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After ugly loss, Matt LaFleur is unhappy with Packers’ defense and his own playcalling

The Bucs outmatched the Packers in every phase of football on Sunday, and LaFleur must find a way to get his team back on track for another tough road game next weekend.

Green Bay Packers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers have plenty to examine when they look in the mirror and at the tape of the 38-10 drubbing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers put on them on Sunday afternoon. But although the players have to answer for their own poor performances, the Packers coaching staff must be right beside them, with plenty to explain and fix about their schematic approach to Sunday’s game.

For head coach Matt LaFleur, the buck stops at the top with him, as it always does.

“It starts with me first,” LaFleur said on Monday in his Zoom press conference. “Obviously, I didn’t get these guys ready to play and I didn’t do a good job as a play caller. That’s two problems in one.”

LaFleur spoke at length about the issues with the Packers’ offensive playcalling, a duty that he executes and one that he had excelled at through the first four games of the season. He said that he and the offense could not get into a rhythm, noting that the team went three-and-out seven times on Sunday alone after doing that just once in the first month. “Any time whatever you’re calling isn’t working, that’s really frustrating,” LaFleur said, noting that he went back to some simple playcalls to try to get that rhythm back but that even that didn’t work.

A big reason for the failures on offense was due to Tampa Bay’s defense, of course, particularly a front seven that gave the Packers’ offensive line fits. The Packers allowed five sacks in the game, and that part boils down to execution: “We didn’t block. Especially when you’re trying to throw the football like we were to try to get back in the game, if you can’t block them it doesn’t matter what you call.”

Meanwhile, it’s clear that LaFleur was unhappy with his defense’s performance, and one can infer that he is displeased with defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s game plan. At one point, he answered a question about why the Packers sat back in soft coverage on a third-and-two for the Buccaneers, a play where Tom Brady checked into a quick pass for one of the easiest third-down conversions possible. LaFleur didn’t pull any punches, and it’s hard not to read this as an indictment of Pettine’s approach: “That’s something that, to your point, we need to go back and re-evaluate what we’re trying to get done. We never want to give up easy layups to the offense. I want us to be aggressive and go up and challenge the offense.”

However bad the team played on Sunday, practice and preparation during the week played a part. After expressing frustration with himself and his staff immediately following the game, LaFleur followed up by expanding on the issues that he saw looking back. Most damning is this quote: “We as coaches have to ask our players to do things they’re capable of doing.”

That seemed to be a failure on both sides of the ball on Sunday. The Packers kept with an outside zone running game despite the fact that Buccaneers linebackers Lavonte David and Devin White were too fast for the Green Bay linemen to lay a hand on them. Instead of running more inside zone — where the Packers actually had some success — the bulk of the handoffs went to the perimeter, where David and White regularly bottled up the ball carriers. Then on defense, the team ended up in some undesirable matchups in coverage, particularly involving Rob Gronkowski.

All told, LaFleur wants to ensure that this loss does not snowball. In 2019, the Packers did not lose consecutive games, and a road matchup with the Houston Texans — who sit at 1-5 but nearly beat a still-undefeated Titans team on Sunday — awaiting them in week 7. “The big thing is we cannot allow this loss to lead into a bad game against a really talented team,” LaFleur said.

It’s on him to make sure his team is prepared this week to avoid that scenario.