It shouldn’t take much to get motivated to play an NFC championship game.
The Green Bay Packers got blasted in the NFC title game against the San Francisco 49ers. That happens. The 49ers were clearly the better team. It was troubling that the Packers could not stop the run even though the 49ers made it clear they had no intention to pass after taking a big lead. Still, that happens too.
But there are apparently questions about the Packers’ effort in that game. And their head coach didn’t exactly dismiss them when asked.
Matt LaFleur on Packers: ‘It’s bothersome’
Effort is a sensitive subject in the NFL. Bring it up and players will get defensive. Coaches almost never question the effort level of their team.
That’s why it was interesting that Packers coach Matt LaFleur had a blunt answer when asked about his team’s effort against the 49ers, via Matt Schneidman of The Athletic:
I don't recall Matt LaFleur ever questioning his team's effort this season. That wasn't the case today when he discussed the NFC Championship Game.
This answer came after he was asked how a lack of effort happens in such a big game. pic.twitter.com/ZSDRz00sHW
— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) January 22, 2020
.@CoachMLaFleur still very much affected by the loss to the #49ers in the #NFCChampionship. He said today in his season-ending press conference the #Packers did not play, "with their hair on fire." He added he is still trying to figure out why. #NFL100 #SuperBowlLIV #GoPackGo pic.twitter.com/Idvtgmn2Yy
— Josh Moser (@TheMozKnowz) January 22, 2020
For LaFleur to say he didn’t understand and “it’s bothersome” is startling. To hear a coach wonder why “our players [weren’t] playing with their hair on fire” after a loss in a conference championship is rare.
Packers came up short against 49ers
It’s hard to get a full grasp of LaFleur’s feelings about what he saw based on one short quote. There will be time for him to reflect on what happened. Emotions are still high after getting that far and losing.
Regardless, it was a tough loss. The Packers went 13-3, advanced to the NFC championship game and played terribly. Whether that was related to effort or not is impossible to tell. It’s also easily to get demoralized during a game when a team falls behind and the opponent is running the ball at will. The game might cost defensive coordinator Mike Pettine his job; LaFleur said he was still evaluating his options with Pettine.
No matter, it was the kind of loss that will linger for a long time this offseason.
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