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Opening win 'definitely just a building block' for Packers QB Jordan Love

Offense well aware of Falcons defensive playmaker Jessie Bates heading into Week 2

Packers QB Jordan Love
Packers QB Jordan Love

GREEN BAY – The Packers couldn't have been more pleased with quarterback Jordan Love's first outing as the team's new signal caller.

But nobody's saying after a three-TD, 120-plus rating performance that he's got this all figured out now. By the same token, the plan is for the results in Chicago to be one stop on the mountain climb, not the peak.

"This game is all about consistency," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said after Wednesday's practice as the Packers got back on the field in preparation for the Week 2 trip to Atlanta. "You've got to build upon a solid performance."

Love was of the same mindset, as he talked about feeling more comfortable running the offense with each game he plays – and how his nerves at Soldier Field were already considerably down from his first start two years ago in Kansas City. But he also made a point to emphasize no one should misconstrue the word comfortable for complacent.

His comfort level has to do with seeing the game better, "almost feeling more like practice out there," and mentally being able to slow everything down to stay composed.

That certainly contributed to the efficiency on third downs (converting 9 of the first 14) and in the red zone (3-for-3), but in his self-evaluation Love mentioned a couple of throws he felt he missed and plays that were left out there.

He's processing it all, the smiles and regrets, in an effort to find what else he's capable of.

"It's definitely just a building block," Love said of Week 1. "It's just the start of the season. It's a long season, a lot of games to be played.

"You never every try and get complacent out there."

The Falcons' defense certainly has his attention, particularly safety Jessie Bates. A high-priced free-agent acquisition from Cincinnati, Bates made a whale of an Atlanta debut last week, intercepting two passes and forcing a fumble.

Moreover, the Falcons didn't just win the turnover battle 3-0. Bates' three takeaways led to Atlanta's first 17 points, and two came on back-to-back possessions in the third quarter.

With Atlanta trailing 10-7, Bates got his second interception of rookie QB Bryce Young in Carolina territory, setting up the tying field goal. On the Panthers' next drive, he forced a fumble that thwarted a Carolina scoring chance, and the Falcons drove the other way for the go-ahead TD early in the fourth quarter.

"He's a ball hawk," Love said of Bates, who won the NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts. "He's just a vet. He's been around. He's played a lot of ball, and I think he's a savvy guy.

"He plays in the post and makes quick reads on quarterbacks' eyes, and he triggers very hard on passes."

The counter, Love continued, is being decisive with his reads. LaFleur is known to say indecisiveness equals ineffectiveness at the quarterback position, and Love has taken that message to heart.

"You've just got to make quick decisions and not stare receivers down," he said when it comes to dealing with Bates. "Then you've just got to know where he's at, know he'll probably jump a lot of your passes, and just be aware of that."

One of the promising side notes to Love's 2023 debut is the Packers' offense put up 31 points without one of its most dynamic playmakers in receiver Christian Watson, who missed the Chicago game with a hamstring injury.

Now, the status of running back Aaron Jones – who had 127 yards from scrimmage and two TDs (one rushing, one receiving) – is also iffy. Jones exited the Bears game due to a hamstring issue on his second touchdown, and neither he nor Watson practiced Wednesday.

As usual, LaFleur said the players will be given the full week to see where they are come Sunday, but Love remains confident in charging ahead with whatever weapons he has available.

"That's why everybody gets reps during practice and they've got to be on their P's and Q's and understand the game plan in and out, so if they get thrown in a situation where they've got to play, they know what they're doing," he said.

The Packers knew what they were doing in Chicago, and reflective of the approach moving forward, the celebration was short and rather subdued. There's more work to do.

"The mindset we had going into the week is that we were going to win that game," Love said. "I don't think anyone's over-excited about it.

"We went there and handled business, and that's what we planned on doing, so now we're just focused on this week and doing the same thing."