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Inbox: Absolutely nobody in the NFL is surprised

The Packers will need additions

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CB Rasul Douglas

Mike from Lisle, IL

Were those games really decided by the will and execution of great players at crunch time, or did funny bounces, odd coaching breakdowns, and capricious officiating make a bigger difference?

You just defined the conundrum known as football analysis. Anyone want to refute my longtime assertion the playoffs are a crapshoot? Anyone? Bueller?

Mark from Canton, GA

Am I a bad person because after having to deal with the Packers not being in the postseason I am experiencing at least somewhat a level of joy in seeing the Vikings get knocked out in the first round?

Nope. Not at all.

Nathan from Abingdon, MD

The Vikings finally lost a one-score game this year. And we can stop hearing about how good the Vikings are. They're in the same boat as us. Watching the games from home. Only one team can win their last game and it ain't them (or us...)

That one-score winning streak had defied the odds for a long while. Regardless, the Vikings had been looking like a one-and-done playoff team for weeks now, most of all when trailing 41-3 at Lambeau Field. Absolutely nobody in the NFL is surprised they lost right away, least of all their own fans.

Richard from Madison, WI

Well, shoot, there goes my dream matchup of Buffalo Bills (0-4 in Super Bowl history) vs. Minnesota Vikings (also 0-4). I guess the Vikes used up their lifetime allotment of miraculous fourth-quarter comebacks during the regular season, huh?

I have to admit, when Slayton dropped the crosser and then Lawrence was called for the totally bogus RTP, I was thinking the football gods were smiling down on the Vikings for yet another day.

Ron from Mitchell, SD

Well, that was extremely satisfying. I thought Daniel Jones looked very steady through the game.

The Giants ran 68 offensive plays. Jones threw 35 passes, was sacked three times, and ran the ball 17 times (including three kneel-downs). That's 55 of the 68 plays, and he didn't make a single damaging mistake. The Giants put that game in Jones' hands, and he delivered.

Margeaux from Tallahassee, FL

Did the Packers' coverage of Jefferson lay the groundwork for how the Giants put the clamps on him?

Not really. The Giants put Adoree Jackson on him most of the time, doubling with a safety. Nothing too exciting. The biggest adjustment Wink Martindale did was rarely blitz – which had to be hard for a guy who loves to blitz – so as not to compromise his back end and make it susceptible to a big play. The Giants had trouble with Hockenson but they made that trade to limit Jefferson, and ultimately it might've fooled Cousins into thinking Hockenson had more room on fourth down than he actually did.

Kent from Wausaukee, WI

Do Packers and Chargers fans need to form a shared support group? Man, those two teams suffer some brutal playoff losses. Perhaps Matt Ryan can be our first guest speaker.

Ouch, and then the Ravens lose on a 98-yard fumble return and take a timeout home with them. McCarthy vs. Brady tonight. Are we not entertained?

Josh from Adams, WI

Trevor Lawrence was the first QB to throw four picks in a playoff game and still win since Russell Wilson did it in the Seahawks' win over the Packers in the 2014 NFC Championship Game. Lawrence threw an interception on his first career postseason attempt, a first since Rodgers in the '09 wild-card game. Finally, Lawrence threw four picks in the first half, making him the first to accomplish the feat in the playoffs since Favre in '01. At least we didn't establish any new records this weekend...

So we got that going for us, which is nice. I guess.

Caleb from Knoxville, TN

So … about that sneaky good Jags-Chargers game …

I'm not trying to say 27-0 isn't a huge deficit, because it is. But the Jags made that a two-score game (27-14) with five minutes left in the third quarter, giving themselves plenty of time to complete the comeback. There was nothing frantic or hurried about it. I think they had three explosive plays on offense over the duration. The rally was as impressive for its calm perseverance as anything, given the circumstances.

Joe from Bozeman, MT

So much for first playoff start jitters. That trade for McCaffrey sure looks good.

I thought Purdy was a tad off-target very early on, but once he settled in, he once again looked like he belonged, and then some. I said weeks ago the 49ers have the best trio of offensive perimeter weapons in the league in McCaffrey, Samuel and Kittle. Nothing I've seen since has changed my mind.

