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The Vikings made it their priority

Posted Oct 13, 2017

Don't worry, watch for growth instead


Darin from Madisonville, KY

A huge narrative on the Vikings last year was the poor play of the offensive line. Has it improved or do you think the Pack can have a huge day up front on Sunday?

It has improved considerably. The Vikings made it their priority, which they needed to, and spent big free-agent money to bring in tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers. They also spent a third-round pick on Ohio State center Pat Elflein, the second center taken in the draft. It’s a major makeover and a big reason Cook (before) and McKinnon (now) have piled up yards in the running game.

Mike from Madison, WI

The Inbox and majority of comments center on the outcome, A-Rod, and how good this team is. Watching Aaron's looks on the sideline during the Cowboys’ last drive (and many times in the past) when our defense can't stop them tells a different story. How many times has he not even had a chance to win the game because our defense can’t stop the other team? A reality-based perspective says that the Cowboys made the mistake to give Aaron the ball, and if they hadn't, what’s your Inbox and narratives look like then? My question is what does this defense need to do to be the reason we win these games without having to have Aaron's heroics determine the outcome?

As you mention, it’s about stops at crunch time. To continue with the reality-based perspective, the Packers came awfully close to the fourth-down stop that would have changed the narrative, and they’d have gotten it if not for the overhead camera. I tried to keep things grounded in reality after the Bengals game, too, when the defense’s key fourth-quarter stop was in part due to Mixon’s slip in the backfield. If you buy into the narrative du jour and don’t appreciate how whimsical some of this stuff is, it takes the fun out of it.

Bill from Fort Worth, TX

I'm not sure I like the bobsled and accompanying shirt. Call me old-school, but at least out of respect for your opponent, when did acting like you've been there before become unpopular? And please don't tell me catering to the casual fan trumps sportsmanship.

I don’t mind the new routines because they seem to be performed in the proper spirit, but my favorite Packers celebration for a few years was watching the receivers shake hands in the end zone.

Colin from Denver, CO

Insiders, with everyone bugging out about these power rankings, it brings to mind the first time I saw them. It was for comic books. It was a ranking of who was the most powerful hero/villain in their respectful universe. What I’m trying to say is, don't believe the hype, any given Sunday. Revel in the uncertainty, enjoy the game, stop trying to figure it out before it happens.

So “The Big Bang Theory” has infiltrated the NFL? Tell me more.

Haillie from Washington, WI

Hi guys, I have heard a lot of discussion regarding taking a knee at the 1-yard line. I think that sends a terrible message to your defense and could potentially cause more damage than a loss. I would hope the Packers would never even consider it. What do you think?

I think the worse message comes from the suggestions the defense should just let the offense score in those situations. From the 1-yard line, OK, I get it, but the Inbox was full of submissions this week from readers wondering if the Packers should have just let the Cowboys score as soon as they got inside the 20 or so. I don’t know how any head coach could stand up in front of his team after giving a directive like that.

Dave from Roebling, NJ

Starks in his January playoff debut against the Eagles. “That was the true definition of an unscouted look.”

Kaepernick and the read-option in the 2012 playoffs, too.

Deniz from Nynashamn, Sweden

Hi Insiders! Watching Coach Zimmer talking about Rodgers this Wednesday I almost(!) felt sorry for the other teams in our division for the psychological chokehold our QB seems to have over them. With the Packers being the team to beat in the NFC North for some 10 years now, my question is what it is that holds the other teams back from being playoff contenders on a regular basis? It seems like every other season one of the other three is about to make the jump only to take a step back the year after. Even when the Vikes won the division in ’15 we went past them in the playoffs, and the season after they ended up at 8-8. Is the answer as simple as Rodgers or something else/more?

