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Jordan Love's three-touchdown showing propels Packers past Lions

When the Detroit Lions last began their season at 8-2 back in 1962, they rolled into their annual Thanksgiving Day game and defeated the Green Bay Packers.

Sixty-one years and 53 yards later, that wasn't the case.

Packers quarterback Jordan Love connected with wide receiver Christian Watson for a 53-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage Thursday, blasting out of the gates as Green Bay took an early lead to defeat the Detroit Lions, 29-22, on Thanksgiving.

"Something we put in this week that we thought was going to work, and we were confident in it," Love said after the game of the play, which led to a 10-yard touchdown to Jayden Reed and a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the game. "Came out and obviously put the ball up there, and Christian went up there and made a great catch."

Love filled up a sterling stat line, completing 22 of 32 passes (66%) for 268 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He joined Aaron Rodgers (2009) and Brett Favre (1994, 2007) as Packers quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era with three-plus TDs and no INTs in a Thanksgiving game.

Over the past four games, Love has thrown eight touchdowns to just two interceptions and averaged 276.7 yards per game.

"We continue to do this every week," said Love, who found Watson for team highs of five receptions and 94 yards. "Obviously, we know it's not going to be perfect, but the progress is there. But we continue to put that work in every week and build that chemistry. Obviously, Christian's a guy I trust, and he's just going out there and making plays right now. It was a big-time performance for him today."

Having struggled out of the gate in his first season as the Packers' starting quarterback, Love has blossomed over his past four games, bunching together his most impressive performances. Thus, having his name mentioned alongside Rodgers and Favre is the latest sign of progress for a franchise that's been blessed for so long with stellar signal-caller play. After a four-game skid dropped the Packers to 2-5, Love's improved play has been matched by the team's, and at 5-6 Green Bay is very much alive in the playoff picture.

"I think it's night and day," LaFleur said of the difference in Love's play, which saw him intercepted twice and sacked five times in a Week 4 loss to the Lions. "I mean, I don't know how you guys feel. I have to go back and look at it, but certainly, it appears that way. And it's given us a lot of confidence to be a little more aggressive with some of the calls. When you're trusting your offensive line. When you're trusting your quarterback to facilitate and get the ball where it needs to go and throw on rhythm, that allows you to do that. And we had a lot of, I would say deeper developing plays and hit a lot of intermediate throws for some chunk plays that ended up being big for us."

In front of a national audience playing against a Lions squad that entered the fray as the NFC's top seed, Love was exceptional. He picked his shots behind an outstanding performance from the offensive line and was accurate short and long.

"I think he's done a tremendous job. He can't do it alone. I think a lot of guys made plays for him," LaFleur said. "I think the story was the offensive line. Just to provide the protection for him."

It all began with the 53-yarder to Watson on a play in which LaFleur actually had second thoughts about calling before talking to Love.

"I almost changed that first play call," LaFleur said. "I was kind of mulling it over quite a bit. I texted Jordan this morning and told him I was going to change it to something else. And he said he wanted this call, so I said, 'OK.'"

Three plays after the first Love-Watson connection, Love hooked up with Reed for the 10-yard score and the Packers never looked back.

"That's what we want," Love said. "We want to be able to start fast, put those points up early, help the defense out and then go from there."

Love, who also had a career-long 37-yard run in the game, found Tucker Kraft for his first career TD on a 9-yard scoring pass to culminate the Packers' second offensive drive. It was a great start for a Packers team that's been notoriously slow to get going. Prior to Thursday, Green Bay had just 20 first-quarter points on the season. It matched that on Thanksgiving.

As Love looks to continue to grow game by game and keep the Packers' postseason hopes alive, he'll face the team he made his first career start against next week in prime time: the Kansas City Chiefs.

For now, the maturation of Jordan Love continued on Thursday with a three-TD showing assuredly providing a Happy Thanksgiving for the Packers.

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