Losing is never a good thing. That is especially the case for NFL teams. Every regular-season game in the NFL is crucial. But there are times where hard-fought losses fly under the radar. But the way the Green Bay Packers fell to the Los Angeles Chargers last week, it drew national attention. While the score, 26-11, might give the impression it was close, it never was. The Chargers dominated the Packers from the opening whistle until the end. The Packers came into the game with a 7-1 record. But they looked nothing like their record. That is why this week against the Carolina Panthers, head coach Matt LaFleur will need to have the Packers prepped and ready to go.
Matt LaFleur is in his first year as a head coach, at any level. That could be why so many fans are wondering how the Packers will perform this week. Before last week, the Packers had already dealt with losing. In week four against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Packers fell 34-27. While they didn’t do enough to win the game, they were in it until the end. But against the Chargers, they never had a chance.
The Packers offense, an offense that Matt LaFleur calls the plays for, had their worst performance of the season. The week prior, quarterback Aaron Rodgers went for 22 of 33 for 305 yards with three touchdown passes in a 31-24 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. Rodgers followed that performance going 23 of 35 for just 161 yards and one touchdown against the Chargers. Even the return of Davante Adams, who had been out with a toe injury since week four, wasn’t enough to jump-start the Packers passing attack.
Running the ball was just as difficult for the Packers against the Chargers. The two-headed rushing attack of Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams only could muster 40 rushing yards on ten carries. While the running backs struggled, they weren’t done many favors by Matt LaFleur. Before the season, LaFleur had stated how important the running game would be this season. The idea behind establishing the run game would not only help move the ball but also open up the passing game. But LaFleur quickly abandoned the run game, which made the offense one dimensional.
Throughout the season, tackles Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari had been major forces in the Packers’ offensive success. But against upper echelon Chargers pass rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, the veteran tackles struggled. Bosa and Ingram had their way with Bulaga and Bakhtiari. Bosa and Ingram combined for three sacks and had numerous pressures. The two pass rushers never allowed Rodgers to get comfortable in the pocket.
Not all of the blame should be laid at the feet of the Packers offense. While the Mike Pettine defense did hold the Chargers to four field goals, they continue to give up big yardage. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers finished the day going 21 of 28 for 294 yards. Wide receivers Mike Williams, Keenan Allen, and tight end Hunter Henry also had a big day. The trio caught 13 passes for 235 yards.
The Packers continue to struggle to stop the opposing team’s ground game. Chargers running backs Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler combined for 150 yards rushing on 32 carries with Gordon rushing for two touchdowns. It won’t get any easier for the Packers run defense this week. Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey will be coming to Lambeau Field this week and he is having an MVP type season.
Last week’s poor performance, on both sides of the ball, has many experts and fans questioning how good the Packers truly are. They aren’t the only ones to wonder if the Packers are truly for real either.
Las Vegas is also wondering if the Packers are true Super Bowl contenders. After their loss to the Chargers, the Packers dropped out of the Top 4 of the Super Bowl odds. They are now behind five different NFL teams in regards to the odds.
This week will be one of the toughest games in Matt LaFleur’s early coaching career. LaFleur and the Packers will need to show they have the fortitude to bounce back from a difficult loss. It won’t be an easy task. The Panthers will enter the game with a 5-3 record. They coming off a victory last week. They defeated the Tennessee Titans 30-20 last week.
LaFleur won’t be the only one that will be facing the pressure. Before last week, the Packers looked like legitimate Super Bowl contenders. But now they have many, fans, experts, and the betting community, wondering if they truly can bring home the Lombardi trophy this season.