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Rapid reaction: Future for Packers and QB Jordan Love full of promise after pain is processed

Another tough lesson, but this gang will be back

QB Jordan Love
QB Jordan Love

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – There's so much to unpack from what quarterback Jordan Love accomplished in his first season as the starter, and from how it painfully ended.

Love was as hot as any quarterback in the league in the Packers' late-season winning streak, which reached four games after last week's wild-card victory in Dallas.

And he was on the verge of getting the Packers past the top-seeded 49ers in the NFC Divisional round Saturday night, until he suddenly proved to be mortal.

The 24-21 loss at Levi's Stadium will be remembered for missed red-zone opportunities and a missed kick probably more than anything.

But for Love there will also be two makeable third-down passes in the second half that went behind his targets, and a hero throw he never should've attempted that he'll take with him into the long offseason.

"It's tough, very tough," Love said. "We had an opportunity to win that game and didn't capitalize on it. Tough way to end the season."

A throw behind tight end Tucker Kraft got tipped and picked by linebacker Dre Greenlaw. Another third-down try off a scramble for Aaron Jones slid behind him, too.

Then his last throw was the too-aggressive type that had been part of his learning curve from early-season games that didn't go his way.

The Packers had just gotten a first down at their own 36 with 52 seconds left and two timeouts, trailing by three. He thought he saw Christian Watson flashing to the middle of the field, but the throw was way too risky and Greenlaw got him again.

"Looking back on it, yeah (probably should) throw it away," he said. "Don't know if I had the opportunity to run, maybe get out of bounds.

"Forced it across the middle late. It's a mortal sin and it cost us. That's an area right there I'll look at to grow from and be better in the future."

That's the crazy, and heartening, thing about Love. He had already learned so much, and he came perhaps one finished drive from getting the Packers to the NFC title game.

Yet he knows those crunch-time situations are where he's got more wins in him – perhaps a lot more – moving forward.

"Those late two-minute drills to go win games, those are areas we didn't capitalize on this season," he said. "Those critical situations, we gotta go win it.

"There's so many things, just understanding how small the margin for error is in this league, especially in critical games like this. Win and advance, lose and go home, how important every play is … just how dialed in you've got to be to take advantage of those games and win."

He was so dialed in, really from the 10th game of the season on, playing only one truly rough game over the last nine (that Monday night in December at the Giants). Sure, he wound up with two interceptions Saturday night, after throwing only one in his previous nine games, but he had the Packers right there against the class of the NFC on the road in his toughest task to date.

He proved he's already the quarterback the Packers were counting on him to become, and that means the world for a team whose arrow will be pointing up for the foreseeable future.

Check out photos from the NFC Divisional playoff matchup between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024.