GREEN BAY – Jordan Love's first road preseason game in a Packers uniform wasn't flawless, but it was another encouraging step in the second-year quarterback's development.
With the exception of a couple untimely throws, Love passed one of the first tests of his young NFL career when he led a Green Bay offense littered with reserves against a Buffalo Bills defense that played nearly all it starters in the first half of Saturday's preseason finale at Highmark Stadium.
The result, a 19-0 shutout loss, accurately reflected the Packers' inability to punch the ball in the end zone but wasn't a true indicator of Love's ability to lead the offense downfield.
In his return from a sprained rotator cuff that sidelined him last Saturday against the New York Jets, Love completed 12-of-18 passes for 149 yards with a regrettable interception early in the second quarter.
With Love under center, however, the Packers registered 197 total yards in the first half and didn't punt on their first three drives.
"I think as an offense as a whole, we got into a good rhythm today, being able to drive the ball," Love said. "We were kind of moving it and a couple of the drives just got stopped at the end. We kinda hurt ourselves at the end."
Love came out firing on the opening possession. Despite playing in an NFL road environment for the first time, the 22-year-old quarterback managed to draw veteran pass-rusher Jerry Hughes offside on the Packers' first series and Ed Oliver on the third.
Both led to big plays for the Packers' offense. Hughes' encroachment came on third-and-3 and gave Green Bay a new set of downs, leading to Love connecting with Reggie Begelton for 29 yards on the very next play.
In the second quarter, Love managed to get a free play out of Oliver jumping offside, which he used to find Malik Taylor on a back-shoulder fade through coverage for 27 yards.
"It was a free play, got 'em to jump offsides and obviously (I'm) taking a shot when that happens," Love said. "I liked my matchup with Malik, tried to put it on the sideline for him to go get it, and he made a really good catch being able to keep his feet inbounds right there."
Unfortunately, Green Bay wasn't able to get points off either drive. The first ended at the Buffalo 1-yard line after Love's pass to Begelton on a slant fell incomplete.
The third drive, a two-minute period at the end of the first half, was extinguished at the Bills' 10 and didn't produce any points after Mason Crosby missed a 28-yard field goal.
In between came perhaps the biggest teaching moment of all for Love. That second series had the makings of a promising drive after Love rolled out on fourth-and-1 at the Bills' 44 and found tight end Dominique Dafney for 23 yards on a play-action pass.
On the next play, however, Love would stumble after he, center Josh Myers and tight end Bronson Kaufusi all got their feet tied up after the snap. He regained his balance and appeared to escape the tackle box before falling back and firing an ill-advised pass into the end zone.
The ball died a couple feet short of Taylor, the intended target, and was intercepted by former Packers defensive back Micah Hyde to end the scoring threat.
"The play kind of messed up from the beginning with the trip and the tight end on the slide," Love said. "Just getting out, had pressure in my face and kind of threw a 50-50 ball up. That's one I've just got to obviously learn and just dump that to the sideline right there and play the next play."
The Packers sent Love out for the first series of the second half, but Josh Thomas' sack of Love for an 8-yard loss ultimately set the table for Green Bay having to punt for the first time.
This summer was the culmination of a big offseason for Love, who took most of the first-team reps in the spring and finally got a chance to play in the preseason after the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out last year's exhibition slate.
All told, Love completed 24-of-35 passes (68.6%) for 271 yards, one touchdown and one INT (89.1 passer rating).
"Obviously, it was a lot better this year to finally get those preseason games and get some action in there," Love said. "I think I got a lot better, got some game reps that I can learn from and experience that I can build upon going forward."
With the preseason over, Love's focus now shifts to serving as the primary backup to MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He was inactive for all 18 games last year, with Tim Boyle sitting in the No. 2 chair.
"I'm gonna be the backup quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, back up Aaron Rodgers as best I can and help him," Love said. "He's gonna go out there and do great things this season. Just trying to do whatever I can to get him ready for the season, get him ready each week and just do my job.
"Obviously being a backup, you still gotta be ready. So (I'll) keep doing what I'm doing."