GREEN BAY - One of the first people to greet Matt LaFleur outside of the Packers locker room as the first-year head coach exited Soldier Field Thursday night was general manager Brian Gutekunst, and the two shared a celebratory hug. Moments later, following his postgame address, quarterback Aaron Rodgers gave LaFleur the game ball to commemorate his first official victory as a head coach.
After that, the team swarmed LaFleur in celebration.
“It was a special moment,” LaFleur said Friday. “I think a lot of these guys, man. What’s so special to me is I can tell these guys are coming together as a team and I think they care about each other. It was more special just to enjoy that moment with our team and our players and our coaches.”
He allowed himself to enjoy the milestone for just a few hours, however, as he said he went to bed shortly after the team landed in Green Bay on Friday morning.
“Got up early this morning and came in and watched the tape and went through all the corrections,” he said. “Now, it’s on to Minnesota. You don’t spend too much time reflecting on the moment."
Packers make, and lose, first OPI challenge
At the 14-minute, 25-second mark in the fourth quarter Thursday night, LaFleur made NFL history by becoming the first head coach to challenge a play for pass interference.
The Bears had moved from their own 13 to their 42 thanks to a 14-yard pass and Packers unnecessary roughness penalty, and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky followed that up with a completion to Taylor Gabriel for another 15 yards to the Packers’ 43. LaFleur elected to challenge the play for possible offensive pass interference. After a review that lasted just over two minutes, the play stood and the Packers lost a timeout.
“All the challenges go through me, so I’ve got to do better,” LaFleur said after the game. “They (Packers’ spotters) said it might, it was a big play, and it looked like there was a little push off there but obviously it wasn’t clear and obvious.”
After that play, the Bears committed three consecutive 10-yard penalties to set up a 1st-and-40 from their own 27. They ended up punting.
King drops pick, records sack
Kevin King didn’t hang his head Thursday night when talking about what could have been his second career interception Thursday night, after he jumped a route but dropped a Trubisky pass that hit him in the hands on a third-and-9 play to open the second quarter.
Why? Because the Packers scored the eventual game-winning touchdown on the ensuing drive. But King did enjoy his first career sack, which came with 38 seconds left in the half when he forced Trubisky out of bounds for a 2-yard loss on a second-and-7 play.
Shortly after his news conference, Rodgers stopped by King’s locker to give him some love for the personal milestone.
“I had to make sure it was a sack,” King said smiling. “Right when I got it, I knew the situation and I kind of looked up and I’m asking the sideline, ‘That’s a sack! That’s a sack! I got it!’ When it went to third-and-9, I got the sack. I appreciate that.”
Hectic week for Goodson
Do not ask B.J. Goodson what day it is. Literally, the Packers linebacker does not know.
His life has been a five-day whirlwind, from the New York Giants practice field, to a four-hour flight delay at Newark Liberty International Airport, to an overnight stay in Detroit, to Soldier Field in Chicago for the Packers' opener against the Bears.
In the meantime, he has had to cram like a college student preparing for the test of his life. Goodson, traded to the Packers on Tuesday, didn’t arrive in Green Bay until Wednesday. He was playing for his new team 24 hours later.
So, no, he hasn’t had time to consult the calendar.
“They just had to tell me what today was,” Goodson said. “It’s like that. I haven’t kept track of the days since everything happened.”
Despite it all, Goodson played three special-teams snaps against the Bears. He said it wasn’t a surprise he was active, much less playing. Goodson was informed he’d dress Thursday night shortly after arriving at Lambeau Field the day before.
On Wednesday, he thinks, Goodson spent “several hours” studying film of last year’s games between the Packers and Bears, as well as meetings with inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti and special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga. He also introduced himself to most, but not all, of his new teammates during the walkthrough before the team boarded its flight to Chicago, including Rodgers.
“When I first walked through the building,” Goodson said, “Aaron was coming back inside for something. I got done with physicals after they were done with practice and everything. So I guess he was walking back in the building to grab something, and he was like, ‘Oh, you’re our new linebacker. Nice to meet you.’ So that was amazing just to see, OK, he’s a humble, down-to-earth guy.
“As I was doing things and saw guys, a lot of guys came up and spoke, introduced themselves to me. That shows a lot about these guys and their character. There’s no egos in here, man, and that’s big.”
Eventually, Goodson’s role is likely to be more than three special-teams snaps. He was acquired to be an early-down linebacker, someone who can defend the run. There’s still much he has to learn, especially the verbiage in coordinator Mike Pettine’s defense, but Goodson has an extended weekend before the Packers open their home schedule against the Minnesota Vikings next weekend.
Before then, he’d also like to better get to know his teammates.
“I know my talent,” he said. “So going through that process, I never was kind of really worried. I knew that I could help the team. Obviously, I didn’t know (which team). But, I mean, finding out who, and like I just went over the process from when I got here and the guys coming up speaking, ‘Hey, my name is…’ Even before the game, guys were hyped, getting amped with me, and don’t necessarily know me. So the natural thing to do is get hyped with them, man.
“So you just embrace it, man.”