By Tori Wittenbrock
Associate Sports Editor
CHARLOTTE, NC – After a successful Christmas Eve win against the Carolina Panthers (2-13) on Sunday, Dec. 24, the Green Bay Packers have begun to prepare for the final two games of the season being on the bubble for playoff contention.
Despite the win, the Packers have had a troublesome year in terms of finding a rhythm and being able to perform consistently on both sides of the ball.
The 33-30 victory means that Green Bay has relinquished 88 points defensively in their last three games against the New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Panthers.
Heat has fallen on their defense as the team enters their penultimate game against the Minnesota Vikings with a record of 7-8, hoping to secure a postseason spot.
Packers Head Coach Matt LaFleur said that he hopes to see overall improvements from his team in every phase as they enter the next week of the regular season.
“It feels good to win,” said LaFluer. “I mean, I give Carolina a ton of credit. They fought hard for four quarters and we knew that was going to be the case.”
The game against the Panthers came down to the final play, with the Packers hopes of a win hinging on a 32-yard field goal from placekicker Anders Carlson to secure the win at Bank of America Stadium.
“Obviously there are a lot of things we have to clean up and try to improve upon moving into next week,” said LaFleur.
“Everything’s at stake. We are going into a great environment next week in Minnesota.”
The Vikings sit at second place in the NFC North, just ahead of the Packers with a record of 7-8.
Earlier in the season, the Vikings bested the Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday, Oct. 29, with a final score of 24-10.
Going into one of the closest games of the season, the Packers defense needs to make some adjustments and find a way to perform.
After a decent start to the game, the Packers defense allowed Carolina to gain some momentum in the fourth quarter and find the endzone twice to bring the game to a late tie.
“That was definitely frustrating, but it wasn’t just on the defense,” said LaFleur. “Offensively, we’ve got to be able to give those guys a breather. We’ve got to be able to put together a drive and get some first downs to allow those guys to recover.”
LaFleur said that the offense is often responsible for the defenses performance, which is a trend that a lot of people tend to overlook.
“Momentum is a crazy phenomenon. They got the momentum in the second half, and they were rolling it, really in every phase,” said LaFleur.
However, after defensive coordinator Joe Barry and the defense have been on the hot seat, LaFleur said that he his hopeful that going forward his offense will give the defense the tools and time that they need to succeed on the field.
“My mindset — our mindset, is that it’s whatever it takes to win. If it’s 30, if it’s 33, 21, 40, it doesn’t matter. You’ve got to find a way to win football games. It’s just that ‘whatever it takes to win’ mentality. If one side is having some struggles, you better play complementary football and the other side has got to pick up the slack so to speak,” said LaFleur.