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How big is Sunday's game? Read Mike's chat

Senior writer Mike Spofford took questions in his weekly chat


Hi everybody. Lots to talk about I'm sure. Let's go.

Comment From Guest

Mike,Maybe coming from behind in the NFC North is what can spur the Pack on to better football. Don't you think it wouldn't it be a great boost in confidence to win in Minnesota, and retake the division lead?

It would be a tremendous boost and could turn things around like nothing else. Winning on Sunday is the key to winning the division. Lose and fall two games back with six to play, realistically it's wild-card only.

Comment From Jay

What's the likelihood that Abberderis replaces Jones on 3 WR sets?

Replace full-time? I doubt it. More snaps for Abbrederis? If he's healthy and his ribs recover OK, then yes, definitely.

Comment From Tony H

Any color on why we used our last time out before the 2 point try ? Strange things going on league-wide with using / not using time outs this year. That time out cost us at least one more play after the OKS recovery and potentially 5 - 15 yards of improved position for Crosby's FG try. Bewildering.

Your best shot was the 2-point play, so if you're not comfortable with the call or look, you definitely spend a TO there. Can't save it for after an onside kick you don't know you'll recover and have little chance of recovering, honestly.

Comment From Jean

What's wrong?

*What I saw Sunday, on offense, was a snowball effect of what we'd seen in prior games. Drops, guys not getting open, errant passes. They were all happening in the same game instead of being spread out. This has to be rock bottom for the Packers offense, and if this isn't rock bottom, then it's going to be a long last two months.        *

Comment From Jon

Hi Mike. Vic keeps talking about how the Packers need to find that receiving threat. My mind immediately goes to Ty Montgomery. I think he could be the boost this offense needs.

I think he can help, sure. He's not a savior, but he showed when he was healthy that he can make some plays. He needs to get healthy and get back out there, but the practice time he's missed isn't good for a rookie. We need to temper our expectations for when he does return.

Comment From Guest

Mike, Well Who woulda thunk it? If the Pack doesn't recover this game could be really ugly. Losing to the Lions at home, however is a real low. What did you think of the boo birds? It made me sad.

*You're asking the wrong person about the booing. I'm paid for the privilege of watching and chronicling these games. I've always felt the actual paying customers have the right to do whatever they'd like to, within the bounds of civility and legality. Fans come of all shapes and stripes.       *

Comment From Jeremy

Like everyone, just trying to figure out what is wrong with the offense. Reading between the lines, is it as basic as the receivers need to beat their man and get open?

*There's some of that, but from Sunday, if you just complete the passes where the player was open and he either dropped the ball or Rodgers' throw was clearly off-target, everything looks different. *

Comment From Barry

Hey Mike, More a thought than a question, but the recent struggles have reminded me again how short and tight the window is for a Super Bowl run. This makes the last-minute crash in Seattle hurt even worse knowing that was our chance, and an opportunity like that may not come again soon.

I have to admit I've had some of the same thoughts, but you can't give up on this season. Not at 6-3. This week reminds me of 2009, after the loss at winless Tampa against a rookie QB making his first start (who's no longer in the league). It was rock-bottom time, and it was easy to feel like it was hopeless, but that team made the playoffs and was one of the hottest teams in the NFC late in the year.

Comment From Steve

This offense couldn't run or pass against a team with a bad defense at home. Help is not on the way. Paint me a picture as to how this could possibly get fixed.

*Think 2009, Steve. See above.  *

Comment From Jumbo

Is Aaron handling this increased scrutiny as even-keeled as usual as far as you know? I'm getting a little grossed out by some of the speculation for his play of late.  

I think he's handling it the way a pro should. He's not shying away from criticism, but he's not going to take all the blame either.

Comment From Paul

Packers have had no pass rush the last three games. Is it time to move Matthews back to the outside and the remaining ILB just have to step up?

Maybe at some point, but not this week. Not with Adrian Peterson coming at you. I expect Matthews to be inside against the Vikings almost full-time.

Comment From Linda P

Mike, Can we realistically recover without Eddie Lacy playing better. James Starks is wonderful, but not a pounder like Eddie.

