Packers have ‘a lot to improve upon’ during bye week before San Francisco showdown
GREEN BAY - Tempting as it might be, Matt LaFleur will not excommunicate his brother over the next two weeks. They will exchange text messages, yes, and even talk on occasion.
There will be limitations to those conversations. LaFleur said he and his brother, San Francisco 49ers receivers coach Mike LaFleur, will not discuss football. Not with the Green Bay Packers' game Nov. 24 at San Francisco looming after this bye week, a game that could have major ramifications atop the NFC playoff picture.
But they’re still family, these next two weeks and every other. LaFleur said his wife, BreAnne, and two children will head to San Francisco a couple days before the game, and they’ll stay with his brother’s family.
Of course, in an ultra-competitive profession, even the best intentions can be laced with ulterior motives.
“Hopefully,” LaFleur said, smiling, “she can do some recon for me.”
There’s a long way yet before the Packers and 49ers play potentially one of the biggest games of the NFL season. Longer, especially, for San Francisco. The 49ers tumbled from the unbeaten ranks Monday night, losing a wild one to the Seattle Seahawks 27-24 in overtime to fall to 8-1. That left the 49ers a half-game ahead of both the Packers (8-2) and Seahawks (8-2), with the New Orleans Saints at 7-2. San Francisco will host Arizona on Sunday while the Packers are enjoying their weekend off.
That’s one built-in advantage for the Packers, courtesy of the NFL’s schedule makers.
“I won’t be watching it film-wise,” receiver Davante Adams said before Monday night's game. “I’ll watch it just like you. I’ll watch it and check out the game just to see. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle this point. There’ll be different things that I can see, but I won’t be locked in like that. But it’ll still be a good game to watch.”
LaFleur gave his players the week off, a chance to recharge for the stretch run. Adams said he’ll stay around Green Bay, continuing to treat the turf-toe injury that cost him four games this season. Adams has played two games since returning from the injury, and though he said his right big toe feels much better, there is still some discomfort at times.
Many other players were headed outside Wisconsin, escaping the cold for some rest and relaxation. In the meantime, LaFleur will keep his coaches in their offices through the first half of this week. He said the offensive staff will evaluate the Packers' defense, and the defensive staff will evaluate the offense.
“I think it just gives a different perspective,” LaFleur said, “of how we may — or how our opponents — would attack one side of the ball, where we think there could be holes or potential holes, and just give a fresh perspective on that moving forward.”
Despite his team’s hot start, LaFleur said there is “a lot to improve upon” during the bye. He specifically mentioned the offense’s pre-snap communication. The Packers lead the NFL in delay-of-game penalties with nine, including two in Sunday’s 24-16 win against the Carolina Panthers. One of those came after the Packers had called timeout, which should have provided more than enough time to snap the football before the play clock hit zero.
No other team in the NFL has more than six delay-of-game penalties this season.
“That’s something we’re definitely going to have to improve upon,” LaFleur said. “No doubt about it. It’s really unacceptable. We can’t have that.”
Some of those issues were foreshadowed this offseason. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ ability to call audibles does not always mesh with an offense built on pre-snap activity, especially motioning receivers, tight ends and running backs.
LaFleur said “a combination of things” have led to the Packers’ pre-snap difficulties.
“I think No. 1,” he said, “I’ve got to make sure I do a good job of getting the play call in on a timely fashion. I really think a lot of our issues have come from just the communication of our substitutions. It just looks chaotic, disorganized at times. That’s something we’ve going to take a good, hard look at; how we can make it more clear and more efficient for our players.”
There could be bigger adjustments made this week, to be sure. The bye week is a time when coaches can course correct, especially when it comes late in the season, with ample information on a team’s strengths and weaknesses.
That the Packers enter Week 11 with minimal injuries — tight end Robert Tonyan (hip) was the team’s only inactive because of injury Sunday — makes this bye a little different than usual. LaFleur said he wants his players to continue working out this week, ensuring they don’t lose their conditioning, but the mental escape might be even more beneficial than the physical relief.
“I’m about to unwind,” running back Jamaal Williams said, “and just relax. Watch me some movies. Just hanging out with my daughter, that’s what I’m really excited about. Just hanging out with my family, and just have a couple of days of don’t have to come in here. That’s it, just get my mind right. Because we know what’s at stake, and we know we have a long way to go.
“We plan on not finishing until February.”