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Inbox: All it takes is one at the right time

He’s done it before, and he needs to do it again


Tyler from Cross Plains, WI

So does that mean Ben Sheets reads the Inbox? Did the Inbox faithful reach out on your behalf? Or is an Inboxer having a little fun with you?

All distinct possibilities we're trying to figure out.

Dave from Germantown, TN

I think I read somewhere that the Rams' offensive tackles are No. 1 in the league and the Packers' OTs are No. 2. Will these four players neutralize the pass rush of their opponents, or will a superior performance by one or the other be instrumental and tilt the game into their teams favor?

I expect the breakdowns on the edge to be few and far between in this game. But nobody's perfect, so for me the question is when an edge rusher does get home, when will it occur and how big a play can he make? Will it happen on a big third down in the second half? Will he knock the ball out and create a turnover? Sometimes all it takes is one at the right time.

Jim from Maple Grove, MN

Spoff, how does Blake Martinez not make your list of A-grade candidates for the season thus far?

I think Martinez has played well, and he's clearly a key piece of Green Bay's defense. But to me A grades are for Pro Bowlers, and to this point I don't think Martinez would get the same Pro Bowl consideration as Clark, Bakhtiari and Adams. But I also don't think Martinez has hit his ceiling by any means.

Andrew from Washington, D.C.

Insiders, I hopped over to the Rams' official team website to see what they were saying about our Pack. All of the comments were about Rodgers (deservedly so) but I noticed not a single reference to any other aspect of our team that may present problems. It was as if the Rams believed our team to be far inferior, albeit with the threat of a great QB. My question, is that how most teams view the Packers? I'd rather not think that we embody the "puncher's chance" cliché solely due to A-Rod.

Right or wrong, that's just the nature of the beast until you win a big game and announce yourself as a contender. Having unfortunately only tied the Vikings and played two dismal road games thus far, the Packers must change the perceptions. It's on them, and this is their biggest opportunity.

Tanner from Tulsa, OK

McCarthy on Aaron Donald's success: "He's from Pittsburgh, a big factor in success as we know." Delivered with a perfectly straight face. On that same note, what is "phone-booth football" that he mentions discussing Donald's success?

Phone-booth football is a reference to the part of the game played in tight quarters as opposed to in space, and tight quarters with multiple bodies fighting to execute and generate impact.

Keith from Farmington Hills, MI

With how bunched up the NFC North is, do you think the division will be acknowledged as a difficult division to play in? All of the teams look like possible playoff contenders and each game has true meaning, especially against division opponents.

I will continue to believe…

John from Hillsborough, NJ

Is it correct the Packers have not beaten the Rams in L.A. since Dec. 1966? Seems we are overdue for a little luck again this week.

My "One Last Look" column this week, which is posting Saturday, takes a look at the Packers' history in the Coliseum. In a word, it's strange. Aside from when Vince Lombardi was head coach, the Packers have won only twice in 20 tries in that stadium, in 1947 and 1990 (against the Raiders). Yet one of the franchise's most significant wins occurred there, in Super Bowl I, as Lombardi went 7-2-1 in the venue. Rodgers' game for Cal vs. USC there in '04 was something, too, and McCarthy won there as a Chiefs assistant in a do-or-die game on Christmas Eve in '94. Like I said, it's just strange stuff.

Steven from Silver Spring, MD

In his mid-week interview, Pettine was candid about players letting themselves get fooled by pre-snap motion, which led to the big plays that have been allowed. When Pettine was hired as coach it was pointed out that he was going to simplify things so that the reads would be simpler. I think it is really telling of our defense that our second halves of games have been as successful as they have been. We have young DBs getting fooled in the first half, coached up, then producing later in game.

Jessi from Sterling, KS

I just tucked my sister and brand new nephew (6 hours old) into bed in the wee hours of the morning. I hope to make EJ a Packers fan like his Auntie and Mom. I had a talk with him about it before bed. May we give him a hearty Inbox welcome?

Maybe G residing between E and J will help.

Bruce from Bloomington, IL

The NFL just fired a line judge in rather unusually quick fashion with very little public comment. I'm going to tuck this away to see if there are more of these. The new legal gambling capabilities seem to me to require very close attention to any officials who make game-changing mistakes. BTW, I don't worry about what is in Area 51.

I'm not going to speculate about gambling, but this is an unprecedented move. The league has never before fired an official in-season for performance in the Super Bowl era. This bears watching, indeed.

Nick from White Bear Township, MN

We have a couple new guys in our office, and I'm being reminded how difficult and mistake-ridden the journey can be as you bring someone "up to speed." With all the Raiders fire-sale talk, I'm reminded of Vic's old saying that "help is not on the way." If you could choose one player to make an unbelievably big step forward this week and provide the help this team really needs (growth from within), who's your guy?

Jaire Alexander.

Patsi from Riverside, CA

Hi Mike. In your response to Aaron from Tomah regarding the longest streak of consecutive home wins, you indicated that league records only count the regular season, and not postseason games. Does this also apply to individual player stats? For example, are the QB passing touchdown records based on only regular-season games as well? If so, are stats available for how many total touchdowns the quarterback leaders (Manning, Favre, Brady, Brees) have thrown? Where does Rodgers rank on that count?

All league records, team and individual, count only regular-season stats. Postseason records are kept separately. There might be a website out there that keeps track of all the combined totals, but those numbers aren't recognized by the league in any meaningful way.

George from North Mankato, MN

What position group must win their one-on-one battles to allow us the best chance for a W?

The offensive line and the cornerbacks.

