packers.com senior writer
GREEN BAY – It’s an explanation that has revealed itself on film before, and it’s again what Matt LaFleur sees as the root of the up-and-down performance of the Packers’ defense the past two games.
At times, guys are trying to do too much.
“I just think we’ve got to get back to playing everybody doing their 1/11th and not trying to make a play and press,” LaFleur said Monday. “I think a lot of times when we do that, we get ourselves out of position. We need all 11 functioning as one on every play, and if you don’t, then it leads to inconsistencies.”
Two weeks ago at Baltimore, the back-and-forth manifested itself in different chunks of the game. The Packers went from allowing three long drives to start the game to giving up just three first downs total on the Ravens’ next three possessions, but then surrendering two TD drives with the game in the balance.
Then Saturday vs. Cleveland, it was another type of rollercoaster. The Packers racked up five sacks and four interceptions, but allowed 218 rushing yards and 408 total yards.
From Christmas Day, two issues in particular stood out – tackling and third downs.
LaFleur labeled it the team’s worst tackling performance of the season, which in part came down to players not taking on blocks with the same effectiveness as the bulk of the season. That, combined with the power and elusiveness of Browns running back Nick Chubb, led to the struggles.
“When you’re not perfect, you get exposed,” LaFleur said. “We’ll have our work cut out for us against the Vikings because they’re very similar (with their ground game).”
The Browns also converted 7-of-12 third downs (58%), including five times when they needed 6 or more yards to move the chains. Cleveland survived a third-and-16 with a 17-yard pass, and a third-and-10 with a surprise run that ruptured for 30 yards.
Back in early November, the Packers ranked 20th in the league defensively on third down but have now fallen all the way to 29th (45%).
“All in all, our third-down defense is not where it needs to be,” LaFleur said. “I think they were over 50 percent this last game. That’s not going to get it done. We’ve got to get better in that regard.”
Injury updates: LaFleur said Monday running back Aaron Jones, who limped off the field late in Saturday’s game, should be OK.
On the offensive line, rookie center Josh Myers (knee) still has a chance to return from injured reserve, while right tackle Billy Turner continues to work through his knee injury. LaFleur made it sound like Turner is day to day at this point. He did not say whether left tackle David Bakhtiari would return to practice this week after resting last week.
He also did not say whether cornerback Jaire Alexander (shoulder) would be activated off injured reserve this week, when the deadline arrives for putting him on the 53-man roster or shutting him down for the season.
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packers.com senior writer