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The ground game has to find a way

Posted Dec 6, 2017

Josh Gordon will command a lot of attention


Lauren from Tampa Bay, FL

Do you think we can be as effective with the run against the Browns’ top-10 run defense?

The Packers have to be. They don’t really have a choice, because success with Brett Hundley has a strong running game for a foundation. This will be Green Bay’s biggest challenge to establish that foundation, with Cleveland’s defense best in the league in yards per carry (3.3). The ground game has to find a way.

Nick from Fort Leonard Wood, MO

What scares you the most about the Browns? For me, it’s the fact they haven't won a game yet and are hungry.

You only get scared if you make assumptions you know you shouldn’t. You respect the fact that four of the Browns’ 12 losses have been by only three points, and they just held one of the hottest teams in the league, the Chargers, to 19 points. They were never out of it until late in the fourth quarter in London against Minnesota and at Ford Field in Detroit. There’s plenty of good film showing what they’re capable of.

Ross from Newmarket, Ontario

So, Josh Gordon with a game under his belt. That'll be a challenge.

Eleven of Kizer’s 32 passes were targeted for Gordon in his first game back. He had catches of 28 and 39 yards. He can change a game. As a result, he’s going to command a lot of attention, which alters the landscape for the rookie tight end, David Njoku. His potential impact is now so much greater.

Don from Southwest, MI

Looking at the final college playoff rankings and applying a proposed eight-team playoff effectively would have rendered the Big Ten and SEC conference championship games meaningless this year. Except for seeding purposes. Auburn, Georgia, Alabama and Ohio State and Wisconsin all are in. My guess is you need to maintain the integrity of those moneymaker conference championships. So have a six-team playoff with automatic bids for the power five conferences and one at-large team (could still be Alabama this year or OSU last year...or ND if things went better for them this year). Byes for the top two ranked teams. In effect, it is an 11-team playoff. What do you think?

Some valid points and a worthwhile suggestion, though Ohio State does not get in the eight-team playoff with a loss to Wisconsin, so the Big Ten title game wouldn’t have been meaningless. One reason I like the eight-team idea, as Andrew from Memphis, TN, also noted, is it gives an undefeated team from a non-power league a chance to at least be in the conversation.

Larry from Green Bay, WI

Did you guys watch the end of the Badger game? Seems to me the officials swallowed their whistles several times, not calling pass interference against OSU. I know Bucky did not play their best game, but now they get shafted having to play Miami on their home field. Chryst will never say anything...credit to him.

The non-DPI call that would have offset UW’s (legit) holding penalty after the Badgers crossed midfield was the turning point of the final drive. It’s too bad. Wisconsin was methodically moving the ball with manageable down-and-distances until then. In the end, explosiveness won out. It usually does.

Adam from Montgomery, AL

I am a Packers fan of course, but for the NFL and as a fan of football it is a great thing that a lot of young quarterbacks like Carr, Goff, Wentz, Prescott, and some others are really playing at a high level as Brady, Big Ben, Rodgers, Manning, and Brees won’t be getting any younger.

In the near term, I’m more interested in some of the potential young-old postseason QB matchups on the horizon.

Darin from Madisonville, KY

I feel like Clinton-Dix has a better game this week. I saw him near the ball on almost every play and he made a couple of tackles at the line in the run game. What did you guys see from the press box in that regard?

If you haven’t seen the WYMM clips of the sacks, check out the two that show Clinton-Dix as the safety help against Evans (Nos. 1 and 4). He knew right where Evans was going.

Joseph from East Moline, IL

Why was it so hard for the entire Eagles staff to see that was a forward pass in time to throw the flag?

I don’t know. I’ve seen the deconstruction of the crazy Cal-Stanford kickoff return enough times to know when both guys are running forward on a pitch play like that, the ball is moving forward, too, even though optically it looks legal. As soon as I saw it live, I said the Eagles should challenge it. It was third down, and an illegal forward pass is loss of down. They’d have gotten the ball back behind by only one score.

