Matt LaFleur’s criticism of Packers as strong as his confidence

Head Coach Matt LaFleur
Head Coach Matt LaFleur

GREEN BAY – Matt LaFleur spared no one Monday.

Not himself, not his fellow coaches, not his players.

His message was everyone has to take ownership of the Packers’ blowout loss in San Francisco on Sunday night and come back this week ready to work. He’s confident the team will do that, with the right approach and state of mind, but fully processing what needs to be the rock-bottom moment for the 2019 Packers comes first.

“It was nowhere near good enough,” LaFleur said just shy of 12 hours after the team charter returned from the West Coast with an 8-3 squad following a 29-point beatdown at the hands of the 10-1 49ers.

“Like I said yesterday, we got schemed up and they did a much better job coaching than we did. We had way too many mistakes. Even when we had chances, we had too many mistakes, so I mean all around it was just a bad effort.”

The pile of bad was high.

LaFleur said the offense made more mental errors than in any game since Week 1, and he called it the “worst game up front all season, overall,” as quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sacked five times, harassed all night, and unable to convert on third down.

The defense hung tough for the first 20 or so of 48 snaps, but the two big-play touchdowns on either side of halftime were a result of getting outschemed and outplayed.

On special teams, the field position was “out of whack” most of the game, as second-year punter JK Scott continued to struggle and the return game blocked poorly and produced nothing.

“I always want to look at myself critically and make sure that we’re doing everything in our power to put those guys in good position, and I don’t think we did. That’s on me,” LaFleur said, speaking specifically about the offensive line, but it was a self-critical refrain he repeated that applied to all phases.

“I think everybody in that locker room will tell you that they can all play better and we can coach better and we’ve got to do it together.”

LaFleur was just as direct and unwavering in his confidence the Packers will get back on track. His words of encouragement for Scott in particular, that “he’s proved it, he’s done it … he’s going to figure it out,” reflect how he feels about the entire team as well.

The most difficult part to understand for the rookie head coach is he believed his team, coming off its bye week, had a good week of practice before heading west. So where the disconnect lies between the preparation and performance may be as important to figure out as anything.

The Packers also have an injury issue to deal with at right tackle after veteran Bryan Bulaga exited Sunday night’s game early with a bum knee. LaFleur provided no update on Bulaga’s status, but he didn’t commit to his immediate replacement, Alex Light, taking over the starting job if Bulaga has to miss time.

That would suggest right guard Billy Turner could slide out to right tackle, with Lucas Patrick filling Turner’s spot at guard. That’ll be a development to watch as the week unfolds.

In any event, when the players return Wednesday, everything will be reviewed and the page will be turned to next Sunday’s road opponent, the Giants.

“Just like I say every week, you’ve got to hit the reset button,” LaFleur said. “I do like our group. I trust we’ve got the right mindset, the right mentality, and they’re a resilient group. I think we have the right leaders in that locker room and I think these guys will bounce back.”

They’ve done it twice before this season, but the aftermath of a high-stakes, measuring-stick type of game is different. This is the worst these Packers have felt after a loss, for a number of reasons.

Whether that makes the recovery any tougher or any easier, time will tell. The next game will be here soon enough.

“Everybody was hurting in that locker room. Everybody was disappointed. And I think these guys will battle,” LaFleur said.

“Anytime you get embarrassed like that, you find out what you’re made of. You find out a lot about people in times of adversity. I think this will be a good test for our football team. Hopefully, we’ll become better for it. Certainly, there’s a lot of work to be done. We’ve got to use every moment from today until we play the Giants to get it done.”

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