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Keep protecting the football

Posted Nov 15, 2017

The Ravens are good at taking it away


Sean from Springfield, OR

We don't play the Ravens often. What should we know? They seem similar to the Pack, several playoff appearances in recent seasons, but coming up short.

Their run of five straight playoff berths that began when John Harbaugh took over in 2008 ended with a Super Bowl title five years ago, but they’ve been back to the playoffs only once since then. Running back Alex Collins seems to be making the most of a second chance, and they have plenty of speed at wide receiver, though that hasn’t translated into many explosive plays. Defensively, they lead the league in interceptions. Five different players have two or more picks. Hundley must keep protecting the football.

Andrew from Memphis, TN

Everyone is talking about winnable games upcoming on the schedule, but I don't think we should let the horse get ahead of the cart here. Am I the only one worried about a Baltimore team coming to town that is better than their record suggests? Watching them earlier in the year, I saw two things stand out. 1) They have a ferocious, hard-hitting defense, as has become synonymous with the ball club. 2) They run the ball with a smash-mouth mentality. That is the exact recipe for winning on the road, Flacco aside. This will be a true test, in my opinion, for this team Sunday when we line up against a 4-5 team that is hungry to stay in the hunt.

I have a hard time figuring the Ravens out, frankly. They run the ball but don’t stop the run. They get a ton of turnovers but turn it over a ton. They’ve won a game 40-0 and lost one 44-7. They’re the Forrest Gump box of chocolates team.

Dan from Golden, CO

The Ravens quietly have a top-10 defense this year and I expect this to be big challenge offensively. What kind of game plan is needed to beat the Ravens' stellar defense?

Run the ball. The Jaguars, Steelers, Bears and Vikings all ran the ball at will against them. Playing with a lead obviously helps that cause, but the Ravens have not allowed a 300-yard passer or 100-yard receiver all season. I already mentioned the interceptions before. They can defend the pass.

Nate from Amherst, WI

No doubt in my mind that Mikey D. hasn't been healthy since the Seattle game. After the year is over he'll be another case where we'll hear how he was playing way more hurt than anyone let on, e.g. Tramon, Cobb, Davante, etc. You don't go from unblockable to injured to insignificant. Not when you're Mikey Diesel. Good to see he's likely rounding back into form.

You may be right, but word of advice from another Mike – ask permission before using Mikey.

Martin from Mainz, Germany

What kind of video signals have the teams access to in order to support coaches in their decision whether to throw the red flag? Do they have only the replay slow-motions like every TV viewer, or also the additional camera angles for the NFL officiating review? Can the home team have any advantage by using additional cameras?

I believe the coaches’ box gets the raw feed of the TV broadcast, so it’s not delayed, and they see the replays as soon as the network calls for them. The advantage the home team possesses is a close play can be put up on the big video board right away, whereas that’s not going to happen on the road if it would help the wrong team.

Jim from McLean, VA

They come in bunches. Can our D repeat the performance against the Ravens and get to Flacco early and often?

Flacco has taken only 19 sacks, which isn’t many for a guy not known as a scrambler. I thought the coverage was responsible for a couple of the five sacks against the Bears. That’ll help. Here's another stat I noticed: Flacco has fumbled the ball five times this season, but hasn't lost any. Maybe that's an opportunity for the pass rush.

Dan from Houston, TX

Speaking of the Vikings tie by Matt Flynn, I remember coming in from the deer stand to listen on the radio with my dad and uncles. Here's to another big November game this weekend, all the deer hunters across the state (stay safe), and to Brett Hundley's first win and first deer!

This is my favorite weekend for the Packers to have a home game, because I love seeing all the hunters’ orange sprinkled throughout the Lambeau bowl.

Tom from Rochester, NY

It has appeared to me that in these last two games Hundley starts out the game thinking too much and not trying to make a mistake to cost his team. Then as the fourth quarter rolls around his mindset changes to just make a play and try to win this thing. I'm hopeful that when he watches the film he will realize he belongs in this league and just go with his instincts more throughout the game. Those fourth-quarter throws were things of beauty. Almost "lookout" time!

