GREEN BAY – Kenny Clark didn't mince words this week talking about the Packers' struggling run defense.
"It does make us angry," Clark said. "It makes me angry."
As if there are no true coincidences in the universe, the convergence of current events is the perfect time for the Packers to put that emotion to good use.
Not only are the Packers on Thursday returning to the scene of last season's ultimate disappointment, where the 49ers and Raheem Mostert ran all over them in the NFC title game. But they're also coming off their worst performance against the run this season, as Minnesota's Dalvin Cook evoked nightmarish flashbacks to January.
Judging by Clark's words, there's no shortage of motivation to prove something. The question is whether all the talk will translate to effective action.
"Guys just got to do their job," Clark said. "That's just what it comes down to. We've all got to just buy into it, do our job, beat blocks and fill in and be where we're supposed to be. It's as simple as that. That's what we've got to do."
Head Coach Matt LaFleur attributed the issues against Cook to a plethora of problems – poor gap control, missed tackles, tired players not subbing out, guys trying to do too much, and more.
Plenty of it was football fundamentals, and the challenge for the Packers on a short week is shoring up fundamentals – a physical aspect – when the bulk of the preparation is mental with the quick turnaround.
But LaFleur believes there's plenty from the neck up at play, too, and by simplifying the preparation in the shortened time frame he's expecting improvement even without the usual practice regimen.
"I think a lot of it is mental," LaFleur said. "It's knowing what your assignment is and then filling the correct hole. We've thrown a lot at these guys over the last day. It's always tough to prepare on just a couple days' worth of work and cram it into just a few hours.
"There's a lot of learning going on, but a lot of times when you have these short weeks you scale back what you're going to try and do so that your players can go out there and play fast."
A common refrain since Sunday's outing has been about getting more defenders to the football, which makes tackling more efficient. Playing as a unit is both more effective and energizing.
The film showed the Packers had plenty of shots at Cook at or behind the line of scrimmage but let him get away, usually because it was on one guy who had no help.
Clark stressed that's a burden each individual carries, to execute assignments so teammates can count on one another.
"It's not just on everybody else. It's including me," Clark said. "I've got to do a better job of doing my job and helping everybody else out, and the other 10 guys, we've all got to do our job and help each other out."
As mild-mannered off the field as they come, Clark didn't get agitated or animated talking about it, but it was clear the frustrations have reached a certain level.
The defense isn't generating the sacks or the takeaways it did last year, either, but Clark delivered a dose of reality that those stats won't change if what happened this past Sunday doesn't change.
"As far as having the pass rush, turnovers, all that stuff … we can cover against anybody, we can rush against anybody, the only way we're going to be able to have those opportunities is if we're able to stop the run," he said. "We ain't going to do what we want to do unless we stop the run.
"That's been my main focus. I ain't focused on pass rush, I ain't focused on nothin' – my main message to everybody is we ain't going to get where we want to be unless we can stop the run.
"So everybody's got to get their mind right."