DETROIT -- Jordan Love and Christian Watson went to sleep Wednesday night with the perfect visualization: The Green Bay Packers quarterback and receiver were going to start the Thanksgiving game against the Detroit Lions with something big.

And then coach Matt LaFleur had second thoughts.

"Matter of fact, I almost changed that first play call," LaFleur admitted after Thursday's 29-22 upset win at Ford Field. "I was kind of mulling it over quite a bit, and I texted Jordan this morning and told him I was going to change it to something else."

Love, however, pushed back. LaFleur decided to trust his first-year starting quarterback and his speedy receiver who has, at times, struggled to come down with those plays.

Good thing, because on the first play from scrimmage, Watson played perfectly the deep ball that Love put up for grabs, and it turned into a 53-yard gain. It set up the game's first touchdown -- the third in as many games for rookie receiver Jayden Reed -- and the Packers (5-6) never looked back in beating the NFC North-leading Lions (8-3), who came in as 8.5-point favorites.

2 Related

Love not only rewarded LaFleur for keeping the faith in him and Watson that they could make that play, but he offered another hint that he's going to reward the Packers for turning the team over to him after 15 years of Aaron Rodgers.

Among Love's accomplishments Thursday were:

• His third three-touchdown game of the season. Since 1950, Rodgers is the only other Packers quarterback with a trio of three-touchdown pass games within his first 15 career starts.

• Career highs as a starter in Total QBR (90.6), first-down rate (41%) and completion percentage over expectation (+7.3%, according to NFL Next Gen Stats).

• Four completions in seven attempts on deep throws (15 or more air yards), including a touchdown. He has completed 61% of such throws the past four games after hitting on just 35% in his first seven games, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

The Packers have won three of their past four. Before this stretch, Love ranked last in the NFL in completion rate (58%). Since then, he has completed 65% of his passes.

"I think it's night and day," LaFleur said of Love's command of the offense over the past month.

"And it's given us a lot of confidence to be a little bit more aggressive with some of the calls. And just 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."

Watson had no idea that LaFleur had considered abandoning that first call of the game. All he knew was that LaFleur told him: "Hey, there's a good chance this play's going to go to you. Just go up and attack the football."

"And he did exactly that," LaFleur said.

It was the start of Watson's five-catch, 94-yard, one-touchdown game.

"I love going to bed knowing that there's plays in the offense for me, especially starting off like that," Watson said. "It's exactly the position I want to be in."

Too often before Thursday, Watson's dreams did not come true. He entered the game with the lowest catch rate (43%) of any player with at least 30 targets this season. On Thursday, he caught five of the first six balls thrown.

Love backed up his first career 300-yard passing game Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers with 268 yards and completed 22 of 32 passes.

"It definitely feels different," Love said of his command of the offense compared to early in the season. "I think it's just part of the process."

Thursday's win was more than just the Love show. Outside linebacker Rashan Gary returned to the site of his torn ACL last season and recorded three sacks (including two forced fumbles), safety Jonathan Owens scooped up one of Gary's strip sacks for a touchdown and posted a season-high 12 tackles and rookie tight end Tucker Kraft scored his first NFL touchdown on a 9-yard pass a day after starter Luke Musgrave was placed on injured reserve because of a lacerated kidney.

The Packers have not put themselves back into the NFC playoff race. But the most important thing they needed from the 2023 season was to find out whether Love was the long-term answer at quarterback. And this game might have helped in that process.

"We've seen enough at this point," said Watson, who called Love "the most confident guy I've played with."

"In my eyes, I think we've seen enough. We know what he's capable of, and for him, he's going to keep on getting better, keep on climbing, keep on getting even more comfortable back there. And we're going to keep on getting better around him, too. We're going to keep on coming up as a team, and that's only going to make all of us better."