Joe Barry downplays the discussion with Matt LaFleur about Packers' defensive changes during the game against the Lions

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GREEN BAY - Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry downplayed the conversation he had Monday night with coach Matt LaFleur about changing his defensive approach during the 35-17 victory over the Detroit Lions, saying it was nothing more than two coaches hashing out adjustments.

And he objected to reports that the conversation happened during halftime.

“Matt and I didn't even talk at halftime,” he said. “You come in (to the locker room), guys go to the bathroom, you discuss some things as an offensive-defensive staff. You get in front of the players, you kind of hit some of the runs that were an issue. You hit some of the passes that were an issue and then bam, we're right back out on the field.”

Still, there was a conversation between the two and after the game LaFleur characterized it as him telling Barry to either start bringing more pressure in front of the man coverage the Packers were playing or play more zone and continue to just rush four.

LaFleur was not happy with the amount of time quarterback Jared Goff had in the pocket in the first half, enabling him to complete 13 of 16 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns. Goff was not sacked.

“Jared Goff is a guy that’s won 40-some odd games in the last four years,” Barry said. “I would think he’s thrown for 100 touchdowns in the last four years. We were playing against a very willing and able quarterback Monday night.”

Whether it was at the behest of LaFleur or his own idea, Barry started to bring pressure in the second half.

After rushing five or more players on five of Goff’s 16 passing attempts in the first half, he rushed five on the first five Lions passing plays of the second half. The Lions gave the ball up on downs on their first possession, turned it over on their second and punted after Goff was sacked on the third.

By that time, Barry was able to back off and play coverage because the Packers were so far ahead.

“I think the great thing about Matt is Matt is very involved,” Barry said. “I love that. As the head coach, you should be.

“But yeah, we talked about some things. But as far as a bunch of stuff that happened at halftime, that was not the case. But I do think we settled down. I was proud of the guys the way they responded in the second half."             

Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry watches during the fourth quarter of the game Monday against the Lions.

Joe Barry expects improvement with more live reps

Barry isn’t using it as an excuse, but he was receptive to the idea that keeping his starting defenders off the field during preseason while implementing a new scheme was not conducive to a hot start.  

The Packers sat almost every top defender through the preseason, making exceptions only for inside linebacker Krys Barnes and rookie cornerback Eric Stokes. In two games, the Packers' defense has looked like a unit that has not played together with this scheme, not surprising since it has not. 

“I don’t want to use that as an excuse. Because we made that decision, Matt and the staff, and I stand by that decision absolutely. But football is a full-speed game, and things happen fast. Not only do they happen fast, it happens physical. You’re getting hit. The weather, it might be hot. There’s a lot of things that go into that. 

“I do think it takes potentially some time to get into play shape.” 

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The Packers rank 10th in yards allowed but 23rd in points allowed through two games. A year ago, in Mike Pettine’s final season as coordinator, the defense finished ninth in yards and 13th in points allowed. 

Barry said the lack of preseason can’t be used as an excuse for his defense’s slow start because he’s been on staffs before where defenders were sat through the preseason, and it didn’t stop the group from having a fast start. 

“I definitely think the more reps we get, the more full-speed reps,” Barry said, “the more that we play together in that environment, hopefully we continue to improve and take strides.” 

Randall Cobb getting comfortable with offense

When they weren’t watching the Olympics, Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb spent their time living together during training camp to accelerate the receiver’s education with the offense. 

Cobb stayed at Rodgers' house after first arriving in Green Bay when the Packers traded for him from the Houston Texans. The veteran receiver said he watched the Olympics with Rodgers most days after practice, but the shop talk never stopped for long.

“You all know how he is,” Cobb said, “the way his brain works. Mine doesn’t quite work that way, so I had to be like, ‘OK, this is enough. I’m going to get this from my coaches. You’re just going too fast right now.’ 

“It was nice being able to spend some time since I’ve been back, a little over a month now. We’ve probably hung out more in this time than the past three years.” 

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Cobb’s knowledge of LaFleur’s offense — and his familiarity with Rodgers — started converting into production Monday night. On one drive in the third quarter, he caught each of his three receptions for 26 total yards. Two were on third-and-long plays, including a 14-yard catch on third-and-14 when the Lions tried to substitute before the snap, leading to a free play because of too many defenders on the field. 

“It felt like it was right back to the way it used to be,” Cobb said. 

Coach Jerry Montgomery returns from COVID isolation

Defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery was back at practice exactly a week after testing positive for COVID-19 and said he wouldn’t wish what he went through on anyone.

It wasn’t that Montgomery got dangerously ill, it’s that he was forced to hole himself up in a room at his house until he tested negative twice in a 24-hour period per NFL rules. He said his family left his meals at the door and the only time he left was to get some fresh air.

“It’s not a great feeling,” he said.

Montgomery was able to conduct meetings with his players through video conference, but he was not able to attend the game Monday night and watched it from his home.

“I talked to the screen like they could hear me,” he said.

Montgomery wore a mask while conducting practice outside and in the media auditorium while speaking to reporters. All the coaches are vaccinated, but some of them still wear masks inside the building even though they are not required to do so.

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