Cameron from Augusta, GA

Did you see the Le’Veon Bell touchdown? To me, the commentators were way off. It did not seem as much bad tackling as it was afraid to get flagged for unnecessary roughness. I mean if Bell’s foot was another foot or two to his left and he gets tackled, it’s a 15-yard penalty. Am I onto something or reaching?

If he gets tackled, you may be right. But laying a hand on a guy to make sure he steps out of bounds isn’t, in all likelihood, going to draw a flag.

Andrew from Ettrick, WI

Brett Hundley seems to struggle at home vs. away. At Pittsburgh against a statistically better defense he played a very efficient game, same could be said about in Chicago, whereas at home in his three starts he's had trouble getting into his rhythm as MM calls it. Is it too much pressure for the kid playing in front of the home crowd? Or just a young quarterback struggling to get into his own rhythm within the play calls?

I agree with Wes here, it’s not the home-away issue, it’s just a young QB issue. Hundley has shown the ability to move the ball well early and late in games. Now it’s about avoiding the lulls that can put the defense in a compromising position. Even in his best games in Chicago and Pittsburgh, there were a total of six three-and-outs. No offense is going to score on every possession, but not moving the chains at all really turns momentum and makes life difficult for the defense.

Ryan from Menomonie, WI

I understand that things get missed in real time but if player safety is important, don't you have to allow replay for unnecessary roughness penalties and eject guys as needed?

My face keeps getting bluer. The suspensions were handed down awfully quickly, though.

Bob from Titusville, FL

Insiders, with AR running the scout team this week, he'll have a chance to work with the new WR Michael Clark. I wonder if they might work on a single play that would utilize his height? I could see with Rodgers’ accuracy, a short-yardage or red-zone pass thrown high enough that only he could catch it. He's new to the team but they must think that he can be useful in some way.

Rodgers working with Clark is a residual positive this week I hadn’t thought about with regard to the future. Could help Yancey and McCaffrey, too. I would imagine those young guys are pretty fired up.

Eric from Oshkosh, WI

Regarding the FG on fourth-and-inches, do you really believe it was the "right call"? I am torn about that decision. At first I was angry because I don't think you can trust the defense to get a stop. They had been gashed all day. But from an offensive perspective, if you do pick up the first down, you may end up settling for a FG anyway, only having burned up a lot of clock time doing it. There sure is a lot that goes into it. On the other hand, the offense was pretty inconsistent all day, so even if you did get the ball back...There sure is a lot that goes into a 20-second decision!

Your last point is always worth keeping in mind. McCarthy’s feel for the game and his team proved to be correct, and that’s what matters. The defense was having trouble, but he felt confident in the unit with some rest, which it hadn’t gotten while the offense went three-and-out three straight times. It was the only drive the offense had put together the entire second half, yet he felt enough momentum to be able to score again to win. I thought it was a really tough call, and in a weird way, I think it took more guts to kick it than go for it.

Jim from Horsham, UK

It's been a while since I've seen moves like Davante Adams has. His step-and-drop to get off the line or once he's caught a pass is second to none in my opinion. He can turn a tight space into a decent gain. My question is, what other receivers over the years, in your opinion, had a similar ability?

Donald Driver in his prime certainly comes to mind, and Robert Brooks before his injuries, though Brooks also had the top-end speed to go with the footwork.

Don from Cedar Rapids, IA

One player who has really seemed to help the Packers is Justin Vogel, especially with kicks from his team's own end zone. How does his performance compare to previous Packer punters and to other punters in the league now?

Vogel’s net average – which speaks to his work and that of the unit as a whole – is 42.8, which ranks sixth in the league and puts him on pace to set a single-season franchise record in the category. I agree he’s had some clutch kicks in tough spots that have flipped the field. The area the Packers want to see improvement is direction. He’s leaving a few too many punts in the middle of the field.

