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Inbox: Get to crunch time and see what happens

They aren’t thinking about the past

LB Preston Smith
LB Preston Smith

Sal from Hailey, ID

Well, if the Pack didn't have the motivation before, they better now. I don't know what the dimensions of the Inbox are, but I'd wager it would be a tight fit with both of you stuffed into it! Think of Wes and Spoff, guys, and don't bite the cheese!

Another epic Larry ending to "Three Things," sending us out west on the right note.

Al from Green Bay, WI

In their Week 17 showdown against Seattle, SF had the game in hand…until they didn't. As we know, the Hawks were within one yard of victory at the end. A tribute to Seattle or a weakness of SF to not shut the door?

After blowing out the Packers, the 49ers played five straight down-to-the-wire games to close the regular season, and lost two of them. Granted, those games were for the most part against better teams than the Packers faced down the stretch, but that's why I go back to my fourth-quarter comment from Wednesday. These guys have had their ups and downs late in games. The Falcons beat them by inches, the Seahawks lost to them by inches, the Saints scored a go-ahead touchdown with less than a minute left, the Rams had two cracks to stop third-and-16 with the game tied. Get to crunch time and see what happens.

Elizabeth from Sylvania, OH

This is a better offseason question, but do you happen to follow T.J. Lang on Twitter? He's hilarious but also insightful. Do you have any funny stories about him?

T.J. is one of my all-time favorites. I'll never forget the day he was sitting in the locker room playing backgammon with Josh Sitton and singing to the Katy Perry song that was playing over the speakers (I think it was "Firework") in order to distract his opponent. At least that's what it looked like to me. Sitton was totally ignoring him, and Lang absolutely didn't care how silly he looked to anyone who was watching.

John from Ledgewood, NJ

In what areas are the Packers better than the 49ers and how do they help us win?

Turnover margin and red zone. In the regular season, Green Bay was plus-12 in turnovers compared to San Francisco's plus-4. In the red zone, the Packers ranked eighth on offense (64% TDs) and tied for sixth on defense (50% TDs) while the 49ers ranked 21st and tied for 22nd, (53% and 60%), respectively. That's been a formula for success for the Packers all season – win the turnover battle and be better in the red zone. That doesn't change Sunday.

Tristan from Durham, NC

I'm sure it's a huge amount of work on tight deadlines, but is writing for the postseason more fulfilling than the rest of the year?

Of course, and anything is more fulfilling than the offseason.

Martin from Chesapeake, VA

I don't see anyone talking about the fact that Sunday only will be Garoppolo's second playoff start (the first being against the Vikings) as opposed to Aaron's 17th playoff start. That seems to be a HUGE advantage to us, plus add to this that we have not lost since we lost to San Francisco, yet they lost twice since they beat us. Is one of our strategies to get to Garoppolo and "rattle" him and hope for his inexperience to show up?

Garoppolo strikes me as a pretty cool customer, but his one error against the Vikings kept them in that game longer than they should have been, yet Minnesota only managed a field goal. Any mistake must be maximized.

Kelly from Indianapolis, IN

Looking back on early on this season, was there a specific moment, or even entire game, that left you thinking "wait a second, this team could really be special"?

I've said it before, for me it was the 31-3 lead in the third quarter at Dallas. The defense had played really well to that point except in one game, and the offense appeared to be finding something.

Andy from Verona, WI

For the majority of his career, Richard Sherman has lined up on the same side of the field. Should the 49ers decide to shadow Davante Adams with Sherman, is there any advantage to have Adams always line up on the side of the field Sherman is not used to lining up on?

Might be worth a try initially, but if it somehow becomes a distinct advantage for Adams I'm sure the 49ers would adjust their plan.

Yvonne from Sturgeon Bay, WI

Despite inconsistencies from game to game on both sides of the ball, do you think the chemistry in the locker room this season will be enough to take it all the way?

The chemistry helps handle the rough moments in games and fosters a belief that with the game in the balance someone will come through. I remember saying after the first 49ers game, when the Packers didn't recover from a bad start on the road again (the Chargers game was the previous trip), that was a hurdle they'd have to overcome to take the next step. They did that in Week 16 at Minnesota, when the three first-half turnovers on Monday night were followed by a dominant second half. That's a significant experience, chemistry-wise, to draw upon when the momentum inevitably shifts at some point on Sunday.