This offense needs everyone to play better. Eddie is needed, yes. He's the dimension this offense was missing prior to 2013. Hopefully he's getting the mental and health break he needs right now.

Comment From Laura

It didn't affect the outcome of the game, but wasn't it hard to explain why the refs on Sunday called defensive pass interference so differently than it has been called all year? It's not an excuse for our receivers not getting open, but it had to impact them a bit.

It did impact them, and that's on the Packers, in my view. Crying for calls just doesn't look good and creates a bad vibe and distraction. That was a crew I don't recall the Packers having for a game yet this year, if ever (the ref was a new name to me). They scout tendencies of crews. They should have known going in those guys let WRs and DBs play, and if they didn't, they certainly should have known through the first three quarters how it was being called and not been spending the fourth quarter begging for calls.

Comment From Steve from California

Do you think that Aaron Rodgers is getting "rattled" because he has been hit so much in the last few games? What should be done to improve the protection of our offensive line?

I don't see Rodgers being "rattled" in the sense you suggest. I do think he's out of sync because things aren't going well, and there's probably something to what McCarthy said yesterday about trying to do too much. Maybe he's trying for the big spark that isn't going to happen until the little things are executed better. I don't know.

Comment From Lonny

McCarthy seems to answer more play calling questions now than when he actually called plays.

You knew that would happen if things started going south. Everyone is asking should he make a change. I think his answer on Sunday about it not being that "simple" was telling. I think part of what he was saying is if he takes back the play-calling, he's absolving the players of the blame they deserve, and that's not a culture a head coach can tolerate or survive in. He's in the headset, he knows what plays are being called. If he feels Clements is making calls way off the page, so to speak, then maybe he will take the reins back. But holding the players accountable also matters.

Comment From Michael

Hey Mike, We really do need this win this Sunday. If we get it the division is tied and hopefully we get on a winning streak this season and pass the Vikings. This is a huge came. Your thoughts on this?

No doubt. Win this one and it's a race to Week 17, when you might be playing at home for the division title.

Comment From GeorgeM

Mike, will you give us a little teaser to What we might have missed?       

I'll tell you one thing I saw that I regret not putting in this week's video -- on the play in the first quarter when Cobb dropped the pass on third down and had a ton of open field in front of him? The guy trailing Cobb actually lost his shoe. No way he was going to catch him running with only one shoe. It was almost comical on the film.

Comment From Chris

Do you think Ditka's sweater has anything to do with this ??

If the man who almost ran me over as a child in his golf cart has anything to do with this, then we're all lost souls.

Comment From Sal

Do you and Vic get any blame when things aren't going well on the field?

McCarthy walked by my desk the other day and pleaded for me to write better, faster, stronger. Uh, no.

Comment From Lola

Any special rituals you have for games at Minnesota? Dinner with Ragnar, etc.?

I have a lot of friends and family in the area. It's always one of my favorite trips of the year, and I wish I could spend more time there.

Comment From Packer Jack

Mike, you do a great job as always. Why should we not see more Jake Ryan?

Maybe we will this week against a power running attack like Minnesota's. Detroit was last in the league against the run. Palmer played well, though, so we'll see.

Comment From Nick D

Mike, thoughts on Justin Perillo on Sunday? Made some huge catches, would love to see more of him.

A lot of you asking about Perillo. I have a story going up today (if it's not up already). He's this week's Player on the Rise feature. Really down to earth guy who has taken the hard road to get where he is. You can't help but root for a guy like that, and the way he played Sunday, Rodgers' faith in him will grow.

Comment From Isaac

About a month ago, I asked you if you were concerned with Tim Masthay's performance thus far. You said you were not. Are you now?

He's not having his best season, but anyone who punts nine times in a game is not going to hit them all beautifully. Trust me, Masthay works as hard on his craft and cares about his game as much as anyone I've ever talked to in that locker room.

Comment From Jeff

Saying that realistically wild card only if we lose this weekend is inaccurate. Have you seen the Viking schedule? We also play them again at home.

