The Green Bay Packers are headed to the wild-card round of the NFC playoffs. They’ll be playing against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Jan. 14.
ESPN Packers reporter Rob Demovsky joined “Morning Edition” Host Alex Crowe to talk about how he thinks the Pack will stack up against the Cowboys.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
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Alex Crowe: Let’s start on the offensive side of the football, because Jordan Love has really been a success story for the Packers in his first full season as a starter. What are some of the things you’ve seen from him so far this year that put the Packers in this position to make the playoffs?
Rob Demovsky: It’s really the past couple of months more than the whole year, because early in the year, he struggled. They didn’t win a game in the month of October, they had trouble scoring points.
But somewhere around week 10 or 11, you can just tell that he became more comfortable with this team; Matt LaFleur became more comfortable with him as quarterback. They have the youngest team in the league, and it’s young at the receiver position. So it’s not surprising that maybe it took a little bit of time.
The more you saw Jordan Love play, and not that I’m comparing him to Aaron Rodgers, but you started to see some things in his mannerisms. The way he went about things sort of reminded you of Aaron Rodgers and certainly late in the year, he turned into maybe the best quarterback in the league over the last eight weeks of the season. He had 18 touchdowns and one interception from week 11 on.
AC: On the defensive side of the ball — just before the Bears game, the defense looked like it was on a downslide. There were calls for Joe Barry, the defensive coordinator, to be fired. Then all it took was a game against the Bears for that defense to get right again. What are we expecting from the defensive unit as they go ahead to take on the Cowboys?
RD: The calls for Joe Barry to be fired have not exactly gone away, Alex. I think it’s gonna take a pretty deep playoff run for him to be back as coordinator next year.
In the meantime, they’re going forward with what they have. What they have is an up and down unit that’s got some pretty good individual talent but has struggled to put it all together, and now you’re going down to Dallas to play possibly one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. So the challenge for this defense is as big as it’s been all year.
AC: As we look specifically at the Cowboys on the offensive side of the ball, they have a lot of weapons, particularly at the receiver position. Unit matchup-wise, are we looking at Cowboys receivers vs. Packers (defensive backs) as the key to the game?
RD: I think that’s certainly one of them. I don’t know how they stop, or how anybody stops, CeeDee Lamb for that matter. Wisconsin people will be familiar with Jake Ferguson, the former Badger, who has had a really fine year for the Cowboys at the tight end position.
The Packers have struggled more against the run this year than they have against the pass, but the Packers’ secondary has been a revolving door all year. Jaire Alexander is finally back — it looks like he’s able to play. They’ve had a ton of injuries in that secondary and it’s been hard. I don’t know how they slow this offense down, quite honestly. And Dak Prescott is having probably his best season at quarterback.
AC: You mentioned the youth of this team, and I’ve seen some stats floating around. They’re one of the youngest teams to ever make the postseason in the NFL — granted it is an expanded postseason. How have the Packers been able to step up this season? How have they been able to grow and mature and put themselves in this position to now be in the playoffs as such a young squad?
RD: They don’t have a single catch by a receiver who has more than two years of NFL experience because they don’t have a receiver who has more than two years of NFL experience. When you look up and down that list of receivers, you got to give credit to General Manager Brian Gutekunst — he’s taken a lot of heat for never using a first-round pick on a receiver. But they’ve managed to find guys in the second, third, fourth and fifth rounds.
Jayden Reed, as a second-round pick, has been as good a rookie receiver as the Packers have ever had. That’s right, I use the word “ever.” He broke Sterling Sharpe’s rookie record for catches with 64, he tied for the rookie lead in the NFL and touchdown catches this year with eight. He also has two rushing touchdowns.
Then you throw in a guy like Dontayvion Wicks, a fifth-round pick who might end up one day being their No. 1 block wide receiver. They’ve had some some injury issues, but those young guys have really come together.
One of those young guys, Bo Melton, a former practice squad guy who’s had two really big games the last couple of weeks, let slip last week that they have been going over to Jordan Love’s house every Monday for a sort of dinner and a movie, but it’s a football version of that. Because it’s dinner and then they watch film as an offensive group. Things like that, you know, the teams and players (get) away from the facility, I think, can go a long way. I would suspect that that’s at least a small part of why the Packers offense has been able to be successful.
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