Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur says he “absolutely” will take on a bigger role in assisting the Packers’ slumping defense as they try to boost their fading playoff hopes.
But one thing he won’t do, at least for now, is relieve defensive coordinator Joe Barry of his duties.
“If I thought that was the best solution today, then we’d make that decision,” LaFleur said Monday, one day after the Packers’ 34-20 home loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
LaFleur then explained why he didn't think Barry was to blame. He believes the Packers’ immediate concern is to fix the communication problems on defense that bedeviled them as Bucs quarterback Baker Mayfield picked them apart.
“What’s so disappointing to me is the fact that it was poor communication,” LaFleur said. “And it always starts with us. It starts with myself and it goes to all our assistant coaches. So obviously the coaching wasn’t up to the standard, and our performance on the field definitely showed that as well.”
Tampa Bay scored touchdowns on each of its first three second-half possessions before taking a knee in the red zone to end the game. The Bucs went 8 of 12 on third- and fourth-down conversion attempts.
LaFleur was asked why he’s keeping Barry if communication was such a big problem.
“Because I’ve seen us execute this stuff before,” LaFleur said. “So, it’s unfortunate that it happened at this time of the year in such an important game. But I’ve seen us execute it earlier in the year or in previous games.
“Now, certainly are there some calls I think, I’ll be the first one to admit there’s a couple of play calls that I would like to have back in that game. I know there’s some that Joe would like to have back, in particular some of those third-and-3-to-4-yard plays where we’re playing soft zone and they can easily get a free completion, just like there were a couple of calls I’d like to have back in the red zone. And that’s football. But hopefully we can learn from that and not make that same mistake twice.”
After losing their last two games because of their inability to stop New York Giants quarterback Tommy DeVito and Mayfield, the Packers (6-8) likely must win their remaining three games and receive plenty of help to reach the playoffs.
“Now we just had two losses to a team we probably should’ve — I won’t say probably should’ve beat but we should’ve played way better than we did,” linebacker Quay Walker said. “It’s going to be really, really frustrating because this organization we play for, we’re held to a high standard.”
Jordan Love continues to show he can be a long-term solution at quarterback. Love has thrown 11 touchdown passes and only one interception over his last five games. He has completed 68.9% of his passes during that stretch.
WHAT NEEDS WORK
Just about everything related to the defense. The Buccaneers fumbled on one series, went three-and-out once and took a knee in the red zone at the end of the game. They scored four touchdowns and two field goals on their other six series. On offense, the Packers scored touchdowns on two of their five red-zone possessions. They settled for two field goals and also lost the ball on downs at Tampa Bay’s 4-yard line.
WR Dontayvion Wicks, a rookie fifth-round pick, set career highs with six receptions for 97 yards. He caught six of his seven targets. TE Tucker Kraft scored Sunday and has eight catches for 121 yards over his last two games. WR Jayden Reed has a touchdown in five of his last six games.
CB Eric Stokes came off injured reserve over the weekend and was immediately pressed into duty, but the 2021 first-round pick showed plenty of rust while playing his first defensive snaps of the season. LB De’Vondre Campbell and Walker struggled in pass coverage. CBs Corey Ballentine and Carrington Valentine had done a nice job for much of the last month in the absence of injured CB Jaire Alexander, but neither player was effective on Sunday.
Reed hurt his toe late in the game. Alexander (shoulder) missed a sixth straight game, WR Christian Watson (hamstring) sat out his second consecutive game and S Darnell Savage (shoulder) also didn’t play.
158.3 – The Packers allowed Mayfield to become just the third player ever to post a perfect 158.3 passer rating and throw for at least 375 yards and four touchdowns in a road game. The other players to do it were the New York Jets’ Ken O’Brien at Seattle in 1986 and Philadelphia’s Nick Foles at Oakland in 2013.
The Packers leave Wisconsin for their next two games as they visit Carolina (2-12) on Sunday and Minnesota (7-7) on Dec. 31.