To be fair, the Lions probably win the division in ’13 if Baltimore’s Justin Tucker doesn’t make a 61-yard field goal in the final minute on a late December Monday night. In ’15, the Vikings go at least as far in the playoffs as the Packers, if not farther, if Blair Walsh can hit a 27-yarder. That said, I take nothing away from Rodgers and how much he tilts the playing field in this division, and it’s having a top-notch quarterback that produces such consistency. The inability to sustain success usually comes down to injuries, quarterback play, or both.

James from Richmond, VA

The opening kickoff game doesn't count as a prime-time game; the Patriots also have six games this year.

All righty then.

Aaron from Dallas, TX

Clinton-Dix got a new helmet when Burnett left. I was at the game and noticed it after the injury.

This is great. I love it when the Inbox helps me do my job.

Mike from St. Paul, MN

Any thoughts on the Vikings’ play-by-play guy Paul Allen? I've lived in the Cities for a few years now, and I can't say I've heard a guy more passionate about the team he works for (and all Minnesota sports teams). Hate that he's a Vikings guy, but seems like someone who would be fun to go have a beer with.

No doubt. I’ve never met him and I’ve only heard some of the more poignant clips from his broadcasts, but guys like Allen becoming part of the fabric of the team they work for helps make sports great. I grew up on Bob Uecker, and nothing against the others in the booth, but his understandably limited schedule now has changed the feel of Brewers radio broadcasts.

KJ from Minneapolis, MN

We often talk about players like Aaron Rodgers having a chip on their shoulder regarding draft position. How much do you think being an undrafted free agent has affected Ted Thompson's mindset?

I think it’s a big reason Thompson dislikes roster cut-downs. He understands it’s a necessary evil, but when he speaks to the media every training camp, his dread for it really comes across, and I think it’s because he was a roster bubble guy for so many years.

Joe from Pittsburgh, PA

Do you think the day is fast approaching when college football players will be compensated for their efforts on the field?

Yes.

Brian from Columbus, OH

I've noticed that Jordy Nelson slides a lot after he makes a catch, either when he is going across the middle or to stop himself. Is this to protect himself/elongate his career?

I think it’s become a somewhat instinctive way to avoid potentially big hits, whether in the field of play or in the end zone. The one in Dallas struck me as not wanting to stumble headlong into the goal post.

Jacob from Beloit, WI

OMG, so we can finally talk about soccer in the Inbox without fear of getting shut down?

Only on certain days.

Mark from Ft. Walton Beach, FL

Have the refs ever worn throwback uniforms? It would be interesting if both teams and the refs did wear throwbacks for the same time period.

I could get on board with that. The officials wore throwback uniforms at one point during the NFL’s 75th anniversary season in 1994, but that’s the last I recall.

Tom from Oconomowoc, WI

Hi Insiders, in your time covering the Packers, who has had the most profound impact on your outlook on life outside of football?

My wife. She keeps it real.

Anton from Green Bay, WI

The window for our two guys on PUP to be activated to the roster starts after the Vikings game next Sunday, right?

Correct. Biegel and Goodson can begin practicing next week. It doesn’t mean they will, but once they practice for the first time, a three-week window opens, by the end of which they’ll have to be placed on the active roster to be eligible to play this season.

Mike from Exeter, PA

Do you see an improved defense from last season? I haven't so far although I will say they play better when King is on the field. Like a lot of fans I'm still worried the defense will be the Achilles heel down the stretch.

Don’t worry. Watch for growth instead.

Lance from Grafton, WI

I recently got an abdominal wall strain and have been sentenced to rest until further notice. I have enjoyed your columns and they have kept me from getting too restless. Thanks for your hard work. Also, which team do you predict will be a sleeper? I'm thinking Saints.

We’ll find out. They face the Lions and Packers their next two games. Get well soon.

Josh from Oshkosh, WI

I hear AT&T Stadium has beer in the press box for after the game. Did you guys get to partake?

I noticed it for the first time on this trip, as I saw someone tilting a tap as I was rushing out to get downstairs after the final gun. Alas, duty called, and because I go straight from postgame interviews to the buses for the ride to the airport for the team charter, I could not return to indulge.