Chad from Town of Middleton, WI

It sounds like we are on the same page with the Brock Purdy story. If he continues his success, do you think he could flip the script on draft approach for teams on a rebuild? Build a great team on both offense and defense, then you don't need to draft a high-pick QB to save your team?

I'm not going that far. That great supporting cast can be decimated by injuries any given season, which the 49ers themselves went through two years ago. Elite-level QB play always gives you a chance, and it's needed at crunch time with so many games in this league coming down to the wire. Purdy has been in that situation only once. He came through (vs. the Raiders) to his credit, but over a long season that's often the difference in several wins and losses.

Arthur from Eau Claire, WI

The Dolphins played a very good game team-wise. They also showed that taking way too much time getting the play in, relaying the play in the huddle, not showing any urgency getting to the line, and poor clock awareness by the quarterback especially in the fourth quarter is a surefire way to lose a game that you had a chance to win. Just my view on a game.

That fourth-and-short certainly ranks as one of the more inexcusable delay of game penalties I've ever seen a team take.

Keith from Truro, Canada

Hi Mike: I read an article on the poor officiating in the NFL, in particular the Seattle-LA last game that writers and others felt that LA got roasted on some calls that could have made a different result in the game. I officiate basketball and we are constantly upgrading every year. When will the powers to be start evaluating and looking to improve the personnel they put on the field to control these games?

Preaching to the choir, Keith, sort of. I don't like to blame the officials themselves as much as the league asking them to do too much with a convoluted rulebook and not provide the necessary avenues to get calls right. The more cameras the broadcast networks have, which is the era we live in, the more the officials are going to miss or get wrong. It's inevitable, and it's time for the league to acknowledge it's a major problem.

Ron from Broken Arrow, OK

Mike, after watching the first four games of Super Wild Card Weekend, perhaps the NFL's point of emphasis for 2023 should be the making sure the officials call the rules as they exist in the rule book. The roughing the passer penalty on the Giants during the last Viking possession was ridiculous! Appears that the officials need to return to the fundamentals of officiating.

Other than pass interference, whose one-year replay experiment was botched by the league in general and Al Riveron in particular, the most controversial calls that crop up now are running into the punter, roughing the passer, and helmet contact, which are all … (checks notes) … safety rules! Make safety rules the purview of replay and the officials can do better with the rest. My face can't get any bluer.

Pieretto from Carcare, Italy

Is special teams performance improvement the happiest note of this somewhat disappointing season?

It's one of them, along with Christian Watson's emergence and a lot of promise from the 2022 draft class as a whole. Getting Elgton Jenkins' new contract done well in advance of the offseason also gives the Packers a better look at their landscape as they navigate some tricky spots in the coming months.

Ron from Mitchell, SD

Oh, it has started already! Monday morning click-bait headlines: Nine potential landing spots for Aaron Rodgers. DeAndre Hopkins trade rumors: Packers, Ravens headline seven logical landing spots for Cardinals receiver. It feels like deja vu all over again!

Offseason headlines are so rinse-and-repeat. It's just the names that change, or that don't.

Jay from Altoona, WI

J.J. Watt has just retired, and Joe from Pittsburgh, PA, brought up the possibility of both Rodgers and Brady retiring this offseason. If all three happen to retire (and stay retired), can you imagine the Hall of Fame induction for 2028?

That would put a major squeeze on modern-day candidates that year, leaving only two spots available in the induction class. The same thing happened in 2021 when Charles Woodson, Peyton Manning and Calvin Johnson took up three of the five slots as first-time eligibles.

Jennifer from Middleton, WI

Hey Spoff, the chase is on for Sean Payton. I was thinking about Bountygate. Given the emphasis the league has put on player safety in recent years, if that occurred now, I gotta believe the penalty would be much stiffer – perhaps even a lifetime ban from coaching. I went back and re-read the findings from that scandal. It's despicable. Yet he is the NFL darling. That bugs me. How many other coaches are grinding for an opportunity that don't have black marks on their character?

I hear you loud and clear, but the reality is when NFL owners look at Sean Payton, they don't see Bountygate. They see a Super Bowl winner and perennial playoff contender. The guys you reference who are grinding haven't proven it yet, and are therefore less attractive, even if the apple of everyone's eye has an ugly worm hole.

