much better than their 2016 outfit, specifically on defense, which was a top five unit, Dak is no longer a rookie and had arguably his best season, finishing first in TD passes and rebounding from an injury-plagued 2022 and Mike McCarthy was now on the opposite sideline as the Head Coach of the Cowboys. But it was still a beatable team if the Packers come prepared for the fight, and boy, did they ever come ready.

Through the first three quarters, it was complete domination by the Packers on both sides of the ball. The offense scored touchdowns on six of their first seven drives and the defense added two interception in the first half as the Packers took a 48-16 lead with about ten minutes left in the game. The Cowboys would mount some offense, but the Packers would make history and shock the world with a 48-32 drubbing of the Cowboys.

Love shined in his first outing, posting a 157.2 passer rating (like what CJ Stroud did a day earlier) and throwing for three scores. Aaron Jones would pick up where he left off in 2019 (four TDs last time they visited Dallas in 2019) and ran for 118 yards and three touchdowns. The team was also the first seven seed to advance to the Divisional Round (after none made it in 1982 and 2020-22). Once again, they would face another familiar foe from the Rodgers Era and the team that had put them out of the playoffs four times in the last eleven seasons: The San Francisco 49ers. Much like those previous games, it was looking like another blow out was going to occur at Levi Stadium.

Except it didn’t. The game was more akin to their 2021 bout in Santa Clara, as they would exchange scores throughout the game. After a field goal and defensive stop to open the game, the Packers would make a mistake that has bit them several times in the past: going for it instead of taking the field goal to go up 6-0.

The 49ers would then capitalize on the gaff and score a touchdown when Brock Purdy hit George Kittle for a 32-yard touchdown. The Packers would respond with a field goal on the next drive and the half would end 7-6. The Packers would come out swinging in the second half and would take a 21-14 lead with 5:23 to go in the third. The teams would trade punts thereafter, followed by a 49ers field goal early in the fourth. The teams would exchange punts again, which then set up the Packers to seal the game on the ensuing drive. It started out promising with an 53-yard run by Jones:

Following this, the drive would stall and it would be up to Anders Carlson to put the Packers back up by 7.

Carlson’s miss would set up the game winning TD by Christian McCaffrey and the 49ers would end the Packers season following an interception on the final drive. Green Bay was now 0-5 in the playoffs against San Francisco since the 2012 season. This time however, there was more optimism following a tough loss.

2023 Recap

To say that the Packers had a successful season by what was expected of them would be a massive understatement. Since November, the team went from looking like a bottom five team to a top eight team (in terms of where they finished, record aside) and hung with the two teams that ended up in the Super Bowl this season, even knocking off one of them in early December. 

Jordan Love certainly proved me (and most people) very wrong about him at least being a starter for the foreseeable future in Green Bay. I’m not ready to call him the “franchise QB,” but I’m confident that he will continue to build off of his success in 2024. He ended up finishing the year with the second most passing TDs in the league with 32 to 11 interceptions and 4159 yards passing, which exceeds what his predecessors did in their first year as the starting QB.

Moreover, he did it with the youngest team in the league, and helped bring them to the postseason, unlike Favre and Rodgers in their first year. Also worth noting is the stretch he had in the final ten games of the regular season: 69% completion percentage with 21 Passing TDs to 3 INTs and a rating of 108.2, which is better than most full seasons QBs have had in the past two seasons.

Moreover, the growth of this young team was very fun to watch. The receiving corp in particular, which I’ve vented about before in 2022, was the biggest eye opener other than Love’s impressive second half of the season. While none will pop out to the untrained eye on paper, Romeo Doubs was an unsung hero of that offense, along with the emergence of rookies Jayden Reed (who led the team in total TDs and receptions) and Dontayvion Wicks provided a look at potentially the next top trio on the Packers (like Nelson, Cobb, and Adams before them).

Christian Watson still remains a big question mark, as he was oft injury prone and would show up every now and then. Rookie tight ends Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft also may finally lead to stability at the position for the first time since Jermichael Finley was terrorizing defenses in the early 2010s.

As it’s been for years, the defense was still an issue for the team. At times, it did look as though it wouldn’t be an issue, and they did end up finishing 10th in points allowed and held good offenses at bay. But the inconsistency and giving up points to poor offenses like the Panthers was a major red flag. I won’t totally blame them for the loss against the 49ers, but they did surrender yards and points at the most inopportune times. Fortunately, the Packers made the right move after their season ended:

I didn’t like the hire back in 2021 and the defense was certainly not playing up to what they were capable of in most games (and seeing linebackers lined up on opposing team’s number one wide receivers was growing tiresome), but that’s been a recuring theme with the Packers in the last thirty years for the most part. They did do something different though: they looked outside the NFL ranks for their next defensive coordinator:

Time will tell if the defense is better off under an unknown at the professional level, but I am for trying something different. Jeff Hafley is a long-time friend of Matt LaFleur’s, so it will be interesting to see if the hire was a good idea or a hire based on connections that flops. I hope it’s the former, for once.

Speaking of the head coach, Matt LaFluer has won me over again…for now. I still disagree with his frequent passing up of points, but he has steered the ship in the correct direction after all of the chaos and uncertainty that came with the departure of Rodgers. He could have easily folded and settled for a six-win season, but he guided the young Packers to a winning record and another playoff win. Now if he can just get over the hump of beating another good friend in Kyle Shannahan in the playoffs….

I’m very excited for next season. The team now has the experience to take the next step and reclaim the NFC North back from the Lions and has a lot to play with come draft time. There are still linger questions as to who will be let go during free agency and what to do about certain contracts, but with more cap space coming their way and being done with Rodgers’ dead cap hit, expect the Packers to make a little more noise this offseason. It’s crazy how much difference a year makes. Last year at this time, I was expecting another dark age for the team…

…Now I’m expecting a Super Bowl in the near future. Go Pack Go!