Jeremy from Nisland, SD

What happened to the screen passes?

Having substitutes up front and guys playing out of position makes it difficult for a screen to be effectively in sync. The Packers called one in Dallas, but Taylor at left tackle didn’t block his guy long enough before releasing, and Rodgers got dumped. It’s been maybe Taylor’s only glaring error at left tackle, but it speaks to how critical timing is on a screen.

Matt from Lansing, MI

How often do you guys have people come up to you at rallies, and other places in public, and just say, I'm (insert name here) from (insert place here)?

No offense to the emcee job Wayne Larrivee does, but that’s the best part of the pep rallies for me.

Mike from Sioux Falls, SD

When is the "5th Quarter" game with UW's marching band? I've searched packers.com and the band's Facebook page with no luck finding a date. Help please!

Monday, Nov. 6, vs. Detroit.

Matthew from Shorewood, WI

Regarding the postgame player press conference, is there an underlying structure or is it completely free-will questions being thrown out? I ask because at times there are numerous journalists asking simultaneous questions, and then times I just hear one. Is there a pecking order based on seniority?

Nope. It’s every reporter for him/herself.

Ben from Hilo, HI

Richard Thaler won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics and he's known in the sports world (along with Cade Massey) for the observation that trades in the NFL Draft are asymmetric: typically, the team trading up pays a steep price while the team trading down makes out like a bandit. Do you think we'll see more teams adopt Cleveland's approach of aggressively trading down to accumulate picks?

Most teams would prefer to trade down, but the need for a quarterback can always change the equation. There’s also the lure of pulling off a Julio Jones-type move, even though it’s more the exception than the rule.

Todd from Fort Atkinson, WI

What can be fixed, if anything, to improve the defense before we face another quarterback of Brees' caliber in two weeks? The better offensive teams are having their way for the most part.

Elite QBs are going to put up points. It’s the way of the league. You’re not going to shut these guys down, in my opinion, when they have a healthy supporting cast at their disposal. It boils down to making a play or two when the rare opportunity is there. The Packers let Prescott out of their grasp on a couple of early third downs and didn’t finish the play. They missed those chances but finally cashed in later with the pick-six. One of those earlier plays could have altered things just as much.

Doug from Estherville, IA

You don't need to be a professional football coach to realize that as of right now our defense is not championship-caliber. The question is can they get to that level?

No way to know, but I’m willing to see what evolves. Here’s another thought or two.

Grant from West Allis, WI

Guys, this season looks a lot like the 2014 season. A blowout loss at an NFC powerhouse (Seattle in '14, Atlanta in '17), comeback wins against AFC opponents at home (Jets in '14, Bengals in '17) and last-second winning TD passes by Rodgers (Miami in '14, Dallas in '17). This team also possesses a defense that needs to get better in the second half of the season like that 2014 team did. I believe Vince Biegel could be the “Matthews move to ILB” that propels this defense in the second half. Maybe, just maybe, this is the Packers’ redemption season for how 2014 ended.

Hmmmmm.

Jay from Fairport, NY

Haven't heard anyone mention it, but the Packers are obviously hoping this won't be their last time playing at U.S. Bank Stadium this season, although a second matchup would be against a different opponent. Do you think that will cross players’ minds as they enter the stadium and prepare to play this weekend?

I hope not. It’s probably inevitable to some degree, but it sounds like more distraction than motivation to me.

Jon from Towanda, PA

Adapt and overcome, recognize the plan you come in with will not be the plan that you ended with. Just win, baby. This team has another gear, I think we will see it this week.

If we see it against a defense this tough, on the road, look out.

Jim from Maple Grove, MN

Maybe I'm looking too far ahead, but with three division games plus a home game against the Saints, it seems winning the next four games would do a lot for taking care of the team's goals for postseason seeding. How critical is this next stretch?

Just beat the Vikings.


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