Despite a complete defensive meltdown in Sunday’s NFC Championship game, a 37-20 loss at San Francisco, the Green Bay Packers have decided to retain Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine for his third season in Titletown.
The Packers ranked ninth in scoring defense (19.6 points allowed per game) this past season, but dropped from 15th to 18th in yards (352.6).
The Packers struggled at times to stop the run this season, but nothing like Sunday, when the 49ers ripped off 285 rushing yards, only having to throw it eight times against Pettine’s defense. Niners running back Raheem Mostert did most of the damage himself, rushing for 220 yards on 29 carries with four touchdowns.
At his season ending press conference on Wednesday, LaFleur said, “They definitely out-coached us. I just didn’t feel like we played with the same urgency, the same tenacity, the same toughness. We didn’t set the edge the same as we had been earlier this season. It’s disappointing because it’s not like we didn’t know what they were going to try to do. We knew exactly what they were going to try to do. We knew they were going to run the football, and for them to be able to do that was extremely disappointing.”
Much of the discussion following the end of the season has been about the defense. But the offense shouldn’t escape blame either. Led by Aaron Rodgers, the Packers went scoreless in the first half against the 49ers for the second time this season. They trailed 23-0 at the half on Nov. 24. Then Sunday, they fell behind 27-0.
Certainly a 13-3 regular season finish and a 14-4 final record is nothing to sneeze at. Matt LaFleur’s performance in his first season as head coach was truly remarkable. Playing a first place schedule next season means things won’t come quite as easy as they did this past season.
Now the ball is in the court of GM Brian Gutekunst, who must help the Packers take the next step by acquiring more talent in both free agency and the draft.