“When they pulled away, I sent him a text message because I wanted him to be able to get back to his phone. I said, ‘Congrats on keeping the ownership in place,'” he recounted in a September 22 appearance on The Pat McAfee Show.
Although it was Love’s second career start, that divisional clash — a 38-20 beatdown at Soldier Field — marked the official start of a post-Rodgers era. Even without his top receiving option in Christian Watson, who has since been sidelined by a hamstring injury, Love completed 15 of his 27 pass attempts for 245 yards and a trio of touchdowns. More importantly, however, is that he didn’t commit a costly error or turn the ball over.
The closest he came to that was a fumbled snap exchange with center Josh Myers, but Love quickly scooped up the ball, set his feet and launched a 37-yard completion to rookie tight end Luke Musgrave. Even in gotta-have-it situations, Love completed eight passes on third and fourth downs for 141 yards and two scores.
“Green Bay quarterbacks have long made the fans of Chicago’s days and nights pretty miserable and I’m happy to see him picking up where I left off,” a grinning Rodgers said.
Love has lofty expectations to aspire to in terms of abusing the Packers’ greatest rival. Rodgers was at the helm for 24 victories over the Bears to just five losses — and one of those losses was a game in which Rodgers left in the first quarter with a broken collarbone. His 64 touchdowns against the Bears is Rodgers’ most against any team, according to Pro Football Reference.
Thanks to Love’s efforts in the September 10 opener, the Packers have now won nine consecutive games against the Bears and the last seven have been by multiple scores.
Rodgers: ‘Ball Security Is Job Security’
General manager Brian Gutekunst’s decision to move up four spots in the first round to bring aboard Utah State’s Love in the spring of 2020 essentially put a time limit on Rodgers’ tenure in Green Bay. Like Rodgers behind his predecessor, Brett Favre, Love sat on the bench for three seasons and absorbed as much knowledge as humanly possible. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Love wasn’t able to play in a preseason game until 2021.
Each summer, he’s gradually improved — both in his decision-making and in his passing mechanics. Above all else, he was even-keeled and the notion that he was replacing a future Hall-of-Famer never appeared to rattle him.
“I think you just gotta not listen to those expectations outside the facility and outside your own mind,” Rodgers said. “He’s done a great job of that. He’s always had a good head on his shoulders. He put in a lot of great work last year that I think set him up to be confident. I think that’s what I saw in the preseason — he just looked confident.
“He’s throwing the ball well; the synchronicity between his drops and the route concepts looked really, really sharp. As you know, my game over the years has been taking care of the football and ball security is job security, so for him so far to not throw a pick in two games is really, really important.”
Absences Be Damned, Packers’ Love Has Been Impressive
Not only has Watson been shelved with a hamstring injury of his own for the Packers’ first two games of the regular season, but Aaron Jones has been sidelined for most of that span as well. The dynamic tailback sustained — surprise! — a hamstring injury while crossing the goal line on a 35-yard touchdown reception versus the Bears.
Their absences have drastically impacted the Packers’ offense, but behind Love’s arm — and another three touchdowns he tossed in the September 17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons — they’ve remained competitive. They held a 12-point lead entering the fourth quarter of that contest but allowed a 13-point surge in the final 13 minutes.
Still, through two games, Love is the league’s lone leader in passer rating and his six touchdown passes are tied for the lead. He’s just the fourth quarterback to throw at least three touchdowns with zero interceptions in two of his first three career starts, joining Patrick Mahomes, Kurt Warner and Case Keenum.
“He’s played how we’ve expected him to play,” said head coach Matt LaFleur on Wednesday, September 20. “You never quite know until they get out there but the thing that has been so impressive to me is how he’s played in terms of the poise he’s shown, the confidence — I can see the confidence growing each and every time he gets out there.
“I’m sure there’s going to be some adversity and there was last week — that’s just the nature of the game. It’s all about how you respond, but I’ve been super impressed with how he’s done, just in terms of leading our team, leading our offense and the poise and command he’s shown.