Packers coach Matt LaFleur bothered by team’s lack of fire vs. 49ers

Packers coach Matt LaFleur bothered by team’s lack of fire vs. 49ers

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Three days have passed, and Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur still can’t understand his team’s lack of urgency — especially in the first half — during a blowout loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.

“That’s something that I’m still trying to figure out right now as we speak,” LaFleur said Wednesday. “I mean, I don’t understand that because you’re there. You have an opportunity to go to play in a Super Bowl. And for that to happen, it’s extremely … it’s bothersome. We have to look at ourselves, everybody. I’m going to look inside of myself and see why weren’t our players playing with their hair on fire. I think everybody in our organization has to do that.”

LaFleur gave some frank assessments during his 30-minute session with reporters at Lambeau Field to wrap up a 14-4 season and look ahead to the offseason.

Several players said after the 37-20 loss to the 49ers that the gap between the two teams wasn’t that big — even with a 37-8 loss to San Francisco during the regular season.

“They got us a couple times, but I don’t think it’s that big,” Aaron Rodgers said. “I think we’re really close.”

LaFleur, however, took a different view when it came to the size of the gap.

“There obviously is [a gap],” LaFleur said. “I mean, we played them twice and they took it to us two times. So that’s something that we’ve got to take a good, hard look at this offseason because right now they’re the class of the NFC. They’ve shown it throughout the course of the season, and that is a really good football team. It was disappointing to go out there and get beat like that.”

LaFleur seemed most bothered by the defense’s inability to stop the 49ers’ run game, which totaled 285 yards while quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw only eight passes. Perhaps most troubling was that 142 of Raheem Mostert‘s rushing yards came before contact, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

“They definitely outcoached us,” LaFleur said when asked what happened on defense,

“I just didn’t feel like we played with the same urgency, the same tenacity, the same toughness. We didn’t set the edge the same as we had been earlier this season. It’s disappointing because it’s not like we didn’t know what they were going to try to do. We knew exactly what they were going to try to do. We knew they were going to run the football … and for them to be able to do that was extremely disappointing, and I just didn’t think we played with the same effort as what I had seen earlier in the season.”

That brings into question the future of defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who was a holdover from former coach Mike McCarthy’s staff. The Packers defense finished ninth in the NFL in fewest points allowed, a jump from 25th last year, but ranked 18th in yards allowed for the second straight year despite major free-agent additions including high-priced pass-rushers Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith.

LaFleur would not commit to Pettine’s status.

“We’re still working through everything right now, just trying to evaluate everything,” LaFleur said. “I think our defense did a lot of great things. Obviously, the last game was very disappointing in terms of our performance. It just wasn’t good enough, especially when you get to a championship game like that and you know what’s at stake. Just all across the board.

“It wasn’t just the defense. Our offense and special teams weren’t up to par as well. I was just disappointed with just … it didn’t seem like we had the same energy and effort that we had displayed throughout the course of the season.”

LaFleur said he would meet with team president Mark Murphy after he finished his evaluations, and “then we’ll start making some decisions.”

McCarthy stuck with Pettine’s predecessor, Dom Capers, for nine seasons before he fired him following the 2017 season and hired Pettine.

Defense has been a problem in playoff games in the past. In Rodgers’ 18 playoff starts, he’s won 10 games while the defense allowed 19.2 points per game. In the eight losses, including Sunday, the defense has given up 36.4 points per game, including five games of 35 or more.

In that span, the New England Patriots allowed 35-plus points in only one out of 24 playoff games, while the Seahawks (three of 17), Ravens (two of 14) and Saints (two of 13) also have fared better.

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