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This is why we love football

Posted Jan 11, 2017

The Packers have game-breakers in their backfield

Mike from Algoma, WI

Hi Wes. Did Mike really look at you and point to the spot in the end zone? That's getting right up there with "run the table," don't you think?

Yes. That actually happened. The man is a soothsayer, I tell ya. I guess that’s what a Northwestern education will get you.

Eric from River Falls, WI

10-6 record, NFC North championship, making it to the Divisional round of the playoffs. All these things were almost "expected" before the season started, however looking back at how we got to this point is really something special. Really drives home the fact that you need to enjoy the journey of the season more than the final result.

This is why we love football. It’s good to step back every so often and recognize the run the Packers have been on. It’s incredible. I mean think about it – every NFL team is only guaranteed 16 meaningful games each season. If you’re a Packer fan, you’ve enjoyed 36 postseason games over the last 24 years. That’s like two extra seasons of meaningful football, food, friends and family. Don’t take that for granted. Hope you enjoy the rest of the ride.

Estillac from Belem, Brazil

The Giants beat Cowboys twice. How can these games, especially the last one, help us beating them, too?

Two words. Dak. Prescott. While Ezekiel Elliott was held in check in the first game with the Giants (20 carries for 51 yards), the common trend between the two losses was the performance of Prescott. The Giants were the only team that was successful in holding the Cowboys’ rookie quarterback under a 70 passer rating this year other than when he exited early in the Week 17 game against Philadelphia. Prescott completed only 42-of-82 passes (51.2 percent) for 392 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in those two losses (58.6 passer rating).

Brian from Ludington, MI

I thought Gunter was outstanding on Sunday. How does Dez Bryant compare to Odell Beckham as a No. 1?

It’s another stiff test, especially since the Packers may need to commit a safety to the box more than they did against the Giants. Bryant (6-2, 220) is bigger than Beckham (5-11, 198). The Packers were able to sidestep Bryant in Week 6 due to injury, so it’ll be interesting to see what Dom Capers dials up to defend against him. They’ll move Bryant around, so it’s probably going to take more than one corner matching up against him.

Jon from Minneapolis, MN

I just wanted to bring up Jake Ryan. For me, he is my unsung hero. All I heard about all week was how the Giants’ offense was not the same offense when we played them earlier in the year and how their run game has become their identity. I know when you’re losing you aren’t going to be running the ball as much but I thought Jake (and the whole front seven) did very well against the run and made them one-dimensional. But what was even more impressive was JR in coverage. I felt like every check down or TE/RB crossing route he was right there in coverage. If he didn’t defend the pass he was tackling them instantly for a short gain. Thoughts?

I felt Ryan was one of the breakout players from the Packers’ 2015 draft class with a really important role in helping defend the run. I thought he had a really strong performance against the Giants. As a rule of thumb, the more tackles your linebackers have, the better your chances at shutting down the run. That ability is something the Packers anticipated when they drafted Ryan out of Michigan, but he’s also done some nice things in coverage, too. Ryan, Blake Martinez and Joe Thomas are going to be key to containing Elliott on Sunday.

Joe from Pittsburgh, PA

I think the spotlight will be on the defense this week as much as Rodgers. We can't let Dallas have the ball for 40 minutes and expect to win. Even Aaron can't throw a Hail Mary from the bench. Turnovers and ball control will tell the tale; somehow I think this team can pull it off.

It’s going to be a big test for Capers’ crew. Dallas’ offense has few holes. It has a consistent, confident quarterback, a deep backfield, a terrific offensive line, and solid receiving corps. That’s a lot of weapons to account for. At the same time, this will be new territory for Prescott and Elliott. You also can’t allow Cole Beasley to get going. He won’t wow you in the stat column, but he knows how to move the chains. The Packers need to keep doing what they’ve been doing: protect the football and steal possessions with a takeaway or two.

Michael from Guilford, CT

Why do the Packers not use Christine Michael more in the run game and screen game? He is a true talented, game-tested running back.

There’s only one football. I think the Packers had a good plan with him in the Giants game. He had 10 carries and turned them into 47 yards. If he keeps performing like he did against the Giants, he’ll definitely keep getting touches. I’m sure there’s also a comfort factor, too. Let’s not forget he’s still only been in the system for a little more than a month.