I hear you, but if the Packers lose, they'll have to make up two games on the Vikings in five weeks, while coming off a four-game losing streak. You'd have to be even with them heading into Week 17, probably, because of the division loss to the Lions. I don't like those odds.

Comment From The Burner Mike Turner

Why did the refs allow the Lions to change their mind on that holding call to move it from 4th and 2 to 3rd and 12?

*You're allowed to do that. I didn't know you were allowed to do that without calling a timeout, but I've seen those decisions changed before.         *

Comment From The Burner Mike Turner

Why do you think we burned time outs trying to get the ball back before half time when the offense wasn't moving the ball?? Gave up 3 points there, without those, we win the game.

I didn't like the timeout call after the Lions had crossed midfield. At best you're getting the ball at the 20 if they blow the punt and it's a touchback. After they pinned the Packers at the 5, running hurry-up and not making the Lions use their timeouts I thought was a mistake as well. There appeared to be too much concern about the Lions getting the ball coming out in the third quarter, and as you said, it cost 3 points.

Comment From Guest

Saw good play from Abby, Rip, and Perillo this week. Which of the three do you see having the biggest impact over the rest of this season?

I'm going to say Perillo, because Quarless hasn't even started practicing again yet. Nothing against the other two, but Rip hasn't been thrown the ball out of the backfield, and Abby's snaps might be dependent on Montgomery as well.

Comment From Kristen

What I found puzzling after this game was both Rodgers and McCarthy seemed less visibly affected by the loss than after the previous 2. After the Denver game, McCarthy admitted to being flat out-coached & said he hadn't gotten his butt kicked like that in a long time. After Carolina, Aaron seemed frustrated about the loss, and determined to make some improvements. After Detroit, they both just seemed pretty apathetic about losing at home to a poor team. Where is there urgency & edge??

*There is plenty of urgency. If it wasn't visible on their faces or clearly heard in their words, it might be because the Detroit loss revealed there are more problems than they realized, which can make anyone despondent after a gut-kick loss like that.           *

Comment From Michael

Damarious Randall had another huge play late, taking the onside kick from Johnson. How much more upside does this kid have?

You have to love the way he's playing.

Comment From Raff

Mike, can you explain why winning on the road is so difficult? I find it hard to believe pro athletes need to be motivated by the crowd.

I don't think it's motivation. I think it's more about distractions and obstacles with regard to the opposing crowd. Communication, adjustments at the line, etc., are all different on the road. That's partly why it was so puzzling to see the offense sputter so badly upon returning home.

Comment From Linda P

Mike - Any news on Bahktiari? We certainly don't need him out.

McCarthy said yesterday he thought Bakhtiari had avoided a serious injury, but that was the only update. No idea about his status for this week.

Comment From Jeff 

Mike I just don't get it. I hate all the flags being thrown around every game. I've heard many complaints from other fans. LET THEM PLAY FOOTBALL, they all chant. Yet all I'm hearing from fans is crying about a slight PI non calls.

Funny how that works.

Comment From Marin 

Hi Mike, what's happening with James Jones as of late? He doesn't seem to have the productivity compared to the beginning of the season.

Teams have adjusted, and now that Adams is back in the lineup, he's the guy that has to make defenses pay if they're going to put their best outside corner on Jones, as the Lions did.

Comment From Jim B 

It seems to me that Aaron is missing a 'rhythm' with one or two WRs this year. A subconscious knowledge of where they'd go in scramble mode. Any prediction on who will establish the rhythm again?

The practice time Adams missed with his injury didn't help. Same with Montgomery now. Rodgers is a second-year TE. That puts a lot on Cobb, who often has a safety lurking behind him. All they can do is keep working at it. As I've said, there were more open guys and more plays to be made last week than in the previous two. The film shows it.

Comment From Jim Bob 

It's hard for me to grasp the concept of players not executing when we have Aaron Rodgers as our QB. Yes, quarterbacks have off days, as do wide receivers who drop the balls or are not in sync with their quarterback, but that still doesn't excuse 9 punts in a row against one of the worst defenses in the NFL at home. Cobb is not Nelson, and it seems that the offense is trying to do similar things as when he was still on the field. Why not play to the actual players' strengths out there?

