Winning Is ‘Only Thing That Matters’ But LaFleur Expects More

Bill Huber

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Following a 20-15 victory over the Washington Redskins, it was a bit of role reversal between Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur and quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

LaFleur, the first-year coach with nothing but time on his side, voiced his disappointment in his offense’s performance and noted the urgency to improve with three games remaining and a potential playoff run looming.

“I just wanted to start out saying that although we are definitely happy we won, it felt like we left a lot out there today,” LaFleur said in his opening remarks. “We’ve got three tough opponents coming up, starting with the Chicago Bears and three NFC North opponents, and we’ve got a lot to clean up in order to move forward to get to where we want to get to.”

Where the Packers in general want to get is the Super Bowl. That’s especially true for Rodgers, who turned 36 on Monday and desperately wants to add another championship to his legacy. If anyone should feel the urgency, it’s Rodgers. An offense that was humming during the second quarter of the season was mostly a dud during the third quarter of the season. On Sunday, the Packers simply couldn’t put away the 10-loss Redskins. Rodgers was a ho-hum 18-of-28 passing for 195 yards and one touchdown.

“We’re finding different ways to win,” Rodgers said. “It might be ugly at times to maybe some folks but we ran the ball today for 180 yards or so and got Aaron Jones going. … We’ve got to clean some of that stuff up but I wouldn’t mind winning ugly all the way to the Super Bowl.”

Rodgers perhaps will get home and, over a couple glasses of scotch, contemplate the state of the offense. Is it a fatally flawed unit – not against the likes of the Redskins but against Seattle, San Francisco, Minnesota and New Orleans in the playoffs – or is really close to firing on at least more than a couple cylinders?

Consider the fourth possession. With Green Bay leading 14-0 early in the second quarter, Rodgers had Jimmy Graham open deep but threw the ball about a yard too far for his aging tight end. With a better throw, the Packers perhaps would have taken a 21-0 lead.

“That would have put us up three scores and you’re probably feeling a little better about yourself right now,” Rodgers said.

Late in the first half, with the Packers in scoring position, Rodgers was stripped and fumbled. With a field goal to cap that drive, Green Bay might have taken a 24-6 halftime lead. Early in the fourth quarter, with Green Bay leading 17-9, Rodgers had Jones for a potential deep connection but Jones ran with outstretched hands for a few steps, hindering his ability to make the catch. That play could have led to more points instead of a punt.

Instead of a blowout, the Packers needed an onside-kick recovery by Davante Adams to close out the game.

“Winning’s the only thing that matters,” Rodgers said. “Even in the midst of some of these games where it hasn’t been a great flow the entire time, we are winning, so that’s the encouraging thing. We expect to win games where our defense holds them to less than 20 points. We’ll find our rhythm. I’m not worried about that on offense. We’ve just got to keep getting the ball to our playmakers and figure out what’s going to work that week. Today, it was getting the ball to Aaron in the run game.”

Jones did his part with 134 rushing yards and one touchdown and 192 total yards but the rest of the offense wasn’t nearly good enough. Rodgers was sacked four times. Among the receivers, Adams had a quiet game with four catches for 41 yards and the rest of the receivers combined for three catches for 30 yards. Green Bay went just 5-of-13 on third down, a typically mediocre 38.5 percent that was bolstered by a pair of conversions on the closing drive. So, despite an overwhelming 160-yard advantage in field position, the Packers couldn’t finish off the Redskins.

From the big-picture perspective, Green Bay’s offense doesn’t seem anywhere close to being of championship caliber. LaFleur, who has been so even-keeled throughout his first year on the job, seemed to recognize that this might be good enough against Washington but it might not be good enough the next two weeks against Chicago and Minnesota, let alone in the playoffs.

“I think if we had the answers right now, you wouldn’t be seeing what you saw today,” LaFleur said. “Again, you’ve got to give them credit because they came out and they didn’t quit. We knew they were a big, physical front, but I don’t think it’s up to our standards. We’ve got to go back, look critically and make the corrections, and make sure that we’re putting our guys in good positions.”

From Rodgers’ vantage point, the sweet smell of victory provided some perfume after a long afternoon.

“Nobody’s saying it’s going to be the prettiest every single week,” Rodgers said. “Good thing is I think we have a good mind-set about it. We watch it, we critique it, we talk about what we want to do differently. But it comes down to execution. When you’re 5-for-13 on third down, we were pretty bad on first down, you’re not going to have a dynamic day on offense, that’s just the facts. I can’t really tell you what the magic recipe is moving forward, but I can tell you it feels really good to be 10-3 and it feels good to be on that side where you’re answering questions about how can you be more dynamic after a win than, what the hell’s wrong with the team.”