The Green Bay Packers’ Thanksgiving game against the Detroit Lions is the first time Jordan Love faced a familiar team, which is unsurprising given that he’s a first-year starter. Love will likely face the Lions twice a year for the next 15 years until the Packers trade him to the New York Jets. But Sunday night’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs is his second game against a familiar team, and it’s a different story.
Green Bay only plays the Chiefs every few seasons. But thanks to the unique circumstances around Love’s first career start, it will be his second time playing against Kansas City, albeit at Lambeau this year.
The narrative couldn’t be more different for Love between these two starts. Love is in a much better place in his career now but with higher stakes. Sunday night’s matchup is a perfect place to remind NFL fans how far he’s come as a starting quarterback. Even though there isn’t a consensus on Love yet, Packers fans really weren’t sure how to feel about him in 2021. Rodgers was playing at an MVP level, and Love was a backup rather than someone actively contributing weekly.
Aaron Rodgers vs. Patrick Mahomes is a highlight game everyone wanted to see. However, the league ruled Rodgers out of the game thanks to a positive COVID test. Fast forward to 2023, and Mahomes and Rodgers still haven’t played each other. But Love got his first test, and Packer Nation got a look at their potential future.
The result wasn’t the prettiest in Packers history. The game ended in a 13-7 loss, and Green Bay didn’t score until the fourth quarter. Love struggled against the constant blitzing from the Kansas City defense. And, as usual, special teams let this team down, leaving plenty of points on the field.
Love completed 19/34 passes for 190 yards, one interception, and one touchdown, with a long of 35. Kansas City sacked him once, and he fumbled but recovered the ball. His first career TD was a 20-yarder to Allen Lazard.
While Love didn’t have an amazing day, Mahomes wasn’t any better. Mahomes went 20/37 for 166 yards and a TD. Not a great day at the office for one of the best to ever do it. And the Packers didn’t tailor their game plan for Love, thanks to how late in the week they made the QB change. Still, Love’s performance wasn’t enough to convert many fans, even though he outplayed Mahomes. And his mother had to watch the game from the stratosphere.
Love wouldn’t get another start until 2023, but he got extensive training in 2022. The Packers hired Tom Clements to replace quarterback coach Luke Getsy, who the Chicago Bears hired as their defensive coordinator. Clements worked on Love’s mechanics, especially his footwork, and helped him grow into the quarterback he is today.
The Jordan Love who will start against Kansas City this year has become a quality starting quarterback. Clements’ mentorship, Matt LaFleur and Brian Gutekunst’s willingness to build the team around No. 10, and that team’s unwavering belief in their new QB1 leave us with a confident, more refined Love.
In October, it was harder to be sure about Love. But after having his best game three weeks in a row and having a dominant performance against the division-leading Lions, Love looks ready to take on the defending Super Bowl champs.
Despite winning the Super Bowl last season, the Chiefs aren’t looking as dominant as usual. In 2021, Green Bay had Davante Adams, and Kansas City had Tyreek Hill. Both players moved on, and the Packers and the Chiefs have looked to young, inexperienced receivers to fill the void. While Green Bay’s young pass-catching corps is starting to ascend, Kansas City’s group has struggled.
But the Chiefs defense that tormented Love in his first start is even stronger in 2023, elevating the team while the offense sorts itself out. Love must show what he’s learned about making the plays he should and staying calm in the pocket to come out on top.
LaFleur noted how far Love has come since that first game and since he’s become the starter. Green Bay’s head coach said he didn’t do enough to help Love against the blitz in that first matchup. But now Love can do so much more and have a better game plan. “You can dial up maybe some of those mid-to-deeper plays that take a little longer to develop,” LaFleur said on Monday, “trusting if we don’t block it perfect, he’s going to get the ball out.”
Love still needs to execute and be the leader this team needs, but he’s well earned his teammates’ belief in him. The Chiefs game represents a good showcase of his growth and just how far he’s come. Love feels ready to convert Taylor Swift to the glory of the Packer Way. And Love’s mother should have a much better seat this time around.