Rob from Wilmington, NC

I have a Packer trivia desk calendar. I've had a few in the past and it's rare I read the day's fact and it's not something I knew or at least have heard in the past. Today's however is something I don't believe I have ever heard. Apparently in 1919 the Packers had the first pro football mascot. A dog named Olive. Any photos of the pooch? Any official record?

I've never heard of that, but next time I see Cliff I'll bring it up.

Ron from Geneva, IL

How much advantage does SF have with an extra day to recover between their last game and Sunday?

It certainly doesn't hurt, but I wouldn't call an extra 26 hours of rest a major factor.

Paul from Bay View, WI

Hello II, Rodgers using all of the time clock to read the defense has been successful obviously since we were 13-3 in the regular season. Do you think the Packers could use the no-huddle, up-tempo scheme to their advantage Sunday? I would think it would help us with those quick slants and RB screens against a team as fast as the Niners. We haven't seen Rodgers use that quick tempo game all year. Do you think this would be a good time to use that?

A lot of readers are asking this. Brock from Waterloo, Ontario, pointed out the 49ers struggled defensively when the Cardinals and Rams went up-tempo. It would seem difficult to me, after having not run much no-huddle all season except in two-minute situations, to pull it out and go with it at this stage. But Rodgers is certainly capable, with a specific menu of plays, of making his own calls in any given sequence. I guess we'll have to see.

Scotty from Lombard, IL

Insiders, I wanted to play both Seattle and San Francisco in the playoffs. In 2012 and 2013, San Francisco ended our season. In 2014, Seattle ended our season. I do not care where the game is played. It could be in a parking lot. We owe it to ourselves, and both of those teams, to end their seasons. It is our turn now. I hope our team is going into Sunday's game with that type of attitude.

I can promise you they aren't thinking about the past. The vast majority of the players had nothing to do with those prior playoff clashes. It's all about what's in front of them. That's it, that's all. I can certainly appreciate the fan sentiment, though.

TJ from Eagle, WI

Awesome to see Bobby Dillon make the Hall of Fame! Great to see one of those underrated pre-Lombardi Packers get the respect he deserves.

As I said on "Unscripted," Ron Wolf was part of the blue-ribbon panel that was empowered to make the Centennial Class selections. He's been on record for years saying Dillon was the biggest oversight among former Packers not in Canton. So I'm sure he had a lot to do with Dillon getting this recognition. Cliff has made a strong case on our history pages for Verne Lewellen, who unfortunately didn't make it. The original purpose of this project was to re-examine the cases of those who played before the Hall of Fame was founded in 1963, to make sure no cornerstone players from the really old days were still being overlooked. Yet of the 10 players ultimately selected, only four (including Dillon) finished their careers before '63. I was a little surprised by that.

Cameron from Wayland, MI

Important observation: Packers are getting closer and closer to beating the Bears with the number of Hall of Famers! Mike Holmgren and LeRoy Butler next!

Actually, the Packers are now one more behind the Bears because Jimbo Covert and Ed Sprinkle got in. So, including the Centennial Class, at this point it's Chicago 30, Green Bay 26.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

In the Week 12 NFC Championship preview, Aaron Jones had 13 carries for 38 yards and Allen Lazard had one catch for 7 yards. If only one of those were guaranteed to improve, which one would you take?

Definitely Jones.

Sven from Hamburg, Germany

It sounded to me like before snapping the ball for the first touchdown pass, Linsley asked Rodgers, "What do you want to do here?" Was this just a bit of trickery by Linsley and Rodgers to confuse the Seahawks?

No. Linsley talked about that earlier this week. The Seahawks came out in an unexpected front, and the Packers had made a protection call that didn't match up. So Linsley's question was legitimate, Rodgers made a call, shifted the running back to the other side of him in shotgun, got the snap off right before the play clock hit zero and found Adams for the touchdown. Garden-variety third down, right?