Mark from Rochester, NY

Thanks for all work you put into the Insider Inbox, but like the zebras, no one gets them all right. I would like to throw a challenge flag on your response to Ron from Rockford, IL. Upon further review, could you give us some Insider view on why moving Tramon to free safety now that the Packers have their full complement of cornerbacks healthy would be a bad idea?

I don't want to put words into Wes's mouth, but I think our shared reluctance, generally speaking, to position changes suggested by fans is the lack of understanding of how difficult it truly is on the player in-season. What Matthews did in '14 and Montgomery in '16 are the exceptions, not the rule. In this particular case with Williams, I'd like to see how this defense performs with its top four corners playing together for the first time since the first half of Week 2 vs. Minnesota before I start entertaining midseason switches.

Take a look back in time at memorable photos from prior Packers-Rams matchups on the road.

Jason from Eagle, WI

Pretty amazing to see Sam Shields back on the field again, albeit in a different jersey. Are you impressed with his drive to get back on the field despite the seriousness of his injuries, or concerned that one more bad hit could put his post-football health in serious jeopardy?

Both, frankly.

Joe from Bloomington, IN

Have you noticed how players often look at the big screen between plays? Do you think that's distracting? Strikes me they should be thinking about the future, not the past.

It's their only way to get an in-game glance at film. I don't blame them. You never know what they might spot to help them.

Jannis from Schimborn, Germany

Mike has done it again. In his chat he said that either Detroit or Seattle will have a fourth loss after this weekend. Now guess what will be the next tie.

Of course.

Pete from Wausau, WI

My perspective...the Rams should be good. They have had very high draft picks for quite a few years. I wonder why they got all those high picks? I enjoy being a Packer fan.

Goff, Gurley, Donald and Brockers were all top 15 picks from the 2012-16 drafts, and they even missed on two other top 10 picks during that time in Greg Robinson and Tavon Austin. And with Goff making peanuts in QB money, they've used the cap space to acquire three other top 20 picks the years they were drafted in Suh, Peters and Talib. The Packers have no top 15 picks and one top 20 pick on their entire roster, and he's a rookie.

Mark from West Bend, WI

Mike, on "Unscripted" you and Wes touched upon the across-the-hall meetings that took place this week. My question is, who do the quarterbacks go across the hall with? It seems as though DB/WR, LB/RB and DL/OL were the groups. Does Aaron just go against Pettine?

Great question. Your suspicion sounds reasonable.

Ian from Owatonna, MN

Hello Insiders, first-time questioner, longtime reader here. In the early days of the Rodgers era, I remember seeing statistics that showed a large variety of receivers Rodgers would pass to. In the third or fourth game of one season, I believe he had passed to 13 different receivers. Recently it seems that number is down. He only seems to pass to our top receivers in that particular week. Why do you think this is, and is this a good or a bad thing?

I'm not sure it's either. As Rodgers' career has unfolded, I think he sees more week-to-week value in developing an extensive rapport with top targets, and he uses his powers at the line of scrimmage to work on that. In general, it's hard to argue with the results. While I do remember the occasional game when he completed passes to 10 or so different guys, I never saw that as necessarily intentional but dictated more by injuries, substitution patterns, and flow of the game, where the call sheet gets emptied as opposed to limited by circumstances and situations.

Quinton from Madison, TN

I was just checking out the Bears Q&A on the Chicago Tribune website. Change a few names and the questions would look very much like the Inbox. Should T. Cohen be converted to receiver? Why is Roquan Smith on the field only 60 percent of the time? Should Khalil sit until his ankle heals fully? Then they answer their own questions with the answers they want to hear. I just have to wonder are the fans in other sports as certain that they can manage/coach their teams better than the people paid to do it?


Alex from Helena, MT

Ha! Eli in the Hall of Fame. If you blindly look at two Super Bowls then OK, but look at his whole career. Passer rating lower than Bradford, Flacco, Dalton, Tannehill, and Schaub to name a few. Take away his two Super Bowl seasons, and he's 0-4 in the playoffs. Only playoff game he ever scored over 24 points in was against the Packers' 2011 defense, which ranked 32nd in yards allowed. If not for a great defense and two lucky throws, we'd talk about him as one of the biggest disappointments.

His case is going to generate great debate when it comes up. The only two-time Super Bowl-champion QB not in the Hall of Fame that I'm aware of is Jim Plunkett, but he only won one Super Bowl MVP whereas Manning won two. Performances on the biggest stages count for a lot, as they should. Never having a passer rating of 95 or above in a single season in this era is a huge strike against him, but your playoff record citation doesn't sway me. He's 8-4 in the postseason, period, and lucky or not, the two throws you reference are two of the biggest in Super Bowl history. A pair of 4-0 runs and Super Bowl MVPs I believe will eventually get him into Canton.

Krystal from San Antonio, TX

Which player will have the biggest impact against the Rams?

It's stating the obvious, but I'll say what's been recorded on both "Unscripted" and "Final Thoughts," that Rodgers has to be the best player on the field for the Packers to win Sunday. He can't do it alone, but this is one of those games he must tilt the field each instance he steps onto it. He has to start hot and perform in a way that makes the Rams take a deep breath every time he walks into the huddle. He's done it before, and he needs to do it again.

Nick from Michigan City, IN

If Wes gets moved to janitor, will he have to change his number? Asking for a friend.

Nicely done.

Don from Madison, WI

I'm surprised how many people are basically stating the Rams game is already lost since they've won on paper. We're nobody's underdog, and we expect the Rams to bring their best. Are they a well-oiled machine? Yes. Has the game been played? No. Have the Packers played to the level they're consistently capable of with all starters? No. Let's see how the game metes out before declaring an outcome. And, thanks for letting me answer my own questions for the Inbox. Can I get paid now?

No, but I'll give you Wes's lunch. Happy Friday, everyone.