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Packers' head coach questions team's 'effort' in loss to San Francisco

Packers head coach Matt LaFleur met with reporters Wednesday, three days after Green Bay’s season ended one game short of the Super Bowl with a lopsided 37-20 loss at San Francisco.

These season wrap-up news conferences don’t tend to be all that illuminating since coaches have had a chance to cool down and digest the big picture of a season.

But LaFleur? He had a lot to say in regard to the loss to the 49ers, particularly about the Packers’ energy level. When asked about the defense, which gave up 285 rushing yards Sunday, LaFleur didn’t mince words.

They definitely outcoached us,” LaFleur said. “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. … I just didn’t think we played with the same effort as what I had seen earlier in the season.”

The follow-up question to that asked how Green Bay could lack effort in a game with a Super Bowl berth on the line.

Yeah, that’s a great question. That’s something that I’m still trying to figure out right now as we speak,” LaFleur said. “I mean, I don’t understand that, because you’re there. You have an opportunity to go to play in a Super Bowl and for that to happen, it’s extremely … it’s bothersome. We have to look at ourselves, everybody. I’m gonna look inside of myself and see why weren’t our players playing with their hair on fire. I think everybody in our organization has to do that.”

Those who follow the team far more closely than I do seemed surprised by LaFleur’s assessment, either because he hasn’t questioned effort previously or they didn’t necessarily agree.

There were plenty of positives LaFleur took from the 13-3 season that were sprinkled throughout his 30-minute session. But it will be interesting to see how the notion of a lack of effort plays in the Packers locker room.

Donaldson vs. the Twins: Huge success and a dust-up with Glen Perkins

Josh Donaldson has a .395 career batting average, .487 on-base percentage and .852 slugging percentage in 191 career plate appearances against the Twins, with all three representing the highest marks for an opponent (minimum 100 PAs) in Twins history.

But how did he arrive at those gaudy numbers – which the Twins are glad he won’t be building on now that he’s officially signed with them?

Here are some highlights and thoughts from Donaldson vs. the Twins in the last decade.

*Donaldson’s first plate appearance against the Twins came on Sept. 19, 2010, against Francisco Liriano at Target Field and, appropriately enough, ended with a walk.

Donaldson has walked 27 times in those 191 plate appearances against the Twins, a walk rate of 14.1%. That’s even better than Donaldson’s career mark of 12.4%, which is far above the MLB average (last year it was 8.5%).

In a series at Target Field last season while Donaldson was with Atlanta, he went 4 for 9 and walked five times. He walked 100 times last year with Atlanta. If he reaches that mark again this year, he’ll be the first Twins player to do so since Harmon Killebrew a half-century ago.

*In an interview with an Atlanta TV station, Donaldson offered that one reason he signed with the Twins is that, “Obviously I’ve hit really well there at their stadium.”

While that’s true – Donaldson’s career average at Target Field is .373 with 10 homers and a gaudy 1.283 OPS in 97 career plate appearances – he’s been even better against the Twins away from Target Field. In 94 plate appearances at home against the Twins, he amassed a 1.408 OPS.

*Donaldson’s patient approach paid off against a lot of bad Twins pitching last decade. From 2012-17, when Donaldson did most of his damage against the Twins, Minnesota finished No. 28 or worse (out of 30) in team ERA four times and never finished better than No. 19.

That included two monster series: three games in Toronto in 2016, when Donaldson was 6 for 10 with four homers; and four games at Target Field in 2017 when he was 10 for 17 with five homers.

*Perhaps Donaldson’s most memorable at bat against the Twins came in 2014 at Target Field and ended with a strikeout against Glen Perkins.

With the score tied 4-4 in the top of the 10th after the Twins had rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth, Donaldson lofted a deep fly ball that hooked foul – per the account from La Velle E. Neal’s story the next day.

Perkins struck Donaldson out on the next pitch after that, and could be seen yelling at Donaldson – who then took several steps toward Perkins as the benches emptied. Nothing much came of it, but afterward Donaldson said he could hear Perkins swearing at him.

“OK, whatever. I didn’t feel like I disrespected him at all. I’m up there trying to win the game for our team and he’s trying to win the game for his team, juices are flowing. I don’t know what it was all about,” Donaldson said after the game. “I’ve never even spoken to the guy. I think I’ve faced him twice.”

Parker Hageman tweeted a video of the exchange last week, and Perkins replied that he and Donaldson “actually finished that conversation at the 14 all star game since we were locker mates.”

Now that discussion can continue.

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