Patience paying off for Packers QB Jordan Love during his recent surge

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love is producing as many long pass completions as anyone in the league in his first year as a starter.

Yet the key to his recent surge has been his willingness to settle for a smaller gain when a big play isn’t available. Love has thrown for 590 yards with five touchdown passes and no interceptions during the two-game winning streak that the Packers (5-6) carry into a Sunday night matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs (8-3).

“I feel like it’s just comfort, being comfortable in the pocket,” Love said Wednesday regarding his improvement. “Obviously getting more reps, more reps, being comfortable with my reads, understanding what the defense is doing, where I need to go with the ball and just growing and learning (from) every rep I get and obviously learning from mistakes, learning from the good plays.”

Packers quarterbacks coach Tom Clements was more specific this week in discussing one way that Love has learned from earlier mistakes.

“We might have a play that’s designed to go downfield, but if you don’t get the defense that’s best for that type of play, you have to be ready to check it down," Clements said.

"Maybe early in the year he kind of held on to the ball a little longer and maybe didn’t check it down at times. But he’s done that more recently, and it’s paid dividends.”

Packers coach Matt LaFleur has noticed the difference.

“I think he’s done a much better job of that because everybody wants to throw down the field,” LaFleur said. “But sometimes you’ve got to be calculated. It’s got to be there. It’s got to be the right read.”

LaFleur and Clements both discussed how Love showed clear progress during the Packers’ 29-22 Thanksgiving Day victory in Detroit. Clements cited a specific instance in which Love threw a short pass to AJ Dillon, who caught the pass around the line of scrimmage and turned it into a 22-yard gain.

That play started a 62-yard drive resulting in a field goal.

“That was a play designed to go downfield, but he got some pressure quickly and he knew where his checkdown was and he got it out of his hand and made a positive play, and that got the drive going,” Clements said.

Love has shown he’s capable of producing plenty of highlight-worthy plays. He has an NFL-leading 19 completions of at least 30 yards this season. Yet the 25-year-old acknowledges acquiring the patience necessary not to force things has been a learning process.

“It’s just … something that throughout each rep I’ve been able to learn from, grow as a player, understand where I need to go with the ball,” Love said.

“When the look isn’t perfect, understanding where my checkdowns are and how quickly I can get the ball out just so I’m not sitting in the pocket, helping the O-line out by trying to get the ball out quick.”

Love’s teammates say they haven’t seen that much of a difference in Love’s demeanor over the course of the season. They credit his steady approach for helping a young team survive a 2-5 start.

“I think Jordan’s been the same all year, really,” rookie receiver Jayden Reed said. “He comes in with the same mindset, attitude, leadership. I think he does a great job of just keeping everybody on the same page. I think he’s the reason that we haven’t gone the other direction, that we’re up and not down.”

But there’s been a clear change in Love’s production.

Love completed more than 56% of his passes in just one of Green Bay’s first five games. Over his past four games, Love has completed 65.2% of his passes for 1,107 yards with eight touchdown passes and only two interceptions.

His three highest single-game passing yardage totals came in Green Bay’s past three games — 289 yards in a 23-19 loss at Pittsburgh, 322 in a 23-20 win over the Los Angeles Chargers and 268 in last week’s victory at Detroit.

Green Bay’s offense has improved at a similar rate. The Packers had failed to exceed the 20-point mark in seven straight games before breaking through these past two weeks.

“Guys are feeling more comfortable in the system, understanding our roles,” Love said. “And now we’re just going out there and playing, executing the plays and guys are making plays.”

NOTES: Reed (chest), RB AJ Dillon (groin) and RB Aaron Jones (knee) didn’t practice Wednesday. S Darnell Savage (calf) was a full practice participant, an indication he could be on the verge of returning after missing the past five games.