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Packers continue moving 'on to the next game'

Preparing with the right mindset has paid dividends for LaFleur and his team

Head Coach Matt LaFleur
Head Coach Matt LaFleur

GREEN BAY – Matt LaFleur continues to preach his week-to-week, 1-0 mentality, and there's no reason to stop now. It's clearly working.

The approach is nothing new in the world of football, but what's a little different is how it applies to the 2019 Green Bay Packers. This is a team with a lot of new faces, a group that for the most part hasn't experienced any overwhelming amount of success in the NFL.

Yet the players are managing to stay grounded, despite the fact that 31 of the 53 on the current roster weren't even in the league the last time the Packers posted a winning record. And 11 other veterans weren't on Green Bay's last successful team, in 2016.

That's 42 of 53 players who were not a part of the Packers' run to the NFC title game three years ago. Certainly some of those four-year-and-older vets enjoyed playoff seasons elsewhere and/or earlier in their careers, so their experience helps.

But for a freshly assembled and relatively young bunch to not get caught up in the trappings of success, it has taken a consistent, steady message from LaFleur backed up by the veterans who know all about life in the NFL, to maintain the right mindset.

"I think our guys have really taken to that and bought into taking it one game at a time and try to do your very best to get prepared for that game," LaFleur said on Monday, about 12 hours after the Packers' plane returned from Kansas City carrying a 7-1 team.

"Because this league, … you can't take anything for granted in this league. You look at yesterday, they were missing a bunch of starters. You better come ready to play each and every day."

A Chiefs team missing its MVP quarterback and at least five other regulars gave the Packers all they could handle at a loud and rowdy Arrowhead Stadium. It was exactly what the Packers expected, which helped them respond accordingly at key moments in crunch time.

Like the screen pass to Aaron Jones two snaps after Kansas City re-tied the score at 24 in the fourth quarter that ruptured into a 67-yard touchdown, which was run "to perfection," according to LaFleur. "They executed it flawlessly. We had a guy that can really run and I'm just glad he didn't run out of bounds this time," he said, referring to Jones barely catching the sideline with his cleat in the first half on what could have been a 60-yard TD.

Or like the third-down pass break-up by former undrafted defensive back Chandon Sullivan on All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce with just over five minutes left, which LaFleur called "a great play on a really good player."

Or like the 39-yard drive with three first downs to drain the clock, a possession that started on the 2-yard line and immediately looked promising with Jones' 6-yard run on first down. LaFleur said the "line surge" on that first snap gave him the confidence as a play-caller to keep pounding the Chiefs with the run.

Getting those results in the big moments when the team's run of success is on the line goes back to having prepared with the right mentality on a daily basis.

"I think it's more or less we've got great leadership in that locker room," LaFleur said. "We've got a high-character locker room and I think these guys really care for one another. They've bought into our team and doing what's best for our football team."

Count the head coach among those not getting distracted by the hoopla, either.

LaFleur didn't dance around the fact that the Packers' defense missed too many tackles against the Chiefs on Sunday and continues to give up too many explosive gains. He praised the unit's resilience but also needs to see better, more consistent fundamentals.

The offense continues to evolve as well, as LaFleur and his offensive coaches figure out which players do what things best. One product of that exploration has been the extensive involvement of running backs Jones and Jamaal Williams in the passing game, and the next challenge will be at some point – possibly as soon as this week – re-integrating top receiver Davante Adams into an offense that doesn't look like the one he last played in a month ago.

"Those are good problems to have," he said. "So we'll figure it out."

While staying grounded, head man included.

"I don't sit back and think about it too much," said LaFleur, whose seven wins match the collective total of the other five rookie head coaches in the NFL. "It's just on to the next game just because I know how hard it is to win each and every week. If you don't put all your energy into that, you're not going to be as successful.

"Luckily for myself and our staff, we've come into a pretty good situation where we've got a lot of good players – not only good football players but good people – and I can't say enough about that locker room, the guys pulling all in the same direction with one common goal and that is to go 1-0 every week."

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