Paul from Milwaukee, WI

Guys, I know the Cowboys and their running game will be trying to keep Rodgers off the field, but can our running game keep Dak and Elliott off the field as well? I see this as a possible game plan for the Packers this week. Thoughts?

It definitely works both ways. The Packers have emphasized all season long winning the battle for field position and time of possession. They dominated in both categories against the Giants and it went a long way in controlling the football game. It won’t be easy. Dallas ended up leading the NFL in run defense (83.5 yards per game). It gave up only six carries of more than 20 yards, but one of those came to Eddie Lacy (25 yards) in Week 6. Still, the Packers have developed some game-breakers in that backfield.

Jeremy from Kennett Square, PA

Insiders, load the box, and challenge Dak to a shootout. What say you?

If it’s me, I want Prescott to have to beat me, not Elliott. You’ll obviously need to dedicate more resources to slow Elliott down, so it’s up to the pass-rush to generate some pressure against the offensive line and the cornerbacks to win their matchups. The secondary’s performance – and stability with personnel – was a big bright spot coming out of the Giants game.

Kevin from Tucson, AZ

Wes, Dak has plenty of talent and poise beyond his years, but is the "playoff stage" pressure as significant as some write about to potentially nudge him off his game?

It depends on the player. I’m sure his SEC experience should help, but NFL playoff football is an entirely different beast. We’ll see how the young man handles it, but you can’t buy experience.

Mitch from Williamsburg, MI

Insiders, who are you going with as your X-factor on Sunday? I'm thinking that Michael breaks a long one.

If you break their run defense, it opens up the field even more for Rodgers and the passing game. Michael definitely is more than capable of breaking a big gain, but I think my X-factor is Ty Montgomery. The first game against Dallas was kind of his first breakout game (10 catches for 98 yards). Now entrenched in the backfield, I think Montgomery could really test that line with stretches and off-tackle runs.

Shilo from Fallbrook, CA

Why doesn't “Ripko” get the ball more early in the game on running downs? I thought it made us look soft against the Giants' D, and it would've been a regret if we had lost. We need to bring “The Polish Hammer” to Dallas to keep them honest.

Scroll up four questions and replace “Michael” with “Ripkowski.” That’s my answer.

Mike from West Bend, WI

Hey guys, I can't wait for this weekend's game to start! Tell me something. On the failed fourth-and-1 there was a replay showing Ty getting face-masked out of the view of officials. Could Coach McCarthy have called for a review of the ball spot, which would've most likely revealed the face mask, and if so would a penalty have been assessed?

The officials can only review the spot of the ball. The flag needed to be thrown in order to trigger the face-mask penalty.

Brian from Savannah, GA

Will Leon Hall end up getting a fine for his hit on Jordy? What's up with the seemingly relaxed attitude by officials and the league towards illegal use of the helmet lately (helmet-to-helmet, etc.)?

It’s hard to say. You can’t lead with your helmet. It’s a rule that’s meant to protect both players. I don’t think there was any malicious intent on Hall’s part, but it goes back to using the helmet as a weapon and also putting Hall at risk for an injury. Like Spoff said Tuesday, it’s nearly impossible for the referee to catch it in real-time, but I’ll be curious to hear what the fallout is this week.

Richard from Madison, CT

Hey Insiders, front of the end zone against Detroit, middle of the end zone against Arizona, back of the end zone against New York. Is it possible Aaron can place it where he wants it from so far away?

What can you say? The kid can spin it.

Nathan from San Diego, CA

Tell me the truth Wes, did you and Mike let out a little cheer when Cobb came down with the Hail Mary pass? I know all about press box etiquette, but a play like that... Someone in that box had to crack.

I wouldn’t call it cheering. I’d say it was more astonishment. Like did this just seriously happen again? The entire press box was in shock.

Josh from Oshkosh, WI

Hey guys, I know we're looking towards Dallas right now, but I just wanted to say that I think the New York game will go down as a Lambeau classic in the future. Probably on a "top 10 Aaron Rodgers games” collection. It was my eighth time at Lambeau for a game in just over three years, and I think it was the loudest most energetic I've ever seen. It was also my first time in the new 700 section and I loved it!

The crowd brought it and so did the quarterback. That was one of the most fun football games I’ve covered. Outside of the Nelson injury – you never want to see anyone get hurt – there were so many exciting moments on both sides of the ball for Green Bay. If you were looking for a game to propel you into the postseason, the Packers certainly got that on Sunday.

