The Green Bay Packers entered Sunday night’s showdown against San Francisco with two losses, both of which were easy to compartmentalize.
Against Philadelphia in Week 4, at least the offense had its most productive night of the young season. Against the Chargers in Week 9, it was a just-one-of-those-days kind of games, no different than the Saints losing to Atlanta or Minnesota almost losing at home to Denver.
There’s no spin for what happened at the 49ers. There were no silver linings, no lipstick to put on a pig. With a bye week to prepare physically and mentally, with a healthy roster – especially compared to San Francisco’s injury situation – and with a chance to take the lead in the race for home-field advantage in a crowded NFC, the Packers were beaten every which way imaginable by the 49ers.
How do the Packers shake that off? How do they not let doubt creep into their head?
“By going back to work and taking it one day at a time and putting in the right prep,” coach Matt LaFleur said on Monday. “That’s the only way I know how to bounce back from anything. And I think, like I said, I’ve got confidence in these guys. Everybody was hurting in that locker room. Everybody was disappointed. And I think these guys will battle. What I love about our group is I didn’t feel like there was anybody pointing fingers. We’ve all got to look inward – coaches, players, everybody involved – and look at ourselves and be honest with ourselves about what we can do better. We’ve shown we can do a lot better than this. Again, you’ve got to give the Niners a lot of credit. That’s a good football team. But we know we didn’t play to the level of our expectations.”
LaFleur said the Packers need to “hit the reset button.” It’s a phrase he’s used, win or lose, after every game this season. Even with winnable games coming up against the Giants (2-9), Redskins (2-9) and Bears (5-6), the Packers can’t let the loss fester. They are a flawed team that needs to find answers before the Week 16 game at Minnesota that could determine the NFC North champion and whether the Packers get a home playoff game and possibly a first-round bye.
“I still like our chances,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said after the game. “I think we have the makeup to bounce back from these kind of things and put ourselves in a position to potentially come back here and play again.”
For that to happen, Green Bay must figure out its myriad of major problems. Offensively, the Packers nonsensically have been better without Davante Adams than they’ve been with the Pro Bowl receiver. LaFleur and Rodgers must figure out a more balanced approach. Defensively, the team has been tortured by tight ends for five consecutive weeks. Time is running out for coordinator Mike Pettine to get a handle on tight ends and explosive plays. Special teams have been a disaster under first-year coordinator Shawn Mennenga.
“Anytime you get embarrassed like that, you find out what you’re made of,” LaFleur said. “You find out a lot about people in times of adversity. I think this will be a good test for our football team. Hopefully, we’ll become better for it. Certainly, there’s a lot of work to be done. We’ve got to use every moment from today until we play the Giants to get it done.”