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Hidden yardage was huge for Packers

Special teams had several unsung heroes in playoff opener


Steve from Houston, TX

How is Jordy doing? I hope he is able to play against the Cowboys. We need him!

McCarthy's**update on Monday**was short on details but more positive than I expected to hear. He has a chance to practice on Saturday and possibly play. How big a chance? Your guess is as good as mine, but hearing he was in the building Monday for treatment was good news in general.

Jacob from Decorah, IA

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

I thought the Tigers were very average, perhaps underachieving, in the regular season, but they sure turned it on when it counted. That was a whale of a fourth quarter last night.

Donald from Lexington, KY

Insiders, can you explain what the zone-blitz is in layman's terms?

Basically, it's an exchange of pass-rushers on a given play, where an extra linebacker and/or defensive back blitzes while a traditional pass-rusher, such as a defensive lineman, drops back into zone coverage underneath. It's an attempt to confuse the offense as to who's rushing, who's covering.

Michael from Winchester, VA

I'm one of the Janisites on the board, though only facetiously, but I couldn't help but notice he really did show up to play very well on special teams this weekend. I'm sure you guys noticed, too. We joke that he's the next coming, but he really brought it on both kick return and kickoff cover duties. Did anyone else jump out at you as an unsung hero on Sunday?

I thought the special teams units were full of unsung heroes, including Janis. Schum beat his punting counterpart by 8.4 yards in net average on a cold day, Hyde had 50 punt-return yards to Harris' four, and Michael had a 31-yard kickoff return out to the 37 right after the Giants had pulled within 14-13. The Packers won the hidden-yardage game by a longshot.

Gary from Sheboygan, WI

Good morning, Insiders. What do you think about the idea of the Packers framing Beckham's hole in the wall?

That's not the style around here, but if I were the maintenance guy fixing it, I'd find a way to very subtly mark the spot for posterity's sake. It'd be a fun secret to keep and story to tell.

Paul from Muncie, IN

By my count, the Packers had 13 possessions (not counting the kneel-downs at the end). Vic says the Cowboys' aim is to chew the clock and reduce Rodgers' possessions. How many possessions do you expect the Packers to have Sunday?

No way to know. In the first meeting with the Cowboys, the Packers had 11 possessions, but four of them lasted less than 40 seconds each. In a general sense, Dallas would love to limit Green Bay to two drives per quarter, and the Packers would like to get at least three per.

Eric from Mequon, WI

Insiders, we hear about what the Packers need to do to beat Dallas, but I am more interested in what you think the Giants already did to beat Dallas twice, one being in December.

I don't put too much stock in the Week 1 game, but in the December matchup, I remember the Giants covering like crazy and tackling very assuredly on defense, and then they got one big-play TD from Beckham on offense. Elliott rushed for more than 100 yards, but his long run was 15. Prescott completed only one pass longer than 18 yards, and it was in the first quarter for his only TD. He was less than 50 percent on the night. The biggest thing was third down. The Giants held the Cowboys to 1-for-15, and their last 11 third downs in that game averaged 9 yards to go, which tells you how contained Elliott was. Prescott kept taking short throws and the Giants were making tackles shy of the marker. That game was a defensive battle. I don't expect Sunday to be that.

Dan from Grand Rapids, MI

At his press conference Rodgers looked like he wasn't ready to celebrate one win. He is in some sort of zone right now.

Fine by me.

Josh from Denver, CO

Insiders, how do you think Aaron Rodgers will play in a dome?

If the silent count and communication up front are all intact, there's no reason to expect a drop-off. Ford Field last week was as loud as I've ever heard it, and Rodgers and Co. were able to overcome several miscues and still put up 31 points.

Tom from Chesterfield, VA

What no one is mentioning is how lucky the Packers are that Cook dropped AR's perfect pass right before the Hail Mary at the half. If he catches it it's unlikely they can line up and spike the ball before time expires. As it is we get a crucial TD that swings momentum.

