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Inbox: Big plays make everything look better

He is the game-plan-for guy now


Lori from Brookfield, WI

Mike, were you more gratified by the W or the idea of a less fractious Inbox through the bye?

Both, but I won't lie. The thought of a home loss followed by a solo week of Inboxing was … uncomfortable.

Scott from Las Vegas, NV

Incredible comeback on Monday night but is this the team's identity – sloppy play, numerous penalties, slow starts, and then try to come behind out of desperation? It's just not sustainable, especially against better teams and away games.

Can't disagree. The 49ers game was the first non-slow start on offense, with 17 early points and a 10-point lead. But the big plays got San Francisco right back in it, negating the chance to stay in command at home. It's even harder to stay in command on the road, in any game.

Amy from Bayport, MN

The case could be made that Ty Montgomery had the most important play of the Packers' game-winning drive with that nifty jump cut to bounce it outside for a nice gain and also running out of bounds to stop the clock. If he gets tackled at the line of scrimmage, with the loss of time and backed up at their own 10-yard line it is highly likely that the drive would have stalled and the game would head to overtime.

Actually, it's highly likely the 49ers would have started calling timeouts in an effort to get a three-and-out with enough time to get the ball back in good field position for one last crack to win in regulation. Even after Montgomery's run, they might have gotten what they wanted if not for the flag on Sherman.

Andrew from Memphis, TN

A few observations: I think Aaron's body language after the rookies' catches and runs spoke volumes – a quiet, confident attaboy nod. I really liked that Clay's first instinct after his sack was to congratulate Blake, who just as easily could have gotten it – great leadership from a great teammate. Adams is truly unguardable off the line, and his rapport with 12 is only getting stronger. I must have watched Williams' stiff arm on Sherman a thousand times, and I coulda watched it a thousand more.

You have the floor.

Stephanie from San Diego, CA

Our defense is leaking big plays and Breeland is a big-time player. It's time to see No. 26 bring a spark to our D.

If significant personnel changes are going to happen, the bye week is one likely time, such as the Matthews switch to inside linebacker in 2014. That said, I think the Packers want to find out what they have in the CB quartet of King, Williams, Alexander and Jackson, which hasn't really had the chance to play together yet, at least not for more than about a game and a half. I don't like to put too much on a rookie, but I think Alexander's potential to impact this defense is very high.

Heikki from Joensuu, Finland

Hey guys, huge Packer and Insider Inbox fan here. After Wes correctly predicted that Kevin King would have a big game on Monday, I found myself wondering once again about how you guys do that. Is that a sixth sense of a sports writer, pure logic, luck or a combination of all of them?

I'm sure Wes would give some credit to the PSLs.

Philip from Salt Lake City, UT

The other wrinkle in the diamond formation is easy to see. If they put four guys out left, it is a guaranteed one-on-one on the right side with Jimmy G. How would you stop Jimmy when he has an entire half the field?

I guess we'll find out if that's the next wrinkle the Packers want defenses to react to.

Bill from Brooklyn Park, MN

The Bears are 3-2. If we were 3-3, we'd be a half-game behind them. But we're 3-2-1, which puts us...a quarter-game behind them?

Not quite. Seventeen percentage points. The Bears' winning percentage is .600. The Packers' (and Vikings') is .583.

Mohammed from Teaneck, NJ

What does it mean to mug a blitz (the term was used in an answer today)? Does it mean to disguise a blitz?

It means to move linebackers right up to the line of scrimmage as though they're going to attack, but you don't really know until the snap if they're rushing or dropping.

Al from Green Bay, WI

Mike, please help me with a head-scratcher. On the Niners' kickoff to open the second half (a touchback), there was a flag. The official called holding on the receiving team. The penalty was declined by San Francisco, and Green Bay began the drive at their own 25. Had SF accepted the penalty, wouldn't GB have started at their own 15 instead? I don't get it.

I wondered the same thing, but I believe because the penalty occurred when the free kick was in the air and before anyone possessed it, the Niners' only other choice was to move forward 10 yards and re-kick.

Brian from Schertz, TX

It seems defensive rankings are rather misleading. I think some better measurements of a defense's performance would be a combination (a la a formula like the QB rating) that includes yards per play, yards or plays per drive, points per possession with a variable for field position and turnovers. I will get back with you when I can use that combination to show the Packers are No. 1.

Mike Pettine also suggested last week there should be a more comprehensive measure and ranking system. It seems there's money to be made for some math whiz to figure out a formula.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

The Bears were essentially a missed field goal away from a tie with the Dolphins. When is the last time three teams in the same division all had a tie? Has it ever happened that all four did?

I didn't have fingertip access to all the past standings when I wrote today's column, but I found that in 1967, the four teams in the NFL Central had a total of seven ties on their records – Green Bay and Chicago one each, Detroit two, Minnesota three.

Tom from San Juan Capistrano, CA

This season has been one crazy upside swing or downward plummet after another. Even though my emotions put me through the wringer there is no doubt it has been hugely entertaining so far. I really am not sure what to expect for the rest of the year given these wild swings. But when I objectively look at this team my biggest worry is depth on the offensive line. I feel like we are an injury or two away from serious protection issues for number 12.

I think your protection worries, regardless of the injuries up front, would be mitigated if the Packers find a way to run the ball more often. If I have depth concerns with this team, it's in the defensive front seven. They've survived the Wilkerson injury OK, but I'm not sure they can navigate another one.

