Jordan Love and Packers still learning how to win the hard way

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Jordan Love and Packers still learning how to win the hard way

For the fourth time in six losses, the Green Bay Packers took a second-half lead, gave it up and failed to find the winning plays late.

Sunday’s 23-19 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Acrisure Stadium was just the latest example of Jordan Love and the Packers still learning how to win the hard way in Year 1 of a new era.

The Packers overcame a 17-7 deficit by scoring 12 straight points and led 19-17 in the third quarter. But the defense immediately gave up three points and the lead on the next drive, and Love and the offense — despite four possessions and two drives entering the red zone — couldn’t overcome what ended up being a four-point deficit.

A seemingly small mistake — a blocked extra point in the second quarter — ended up being huge. The Packers trailed by four points instead of three late and had to go for touchdowns instead of what could have been the game-tying field goal late. Missed opportunities continue to haunt LaFleur’s team.

The Packers led in the fourth quarter of losses to the Atlanta Falcons, Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos. Sunday was the third time the Packers have taken a second-half lead but then immediately given it up on the ensuing defensive possession.

Love threw interceptions on back-to-back drives into the red zone in the fourth quarter. He was intercepted in opponent’s territory during the fourth quarter of losses to the Detroit Lions, Raiders, Broncos and now Steelers. He also went 0-for-4 on four-straight plays with a chance to win the game in Week 2 against the Falcons. Love has been in position but is still trying to find the special, game-winning plays that all quarterbacks must create to win close games.

The parallels to the 2008 season with Aaron Rodgers are becoming more and more obvious. That team lost seven one-score games, including several where Rodgers took the lead, the defense gave it up and a late chance came up empty. Even a team coming off a 13-3 season in 2007 had to re-learn how to make all the winning plays late in games.

No team likes to lose. No fanbase enjoys losing. But failing in tough situations is often the only way to truly learn what it takes to be successful consistently.

The Packers are now 3-6. A tough stretch — against the Chargers, Lions and Chiefs — awaits. This team probably isn’t going to the playoffs. But after slogging through a couple of ugly games, progress is starting to appear. There are signs of life, particularly for Love and the young playmakers on offense. On Sunday, Love hit Jayden Reed and Romeo Doubs for magnificent touchdowns, connected with Luke Musgrave for a pair of explosive plays and gave the Packers a chance late with an incredible 46-yard completion to Reed.

Does going through this stretch of difficult losses guarantee future success? No. The 2008 Packers were led by a truly special player, and the 2009 team added Dom Capers and Clay Matthews. Love has made real progress, but he remains a question mark long term. He must improve, the pieces around him must improve and the Packers must improve everything around what’s already there, both by adding new players and improving the coaching staff.

This team is laying the foundation. Nothing about this part of the process is fun, but learning how to win is a necessary step that can’t be skipped.

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