Sal form Mullica Hill, NJ

I enjoyed the "5 plays that (almost) saved the Packers' season," but given how the season ended, I'd be interested in reading "the 5 plays that doomed the Packers' season." Maybe it is too hard to pick just 5?

Off the top of my head, in chronological order, here's my list: the Hail Mary attempt in London that broke Aaron Rodgers' thumb; the illegal contact penalty on Eric Stokes that wiped out Heinicke's fumble, forced by Rashan Gary and returned by Rasul Douglas for a TD; also in Washington, Heinicke-to-McLaurin for 12 yards on a third-and-9 prayer with just over two minutes left; take your pick of the goal-to-go INTs at Detroit; and the Jones fumble in Week 18.

Curtis from Corvallis, OR

I can't help but wonder why the defense wasn't ready for the Lions' fourth-and-2 in our red zone, inside of two minutes, with our playoff chances on the line? The Lions did get lined up quicker than normal. Why were the two defenders opposite the receiver who caught the ball lined up about 3 or 4 yards off the line of scrimmage? That positioning helped allow for a way too easy pitch and catch. It was fourth and about a yard and a half and our defenders give him a free release. I don't get it.

I don't either, and I've struggled with how to answer this question in a meaningful way, having read a version of it countless times in the Inbox over the past week. I actually thought the fourth-and-2 from the Green Bay 25 with nine minutes left was worse. That was just as easy a pitch-and-catch, and the Lions were eschewing the tying field goal at that moment. A stop would've kept the Packers in front, 16-13, yet there appeared to be no urgency. Anyway, my best explanation (though it won't be satisfactory) goes back to a story I wrote the day after the Packers returned from London, when LaFleur was asked about Giants receivers being so wide open on crossing routes. He pointed to defenders not getting to their pre-snap positions quickly and earnestly, leaving them a step slow to react. I think this was an issue that came and went for the Packers' defense all season, and it was never entirely fixed, much like no solutions to the offense's red-zone woes were ever found. When things like that plague a team at different times all season long, they're likely to bite in a gotta-have-it game. If you don't have it all year, it's hard to have it when you really need it.

Mark from Missoula, MT

Why do I have this feeling we are going to open our season at Detroit?

Hmmmmmm.

Dave from Germantown, TN

Now that we are in the offseason and looking to next year, do think we are looking at a D-line of Clark, Slaton and Wyatt? Wyatt and Clark showed rush the passer skills and Slaton looked like an anchor in the middle to me.

My best guess is that's the core up front for next season, but the Packers will need additions to that, either in free agency and/or the draft.

James from Surprise, AZ

Hi Mike, Wes and all II'ers. If I understood ML correctly, there was a lot of 1/11th-plus going on with the players. Looking back at the season, I can understand what the players were trying to do. What they should have been doing was their 1/11th only and to achieve the best unity and the best results as a team (all phases). My question is if this was part of the reason, why wasn't it nipped in the bud? I couldn't understand that during the season but that makes a lot of sense to me. GPG!

You raise an excellent question. I think this applies to the defense and its inconsistencies more than anywhere else. Trying to do too much is what landed Darnell Savage temporarily on the bench. Gary and Stokes were guilty of it at times before getting hurt, as were Rasul Douglas and Jaire Alexander, contributing to their ups and downs. Clark admitted to as much at certain points, and I don't think De'Vondre Campbell and Quay Walker were immune either. Individual competitiveness and drive have to be channeled properly to achieve collective success, and for whatever reasons that balance was difficult for the Packers to find.

Mike from Baraboo, WI

Which teams do you predict will be in the Super Bowl and what team do you think will lift the Lombardi Trophy?

I'm sticking with my call on "Unscripted" last week that it'll be San Francisco and Buffalo. Can't change now. I haven't decided yet on a winner.

Alex from Chicago, IL

To piggyback on Ed from Windsor's comments about the potential frivolity of some II editions post-Super Bowl victory, I was always so hopeful it would happen with Vic, as well. Those of us who have been readers since the beginning might remember that Ask Vic started not long after our last title. Such a shame this community hasn't been able to celebrate that together, yet. One day.

Keep the faith.

Lee from Mantua, OH

Wake me when the draft starts.

Sorry you missed an entertaining weekend of playoff football. Happy Monday.

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