How about the missed false start on Newhouse that preceded the big Peppers sack at 6-0 in the second quarter? That worked out great, too. I mentioned the Cook drop to Wes in the press box as the Packers were lining up to run one more play, which they clearly wouldn't have had time to do. I also pointed to the spot in the north end zone where Nicks caught the first-half Hail Mary for the Giants five years ago. Wes looked at me like, yeah, whatever. Like Rodgers said, it was sort of meant to be.

Phil from St. Paul, MN

Of all the stories coming out Green Bay last weekend, few people are talking about his comment on whether he feels like it's "meant to be" this year. "Yes....I do." Love his confidence, and what it gives this football team.

He can't back off now. Why would he?

Steven from Madison, WI

Insiders, Vic mentioned the Jordy hit (and Pereira's commentary) was a tough play to get the call on. Honestly, had Jordy snagged it right off the bat, his arms would have been tucked in and he'd have absorbed the blow (rather than re-extending and opening his ribs up for the hit). I saw that live and thought, if that's illegal, hits will be gone completely in a few years. I get that the crown was dropped illegally, but that play was totally different because of the bobble.

I'm not sure if Nelson could have completely protected himself if he caught it, but I see your point. Those of you who know my take on safety rules will know what I'm going to say next. I've only half-jokingly suggested in recent years that if the league wants to be serious about the safety rules, you need safety officials, whether they're on the field or in the booth for reviews. How in the world is that side judge supposed to be watching to see if Jordy catches it, keep an eye on his feet to see if he stays in bounds, and also pay attention to whether or not crown of the defender's helmet is the first thing to make contact? That's a superhuman task. I posit it's pretty much impossible at live speed with some of the world's best athletes. Something is going to get missed. Many are asking about a fine for Hall. That would seem a reasonable possibility.

Paul from Middleton, WI

T.J. Watt going pro. One word for that football family: Pedigree.

No doubt. Now let's see if their kids can do what the Matthews kids have done.

Andrew from Huxley, IA

Hi Insiders, did anyone else notice that when Coach McCarthy called timeout prior to the punt (with Fackrell running off) that the Packers only had seven players on the field? I wonder if that is why the Packers called timeout, not because they were worried Fackrell wouldn't make it off in time.

I missed it at the time but saw the still shots later. When Wing got the snap after the whistle blew, he mimicked a passing motion, as though the Giants were going to run a fake against Green Bay's shorthanded unit.

See a frame-by-frame breakdown of Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary to Randall Cobb against the New York Giants in the NFC Wild Card Playoff. Photos by Evan Siegle,

Milton from Midland, MI

Hi guys. Back in Week 6, the Packers' run defense was ranked No. 1. If I remember correctly we did a decent job stopping the run until Elliott started breaking away. Didn't the costly turnovers the Packers had cost the game? So, "stop the run and avoid turnovers" will be the formula to win?

Of Elliott's 28 carries for 157 yards in the first game, 11 for 62 came in the fourth quarter. It was 20-9 in favor of Dallas early in the period, after the Packers blew a red-zone chance to pull within one score and had to kick a field goal. Don't get down more than one score.

Ryan from Grand Island, NE

I liked McCarthy's move to go for it on fourth down, but I did not like the play-call at all. We put it four yards in the backfield in Montgomery's hands. Why not just sneak it with Rodgers on inches?

Damon Harrison would be one tough guy to sneak against. McCarthy said after the game he had two calls in mind and, obviously, wishes he'd gone with the other one. We're left to wonder what it was. I thought they were going to run that read-option bootleg with Rodgers, because of Harrison taking away the sneak.

Luke from Oconomowoc, WI

Why didn't Matthews get credit for a forced fumble for his hit on Paul Perkins after his first forced fumble on Manning? Has a player ever been credited with two forced fumbles in one play before?

I don't know. Maybe they determined Perkins didn't have full possession, with both feet down, to become a runner, and make a move common to the game, in order to complete the process of the catch, … I mean, recovery.

Carl from Lexington, SC

The Giants returner went out of bounds on the kickoff and got the ball at the spot. Twice in the last few years the Packers have used similar plays to advance the ball as if the kick went out of bounds. Was the difference that the Giants player stopped for a second before he stepped out?

