Packers quarterback Jordan Love 'really disappointed' with first NFL start
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Give Jordan Love credit for at least one thing from his first career start. He didn’t try to shade it through rose-colored glasses.
The Green Bay Packers second-year quarterback could have made excuses, blamed the distractions, hid behind all the factors that conspired against him, making his NFL debut one to forget. Love started last week thinking it would be like any other, a developing quarterback tucked safely in the shadows, blissful obscurity behind Aaron Rodgers.
By the time he stood at the podium following the Packers’ flat, 13-7 loss Sunday to a Kansas City Chiefs team begging to give this game away, that must have felt like a lifetime ago.
Love had crutches to lean on if he felt inclined. He didn’t learn he would get his first NFL start until Wednesday morning. He didn’t speak to the media until Friday, wrapped in a cocoon as he transitioned from backup to the spotlight. It was a whirlwind, this much-anticipated NFL debut for the Packers’ first-round quarterback. When it was over, the aftermath left debris everywhere.
Love looked at what happened Sunday evening, his 19-for-34 passing for 190 yards and a 69.5 rating, the inability to generate points, and showed a leadership that might serve him well going forward.
He didn’t shrink from the blame. He owned it.
“Really disappointed,” Love said. “Obviously, you never know when the opportunity is going to come, and I got it today. Not being able to go win that game, and obviously we had a lot of chances on offense, the defense played a really good game. They gave us a lot of chances, and I think that’s what’s most disappointing, is I wasn’t able to execute.”
“As a team, we weren’t able to go finish and get some more points on the board early. It was just too little, too late at the end. So it is very disappointing.”
BOX SCORE:Chiefs 13, Packers 7
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Love’s first game day as a starter began peaceably enough. There were no nerves when he woke up Sunday morning, he said. Before kickoff, Love had a chance to connect with Rodgers. If not for Rodgers’ positive COVID-19 test Wednesday morning, Sunday would have taken on a much different vibe, pitting the three-time MVP quarterback with fellow MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Rodgers stayed back home in Green Bay, unable to travel to Kansas City because of NFL protocol. Two days after setting off a firestorm with his comments against COVID-19 vaccinations, snippets of which were parodied in this week’s "Saturday Night Live" opener, it’s a mystery how Rodgers viewed Sunday’s game.
Before kickoff, Love said he got some helpful advice from the quarterback he’s studied since being drafted in the 2020 first round.
“He was just telling me to go out and ball out,” Love said. “He was excited to watch me. He said just trust my feet. Which I think was really good advice coming from him.”
The Chiefs had Love’s feet moving throughout. He was only sacked once but hit seven times, under constant pressure. Matt LaFleur fell on the sword afterward, blaming himself for not having a better plan against the Chiefs’ blitz package, but it was clear the Packers coach and offensive play caller wanted to simplify his young quarterback’s game plan.
On the opening play, Love rolled right on a designed bootleg and had tight end Dominique Dafney open in the right flat. His throw sailed wide, essentially missing an open layup. It was a common theme throughout, Love’s accuracy shaky.
By kickoff, Love said, the nerves that didn’t exist when he woke up had settled into his gut.
“Once I hit the field for that first drive,” Love said, “there were a little nerves. Missed my first two throws on the drive, went three-and-out. I think after that, I was able to settle down a little bit.”
Even if he felt calm, Love’s play remained erratic. He targeted All-Pro receiver Davante Adams 14 times, a wise choice for any quarterback making his first start, but completed only six for 42 yards. Adams hung his hands on his hips after more than one incompletion, exemplifying the overall frustration for an offense playing without its regular starting quarterback.
Love, who takes scout-team reps as the Packers’ backup quarterback most weeks, said it was hard to build chemistry with his top receiver in a time crunch.
“It’s something that takes time being able to build that chemistry,” Love said. “It’s something him and Aaron have very well, they’ve been together for awhile. So, yeah, the chemistry wasn’t there yet, but it’s something I think was able to progress as the game went on. We were talking through some things and getting on the same page. I think it progressed as the game went on.”
Love’s disappointment only amplified with how well the Packers' defense played.
That the defense held a Chiefs offense led by one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks to only 13 points, none in the second half, and 237 yards in what might have been its most impressive performance this season. LaFleur was effusive in his praise for the Packers' defense afterward, holding Tyreek Hill to four catches and 37 yards, while Travis Kelce had a modest five catches, 68 yards and a touchdown.
The Chiefs have uncharacteristically struggled this season. What their offense put on the field Sunday will add to that. Still, a Packers defense that lost defensive tackle Kenny Clark (back) and rookie cornerback Eric Stokes (knee) had a lot to do with it. The defense kept this game close, gave Love and the Packers' offense a chance to win it, but the young quarterback never could string together enough plays to get over the hump.
On the periphery, the way Love carried himself this difficult week left teammates impressed.
“He’s going to continue to fight,” running back Aaron Jones said. “He’s going to keep grinding. He’s a true leader. He took control of that huddle. Even when we’re down 13-0, he’s still in the huddle, ‘Hey, we need a play. Come on guys, lock in.’ All the right things you want to hear from your quarterback. You can tell in that game he never once got down on himself and just continued to play.”
Still, a quarterback’s primary job is to make plays. Everything else is secondary. On Sunday, Love didn’t make nearly enough, leaving no doubt how the Packers will proceed this week.
If Rodgers is asymptomatic Saturday, this start to the Love era will be only one game. LaFleur said Saturday night Rodgers will “absolutely” be his team’s starting quarterback next week against the Seattle Seahawks, even if he doesn’t practice at all this week.
“I think he’s gone through enough,” LaFleur said, “where, yeah, you’d like guys to practice all week long, but I don’t think it’s absolutely imperative to be able to do that. I’m sure he’s well in tune with our plan, and he feels good about it, and that we Zoom him in for the meetings or whatever it may be. But we’ll see where we’re at toward the end of the week.”
That would leave just one game for the Packers to evaluate before they decide after this season how to proceed at the game’s most important position. It’s possible Love could become the team’s full-time starter next fall. Love made it clear Sunday he still feels ready to be an NFL starting quarterback, his confidence unshaken.
The Packers will need to decide if their confidence in Love as quarterback of the future is unchanged after his lackluster debut.
“It’s only up from here in my eyes,” Love said. “It was really good to get the first game out of the way and get a lot of tape and see a lot of different (things). The defense was able to bring a lot of different things today. It’s a learning moment for me.
“I get to go back and look at it and learn, see what I can do better, see where my feet can be better, where my ball placement can be better, and obviously just learning, seeing what the defense is throwing at me and what they’re going to bring.”