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Matt LaFleur: 'This one falls on me, squarely'

Packers head coach blames himself for not giving Jordan Love better blitz beaters

Head Coach Matt LaFleur
Head Coach Matt LaFleur

Matt LaFleur talked all week about the Packers rallying around Jordan Love in his first NFL start.

He ended the week pointing the finger at himself as the segment of the support system that let Love down the most.

After a frustrating 13-7 defeat in Kansas City on Sunday, despite costly special-teams blunders, pass protection issues and some obviously wayward throws by his young quarterback, LaFleur was most upset with the man in the mirror.

"We always ask our players to be critical of themselves, and this one falls on me, squarely," LaFleur said in his opening postgame remarks.

The third-year head coach has uttered similar mea culpas in the past, but this time it wasn't just about taking his share of the blame. The tone was harsher.

This game was there for the taking, and LaFleur left Arrowhead Stadium full of regrets for not giving Love what he needed to perform better.

The Cliff's notes version is when the Packers were in third down, the Chiefs blitzed. A lot. And they didn't just add one extra rusher to their four-man front. They often added two, even three. Preseason football, this was not.

They're called "all-out" or "zero" blitzes, the zero referring to the lack of extra coverage help on the back end. Against the steady bombardment of pressure, Love managed to take just one sack, but he converted none of his first nine third downs.

"It just comes down to the play calls and having answers to be able to protect against some of that," LaFleur said. "Anytime you go against zero pressure, if you don't make a team pay, they're going to keep running it.

"And unfortunately we didn't make them pay until late in the game. So, I would anticipate that we're probably going to see some more zero blitz until we get it corrected."

With Love, definitely. It's possible Aaron Rodgers will be back under center next week against Seattle, but right now nothing is certain.

No defense would take this approach with Rodgers because he's too good at diagnosing and getting rid of the ball, quickly and accurately, to give his receivers chances to make plays against depleted coverage.

But the Packers knew the Chiefs would come after Love, especially with the home crowd noise making communication difficult, yet they didn't look ready for it.

LaFleur bemoaned calling too many "longer-developing plays" that didn't allow a receiver to break free early. He also wished he'd stuck with the run more, too, with Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon averaging 5 yards per carry (combined 99 yards on 20 rushes).

But he was determined to get the Chiefs to back off from loading the line of scrimmage, and his comments indicated he expected the Packers' protection to hold up better. But he didn't really adjust until the fourth quarter, when Love put together a 68-yard drive that unfortunately ended in an interception, and then the 53-yard touchdown drive.

"I think we started having a better answer in the end, but they were bringing the all-out," Love said. "They were heating us up and we just weren't able to execute on those plays we had against it.

"All it took was maybe one big play against it and it wouldn't have been coming as much. Obviously we weren't able to execute (against) it. That's why they kept bringing it."

The disappointment for Love was obvious in his voice and on his face after the game. To his credit, he didn't focus on the play calls and admitted he missed throws that needed to be better. He felt he had plenty of chances, with the Green Bay defense playing such an outstanding game.

Love was understandably bummed he didn't maximize on his first big opportunity in the NFL, and he certainly could have executed better on some easier passes to stay out of those tough third-down situations. He also called himself out for some third-down under pressure that could have given his receivers a better chance.

But the most disappointed person, from the sounds of it, was LaFleur. He knows Love has a long ways to go. Love knows it, too. But LaFleur sees the potential that's there, and he left Kansas City frustrated he didn't give him the keys to unlock it.

"We'll have to go back and look at it and dissect it pretty closely," LaFleur said. "I thought all in all just the environment, the amount of pressure he took and the hits that he took, and to stand in there and still deliver the ball and give us an opportunity at the end of the game, he showed a lot of resiliency. And I think that's a great quality to have in a quarterback."

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