GREEN BAY, Wis. — All around him, a shaky Green Bay Packers offense threatened to undermine Jordan Love’s introduction to his third preseason.
Rookie receiver Romeo Doubs dropped a pass with no San Francisco 49ers defender around him not long after catching a touchdown. Tight end Tyler Davis let a pass hit his hands and turn into a red-zone interception. Later, on a third-and-8 pick, two receivers ran the wrong route.
In the past, Love could have crumbled in the midst of so much chaos. It wasn’t long ago the 2020 first-round pick looked like a deer in headlights with Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnola blitzing him relentlessly in his first NFL start. Given the turbulence, perhaps the most impressive growth Love showed in the first half of Friday night’s 28-21 loss to the 49ers is he didn’t fold.
“It was a smooth operation,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “I thought he got us in and out of the huddle extremely crisp and with urgency. I thought he made some off-schedule plays. He showed some nice athleticism on a couple of those runs as well. So there was a lot of good things out there from Jordan, just the poise that he showed in the pocket. That’s something that we were looking at. I thought overall, just the process of everything, I thought was a pretty good first step for him.”
Love has 'unfortunate' interceptions but ends half with touchdown
Love’s composure, a key ingredient for any successful NFL quarterback, showed on a night his stat line underwhelmed. He completed 13 of 24 passes (54.2%) for 176 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions and a 66 passer rating. It was his lowest passer rating in three career preseason starts, but LaFleur absolved his quarterback of the most significant blemishes.
After Davis’ drop turned into a pick, Love’s next possession ended the same way. Doubs appeared to catch a high pass on an out route near the left sideline, only to have 49ers cornerback Samuel Womack III wrestle it away before landing on the ground.
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) August 13, 2022
Love threw his third straight interception one drive later, throwing to Amari Rodgers on third down in the middle of the field despite Womack’s blanket coverage. He said his pass was behind Rodgers, but LaFleur said his quarterback had nowhere else to throw after two receivers ran the wrong route.
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) August 13, 2022
“I think two of those you can totally take off him,” LaFleur said. “The third one, we had two busted routes because the ball really shouldn’t have gone there on that play, but he had nowhere else to go with the football and he forced it in there and the defender made a good play. We’ve just got to clean up everything around him. A lot of times, we say it all the time about quarterbacks: They’re going to get too much credit when we do well, and they’re going to get a lot of the main blame when we don’t. That’s just the reality of playing that position in this league, but I was pleased with Jordan’s performance.”
Love responded to the picks with a nine-play, 70-yard touchdown drive with 2:36 left. He found former Badgers receiver Danny Davis downfield near the right sideline for a 33-yard touchdown with 49 seconds left.
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) August 13, 2022
Before the snap, Love said he changed Davis’ route at the line of scrimmage based on the coverage.
“We changed the route at the line and just gave him a go route. I saw the way the DB was playing and just tried to give him a back-shoulder ball. The ball was still a little bit too far forward, but Danny made a great play and was able to come back to it and then go finish it in the end zone. It was an awesome play by him.”
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Doubs beat veteran 49ers cornerback Tarvarius Moore deep for 33 yards on Love’s first touchdown in the opening quarter. It was the highlight of an inconsistent but promising preseason debut for the fourth-round rookie receiver, running past the third-year safety who started eight games for the 49ers last season. Doubs, who has impressed in the first two weeks of training camp, finished with three catches for 45 yards on his seven targets.
“That was a great moment,” LaFleur said of Doubs’ touchdown. “They played man coverage, and he went off the line of scrimmage. It was one of those, if he wasn’t so big, it’s like you don’t want to miss the layup. Jordan did a nice job of giving him a catchable ball, and Romeo finished it.”
Love played with confidence against the 49ers
LaFleur chose to keep most of his starters inactive, though he played his starting offensive line in front of Love. The quarterback had solid protection most of the night. He was not sacked in the first half and appeared more comfortable escaping the pocket when necessary, rushing for 24 yards on four carries.
Love didn’t make every throw, but he let it rip with more confidence than in the past. He fired his fastball more than once, and on the touchdown to Doubs showed good touch hitting his open receiver over the shoulder. More than anything, the Packers wanted to see Love command their offense in a live setting. The offense had 247 yards in the first half and found the end zone twice.
“I think the game action means a lot,” Love said. “Being able to get those reps, seeing different looks on the defense, and just going against different guys. The intensity is a little bit higher, and I think the game action is a lot better than practice.”
This article originally appeared on Packers News: Packers QB Jordan Love did 'lot of good' vs. 49ers, Matt LaFleur says