Lou from Verona, NJ

A big deal was made about the boat trip for the G-men, but I think the bigger factor was going from 88 degrees to 10 degrees. I live 10 miles from Giants Stadium and our temperature was only in the 30s last week. What do you think? That is why they had trouble catching.

I’m not going to speculate on what went into the Giants’ loss because I frankly don’t know their team and the personalities that come with it. What I can say with confidence is cold weather can rattle anyone to the bone. I remember walking to the press box on Sunday morning and thinking my fingers were going to fall off. The Packers have been conditioned for this, though. They’ve played their last four home games in challenging conditions. I think there’s something to be said for that.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

Wes, I saw a quote from T.J. Lang on blocking for 8 seconds on when Rodgers extends plays, where he said it gets tiring after a few seconds maintaining blocks. I would think it’s much more tiring on the defense. Even more so mentally than physically. Your thoughts?

Absolutely. It’s draining on a number of levels, particularly when the Packers are operating in the no-huddle. I think that’s where you’ll often see defensive linemen trying to dart for the sidelines mid-series. It’s a testament to the strength and conditioning of Green Bay’s offensive linemen. That’s not easy having to stop a freight train every down, but they do it without complaint.

Kevin from Atlanta, GA

Insider Inbox answer of the day on Tuesday goes to Spoff for his concise explanation of the zone blitz. Tip of the cap.

Short, sweet and spot-on.

Jerry from Wilmington, NC

Mike, hidden yardage. I like that. Did you make that up or is it a common football term?

It’s a fairly common term. You’ll hear Capers use it from time to time.

Jacob from Colorado Springs, CO

Have you ever picked a question because the asker was from an interesting place? I miss Vic's geography lessons he would share from his wealth of experiences. Also, thanks for keeping this column alive...it gets me through stressful times.

I definitely do, but unfortunately I can’t provide too many geography lessons. It was my worst subject in school.

Jim from Sioux Falls, SD

I know everyone is talking about the Hail Mary to Cobb, but my most unforgettable play from that game is Clay Matthews’ strip and sack of Eli, then yelling at his teammates to pick up the ball, then when no one does he slams into the Giant running back who is just about to pick it up and takes possession himself. After the play everyone, including the refs, is looking around, and Clay is marching off the field with the ball in his arm because he knows he just made a great play. A fantastic play!

There were 22 players on the field and only one, maybe two who seemed to realize it was a fumble. As Mike said to me in the press box, it was a lot like the Jarrett Boykin fumble recovery for a touchdown in 2013. You need those type of plays every once in a while. That’s why you play to the whistle.

Jacob from Decorah, IA

Well, I guess Clemson deserved to be there. I'm honestly surprised by that result.

I know Spoff answered Jacob, as well, but this was the only national championship question we received and I wanted to give my two cents. I absolutely was glued to the screen from beginning to end. Seriously, how good were Deshaun Watson and Mike Williams in that game? It also was nice to see Jordan Leggett come through in the clutch after stopping on that route earlier. It was a tremendous football game to watch.

Amber from Green Bay, WI

If you could choose a theme song for the Packers this season what would it be, and why?

“Don’t Stop Believing.”

Adam from Laurel, MD

Insiders, do you have any pre-game rituals to help you get in the zone to perform at your best each and every time you take the booth?

I take a lap around the stadium before heading to the press box.

Christy from Louisville, KY

Are you superstitious? My dad has always been extremely superstitious, but I have never been...until this year. I went to my very first game at Lambeau in November and came home with a souvenir Christmas ornament. The Packers have been on a winning streak since I put my Christmas tree up and put that ornament at the top. My tree is not coming down until after we win the Super Bowl. I know our winning streak has a lot more to do with the way we are playing and not my ornament, but I just can't take it down until we win the Super Bowl!

I'm not superstitious, but I am a little stitious.

AnonymousForObviousReasons from Tianjin, China

For each of the wins during this streak, I have eaten a pound of giant prawns with super-spicy cocktail sauce while I watched the game. I'm not superstitious about this; however, I am sick of prawns and would like to eat something else this week. Do you think that's OK, or am I risking the wrath of some heretofore benign entity?

Crash Davis would tell you a player on a streak needs to respect the streak. You know why? Because they don’t happen very often.



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