I'm sorry, but when the dropped pass is on third down, you're punting. If a sack puts you in third-and-long, you're most likely punting. You can't have as many things off as the Packers did and expect to have any rhythm or efficiency.

Comment From Nathan 

Everybody watching on TV saw the shoe go flying. You guys probably miss a lot in the press box.

Glad you saw it. I didn't see it until I was looking at the film.

Comment From Z from MN 

Mike, this is a 5-4 team without Janis' two big plays vs. San Diego. Both of those plays btw were broken plays and he stepped up. Honestly, when the top four receivers aren't getting open, why not give the kid a chance to make plays as he seems to do when he does get the ball. frankly, I'm sick of the blather about him not knowing the offense.

It's not about not knowing the offense. Coach McCarthy stated it pretty clearly yesterday -- because of the college program Janis comes from, there's a lot in the pro game that he sees -- situations, etc. -- that are brand new to him. He has to learn how to handle those, how to react on the fly. I thought McCarthy's explanation yesterday was enlightening.

Comment From Holly 

Mike, I'm almost more heartbroken over the play in the last 3 games than I was to the Seattle loss last year...that's big. I'm trying to stay positive, but it doesn't seem to be an easy fix. How can a team go from being so dominant the first 5 weeks of the season, to a total dud? It's mind boggling.

It is, I agree. I thought the Packers played fantastic football in beating the Seahawks and Chiefs in September. Those teams aren't bad. You just can't let a 1-7 team come into your house and beat you. That's a win that got away they'll be trying to compensate for the rest of the way.

Comment From Frank 

I think it's a tall order for the Packers to win in Minny, especially after the past 3 weeks performances. Stopping AP on the ground? But I guess Texas bean Cincy last night so anything is possible.

I can't remember a game in November with this level of importance in a long time.

Comment From Amos 

When is Quarless scheduled to return?

He is eligible to practice at any point now, but he hasn't started practicing yet. The first game he's eligible to play in is Thanksgiving.

Comment From Tom 

Did Crosby slip or just miss the ball?

*He just mis-hit it. I thought all the internet theories about Masthay's hand and everything were really absurd. Yes, the flight path of the ball was weird, but I remember Crosby doing the same thing on a final kick in Indy back in 2012, and that was in a dome. His mis-hits do weird things, for whatever reason.           *

Comment From Geoff 

Do you think it makes any difference for the players to into Minnesota as a 2nd place 'underdog' instead of a 1st place favorite? I think it could be a good thing.

I don't think it matters, because I don't think the Packers care, and I don't think Zimmer's Vikings will be spooked by being the favorite and in first place. He's got that team pretty well-grounded, from what I can tell.

Comment From Barney 

The fast start (six wins) is now more crucial than ever after three straight Losses. Are people overreacting to a 6-3 record simply because they came in bunches?

It's the first three-game losing streak with Rodgers at QB in seven years. No one is used to this.

Comment From Andrew 

Mike, Vic talks about Packer fans having unreasonable expectations which inevitably lead to disappointment. What do you see as a reasonable expectation for this season after the debacle of the last few weeks? Personally I'll settle for sneaking into the play-offs with a wild card. I can't see us winning the NFC North now.

*As I said before, I'm probably taking your view if the Packers lose on Sunday. If they win, no reason to believe a division title and a chance to get hot isn't on the horizon.          *

Comment From Eric 

I live in MPLS and have watched some of the games, he tends to bail on some of his progressions early. Do you think Teddy's feet will help or hurt the packers rush?

Putting the game in Teddy's hands is what the Packers have to do. I loved what McCarthy said yesterday about the Vikings being committed to the run. The Rams were the same way here at Lambeau with Gurley a month ago. The Packers will have to contain the run for 60 minutes in order to win on Sunday.

