The Green Bay Packers know a thing or two about losing their opening game. Last season, the Packers opened their season by being crushed by the New Orleans Saints. So, losing 23-7 to the Minnesota Vikings in this year’s season’s opener isn’t new territory. But this season’s opening defeat had a different feel to it. Once the Packers found themselves behind early to the Vikings, they looked lifeless. It’s only one game, but the way they looked has some Packers fans concerned. That is why in their week two matchup against the Chicago Bears, many will be looking to see if head coach Matt LaFleur will have his squad ready to go.
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All Eyes on Matt LaFleur Heading Into Week 2
LaFleur entered this season with a 39-11 regular season head coaching record. In 2019, LaFleur took over a Packers squad that had finished 6-9-1 the season before. He took that 2019 squad, made up of players that fit former head coach Mike McCarthy’s, and led them to a 13-3 regular season record.
Since taking over as head coach, LaFleur has more than proven himself as an NFL head coach. Along with his record, LaFleur has led the Packers to three straight NFC North championships. But with all the accolades that LaFleur has achieved, this season might be LaFleur’s most challenging season.
Gone are players like defensive standout Za’Darius Smith and the NFL’s best wide receiver Davante Adams. While David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins still remain, both standout offensive tackles are still recovering from knee injuries and when they will be ready to go is still unknown.
Along with losing key players, LaFleur’s coaching staff took a hit as well. Former offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett is now the Denver Broncos head coach. While former quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator Luke Getsy is now the Bears offensive coordinator.
If the personnel and coaching losses weren’t enough, now LaFleur faces questions about his squad’s integrity after a sound opening week defeat. Saying that a week two game in a 17-game regular season schedule is a must-win seems like an overstatement. But that just might be the case for LaFleur heading into week two.
A Poor Week One Offensive Performance
Since taking over as the Packers head coach and offensive play caller, LaFleur has been given a lot of credit for the Packers offensive success. His play calling and offensive scheme are also big reasons that quarterback Aaron Rodgers has won two consecutive NFL MVPs.
That is why it was so surprising to see LaFleur call such an awful game against the Vikings last weekend. With Adams now departed, the Green Bay Packers offense must rely even more on their run game. That means LaFleur must get the ball into running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon‘s hands as much as possible.
But against the Vikings, LaFleur failed to give Jones and Dillon the required touches necessary to get the Green Bay Packer offense going. On the ground, Jones and Dillon combined to receive just 15 carries. In the passing game, Jones and Dillon combined for just eight receptions.
If LaFleur does the same thing this week that he did last week, he will once again be setting up the Green Bay Packers offense for failure. The way the Packers are set up, it is a must that they establish the run. If they fail to do so against the Bears, there is no way the Packers will come away with a victory.
More Input on Defensive Scheme
While LaFleur handles the offense and defensive coordinator Joe Barry handles the defense, it doesn’t mean that LaFleur can’t make suggestions to Barry. He did so in the Packers season opener in 2021 after Barry’s defense was torched by the Saints.
So, when it became very apparent that Barry’s defensive game plan was flawed against the Vikings, many thought LaFleur would need to do so again. But instead, LaFleur stayed silent and by doing so, Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson had his way with the Packers secondary. Jefferson finished the game with nine catches for 184 yards with two touchdown receptions.
In Barry’s game plan, Packers top cover cornerback, and arguably the best cover cornerback in the NFL, Jaire Alexander only matched up three times against Jefferson. Not only was it questioned by Packers fans, but even Alexander wondered why that was the case.
The failure of the defensive game plan falls on Barry’s shoulders. When LaFleur chose Barry as his new defensive coordinator prior to 2021, it wasn’t well thought of. Before being hired, Barry was a two-time failed defensive coordinator. But even with knowing that, LaFleur chose Barry to lead a very talented defensive unit.
If Barry fails, like he did last week, so does LaFleur. As the head coach, it is up to LaFleur to step in and make sure Barry adjusts. Last week, Barry’s scheme failed and LaFleur failed by not stepping in.
Need to Turn Things Around Quickly
It is just one game, LaFleur and the Packers have a lot of time to turn things around. But the Packers face a very difficult early schedule. If their poor play, and poor coaching, lingers, things could become very difficult for the Packers.
LaFleur isn’t a rookie head coach anymore. He is now in his fourth season and he does have the track record that shows he is more than capable of turning things around after one bad week.
But fans shouldn’t downplay the Packers week one loss. The offense sputtered and the defense, which heading into this season is supposed to be one the best defenses in the NFL, failed. It will be up to LaFleur to “stop the bleeding”. If can’t do so, the Packers are going to find themselves in a very bad situation and might find themselves in a hole they can’t dig themselves out of.
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