Jake from Kalamazoo, MI

I selfishly think about Rodgers' stats too often, and was a little bummed to learn the Montgomery TD wasn't considered a pass. What would his QB rating have been if it was? I know, I know, I'm spoiled for thinking I can choose how to get touchdowns, I just want Rodgers to get his rightful MVP every year, so I think about his stats as the games are progressing.

Had the 2-yard TD to Montgomery been ruled a pass play with Rodgers' stats adjusted accordingly, his passer rating would have risen from 100.4 to 107.3.

LyRyan from San Francisco, CA

I thought Fackrell's tackle on Beathard's scramble on second down was a huge play for the team. That forced the 49ers to a passing play on third down, which led to Matthews' sack! Which lead to a short field on our scoring drive that tied the game. Underrated play but huge for us!

In my WYMM this week, which I'll be posting on Thursday, I examine a couple other aspects to those very plays on second and third down. You'll want to check it out.

Look inside the Packers locker room before and after Monday's win over the San Francisco 49ers.

Shawn from Kissimmee, FL

What are we missing in the running game? Consistency? Too many options to feed? Fake blitzes that scare us out of running? We have to run the ball more effectively once the weather gets colder to help out Aaron Rodgers and the defense to both stay fresh and effective.

I totally agree, and while a lot of readers are gushing over Rodgers' history-making back-to-back 400-yard passing games (first Packers QB to do it and first in league history to do it without an INT), I'm hoping he doesn't have to pass for 400 in another game the rest of this year. I honestly don't know the answer to your question. To never be behind by more than seven points but have the run-pass balance still so out of whack didn't make sense to me. There are some RPOs and checks at the line, but the Packers' self-scouting over the bye week needs to find some solutions.

Brian from Adel, IA

Watching the highlights it seemed as though Aaron was still missing throws he normally makes. They weren't missed by much but there were several throws that seemed just a bit behind receivers. It didn't make any difference to the result, but if Aaron can use the bye to get fully healthy and back to his even more brilliant self, look out! I know this is nitpicking, but it also gives me hope going forward.

Rodgers' accuracy has not been as consistent as we're accustomed to. I'm sure the bad left knee and reduced practice time are factors as he's battled through it all. One or two fewer missed throws per game could go a long way.

Mike from St. Louis, MO

I'm still thinking about Week 1. How rare is it to come back from 17 points or more in the final quarter? It's only happened 34 times in the history of the NFL. Of those, only 10 times has the comeback team used multiple quarterbacks in the game. In every instance, the starter was benched and his replacement led the comeback. Except on Dec. 1, 1985, when Wade Wilson of Minnesota started, was benched, and then returned…similar but he wasn't injured. Given Rodgers' injury, it was unprecedented.

The bye week is a fun time to chew on those kinds of things.

Ted from Findlay, OH

A topic I didn't see addressed in Monday's column was breakdowns in blocking that allowed defenders a clear run at Aaron. I recall at least two or three times where one of our linemen watched someone run past and ended up blocking no one. Was that the fault of the blocker or was there supposed to be a back to pick up the defender? I enjoy the column and hope to see you guys when I come up for the Miami and Atlanta games.

McCarthy referenced protection mistakes on Tuesday, and I assume he was talking about those free runners, but I don't know the specifics. Whether they were missed assignments or miscommunications, or some of both, I'm not sure.

Matthew from Madison, WI

With eight minutes left the Packers faced fourth-and-3 from the 4-yard line. My dad texted me, "Four-down territory?" I said no. What did you think of the decision to go for it there instead of taking the three points?

At the time from the press box, Wes and I were both thinking take the three, but I totally get the decision to go for it. At that point, the Packers' defense had allowed points on four straight 49ers possessions, dating back to the first half, and a failure near the goal line gave the defense the benefit of a huge field-position advantage to get back on track. Turned out that's exactly what happened.

David from Janesville, WI

Mr. Spofford, I didn't get to see the entire game (I was distracted by some Brewer baseball) but obviously Graham had a huge night. Over the first five games it appeared defenses were taking away Jimmy and letting the Packers try to beat them in other ways. Did the 49ers appear to defend differently or did Graham just overcome the level of attention?

In general it appeared similar to the last couple of games to me. Graham had only five catches, but the difference was one blown coverage led to a huge 54-yard gain that was worth more than half his total yards on the night. Big plays make everything look better.

Stephen from Chicago, IL

Mike, stats often lie, but I can't help but notice Clark's numbers especially vs. Daniels' this year. Is Daniels simply getting most of the attention and softening up the offenses by eating blocks two at a time, or is youth being served and Clark is beginning to assume the role of "guy you have to game plan for" along that DL. I had hopes we'd have two Mike Daniels on the team. Do you think Clark has reached that level of dominance? He JUST turned 23, what's this kid's ceiling?

Clark's ceiling is as yet undetermined. He is the game-plan-for guy now.

Steven from Las Vegas, NV

Did anybody else notice that Kevin King might not have actually "completed" the interception? Lordy, on the slo-mo replay, I could swear that ball spilled and kissed the ground. Was holding my breath, waiting for a challenge flag from the Niner sideline.

Didn't see that, but turnovers are automatically reviewed, so they must have taken a look at it.

Matt from Waunakee, WI

Glenn Braggs is the GOAT bat breaker. He would break them over his back while swinging.

I remember him well.

Casey from Fond du Lac, WI

As someone who was in that crowd, I can confirm that there was some anxiety as Crosby stepped up to the plate on his kicks. When he made them the cheers were absolutely genuine in my section. Great birthday present to me.

For me, too. One of my most memorable birthdays, for sure.