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Inbox: He's a tough customer

That goes a long way, even in the NFL

Buccaneers WR Mike Evans
Buccaneers WR Mike Evans

Bill from Fort Worth, TX

Five phases. Now *that* was funny. Hopefully we've finally flushed all the perseveration over both uncomplementary and uncomplimentary football from our collective system. On to the Bucs.

I told everybody in Tuesday's column to throw blame my way if it would make them feel any better. Wes made sure to oblige.

Doris from Shawano, WI

For the love of Hod, please, somebody, anybody, make a "You can't throw out Baby Spoff with the Platteville water" T-shirt!

He was pretty proud of that one, too.

Mark from Genoa, IL

TB's 29th rank rushing offense vs. GB's 31st rushing defense. With 3/4 of the year over, they are what they are. I'll be watching to see which one blinks!

Bucs RB Rachaad White has rushed for 100, 84 and 102 yards in Tampa Bay's last three games, averaging 4.8 yards per rush over that span. Their rush offense ranking means little given the current trend. The same can't be said for the Packers' run defense, and that has to change.

Nick from Plainwell, MI

Good morning Insiders! Do you think Mike Evans might be having one of the quieter HOF careers out there? I feel like he just racks up those 1,000-yard seasons and we barely hear anything about it. What is needed to slow him down Sunday?

Career-wise, Evans is a lot like Keenan Allen to me. A 10,000-yard guy (well over 11K now) who isn't talked about much. I didn't realize until I just looked it up that he's topped 1,000 yards every season he's been in the league, 10 straight now, with five double-digit TD years to boot. He's a tough customer, very difficult to guard one-on-one. But you can't double him or provide help over the top on every snap, so his QBs have always looked for those one-on-one opportunities and given him his chances.

Ummy from Two Rivers, WI

Baker coming in as starting quarterback. Three straight years. Three different teams. Gotta be some kinda record. No?

I'm looking into it. Stay tuned.

Mike from Lake Villa, IL

When talking about the man coverage late in the game, you indicated that Coach LaFleur said, "That is something that we're going to have to get corrected. If we're calling man, we've got to be tighter." As was pointed out yesterday in II, this was the worst game this season for all five phases (sorry, Spoff). Has Coach LaFleur stated that he should have called a TO after Valentine was too far off a receiver for man coverage to get everyone on the same page? Should've done so with only two TOs left.

It hasn't been mentioned. Hindsight is always 20-20. I'm sure he was hoping two timeouts would help preserve enough time to get the ball back if necessary, but that didn't work out either.

Eric from Erie, PA

I don't want to keep talking about the two-point try, but has anyone else mentioned that the TV cameras literally zoomed in on Coach LaFleur talking things over during the clock stoppage and you could clearly read his lips saying, "I'm thinking jet sweep"? I knew what was coming before the ball was snapped. I bet the Giants did too.

Hadn't heard that.

Tommy from Kennewick, WA

So on the blog I made a statement it appeared that DeVito wasn't having an issue passing the ball because of wind and someone by the name of Spofford made a backhanded comment was I watching the same game. DeVito had only four incompletions and big zero in turnovers for the whole game. He also cut through the Packers' D like a hot knife through butter on the last drive. What were Love's numbers and QB rating? It would appear you must have been watching the other game or high.

If I recall correctly, you sent in that comment at halftime or shortly thereafter. In the first half, DeVito was 7-of-10 for 48 yards, with all three misses bad ones to open receivers, and an average of less than seven yards per completion. I'll stand by what I said at the time I said it. I give DeVito credit. He was sharp in the second half and made one dynamite throw to the back pylon that proved to be the difference in the game.

Ethan from La Crosse, WI

I read an article that talked about adding international games in Brazil or Spain. It mentioned the Bears and Dolphins have commercial rights in Spain under the NFL's global markets program. Do you know anything about this program? Where do the Packers have official markets?

I don't know much about it other than the Packers haven't selected an official international market, and I'm not sure they will because the fan base is so widespread. The league has announced a fifth international game next year in Brazil to go along with three in London and one in Munich. Then international games could ramp up to as many as eight per season beginning in 2025.

Michael from Des Moines, IA

What do you think the reason is for this impatience with Anders Carlson? Instant gratification? Difficulty processing change? We knew this was going to be a transition year so I dislike the borderline vitriol directed at him. For the record, here are the FG percentages of the rookie kickers in the NFL: Anders Carlson 80%, Jake Moody 85%, Chad Ryland 67%, Blake Grupe 77%, Brandon Aubrey 82% (true rookie season in USFL, this is his third pro season). Bonus: Mason Crosby (2007) 80%.

You're putting a question mark after instant gratification? Are you of the present world?

Scott from East Helena, MT

I am concerned about what some people would call "mental mistakes" on this team. I would call them bad decisions. Personal fouls on special teams, the decision to try to run the fumble, taking a sack to force a longer field goal, etc. These aren't getting better, they are getting worse. The impact has been huge. Can a team learn to be smarter?