I’m not going to go that far, but further development will breed more consistency. Getting a feel for the opposing defense takes more time for a young quarterback than an experienced one as well. Hundley is facing every defense for the first time. Don’t forget, quarterbacks win games in the fourth quarter in the NFL. It’s difficult for a QB to win one in the first three quarters, but he can certainly lose one.

Michael from Berrien Springs, MI

Two thoughts. Hundley played really well, yet he seems at times a bit slow to pull the trigger. I saw near-interceptions that could have been completions and completions that could have gone for extra yards had the pass gotten there sooner. As his experience and confidence grows, he has the potential to really light it up. Also, where are our TEs? Rodgers had eight TDs a year ago and now he's had like eight targets all year. I've always heard that TEs can be a young QB's best friend. What are your thoughts?

Tight end usage in the passing game has often been dependent on matchups for the Packers. I saw some opportunities for Kendricks against the Lions, but Hundley didn’t find him until late. Pass attempts were just 25 against the Bears, with the top three receivers targeted 16 of the 25. Percentage-wise that sounds about right to me.

Ryan from Maple Grove, MN

Can we bring Brett Goode back after the Ravens game?

How about before? (I know, you posted before Tuesday afternoon’s transaction, but I couldn’t resist.) Interesting how it worked out. Coming back seven weeks after an injury settlement means the settlement was just for one week, because it’s a six-week grace period to return to the same team. This clearly was the plan all along.

Richard from Canton, GA

A question on penalties being applied to kickoffs. Why does the opposing team not get the choice of enforcing it where the kick occurs, or at the end of the play? A 15-yard penalty on the kick spot is meaningless (just makes a touchback a certainty), but half the distance to the goal line from the 25 would be a serious penalty.

We don’t need more rules and strategic decisions. If a team is kicking off from the 50 and wants to pin the opponent inside the 25, no reason it can’t try. It wasn’t meaningless last week when the Bears kicked off from the 20 to open the second half and Davis returned it across midfield.

Dave from Franklin, WI

Reading comments week after week of so-called fans bashing the front office, regardless of result, makes me wonder. Why do they watch the Packers if it makes them so miserable?

Maybe their life is so great that in order to escape, they have to get angry.

JB from Chicago, IL

Many blamed Capers, Hundley, talent/TT for the skid. I believe when Aaron went down, many on the team lost faith they could win without him, too. Understandable given Rodgers’ talent, but pretty hard to win unless you believe you can do it. And that belief falls squarely on MM alone. I applaud him for getting the team believing again, which came before the game. And Hundley for giving the team something they can believe in since the game. Wins won’t be easy moving forward but I believe we’ll at least see the effort.

I’ve never questioned this team’s effort, nor its belief, but we’re all human, and I talked all last week about the wonders a big play or two early in the game could do. Let’s not forget, sometimes the other guys are just better on a given day. That’s competition at the highest level in a week-to-week league. Trailing the Saints 19-17 with 10 minutes left in a QB’s first NFL start doesn’t look so bad now, does it? Just ask the Bills.

Jack from New York, NY

Jamaal Williams is built to run downhill in these upcoming frigid games in Lambeau down the stretch. He earns every yard as we saw on that first down he picked up against the Bears. He should be your player to watch this week on “Final Thoughts.”

Too obvious a choice, don’t you think? I applaud Williams for his hard-nosed running. He’s a different player than we saw in September. Every Packers running back has answered the call in one way or another when it has come, so count me among the curious to see what a 230-pound Mays might do in the cold if his phone rings on Sunday.

Reid from Bangkok, Thailand

When Hundley steps up through the collapsing pocket and slides laterally, he looks like Aaron. When he runs directly backwards, he looks like me in Tecmo Bowl. Don't be like me, Brett. Be like Aaron.

I don’t think I ever tried Tecmo Bowl. When I was a kid our local roller skating rink had that flat-top X-O football video game with the rolling ball for a controller, and I pinched my fingers so many times playing that game I couldn’t stand it anymore.