No, the difference was he caught the ball before going out of bounds. On the Packers' plays you're referring to, the Green Bay returner intentionally stepped out of bounds before he touched the ball, therefore it was a kickoff out of bounds and was advanced to the 40.

David from Whitefish, MT

When is the MVP voting done? As much as it's a regular-season award, how does a performance like Sunday's not stick in a voter's head as they're casting their vote?

Votes were due last Wednesday, I believe.

James from Isle of Wight, UK

How often would an offense practice tackling, and a defense practice blocking in case of an interception or fumble recovery?

The Packers run tackling drills every day in practice, and those drills include offensive players.

Adam from Hillsboro, KS

Talk about the value of Micah Hyde. His punt returns and work on the defense were critical on Sunday.

Seeing Hyde elected playoff captain put a smile on my face.

Bill from Honesdale, PA

Does Coach McCarthy make a call to McAdoo and pick his brain, seeing as he beat the Cowboys twice?

He doesn't need to. The brain is on the game film, and that brain was in some ways molded by McCarthy himself. But their teams have very different players.

Gary from Pulaski, VA

Mike, great call about Randall Cobb. I don't think the Packers win the game after Jordy went down if Cobb is not in the lineup.

The suggestion that Cobb coming back amidst Allison's emergence being a problem for the offense was absurd. The more weapons, the better. That's all that matters. That said, I thought he'd be able to play maybe half the snaps. No idea he could do that on a bad ankle. If you can call a 5-10, 192-pound player a warrior, that's what I'd call Cobb.

Tim from Spooner, WI

Do facial expressions from players ever indicate a "tell" like in poker? It seemed as if Eli Manning was grimacing quite often before his throws Sunday as if preparing for a hit from a pass-rusher. Vic mentioned something about Eli taking his eyes away from downfield to take notice of rushers. I noticed the grimacing several times as if he had as much focus on pass-rushers and their proximity to him. I thought that stood out as out-of-the-norm for quarterbacks under duress.

A cold-weather hit feels different at age 36 than it does at 27.

Justin from Athens, GA

Our O-line is the real MVP.

Same for the Cowboys. Can the Packers pass-block better than the Cowboys can run-block? That's the story in the trenches for Sunday.

Tony from Colorado Springs, CO

In the Dec. 7 Insider Inbox, Mike picked a question from Greg in Franklin, WI, that was perfect. "I don't buy a lottery ticket to win, I buy it to dream until the drawing. The Packers may have only cashed one ticket in the Rodgers era, but we've been able to dream until the end most years. This year requires more pixie dust than others, but I'm still dreaming." It sure is fun to keep dreaming.

Sure is. Some would have preferred to trade Rodgers and play out the season for a higher draft pick. I'll never understand that mentality.

Mike from Salem, OR

How many players are still on the Super Bowl XLV team? Considering the Packers won the game at AT&T Stadium, does it provide any level of comfort to players like Rodgers or Matthews? I'm assuming your answer is no, but I wanted to get your take. Familiarity regarding previous victories at Lambeau Field didn't help Manning Sunday night.

Of the 53 players on the roster for Super Bowl XLV, eight are still with the Packers (Rodgers, Crosby, Nelson, Goode, Matthews, Lang, Bulaga, Starks). Far more were part of the comeback with Matt Flynn at QB in 2013. But you answered your own question. I don't think there's much, if any, benefit.

Derrick from Randolph, NJ

Hello Insiders, once the season inevitably ends (hopefully after the Super Bowl), I hope the fans who call for TT to make more moves during the offseason can look back at this game. We just beat a team that spent over $200 million during free agency. Meanwhile our "boring" signings of Michael and Cook seem to have contributed nicely Sunday.

The Giants hit the free-agent lottery with their defensive makeover. The success they found with it is the exception, not the rule, with that type of spending spree. Cook's impact on this offense, even when the ball is not thrown his way, is undeniable, as I've stated many times. Michael was certainly a spark plug on Sunday, as several readers have pointed out. He's a different cat. I don't think McCarthy has ever had a running back with his attributes.

Zach from Wisconsin Rapids, WI

Do you think Aaron yells 500 before he throws up each Hail Mary?

I miss that game.

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