Of course, but at this level it's admittedly difficult to play with a mindset of "avoiding" this or that. The game is happening at lightning speed and you get left behind once you stop to think too much. The seasoned players learn how to balance the proper approaches based on the situation, and everybody has to go through it. That's why consistency is the hallmark of a successful pro. Nixon had made a lot of daring moves the past couple years but got burned big-time on this one. Let's remember in the case of the sack/longer FG, against KC that was the better outcome vs. an incomplete pass. Not the case obviously on Monday. One of the more damaging plays vs. the Giants that Love has to learn from was turning second-and-7 into third-and-17 by checking the ball down to Dillon way behind the line when he had no chance to do anything. Gotta dirt that one. All part of the process.

Chip from Bev Hills, MI

I keep reading "They really missed Watson, they really missed Watson.'' Well, okay, but what adjustments do you make if he's not available? Quick short passes? Aren't these other young receivers getting more dependable?

Obviously the biggest adjustment was getting Reed more involved in speed-oriented plays, but that idea lost its juice in the fourth quarter. Now if Reed and/or Wicks is out for the Bucs game, more adjustments will be necessary. That's been the story of the season.

Brandon from Phoenix, AZ

Hello! Can you help us find the consistency between two calls: Saquon's rushing TD (where he leaped over the corner of the end zone, flipped the ball mid-air after breaking the plane, and then landed out of bounds) vs. Heath's incomplete catch in the end zone (where he had the catch and two feet down). On paper, one seems like a fumble out of bounds, and the other seems like a catch. But in reality the opposite is true.

We get these questions all the time, and folks have to understand the difference between having possession of the ball and having to establish possession. Barkley had possession of the ball. All that ball has to do is break the plane of the goal line, as long as no part of his body touches the ground out of bounds ahead of time. Heath has to establish possession by completing the catch, and yes, he got two feet down, but the league has clarified a third step or football move is required for a completion in the field of play. As I mentioned in my mid-week chat, it was super close, and I'm not convinced if the call on the field had been touchdown it would've been overturned. The evidence wasn't conclusive in my book either way.

Julian from Gastonia, NC

My question about the chain of command for the coaches, if there is one. I forget the game, but after a loss earlier this year Coach LaFleur pointed out that he thought the defensive secondary was playing too far off the receivers at the end of the game. Tuesday he essentially said the same thing regarding their scheme against the Giants, because they did it again. Please correct me if I'm incorrect. If not, can you enlighten us?

I don't recall that from earlier this season, but I do recall that from a previous year for sure. Multiple times in fact. Regardless, it goes back to what I wrote on the plane ride back – nothing is ever truly fixed. You have to stay on top of all details at all times, which is impossible. But the teams that come the closest and do so the best, coaches and players, perform more consistently over the long haul.

Thierry from Metz, France

Hi Mike. I've never been one to call for a coach's head after bad performances as it's players' jobs to get off blocks, tackle, catch the ball. In your time covering football, what have you witnessed to be the most impactful aspect of a good/bad coach? Teaching? Mentoring? Game-planning?

I'll start by saying I don't know squat about game-planning, X's and O's, all that stuff, and that's a big part of coaching at this level, especially at the head and coordinator posts. Your question seems geared toward assistant coaches, and in that respect I think the best coaches are the ones whose players have the fewest breakdowns in their fundamentals. Because that means the players are making their drill work useful and the coaches are constantly monitoring that aspect with every review of the game film, practice film, etc., and they stay on the players about the basics/techniques of blocking, tackling, route-running, ball security, all of it. Some would say that's silly with regard to NFL players, because they're professionals, and 20 years ago I would've thought the same. But I've learned lapses are inevitable, because everybody's human, and the best coaches find ways to get their messages through. Fundamentally sound teams rarely beat themselves. That goes a long way, even in the NFL.

Bob from Mahtomedi, MN

Wes/Spoff, the Monday night game reminded me of some games early in Rodgers' career. He would rally the team from behind and the defense would let the opponents score the final points. Rodgers then had the reputation of "can't win at closing time." He really changed that, didn't he? Funny how things repeat themselves. Remember those games?

I certainly do. I also found this strange one in doing some random research (which might have an even greater chance to be wrong). Before this year, the last time the Packers played two Monday night road games in the same season was, you guessed it, 2008. And they lost both.

Kyle from St. Charles, MO

Green Bay hosting TB on CBS while Kansas City visits New England on Fox. Seems rather strange. After Monday's loss I sat fully reclined staring at the basement ceiling for a good 15 minutes before finally moving on with my night. Quite a defeating loss in the moment. Realizing Tuesday morning there was no change in the standings for the Packers was a relief. I'm very keen to see how they respond Sunday. It's all still right there for this ever-entertaining inaugural season of the Love era.

The network flexibility has been around for several years now. Don't ask me to figure out the whys and wherefores. As for the standings, nothing's going to matter if the Packers can't get above .500. Like I mentioned on "Unscripted," they had a chance to get above .500 for the first time since Week 3 and blew it. Now they have to get back to .500 to give themselves another chance. You have to walk before you can run.

Randy from Klamath Falls, OR

I don't have a question, I just want to tell both of you how much you are appreciated. After a game like Monday, I can't wait to read what you two are going to say to give me perspective, insight, and more appreciation for what the players and coaches go through. I wish I could get more in-depth explanations from the coaches as to what happened, but I know I'm not going to get it and you two help with that a bit because of your experience. Thank you.

We do our best, and as the holidays grow ever closer the thanks is to all of you for your loyal readership, in good moments and bad. I'll be back with you again tomorrow so Wes and I can get back onto our normal schedule. Happy Thursday.

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