By Tori Wittenbrock
Associate Sports Editor
ASHWAUBENON – After a tough 24-25 loss for the Packers on Sunday, Sept. 17, to the Atlanta Falcons, Packers Head Coach Matt LaFleur said that there is a lot of work to be done, but he is satisfied with the work his team put in.
“I was proud of the effort of the guys stepping in and stepping up,” said LaFleur.
With a hefty injury report from the Packers, including notable players such as David Bakhtiari and Aaron Jones, LaFleur said that relying on other players to perform has been a heavy influence on their performance.
“We are going to kind of figure out who we are going to roll out there, but it is always a competitive situation. I don’t care what position it is, we are going to make it competitive, and if guys aren’t performing, then we’ll roll out someone else.”
Being that the Packers have a relatively young roster, LaFleur said that it is no excuse for their performance on Sunday and that they shouldn’t have left that many plays on the field.
“I think there is a lot of learning involved in every game, especially with young players, more situationally, but that film was tough to watch because there were a lot of opportunities left out there,” said LaFleur.
“I’m not trying to take any credit away from Atlanta. They did what they needed to do to beat us, but I have confidence in the guys in the locker room that we’ve got to make some of these plays that are out there for us to make.”
Going forward, LaFleur said that injuries should not have any affect on their ability to clinch a win either at Lambeau, or at an away game.
“All 32 teams have the same challenge, so I’m not going to use that as an excuse. It is what it is. You’ve got to come up with a plan, and you’re expected to go out there and execute that plan and go out there and win a football game, period.”
The Packers have a lot of learning curves ahead of them, through the young ages of players like quarterback Jordan Love or placekicker Anders Carlson, according to LaFleur. However, he said that he has no reason to doubt that things will only get smoother and cleaner from here on out.
“All those guys went out there and competed and made some critical plays. So, we’ve just got to make sure that they continue, and they’ve got to get better, and continue to learn, whether it’s failure or success. You’ve got to continue to learn from it and get better and better and better,” said LaFleur.
“I think there are things we’ve got to adapt and adjust to and do a much better job.”
In a time when the Packers are looking for a leader after their first loss of the season, LaFleur said he is confident in Love’s ability to ignite a fire in the rest of his team on the field.
“It’s a fine line of being smart but also just bringing that energy and he showed some fire after the run which was pretty impressive in my opinion. I was really pleased with how he competed and how composed he was, how he led. That is encouraging,” said LaFleur.
“I love it. I think it’s inspiring and brings the whole team together. It really galvanizes that locker room — and not just offense, I’m talking all three phases. You really want to see that spirit and that competitive fight from your quarterback.”
However, there is not just one player that needs to perform well in order to win games in such a competitive league.
“I think, more or less, we’ve got to do a better job with our details. And that’s across the board, not just with our running. Whether you’re an offensive line, tight end, running back, we’ve got to be more physical at the point of attack. There is just so much that goes into it, so it’s never just on one person,” said LaFleur. “We are looking at everything under a microscope.”
One of the most disappointing factors of the Packers’ loss this past weekend was losing a lead that spanned the majority of the game within the final few minutes of play.
“There’s a lot to correct in the first three quarters. I know that we had a 12-point lead going into the fourth quarter, but there are still plenty of situations where we could have had a bigger lead had we made a few more plays. We dropped two interceptions, the first drive of the game we had a false start penalty, we had a delay of game lining up to take the field goal,” said LaFleur.
According to LaFleur, cleaning up the little things is the biggest form of progress the team can make in the coming weeks.
“It’s just a chess match, it always is. Good plays are going to happen on both sides of the ball, and some bad plays are going to happen on both sides of the ball. That’s going to happen in football. Credit to them.”
Not only does individual performance and accountability lead to wins, but LaFleur said that depth of the roster, accountability of the coaching staff, and a myriad of other factors result in wins.
“There are a lot of things throughout the entirety of the game, some good and some bad, and unfortunately it caught up to us in the fourth quarter,” said LaFleur.
“I’ve got to be better. I’ve got to keep an eye on the shot clock, our operation has got to improve. It’s never an excuse, but we’ve got two young players out there. I think it was a learning experience but a hard one to learn, and we’ve got to be better.”
Although the Packers are used to a passionate fan base at home in Green Bay, playing in a loud environment at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta was a major deterrent in their ability to perform on Sunday as well.
“Credit to their fans and that environment. It was loud, and things get miscommunicated. We had a bunch of miscommunications, really on both sides of the ball,” said LaFleur.
LaFleur said that he was frustrated with the team’s loss, explaining that it felt like they didn’t take full advantage of every chance they had to make a play.
“You only get so many opportunities in this league, and when you feel like you missed an [opportunity], that is extremely frustrating. I don’t wanna ever take any credit from Atlanta, they did what they had to do, but we’ve just got to look at what we can control and what we can do better. We’ve just got to capitalize.”
Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough to secure a win in Georgia.
“We’ve got to stay ahead of that stuff so it doesn’t cost us, and unfortunately, yesterday, it cost us. It wasn’t just one play in particular. You’ve always got to stay ahead of the competition, granted, they get paid too. I’ve got a lot of respect for the coaching staff over there, and they’ve got a lot of good players, but you are always trying to stay one step ahead, and we obviously weren’t.”