HomeFootball DirtThe matchup between Jordan Love and Brock Purdy showcased their imperfections

The matchup between Jordan Love and Brock Purdy showcased their imperfections

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Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin / USA TODAY NETWORK

Love’s success in his first season as a starter has been predicated on his ability to loft accurate throws to wide open targets schemed into space by head coach Matt LaFleur’s playcalling. But while he had a handful of those throws in Santa Clara, he also proved he could lift the offense with his arm in big moments and missile strikes in tight windows on the sideline:

Later in the game, Love faced third-and-15 with little hope of conversion, But the fourth-year QB was smart enough to underthrow a deep ball, going to WR4 Bo Melton, in part, because he was covered by Ambry Thomas, who has the second-worst passer rating allowed in coverage of any San Francisco defensive back. When that floater hung in the air, Thomas contacted Melton for a 41-yard pass interference penalty.

Drive saved. One play later, Love got to do that thing where he slings the ball to a wide open receiver; i.e. the crux of the Packers’ playbook.

But if we’re going to point out one play on which the Packers can hang their hat, it came later in the third quarter. The pass that suggests Love can be a worthy successor to Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers — you know, on the field specifically and not one bit off it — wasn’t a touchdown throw. But it did set one up.

This was a terrifying throw in real time. A back-foot shot over the middle. At first glance it seems to be behind Romeo Doubs, too.

But this is a laser from Love, all while getting cracked by Nick Bosa in the backfield. It’s not behind Doubs; it’s put in a place a fast-closing safety or a trailing cornerback can’t get to it but his intended target can. And since Doubs has developed a connection with his quarterback, he knows to sit down in that space and adjust back to the ball for a 15-yard gain. Two plays later, the Packers had their first touchdown from the red zone.

These good vibes didn’t last. While Purdy had his interceptable passes dropped, the 49ers turned Love’s worst throw of the first 59 minutes — a horribly off-target checkdown — into an easy turnover.

A third-and-short pass the very next drive was so far behind an open Aaron Jones that it should have been picked off. Love was asked to step up in the fourth quarter and instead dug himself a hole with a stick of dynamite before jumping in. After chalking up 7.9 expected points added (EPA) in the first three quarters, he slunk to a -6.3 EPA in the final frame, giving San Francisco just enough space to steal a win.

So let’s talk about the young quarterback who’ll be happy drinking Saturday night.

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