Skip to main content

Packers maintaining trust in each other in preparation for Panthers

Green Bay knows it must win out to keep playoff hopes alive

LBs Eric Wilson, Kingsley Enagbare and CB Carrington Valentine
LBs Eric Wilson, Kingsley Enagbare and CB Carrington Valentine

GREEN BAY – In the aftermath of Sunday's 34-20 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Head Coach Matt LaFleur opened the floor to his players inside the Packers' team meeting room.

It was an opportunity to reflect, reassess and come together after back-to-back losses that have Green Bay sitting firmly on the playoff bubble at 6-8.

With three games left on the 2023 slate, the Packers have three more chances to mount a final playoff push. Unconcerned with the rest of the NFC postseason picture, Green Bay has its focus set squarely on Sunday's matchup with the Carolina Panthers.

"We had a great meeting on Monday, a very open forum where anybody could speak," said LaFleur after practice Wednesday.

"I do think we're all about finding solutions. How can we best communicate with one another? And it starts with me, and it goes down to Joe (Barry) and the assistants down to our players and then on the field. We need everybody communicating."

Defensively, the loss to Tampa was hard to swallow. After throwing for just 333 yards in his last two starts against Green Bay combined, Baker Mayfield went for 381 yards and four touchdowns in Sunday's win over the Packers. For his efforts, Mayfield was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

In lieu of finger-pointing, Green Bay has prioritized communication and continuity this week. It started with the team meeting and carried into the installation of the game plan.

With LaFleur reiterating his commitment to Barry as his defensive coordinator earlier this week, Green Bay's defense was back on the practice field Wednesday to continue those preparations for Sunday's meeting with the 2-12 Panthers.

Behind top pick Bryce Young, Carolina ranks 29th in scoring (14.7 points per game) and 30th in total yards (270.9 yards per game). The rookie quarterback hasn't thrown a TD pass in his last four starts but paced the Panthers to a 9-7 win over Atlanta, completing 18 of 24 passes for 167 yards with no turnovers.

Several defensive players expressed confidence in both the unit's cohesiveness and plan for the Panthers, beginning with nickel cornerback Keisean Nixon.

"Everybody's still believing," said Nixon, whose 676 defensive snaps played are just six behind linebacker Quay Walker for the team lead. "I feel like players, everybody's still locked in. The talk around the locker room is we still have three games left, let's rock out. We're still together. We're still the same team. Let's do it."

The vibe in the locker room Wednesday remained upbeat, though Green Bay is acutely aware of its predicament following back-to-back losses to the New York Giants and Bucs.

The Packers and Atlanta Falcons both sit at 6-8, trailing four 7-7 teams jostling for the final two NFC Wild Card spots. Two of those squads, the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans, square off tonight.

Embracing the challenge in front of Green Bay, Jordan Love is keeping his focus on the task at hand. The first-year starting quarterback rebounded from a down performance against New York to throw for 284 yards and two TDs (111.5 passer rating) against the Bucs.

"We've got to win," Love said. "We've got three opportunities to go out there and get a win. The goal right now is to get to 9-8 and then let the playoffs kind of play themselves out, see if we can get a shot in there. Obviously bouncing back after two tough losses, we've just got to find a way to go win these last three."

It has been an up-and-down year for one of the league's youngest teams. Injuries and self-inflicted penalties saw the Packers fall to 2-6 at the midseason mark before a trio of wins over the Los Angeles Chargers, Detroit and Kansas City resuscitated the Packers' playoff hopes.

Green Bay knows it needs a few things to bounce its way but hasn't lost confidence in its ability to pull off a late-season comeback. The Packers have been there before. They see no reason they can't do it again.

Everything starts in Carolina.

"We lost a lot of games, and everyone didn't like us and then we won some big games, and everyone was talking about us," tight end Tucker Kraft said. "And we're on the short side of the stick again and people are down and out about us but everyone in this locker room, we know we're all we need and we're all we've got, with the coaching staff, support staff.

"As long as we just continue to trust in each other, the details and small things, everything. We need to play as a cohesive unit."

Related Content