Comment From Mike 

Defensively, what do you think our issue is? Dom Capers has shown he can coach the defense to be one of the best in the league. They've shown brief flashes of it. But, why arent we consistent? Does it say more about coaching, or does Dom not have all the tools he needs, such as the right players?

When your best player isn't playing his best position, that doesn't help. But I've seen this Packers defense play enough good football to believe in them doing what's necessary, if the offense holds up its end.

Comment From Swedgin 

Listening to the coach's interviews the last few weeks, all you hear from all of them is fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. Fans get frustrated by that; what about you guys reporting? Do you feel like that's just a stock answer McCarthy has told all of the coaches to feed you guys or is that all they can really say because saying anything else would be publicly giving something away they don't want to?

I thought McCarthy was as honest as he could be yesterday. Fundamentals is a boring answer, but he's saying they're not playing the game well enough, they're not doing what it takes to win their matchups, and he said the coaches have to get it out of the players. I don't know what else he can say. He's not going to call out individuals in press conferences. He's never done that.

Comment From Chris 

Not sure if it's been asked yet, but do you think Aaron might be hiding an injury? There were a couple plays where he could have ran for 20 yards but he decided to chuck it. Or do you think it's just mental?

Rodgers insists he's fine. I know the cameras caught him reaching for his foot after a play. The scramble to his left with what looked like a lot of open field puzzled me, too. That deep throw for Abby had no chance. Maybe that's an example of what McCarthy was talking about, trying to do too much.

Comment From Schmiddy 

What do you think was going through Brandon Bostick's head watching Calvin Johnson muff the onside kick?

It can happen to Hall of Famers, too, I guess. The difference was Johnson was doing what he was supposed to. He just missed it. He wasn't improvising.

OK, I see I've gone an hour. I'll take a few more. Lots of questions today, so sorry if I didn't get to at least one of yours.

Comment From Kevin D. 

Damarious Randall has given the Packers a chance to win in 3 games out of the last 4. The batted ball against San Diego, the interception in Carolina, and the on-side kick recovery against Detroit. This kid is going to win us some football games in the future.

*Couldn't agree more.   *

Comment From Tom 

Wisconsin or Northwestern?

Huh. Was wondering if someone would ask that. At the risk of angering my grad school friends, I always root for the Badgers. The only time I root against NU is this weekend.

Comment From Schmiddy 

if you take our gimmick 3rd down hardcount out of the game, we've been even more dismal all year on third down.

Good point.

Comment From JD 

I read you used to cover HS sports in Wausau, WI. Ever cover DC Everest football in the mid 90's?            

Oh yeah. For 3 years.

Comment From Z from MN 

Sorry Mike, you just made my point in your response. Janis did in fact react on the fly and we saw the result. Two huge broken plays for 70 yds.

Reacting on a broken play and making the correct decisions on the fly when the "real" play is being run are two different things.

Comment From Mike 

I liked that sitton stood out and said he feels the offense is too predictable week in week out. Three receiver sets has been overused too much.what happened to the favre days when we would go 5 wide with all receivers. I don't like the matchup of Richard Rodgers being split out wide. Your thoughts ?

*A lot of folks asking about Sitton's "predictable" comment. At Carolina, the Packers were changing personnel on almost every play in the first half, new groups, new formations. They had 7 points at halftime. I don't think this is a case of lining up and trying the same things over and over again, but Sitton is a smart guy. I'm guessing there's a reason beyond the words that he said what he said.     *

Comment From Mike 

You &/or Vic should make a Twitter account to keep us posted with insider news. Things you see in practice, etc. that isnt picked up by outside reporters

Um, then I think I really will get a visit from McCarthy at my desk, don't you think? I don't get to see any more of practice than other reporters do, to be totally honest.

Comment From Andrew 

Bottom line: beat the Vikings and we're in with a real chance of the Division championship. I suppose you can't ask for more than that in November.

That works for me, and we'll call that the last word for today. Thanks for all the participation today. I'm not sure of the chat schedule for the next couple of weeks with the Thursday games, so keep an eye on the site for an announcement to be posted. I'll still try to do it once a week around the crazy schedule. Take care, Mike

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