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Packers look to tilt odds back in offense's favor

Jordan Love aims for more completions, opportunities for top 10 red-zone offense

QB Jordan Love
QB Jordan Love

GREEN BAY – Like everyone, Jordan Love took a few days to recharge his batteries during the Packers' bye week.

Among Love's to-do list was returning to his home state of California in support of his girlfriend, Ronika Stone, who recently signed with PVF San Diego of the newly founded Pro Volleyball Federation.

While celebrating Stone's accomplishments, Love took time to review his first five appearances as Green Bay's No. 1 quarterback – the wins, the lessons and everything in between.

"You stay focused, just reflecting on the games so far, the performances so far, the things I did good, the things I did bad," Love said. "Just take that time away, that week off, and get your mind back to, 'All right, let's reset and get back to winning this week.'"

Coming off back-to-back losses, Head Coach Matt LaFleur challenged every player and coach to identify areas of improvement during the bye. For Love, that meant taking a hard look at his completions and the offense's overall conversions.

The 24-year-old quarterback has pushed the ball downfield a lot this season. Through six weeks, Love continues to lead the NFL in average intended air yards (9.9), but the deep shots have affected his completion percentage (55.6%).

For Love, it's about sometimes taking what the defense is offering rather than waiting for something bigger to develop. That emphasis is top of mind as the Packers ready for Sunday's matchup with the Denver Broncos.

"I think more of it is just consistency and finding those completions and getting the playmakers the ball in space so they can operate and make guys miss," Love said. "Not always trying to find that big play and force the ball downfield. But just getting the ball in guys' hands quickly, I think that's been the biggest thing."

In Love's defense, injuries and situational setbacks have put the 24-year-old quarterback in some disadvantageous situations at times.

While the Packers have been respectable on third down this year – their 40.9% conversation rate ranks 12th in the NFL – Love and the offense have faced a heavy number of "get-back-on-track" scenarios due penalties and negative plays resulting in more second- and third-and-longs.

The Packers made some progress in those areas before the bye, tallying a season-low three penalties while committing more to the run in Las Vegas. However, three turnovers and just four third-down conversions on 12 attempts contributed to a 17-13 defeat.

LaFleur has been happy with his young team's energy level, but bouts of inconsistency have been an issue and often have a way of trickling into other areas. Correcting those mistakes is the first step towards finding better offensive footing.

"It's just been very choppy," LaFleur said. "We haven't been able to get into a consistent rhythm. The early-down execution has put us into some get-back-on-track situations and that's where we've really struggled in terms of, we've had a ton of third-and-longs, which it's hard to have success in this league if you're living in third-and-10-plus."

The difference is tangible when Green Bay's facing third-and-short and can be seen in Love's output. According to Pro Football Reference, Love is 12-of-17 for 116 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions (108.9 passer rating) in third-and-6 or less this season, with 10 first-down conversions.

In third-and-7-plus, however, Love is 14-of-30 for 165 yards with one TD and two interceptions (47.2 passer rating) with seven first downs. That includes Love's third and final interception against Las Vegas on a third-and-10 pass intended for receiver Christian Watson in the end zone.

Perhaps the most maddening part of Green Bay's inability to start fast and sustain drives is the fact the Packers have done well in generating points once they get the ball moving.

Green Bay is currently sixth in both red-zone offense (62.5%) and goal-to-go (90%), marked improvement from a year ago when the Packers finished 24th in the red zone (51.9%) and last in goal-to-go (50%).

"Once we get to that red zone, we've done some really good things," Love said. "We're able to execute and score. That's been the biggest thing that I'm just proud of, getting down there and executing and putting up those points when we need them."

The emphasis on creating manageable third downs has been driven home in the team meetings this week.

According to right guard Jon Runyan, running backs coach Ben Sirmans told the offense that the Packers are scoring on "85-90%" of their drives in which they have a third-down conversion inside of two yards.

It served as a reminder to everyone on offense how important it is to win on first down and play penalty-free football.

"We just gotta stay out of those third-and-8s, third-and-9s. It seems like we're getting a lot of those this year," Runyan said. "We want to live more in the third-and-2, third-and-3 world. Those are easier conversions and those keep drives moving."

The Packers come out of the bye decidedly healthier on the offensive side of the ball. Runyan (ankle), Watson (hamstring) and starting right tackle Zach Tom (knee) were all no longer listed on the injury report Green Bay released Wednesday.

The Packers also remain hopeful Pro Bowl running back Aaron Jones could be back against the Broncos after tweaking his injured hamstring in the lead-up to the Raiders game.

As for Love, LaFleur is happy with how his young quarterback has handled the first portion of his season and believes the early trials and tribulations will only temper him for what lies ahead.

"I think he's got the right mindset and the right approach to it," said LaFleur of Love. "I think he's been resilient, even when we've struggled on offense. I see him being a leader, trying to encourage the guys.

"It gets frustrating at times, we all know that, when you're not scoring points and moving the ball up and down the field. But I think he's been very steady in terms of his approach, his mindset, really trying to truly embody that one-play mindset."