GREEN BAY – Not surprisingly after a blowout win over a playoff-caliber opponent, Head Coach Matt LaFleur is excited about certain things he sees developing on both sides of the ball.
Namely, physical football on defense and another dangerous weapon on offense.
In the 40-14 victory over the Titans, the Packers didn't just hold what had been the league's highest-scoring offense to two touchdowns, as well as the NFL's leading rusher under 100 yards. It won the battle of the banging, hands down.
"I just think our guys were dialed in, focused, ready to go," LaFleur said Monday. "I felt we played really physical football."
He mentioned how outside linebacker Preston Smith "answered the bell" by setting a tough edge when the Titans were determined to run Derrick Henry right at him. On the interior, Dean Lowry was among those "being consistent, doing his job." Safeties Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage continue to ratchet up their level of play. The rotation at inside linebacker amongst two rookies (Krys Barnes, Kamal Martin) and a veteran (Christian Kirksey) also keeps paying dividends.
The swarming, the energy, the cheering each other on all played into a physical brand of defense that gives the Packers a new standard as the season's stakes get higher.
On offense, the standard has been pretty high most of the season, but another option in the running game is, at a minimum, intriguing.
Rookie back AJ Dillon introduced himself to the NFL world with a 21-carry, 124-yard, two-TD performance with Jamaal Williams sidelined due to a quad injury. The 247-pound second-round draft pick looked like he was born to run in the December snow at Lambeau Field.
In the meantime, Aaron Jones went over 1,000 rushing yards for the second straight season – the first Packers running back to do that since Eddie Lacy in 2013-14 – and the injury to Williams isn't expected to be long-term.
There's only one football to hand off at a time, but right now LaFleur just appreciates the plug-and-play aspect taking root with the ground game. While certain backs may run certain plays more effectively, there isn't a wholesale scheme change when the ball carriers sub in and out.
"Just the confidence to be able to not worry about who's in there at the running back position, that's big-time," LaFleur said. "To be able to have somebody right there that you can throw in and not change your thoughts … you can just go attack. It's a great luxury to have."
A creative offensive mind like LaFleur admitted his wheels are "always spinning" with the possibilities so many productive players present, but he plans to exercise caution regarding the introduction of too many new ideas at this late stage.
"I've got to be careful to not crazy go with it but that's something that we talked about as a staff this morning – what possibilities are out there and how we can get creative to use them but within the framework of what we're trying to get done," he said. "You always got to be careful as a coach of just trying to put too much emphasis in one area. We've got to stay committed to what's gotten us to this point."
That point is 12-3 and in command of the NFC playoff race, needing a win at Chicago this week to secure the No. 1 seed, which comes with the lone first-round bye as well as home-field advantage.
"I thought yesterday was by far our most complete game in all three phases and I just think the guys are dialed in," LaFleur said. "There's a lot to be motivated about. There's a lot, obviously, at stake."