Kyle from Minneapolis, MN

Thoughts and prayers to Ryan Shazier. It’s times like these that show it really is bigger than the game at hand and these players risk it all for a sport we love. How in the world do players continue playing after a scene like that? I couldn’t even watch the rest of the game after that. I can’t imagine having to go full speed the next play.

Neither can I.

Mike from Fort Wayne, IN

I can see Rodgers being a pretty good read-option QB. Do you think MM would ever put in a few plays to have handy just in case, or too protective of Rodgers?

The Packers have run the read-option with Rodgers a few times. Scored a two-point conversion on it last year down in Atlanta in October. I recall another instance during four-minute offense to kill the clock, but I’m not sure the opponent. It’s available, but it’s used sparingly and carefully.

Bill from Menominee, MI

I tried watching parts of the game on the betting boards while on my first trip to Las Vegas. I couldn't help but notice that while eight TVs were broadcasting different games, it seemed like there were never less than two that had the yellow "FLAG" banner on the bottom of a broadcast screen. Are penalties too large a part of today's football? Do you predict there will be a way to regulate play-impacting verses non-impact penalties? Between the penalties and advertisements, it's hard to stay interested in games that aren't one's primary team anymore.

This is another unfortunate byproduct of advanced technology that shows umpteen camera angles and rarely misses anything. I think the added scrutiny, perhaps even in their private grading sessions, has trained some officials to throw the flag at what they see, without exercising judgment as to the impact. Yet, obvious calls are still missed, so it’s hard not to get disillusioned, both ways, at how arbitrary the officiating makes some of these outcomes. McCarthy and Capers both pointed out there were two offensive linemen illegally downfield on Tampa Bay’s first receiver screen on third down. Would a correct call there affect the Bucs’ tendencies and success with that play going forward? Conversely, tied 20-all with under two minutes left, a 20-yard gain on a conventional screen is nullified by an illegal block on Tampa Bay’s center, who barely bumped Martinez in the back after the running back had already darted past him and Martinez was out of the play. The Bucs would have been just 30 yards from a game-winning field goal. Instead, they never got the ball back. I don’t know what the answer is, other than to say this is why I try not to get overly judgmental based solely on wins and losses, especially in close games. You have to appreciate the capriciousness of it all. My apologies for the lecture. Thanks for indulging.

Chuck from Cleveland, OH

When was the last time the Packers won two OT games in one season? And with two different starting QBs?

If my quick research is accurate, it had never happened before with two different starting QBs. Favre won two OT games in 2000.

Justin from Los Angeles, CA

Wait, are you saying that a blocked punt can be picked up and advanced by the kicking team if it doesn't go beyond the line of scrimmage? Have you ever seen someone get a first down or score that way?

I’ve seen a first down gained, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone score.

Brian from Chesapeake, VA

Spoff, what a talented group of RBs we have. Would we be as certain in our future at that position if Rodgers never got hurt? I mean, there were bells on the hill but I never heard them ringing.

Nicely done. We had already seen Jones against Dallas with Rodgers at the helm, so there’s no reason to think we wouldn’t have witnessed Williams’ eventual emergence as well. It’s the injuries at the position itself that set this stage, not the one to Rodgers.

Luke from La Crosse, WI

If the Packers do somehow manage to sneak into the playoffs by "running the table" for the second straight season, will that have been the biggest odds this franchise has ever overcome to get there? In your opinion and up to this point in Packers history, what year did the Packers make the playoffs while overcoming the biggest odds?

I don’t know. Take your pick. Starting 1-4 in 2004 the odds didn’t look good. Nor did they seven years ago when the quarterback was lost to a concussion in mid-December. Nor did they four years ago after losing by 30 to the first-place team in your division on Thanksgiving with the QB still a month from returning. Nor did they last year when, after a four-game losing streak, six straight wins were needed, three of them against playoff teams in their own right. It’s why you never give up. But I promised last week I wouldn’t talk 2017 playoffs until wins over Tampa Bay and Cleveland were in the books. Just beat the Browns.


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