Bob from New Britain, CT

Hi Mike, aside from the two controversial referee calls you and Wes discussed on "Packers Unscripted," did you guys notice a third? I recall a play when the Seahawks jumped offside, Rodgers attempted to throw a pass, but the refs blew the play dead. Ironically, a short time later, Seattle had the ball, and the Packers' DL entered the neutral zone, but the play was allowed to continue, with Wilson completing a pass while the defenders just stood there. Why one and not the other?

Officiating has been wildly inconsistent in this area for some time now. They're supposed to blow it dead when the defense jumps if there's "unabated to the quarterback," or if contact is made with an offensive player before the snap. If there's a defender in the neutral zone but neither of those two conditions applies, it should be allowed to play out. But you never know now. I thought when the Packers jumped there was contact made across the line of scrimmage before the snap.

Beau from Lancaster, PA

Mike, after the game, I read through the in-game live blog and discovered another key play most people will forget. With a little over four minutes left you wrote, "Turner wide open over the middle and he drops it. There's a break. Second down." It would have given them a first down in GB territory. They ran two more plays, punted, and their offense never returned to the field. Sometimes it's the plays that are made that change a game, and sometimes it's the ones that aren't.

That drop turned out to be a rhythm-killer for Wilson.

Josh from Sherwood Park, Alberta

The problem with dealing with the "when in doubt" situation regarding turnovers by just automatically calling it a turnover on the field is how replay review is approached. During a replay review, the burden of proof is always on the opposite of the call made on the field; if there is inconclusive evidence one way or the other, the call on the field stands. This would place the burden of proof on the wrong side of the call if every possible turnover is called as such on the field.

One of multiple reasons I've been saying for a couple of years now the call on the field shouldn't matter as much as it does. Antiquated notion.

Bill from Menominee, MI

It's tough not think about the hype this week if Seattle gets that last 1/2 yard in their regular-season finale against SF, leading to the NFC Championship Game being hosted by GB. Think about the economic difference in Green Bay caused by inches on a field between West Coast teams that night in Seattle.

I hear you, but I don't like to make assumptions. If Seattle gets that last-second touchdown to beat San Francisco, everything is different. Minnesota goes to Seattle and San Francisco goes to Philly on wild-card weekend, and New Orleans gets a bye. Who knows who might have come to Lambeau last week and how it would have played out? But yes, regardless of how you look at it, those few inches would have created an entirely new story.

Freddie from West Valley City, UT

What kind of message is Major League Baseball sending if they don't force the Astros to forfeit their championship? My wife's a Dodgers fan and she wants blood.

I think MLB isn't taking away the Astros' title because they're already far enough into the Red Sox investigation to know they'd have to take away their title in '18 as well, and they don't want that large a stain on the game. Just my opinion. I feel for Dodgers fans, even though their team kept mine from the World Series in '18. I know how I'd be feeling if the Brewers had been runner-up.

Kris from Henderson, NV

I really like what Tyler Ervin brings to the team. Now with that, who and when was the last time we had a kickoff/punt return for a TD?

Micah Hyde ran a punt back for a touchdown in the 2014 regular-season finale vs. Detroit, and Randall Cobb ran a kickoff all the way back in the 2011 opener vs. New Orleans.

Richard from Layton, UT

You've already mentioned whom the 49ers will try to eliminate (Jones, Adams, the Smiths) from GB's success, so which specific Packers players do you see needing to have a big day to produce the win? I'm going with our veteran TEs on offense and our young DBs on defense.

A dominant day from Clark up front and a big play in the secondary would go a long way on defense. On offense, the complementary pieces for me need to be Graham, Allison and Williams.

Jim from Baytown, TX

In my opinion, the Pack has to have a "where the heck did that come from" performance (like Adams vs. the Cowboys) by someone on each side of the ball to win this game. I'm going with either Lazard or Ervin on offense and Savage or Gary on defense. Your thoughts?

I've been talking about Savage since the start of the postseason. I think he's due.

Brian from Reno, NV

What are common themes for winning on the road? A good defense: check. Superb quarterback play: check. Win turnover battle: check. Belief in your teammates: check. Battle-tested in fourth quarter: check. Momentum going into playoffs: check. Risk-taking play calling to win: check. From where I sit we don't just have a puncher's chance, but the formula to win on the road. Just give us that chance late is all I ask...

Happy Friday.