HomeFootball DirtPackers' Optimism Grows as Love Emerges as a Long-Term QB Option

Packers’ Optimism Grows as Love Emerges as a Long-Term QB Option

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — As the Green Bay Packers try to play their way into the postseason, they already have an answer to the question that has surrounded this franchise since the trade of Aaron Rodgers.

They don’t need to worry about their quarterback situation for the foreseeable future. Jordan Love has settled that with his play over the last several weeks.

Love is the first quarterback to complete at least 68% of his passes for 1,800-plus yards and 16-plus touchdowns with no more than one interception over a seven-game stretch since Rodgers did it in his MVP season of 2021.

“I can’t say enough great things about him,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “Just his ability to hang in there versus some tough looks, drifting away from pressure, putting the ball in play, allowing his guys to go make plays. I think he is playing at an incredibly high level.”

The Packers (8-8) can clinch a wild-card berth Sunday by winning at home over the Chicago Bears (7-9).

Green Bay entered this season with the NFL’s youngest team after trading Rodgers to the New York Jets to hand the offense to Love, a 2020 first-round pick from Utah State. That created uncertainty for a franchise accustomed to outstanding quarterback play the last three decades with Rodgers succeeding Hall of Famer Bret Favre.

Love has responded by throwing 30 touchdown passes to rank third in the league, behind Dallas’ Dak Prescott (32) and San Francisco’s Brock Purdy (31).

“I didn’t really have any expectations going into the season,” Love said. “I just wanted to feel it out, see what areas we’re good at, what area’s we weren’t as good at and find ways to get better at that. Obviously, red-zone offense has been pretty decent for us throughout the season. Guys have been making plays down there, finding ways to get into the end zone. I’m not surprised by those numbers.”

Those numbers look like the totals Rodgers put up as a first-year starter for Green Bay in 2008.

Rodgers completed 63.6% of his passes for 4,038 yards with 28 touchdowns and 13 interceptions that season as the Packers finished 6-10. Love has completed 63.1% of his attempts for 3,843 yards with 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Love’s 93.8 passer rating is identical to Rodgers’ 2008 rating.

While it would be ridiculously presumptuous to use those statistics to suggest Love’s career will go the same way Rodgers’ has, they provide ample evidence that the 25-year-old should at least emerge as a long-term starter assuming he stays healthy.

Love had three touchdown passes in each of his first two games, including a season-opening 38-20 victory at Chicago, before enduring some growing pains.

He threw a combined five interceptions and one touchdown pass in losses to Detroit and Las Vegas that started a four-game skid. Green Bay’s offense failed to score a single first-half touchdown during one five-game stretch.

But he’s been on fire lately, throwing 16 touchdown passes with only one interception over his last seven games.

“I think we’ve always had confidence in what we’re doing on offense,” Love said. “I think what’s hurting us early was not executing early on in the game, not starting fast. We put ourselves in some holes.”

LaFleur believes the turning point came in a 23-19 loss at Pittsburgh on Nov. 12. Although Love threw two late interceptions, he had 289 yards passing and led touchdown drives on two of Green Bay’s first three series to end the Packers’ penchant for slow starts.

Love’s sizzling seven-game stretch began the next week.

He’s coming off arguably his best performance. In a game the Packers needed to win to keep their playoff hopes alive, Love threw three touchdowns without an interception in a 33-10 blowout at Minnesota that earned him a selection as NFC offensive player of the week.

“I think he could have gotten it the last few weeks, honestly,” wide receiver Jayden Reed said.

Love has done all this while throwing mainly to rookie and second-year pros who have been in and out of the lineup due to injuries.

Christian Watson, the Packers’ top returning receiver from last season, has missed seven games with a hamstring injury. Rookie second-round pick Luke Musgrave, the Packers’ starting tight end to open the season, has missed the last six games with a lacerated kidney. Veteran running back Aaron Jones missed six games earlier this season due to hamstring and knee issues.

Love has helped the Packers withstand those injuries because he’s established immediate chemistry with teammates up and down his roster. Wide receiver Bo Melton noted that Love has invited teammates to Monday dinners and film sessions at his home this season as a way of building relationships.

“You can definitely tell he’s a guy who wants to connect and grow with everybody,” Watson said.

NOTES: RB AJ Dillon (thumb/neck) and S Rudy Ford (hamstring) won’t play Sunday. LB Isaiah McDuffie (concussion/neck) is doubtful. Watson (hamstring), Reed (chest), Musgrave (kidney), LG Elgton Jenkins (knee/ankle), OLB Preston Smith (ankle), OT Luke Tenuta (ankle), WR Dontayvion Wicks (chest) and RB Emanuel Wilson (shoulder) are questionable.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL

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