Green Bay Packers

NFL 2024 playoffs: Packers’ Jordan Love, Texans’ C.J. Stroud prove QBs still matter more than elite defenses

USATSI

The Cowboys entered Sunday’s wild-card matchup with the Packers favored by a touchdown, in part because of a top-five-ranked defense featuring three-time All-Pro Micah Parsons. Instead, Green Bay’s Jordan Love carved up Dallas for a near-perfect postseason debut, effortlessly tossing three touchdowns in a 48-32 rout of America’s Team.

It’s hard to overstate Love’s performance, which included a handful of off-balance strikes reminiscent of reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes and famed Packers predecessor Aaron Rodgers. Still in his first full year as Green Bay’s starter, the 25-year-old was accurate targeting every level of Dan Quinn’s once-vaunted “D,” wholly unflappable from start to finish.

But just as notable as Love easily outdueling Dak Prescott to embarrass the Cowboys in their own stadium? The fact that he was the second young QB to destroy a so-called “elite” defense in as many days.

Less than 24 hours before Love aired it out on Dallas, Texans rookie C.J. Stroud posted a nearly identical stat line torching the Browns in a 45-14 upset, despite Cleveland entering with the top-ranked defense in the entire NFL:

Jordan Love

Packers

16-21

272

3

157.2 Cowboys No. 5 W, 48-32

C.J. Stroud

Texans

16-21

274

3

157.2 Browns No. 1 W, 45-14

Dallas also ranked No. 5 in scoring defense, with the Browns entering 13th in that category, while boasting their own Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Myles Garrett. In the end, none of it mattered as the two units surrendered a combined 92 points.

Is “elite” defense irrelevant? Better yet, a farce? Neither necessarily holds true. The Rams won the Super Bowl to close the 2021 season in large part due to their Aaron Donald-led defense, which kept Joe Burrow and the Bengals under wraps. The 49ers have been to three of the last four NFC title games thanks partially to an ever-opportunistic defense. The reigning champion Chiefs just advanced to the divisional round by blanking the high-octane Dolphins offense with rugged physicality.

And yet, if Love and Stroud can teach us anything, it’s probably that elite QB play just matters more. And if it comes from up-and-coming signal-callers, then all the merrier! A year after the Chiefs’ Super Bowl showdown with the Eagles was decided almost entirely by a shootout of high-level QBs, the fans in Green Bay and Houston have plenty of reason to celebrate this weekend’s results. The future is bright, and apparently so is the present.




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