Kevin from Whitehall, WI

I see the Packers released Derrick Mathews from the practice squad on Saturday and re-signed him to the practice squad Monday. Any information on why they would do this? Perhaps in anticipation of adding someone else to the practice squad that ended up not being available?

No, that wasn’t it. This is Mathews’ third year on a practice squad (he was on Washington’s in 2015, Green Bay’s last year), and there’s a quirky roster rule that doesn’t allow a team to have a third-year practice-squad player if its 53-man roster is not full for a game. The Packers went into the Bears game with only 52 on the roster after Bennett’s release, so Mathews had to be released and re-signed after the game.

Graham from Lake Charles, LA

Doesn't anybody remember the time McCarthy challenged in order to give HIS TEAM a safety? It was against Favre and the Vikings. If I remember correctly, Aaron fumbled at the goal line and McCarthy correctly challenged that he went down for a safety, in order to prevent Peterson from having the ball in short-yardage. I want to say it worked out, too.

Great memory. I had to look it up to confirm, but you’re right. The successful challenge gave the Vikings a safety rather than the ball on the 1-yard line midway through the fourth quarter, and in desperation mode the Packers still managed to make it a one-score game and get a crack at an onside kick.

Eric from Goodhue, MN

Vikings fans are feeling pretty high on themselves for their team’s TD celebrations this year. I still say the Lambeau Leap will never be topped. What is the best celebration you have ever witnessed?

Since it’s Ravens week, I’m reminded of the one that made me laugh the most. I was never a big fan of Terrell Owens and his antics, but the time he scored a TD against Baltimore and mocked that ridiculous pregame dance by Ray Lewis was an all-timer.

Brian from Rochester, MN

Considering the remaining schedule, I think 9-7 is a reasonable guess for the final record. The division is almost certainly not in reach but the wild card...what chance do you give this team of making the playoffs? Who are your best guesses for NFC teams who make it in?

Too early for me, other than to say I don’t think 9-7 will get anyone in the NFC a party invitation this year.

Dylan from Fort Collins, CO

In honor of throwback week, would you mind posting Donald's beautiful catch-and-run TD? Thanks.

We aim to please.

Tom from Fairfield, CT

Any preliminary news on Brett Hundley's hamstring? Hamstrings get my full attention as they are very deceptive as to their seriousness and sometimes chronic nature. I injured mine when I was 16 and it still bothers me 45 years later.

No news other than Hundley saying after the game he’ll be fine. It should be manageable in practice to get him to Sunday. The trick is managing it properly in the game.

Zachary from La Junta, CO

How much of a jump is it from college to the NFL? If you were to build an all-star college team and put them against the Browns (the last winless team), would the college players stand a chance?

Perhaps, but people always ask if the top college team, like Alabama, could beat a winless NFL team. No way, no how.

Dave from Town of Breed, WI

Do you think Davis was thinking "create a spark" on that punt decision instead of where his feet were, when he fielded that punt so deep?

Clearly, and it’s a mental mistake he can’t make. That said, I do think Davis is close to breaking one. After hearing from McCarthy and Zook that the penalty on Thomas wiping out Davis’ 44-yard return in Chicago was highly questionable, I went back and took a look. The Bears guy flat-out slipped on the wet turf, and the official thought he was pushed. Tough break. The return was very well-blocked.

Martin from Norman, OK

Insiders, did you see what happened to Dallas when their starting LT missed their game against Atlanta? Eight sacks, including six by Clayborn! Props to our coaching staff and players for keeping things together while we endured the injury bug up front. Anyone who undervalues OL play doesn't really understand football.

All the focus was on the wrong All-Pro player who was going to miss that game for Dallas.

Michael from Schofield, WI

Saw a postgame clip with David Bakhtiari giving the hype speech, and was inspired. Who else is a solid hype man in the Packers’ locker room?

There are plenty, but for some reason I like it best when it’s an offensive lineman. I don’t know why.

Dave from Minneapolis, MN

When can we expect to hear whether Evans is a finalist for the FedEx Midsection Shover of the Week Award?

This is what the Inbox needs. Less volume, more creativity.


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