Jordan Love leads thrilling Packers comeback in 1st home start

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Matt LaFleur didn't know where to begin when it came to trying to make sense of how his Green Bay Packers -- with his quarterback making his first ever start at Lambeau Field -- pulled off one of the more unlikely comebacks in franchise history.

And it's not a short history.

In more than 100 years of football, the Packers had only once before turned a 17-point, fourth-quarter deficit into a victory, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

They doubled that number in Sunday's home opener at Lambeau Field, where the New Orleans Saints led 17-0 after three quarters only to watch LaFleur, Jordan Love and a short-handed team pull off an 18-17 victory.

"That whole fourth quarter was a blur," LaFleur said. "I've never been a part of something like that before, where it looked so bleak for [so long]."

What LaFleur will see when he goes back to the film:

• The poised-beyond-his experience Love sidestepping Saints linebacker Demario Davis on fourth-and-goal at the 1 for the Packers' first touchdown of the game with 6:58 remaining.

• A busted 2-point conversion play that Love salvaged with a pass to receiver Samori Toure.

• A 24-yard scramble by Love to set up the go-ahead touchdown -- an 8-yard back-shoulder touchdown to Romeo Doubs with 2:56 to play.

• And a second-half shutout by the defense.

"It was like a nightmare that went to a dream," LaFleur said.

All of that a week after the Packers blew a 12-point fourth-quarter lead and Love couldn't muster a game-winning drive in a 25-24 loss at the Atlanta Falcons.

The Packers are 2-1 heading into a key early-season division game against the Detroit Lions on Thursday night.

"It's always about how the game ends," Love said. "It felt great at the end. That's all I can say. It felt really good at the end."

Love completed just half of his 44 passing attempts for 259 yards with one touchdown and his first interception of the season.

While he has struggled to connect on deep balls through three games, on back-to-back fourth-quarter throws to Dontayvion Wicks and Doubs, Love drew defensive pass interference penalties of 45 and 22 yards. Last week, he drew a combined 87 yards on two pass interference calls.

Still, it was 17-3 when the Packers faced fourth-and-goal at the 1. A field goal wouldn't have done much good; it still would've been a two-score game. That's when Love took a read-option keeper into the end zone.

Love was fired up, showing as much emotion as he has at any point this season.

"To be able to turn it around, start putting some drives together and start getting some points, it felt great," he said. "The energy in that stadium was awesome. We got our fans going and got our team going, so I think that's exactly what we needed right there."

The celebration came to abrupt halt when Love realized what was happening next. From upstairs in the coaching box, assistant quarterbacks coach Connor Lewis -- the Packers' game-management specialist -- was urging LaFleur to go for two down 8 points.

Nothing about the play went as planned, but Love stepped away from pressure and threw a strike to Toure.

"To be honest with you, I didn't feel great about the play call, and then the execution definitely was not how we practiced it," LaFleur said. "But I have a lot of belief in the way our quarterback was playing."

Apparently, so do those in the locker room.

Which is why no one was surprised when, after another defensive stop, Love scrambled 24 yards up the sideline and then hit Jayden Reed for a 30-yard completion to set up the game-winning touchdown to Doubs.

"He's just got swag," Packers cornerback Rasul Douglas said. "He knows he's that guy. He knows the offense is only going to go as far as he takes them."

The Packers still had to dodge a 46-yard field goal that Saints rookie kicker Blake Grupe pushed wide right with 1:05 to play.

Love and the offense were missing four key players: running back Aaron Jones, receiver Christian Watson, left tackle David Bakhtiari and left guard Elgton Jenkins. A defense that was missing cornerback Jaire Alexander, lost his replacement, Carrington Valentine, midway through the game and also lost De'Vondre Campbell allowed just 10 points (the Saints' other touchdown came on a punt return).

No one knows if any of them will be back in four days when the Lions come to town, but Sunday's game showed that Love can pull off at least one thing Aaron Rodgers did. It was Rodgers who directed the only other such fourth-quarter comeback in team history -- rallying the Packers from down 20 in the 2018 season opener.

"That's just who J-Love is," said outside linebacker Rashan Gary, who turned in the first three-sack game of his career. "I've been seeing him since Year 1. His confidence has been building and building. I know he was behind Aaron, a Hall of Famer, so having seen some of his mannerisms and seen when the game is like that how he's keeping everybody up, how he's keeping everybody locked in and focused, and making sure we're on our keys, he's a true leader. I'm just happy that he was able to get us this win and just his progression."