As the cliché goes, one game doesn’t make a season. This is something that Green Bay Packers fans need to remember. Even with losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday afternoon, the Packers still have a solid 4-1 record. However, there are questions that now face the Packers. It will be up to head coach Matt LaFleur to learn from the lessons that come from the Green Bay Packers first loss.
Lessons to be Learned From Green Bay Packers First Loss
When discussing the Packers’ first loss, you need to take a look at the big picture. Yes, it wasn’t pretty, but again, it is the Packers first loss. There is still a lot of season to be played.
While some Packers fans were hoping that the Packers would take a run at the 1972 Miami Dolphins, it just wasn’t going to happen. The reality is that the Packers, while solid, still have some issues to get fixed. Those issues were on display in their first loss against the Buccaneers. The issues aren’t just on one side of the ball. The offense and the defense both have work to do.
Lucky for LaFleur and the Packers, there is a lot of football to be played. But the Packers first loss does present a challenge. Will the loss make them stronger, or will this start a downward spiral?
A Backup Plan to Relying on the Run Game
In the Packers four victories this season, the Packers offense looked unstoppable. A majority of that success came from Green Bay’s rushing attack. LaFleur, the offensive game play-caller, not only used the rushing attack to score points but also set up the pass. That philosophy worked beautifully for the Packers until Sunday.
Hats off to the Buccaneers defense, led by coordinator Todd Bowles, for their performance on Sunday. Their defensive front dominated the Packers offensive line. They were able to stop the run, which allowed them to tee off on quarterback Aaron Rodgers when the Packers had to rely on the passing game. The Packers game plan of utilizing the run to establish the pass came to a screeching halt when the Buccaneers stopped the run. Aaron Jones, the Packers top rusher, was held to just 15 yards on just 10 carries. LaFleur and the Packers offense were never able to adjust, leaving the Packers offense helpless.
Sometimes offenses have down games, it happens. However, the way the Packers were dominated upfront should put some fear in LaFleur and the rest of his offensive staff. It was similar to what the Los Angles Chargers and the San Francisco 49ers did to the Packers last season. If an adjustment isn’t made, the Buccaneers might have given the Packers opponents a blueprint in how to stop the Packers offense.
The Packers aren’t going to go away from their rushing attack. It is the driving force to their offensive success. But after the Packers first loss on Sunday, they will need to start to game plan for if a defense stops their rushing attack.
Current Packers Defense Similar to Capers Led Defense
To expect the Packers offense to continue the pace they established in their four victories throughout the season just wasn’t going to happen. Eventually, the offense was going to struggle. That is what happened on Sunday and the Packers defense failed to step up when it was needed.
Under former defensive coordinator, Dom Capers the Packers defense failed to do their part for the Packers during his tenure. We are seeing something very similar under now defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
Pettine’s defense relies on pressure and takeovers. His defenses have a penchant to give up a lot of yardage. Sound familiar? It should, it is similar to the same philosophy that Dom Capers relied on. The results for both Pettine and Capers are close to the same.
Pettine entered this season on the hot seat. After the Packers first five games of this season, his backside should be on fire. The Packers defense, excluding at inside linebacker and at defensive end/tackle, are littered with talent. But Pettine isn’t getting the most out of it.
Same Issues Plaguing the Defense
In-game adjustments by Pettine seem hard to come by. His refusal to adjust seems to be holding back the Packers defense. In the Packers first loss on Sunday, he seemed to stick with the same game plan he has rolled out in each of the Packers victories this season.
The Packers defense once again failed to stop the run. Ronald Jones rushed for 113 yards with two touchdown carries. While quarterback Tom Brady threw for just 166 yards, he did go 17 of 27 with two touchdown passes. Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who looked to be washed up before this game, had five catches for 78 yards with a touchdown catch.
Again, a familiar story when it comes to a Packers defense. Failure to stop the run, allowing a quarterback to pick apart the middle of the defense, and allowing a tight end to have his way in the middle of the defense. It was the same issues that plagued the Packers defense under Capers and it is the same thing that is plaguing the now Pettine led defense.
You can’t expect LaFleur to make a change at defensive coordinator with a 4-1 record. However, the same issues the Packers defense had last season seem to be the same this season. If Pettine hasn’t adjusted now, it is hard to believe he will do so moving forward.
Defensive backs coach Jerry Gray has been a defensive coordinator in the NFL. If LaFleur finally decides he has seen enough, he might look to Gray to relieve Pettine.
Inside Linebacker Play Does Matter
Don’t let daily Packers podcasters fool you. The play of inside linebackers in the NFL does matter. If you want proof, watch how the Buccaneers inside linebackers, Lavonte David and Devin White, played on Sunday in the Packers first loss. Tough, fast, and physical. All three great words to describe how David and White played against the Packers. The Packers had no answers in regards to stopping either of the inside linebackers.
The play of White and David had to make the Packers fans envious. The Packers haven’t had a playmaking inside linebacker in years, if not decades. Instead of investing money or high round draft choices, they have filled the position with late-round draft picks (Ty Summers), free agents who have battled injuries (Christian Kirksey), and draft picks that could be considered busts (Oren Burks). While the Buccanneers have invested a second-round (David) and first-round (White) in their inside linebackers. As they say, you get what you pay for.
The lesson learned here is that the Packers need to start to value the inside linebacker position. Ted Thompson didn’t do it and it appears Brian Gutekunst picked up where Thompson left off. Yes, the Packers don’t value inside linebackers like other teams. But it is time they start, which means investing in the position next off-season.
Players Who Play with an Edge is Needed on the Packers
It can be argued that Ndamukong Suh is a dirty player. If that is your belief, you can’t argue against it. While his dirty play isn’t necessary, he does bring something that appears to be missing on both the Packers offense and defense. That being an edge.
The Packers roster is missing that type of player. Back when Reggie White was leading the Packers defensive in the mid-1990s, he had a teammate that brought that kind of edge. Outside linebacker Wayne Simmons not only scared reporters (ask ESPN Wisconsin’s Jason Wilde), but he also scared his opponents. Was Simmons dirty? Possibly, but he brought a necessary edge to the Packers defense. He brought toughness and he made opponents think twice about messing with him or his teammates.
While the current Packers are talented, they seem to be missing that edge. When Suh got in the face of Rodgers, there didn’t appear to be anyone to jump to his defense. When former guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang played for the Packers it is highly doubtful either of them would have let Suh anywhere near their franchise quarterback.
Not having that edge didn’t cause them to lose the game, but it did play a part in the Packers being bullied by the Buccaneers on Sunday. The Packers might not have a player on their current roster that can present that type of edge. If they don’t, they might want to go search for one.
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