Matt LaFleur pushing for Packers to reach another level

Head Coach Matt LaFleur
Head Coach Matt LaFleur

GREEN BAY – Right after notching his 10th win Sunday and making history as the first head coach for the Packers ever to reach double digits in his inaugural year, Matt LaFleur was entitled to a celebratory drink. Or a cupcake. Or something.

Nope.

Admitting he was upset with himself for the Packers' offensive performance, LaFleur went right to his office to pore over the game film and find what he can fix.

"I just know we're not where we need to be as a football team," LaFleur said Monday, reflecting on a harder-than-it-should-have-been 20-15 victory over Washington. "I still think … I'm optimistic we can get there."

The film confirmed most of what LaFleur had observed from the Lambeau Field sidelines – that the Packers ran the ball well, could have run it more, and just missed on a handful of pass plays that had the potential to make everyone, including himself, feel a little better about the win.

LaFleur rattled off the failed connections to open the press conference, an indication of how top of mind they still were 24 hours after the game had ended: a screen pass to running Jamaal Williams, a play-action throwback to tight end Jimmy Graham, a third-down hot read to running back Aaron Jones against a blitz, an open Allen Lazard over the middle when the pocket collapsed … and later he mentioned an end-zone shot to rookie tight end Jace Sternberger that didn't quite connect.

A missed block, or disrupted timing, or a throw a tad off, or a surprise defensive wrinkle by Washington all added up to dissatisfaction with the overall offensive outing.

"Anytime you score 20 points, especially with not capitalizing on some of that field position, you always know there was more out there for you," he said.

It wasn't all bad, of course. Season highs of 174 rushing yards and 51 punt return yards were significant highlights and bode well as the stretch run continues. The Packers also got a lot of mileage and opportunities out of packages that included three tight ends, so having four healthy ones active on game day could become a regular occurrence.

But to LaFleur, the next level – or a more consistent level of play at least – will be rooted in the "details" of the plays and their execution. He emphasized it starts with the coaching staff harping on those details so the players have everything they need to execute with greater precision.

That may not be the explanation fans want to hear, because it'll make them wonder why the details aren't down three months into the regular season. But it's like anything that falls under the category of fundamentals – if they aren't emphasized on an ongoing basis, they're bound to lapse over the course of a long season.

"We'll make sure that we do a great job of communicating what we're trying to get accomplished on every play and why," he said. "I think the why is absolutely imperative for these guys to understand what it is they're trying to do."

In the big picture, the Packers are trying to get ready for an NFC North gauntlet of three straight division games to end the regular season, starting with the Bears this week.

The Packers are 10-3, one game up on 9-4 Minnesota in the division, while the 7-6 Bears have won four of five and will be playing with basically their season on the line. Chicago has to win out and get some help in order to make the postseason.

Green Bay can win out to secure a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs, but as expected, that's not on LaFleur's mind. Going 1-0 this week is, and that starts with getting things shored up offensively in the regular-season home finale before hitting the road for two straight when additional challenges can impact execution.

For as much as he puts on himself, LaFleur also acknowledged the players understand their responsibility as well.

"Ultimately, they have to go out there and make the plays," LaFleur said. "But, and I say this to the team, 'We're all in this together.' There's no doubt about it and I love the mentality of our guys. I don't think anybody was satisfied with (Sunday), and I'd be disappointed if they were."

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