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Packers looking to shore up defensive details

Chiefs brought attention to areas of focus moving forward

Giants RB Saquon Barkley
Giants RB Saquon Barkley

GREEN BAY – While holding Kansas City and Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes to just 19 points is a result the Packers will take anytime, a couple of issues with the defensive performance still bothered Head Coach Matt LaFleur after he reviewed the film of Sunday night's victory.

One was the run defense, but not just because Isiah Pacheco racked up 110 yards on only 18 carries, a hefty average of 6.1 per rush. LaFleur confessed Mahomes and Kansas City's weapons will force a defense to sit back at times in the secondary, so clamping down on the run isn't easy with less help up front.

But a couple of Pacheco's longer runs came when the Packers dropped a safety into the box as an extra run defender, yet Pacheco still gashed them.

"What's disappointing is when you call single-safety defenses and you give up an explosive run, and that happened a few times where we don't have guys in the right gaps," LaFleur said Monday. "That's what you've got to fix."

It's imperative the Packers square that away this week going up against the Giants and running back Saquon Barkley next Monday night. New York's passing game has struggled all season, and third-string QB Tommy DeVito is expected to be taking the snaps.

With the Giants coming off their bye and Barkley rested up, he's bound to be a huge part of their game plan. After missing three games early this season due to injury, Barkley had found a nice groove, rushing for 547 yards over a six-game span (4.4 per attempt) before the Patriots slowed him up a bit in Week 12 (12 carries, 46 yards, 3.8 avg.).

The Packers are likely to devote extra personnel to defending Barkley, but they have to be more fundamentally sound in those alignments to not let him repeat what Pacheco did in a few instances.

"When you're in a single-safety defense, you can't allow that to happen," LaFleur said.

The other issue LaFleur focused on was Mahomes' scrambling, which moved the chains a couple of times and led to a handful of completions outside the pocket.

The Packers sacked Mahomes – who had only been sacked 14 times on the season coming in – three times in the first half, all in the red zone to force two early field goals. But that success in getting to him on the opening two drives might've led to some overzealousness up front in other situations that proved costly.

"Patrick does such a great job creating off-schedule plays, so it was important to us to be very disciplined with our rush lanes, and unfortunately, there were a few instances where we were not," LaFleur said. "It's never going to be perfect."

No, it's not, but it's an important lesson with the opponents who lie ahead on the Packers' schedule.

New York's DeVito rushed for 41 yards in his first NFL start last month, and mobile, elusive quarterbacks such as Carolina's Bryce Young, Minnesota's Josh Dobbs and Chicago's Justin Fields all potentially await during the stretch run.

"Every week we have new challenges," LaFleur said, "and every team is going to present a different problem for you."

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