Frustrating. Irritating. Unwatchable. Mind-blowing. These are just a few ways you can describe the Green Bay Packers second-half effort in their 27-22 Week 5 loss to the New York Giants. The Giants entered the game with a 3-1 record, the same as the Packers. So the actual loss shouldn’t be too mind-blowing. But it’s how the Packers performed that should frustrate Packers fans. Especially their effort, or lack thereof, in the second half. There is a lot of blame for the Packers losing this game. That blame falls at the feet of both head coach Matt LaFleur and defensive coordinator Joe Barry.
Matt LaFleur, Joe Barry Deserve Blame In Green Bay Packers Loss
If you woke up late, forgetting the Packers were playing in London, consider yourself lucky. Because if you knew how well they played in the first half, their second-half performance might have forced you to damage your television.
The Packers took a 20-10 lead into halftime. The Aaron Rodgers-led offense performed well in the first half. LaFleur, the Packers offensive play-caller, did a nice job of mixing in the run with the pass. Rodgers spread the ball around and kept the Giants secondary on their toes. Unfortunately, it appears someone switched LaFleur’s playbook with the University of Iowa’s Brian Ferentz’s playbook at halftime. The second-half performance by the Green Bay Packers offense looked nothing like their first-half performance.
Speaking of bad second-half coaching performances, it appears Barry told LaFleur to “hold his beer” at halftime. The Barry-coordinated defense made Daniel Jones look like John Elway on Sunday. Jones finished the day going 21 of 27 for 217 yards. He also chipped in 37 yards rushing on 10 carries. The vanilla zone-styled defense of Barry’s didn’t have any answers for him or the rest of the Giants offense in the second half.
Packers fans are now asking, who is more to blame for the loss, Matt LaFleur or Joe Barry? Since it was LaFleur that pegged Barry to lead the defense two years ago, it would seem that he takes home the blame trophy. But Barry gave him a good run for his money.
Is Barry the Right Person to Lead the Green Bay Packers Defense?
The question isn’t an overreaction. Since being hired prior to the 2021 season, many had wondered if Joe Barry is the right man to lead the Green Bay Packers defense. Sunday’s second-half performance does nothing to quiet those concerns.
The hiring of Barry prior to 2021 brought a lot of concern to Packers fans. Barry had failed two previous times when he was the defensive coordinator for an NFL team. But with the Packers having so much talent on the defensive side, it was thought things would be different this time around. Unfortunately, that abundance of talent hasn’t been able to cover up Barry’s failures.
In the Packers past two games, Joe Barry and the Packers defense have made New England Patriots rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe and Jones look like experienced successful quarterbacks. Even though Barry has the personnel to run a man-to-man defense, he insists on running zone coverages primarily. His lack of adjustments, like was on display in the second half of Sunday’s game, has been the primary downfall of the Packers defense this season.
Under Barry, several key defensive players seem to have regressed under Barry as well. Darnell Savage was drafted in the first round and was expected to be the face of the safety position for seasons to come. But that hasn’t been the case. Savage looks a step behind in coverage, at times, even lost. His tackling is downright awful at this point. As discussed recently, De’Vondre Campbell is also struggling. Even standout defensive tackle Kenny Clark isn’t playing at the level the Packers are accustomed to seeing.
The scheme isn’t working and now players, who have had past success, are struggling. With all of the capital that the Packers have spent on this side of the ball, it is pretty obvious that the weak link is Joe Barry.
Uneven Offensive Playcalling
Matt LaFleur was expected to be the X factor for the Green Bay Packers offense this season. With Davante Adams being traded this off-season, it was expected that LaFleur’s offensive scheme and playcalling prowess would help make up for the loss. But similar to the defense being elite, that just hasn’t played out like it was expected.
In the Packers first five games this season, LaFleur’s play calling has been uneven, to say the least. LaFleur’s biggest failure has been his management of the Packers rushing attack. While the Packers do have a Hall of Fame quarterback in Rodgers, Green Bay’s offense goes as far as running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon take them. Rodgers and the Packers passing attack, under LaFleur, is based on establishing the run. If they can run the ball, it opens up the play-action pass.
But in several of the Packers games this season, LaFleur has either never established the run or abandoned the run early. The latter is what happened against the Giants. Leading 20-10 going into the third quarter, and the defense quickly fading, you would have thought LaFleur would have leaned on the combination of Jones and Dillon. Instead, the Packers offense looked like something you would see in backyard football. Rodgers would just drop back and heave the ball up, hoping that his receivers would pull it down. Something that never happened.
Heading into this season, it was expected that the Packers would lean on their defense while the offense would run the ball and hit timely passes. So far, the defense has failed and under LaFleur, the offense has no identity.
At a Crossroads
Now sitting at 3-2, the Packers find themselves at a crossroads. Some might find it too early to say that, but for a team that some believed would compete for a Super Bowl appearance, it is where they sit.
While Joe Barry deserves his share of the blame for the Packers 3-2 start, it is LaFleur who deserves even more of the blame. He hired Barry and it appears, he is the one that will be sticking by him. So, if the defense continues to underperform, that is on LaFleur.
Offensively, this falls all on LaFleur. It was he and general manager Brian Gutekunst who decided to change the way things are done offensively this off-season. If the offense fails to find its new identity, that again falls on LaFleur.
It just isn’t the team that finds themselves at a crossroads. In his fourth season as the Packers head coach, Matt LaFleur finds himself at a crossroads as well. If he doesn’t make an adjustment quickly, the Packers 2022 season might be lost.