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Inbox: He was protecting the game's most important position

It’s an absolute requirement

GM Brian Gutekunst
GM Brian Gutekunst

Sarah from Neenah, WI

How do you think the Packers will do on Sunday in San Fran?

They plan to be back home before the sun comes up.

Patrick from Oronoco, MN

Hi Mike, looking at the 49ers' scores this year, they've lost every game they fail to score 21 points. What do the Packers D need to do to keep the 49ers below 21?

Tackle well, get a turnover or two, and maybe throw some change-ups on third down.

Bill from Bloomfield Hills, MI

Looking at results this year, it's hard to define what it takes "to beat the Packers." Our last rough streak of the Giants, Bucs and Panthers games seemed more about the Packers not playing effectively as a team rather than what the opponent was doing. Is there a common theme you have seen in our losses that opponents did that kept us from ever getting in sync for the rest of the game? Have we lost any games where you saw a well-played game by the Packers across the board?

That most recent rough streak was all about the opposing QB getting into a rhythm and the Packers not being able to disrupt it. Letting a QB settle in and feel comfortable is a kiss of death. As for your last question, a bit of a non-sequitur, no?

Dan from Cross Plains, WI

Just win the turnover battle, right? Seems so simple each week to point to that suggestion yet hard to accomplish. In the games SF lost this year, Purdy struggled and had multiple turnovers. McCaffrey will get his TD but making Purdy uncomfortable looks to be the key to the game?

Aside from sound tackling on all those weapons in the open field, yes, but getting Purdy uncomfortable requires containing the run to set up difficult third downs, which requires … wait for it … sound tackling.

Vince from Atlanta, GA

One of the (many) advantages of the No. 1 seed is having two weeks to prepare for the divisional-round game. I assume the 49ers spent some resources scouting each of the possible opponents. But I doubt the A-team was reviewing the Packers' tape. What goes into the preparation during that first week, and did the Niners lose some of their advantage by having a 7 seed advance?

I'm guessing the Niners spent more time in their off week studying the Packers because Green Bay was the only one of the four possible opponents (Tampa Bay, Philly, L.A. Rams) they didn't play in the regular season.

Al from Tulsa, OK

Mike, we've heard so much about Anders Carlson's strong leg, yet he rarely even gets his kickoffs into the end zone, much less out of it. What's up with that?

I'll direct you to this posting, which includes what Rich Bisaccia had to say on that topic.

Jeff from Vandenberg SFB, CA

I know there's lots of concern with Anders Carlson's missed kicks, but I will be just fine if he goes 6/7 on PATs again on Saturday.

You beat Dan from Concord, NH, to the punch there.

Luke from Holcombe, WI

On a quarterback slide the ball is marked where the QB begins his slide. So shouldn't the play be blown dead on a fake slide? This doesn't seem like it requires a rules change to me, but maybe the league can include it in one of their beloved "emphasis" decisions.

I brought up the discretion to blow the play dead in my mid-week chat. I realize that would limit the jukes a QB could attempt while he's running without risking a whistle, but it should be considered a tradeoff for the protections the rules provide him.

Rich from Grand Rapids, MI

There is a fine line between "matching physicality" against a tough 49ers team and "committing personal fouls" with action after the whistle. Elgton Jenkins has shown the ability to get under the skin of opposing DL (see Donald, Aaron), but our defenders in particular need to be disciplined enough to avoid dumb penalties.


Alan from Green Bay, WI

Does the three-elevation rule for practice-squad players change in the playoffs any?

No limitations on any individual players, but the team limit of two per week still applies.

John from Chicago, IL

With some notable exceptions, the Packers don't seem to have as many "stars" as some of the remaining teams. Do you think that this is more of a case of having a super-talented group of young players who have not yet become stars, or do you think that we're seeing a true team effort (and not just the typical cliché) that could become a model for future success?

I lean toward the former. Whether it's this month yet or further down the road, the world will get to know many of these guys.

Ken from New York, NY

A pundit commented that "the Packers rolled the dice on Jordan Love and won." Hmm, the Packers saw the potential in Jordan Love at a time when Rodgers was in his late 30s, so they drafted him, developed him for three years, and then gave him the ball. That sounds like a deliberately executed plan to me, not rolling the dice.

Traded up for him, too. Gutey had the courage of his convictions despite all the backlash. He was protecting the game's most important position, not taking some wild chance.

Mike from Danville, KY

Mike, I always used to hear when fielding a punt deep in your own territory, do not catch it if is inside the 10-yard line, let it go! That seems to be thrown out the window now. Do the metrics have anything to do with that changing or just a poor decision-making by the returner?

That was scrapped a while ago when punters all started mastering the Aussie (end-over-end) punt to pin teams deep. The ball can check up like a pitching wedge, so teams would rather fair catch at the 6- or 7-yard line rather than risk the ball being downed at the 2 or 3.

Pancho from Neshannock, PA

When Doubs is interviewed, his reaction to questions is almost like he's thinking, "What's the big deal? This is what we do every day … all of us." Do you find that to be unusual with this group of guys?

Frank from Baton Rouge, LA

I think the one thing that separates this team from others is the culture ML has established. These guys really look out for one another and I think that has played a large role in their success this year. Thoughts?

There is no separating the culture here with how this team got its season rolling. It's meant everything.

Steve from Middletown, KY

Good morning! Interesting to hear with QB12, because of his experience, that last year the coaches really didn't know what the call was from the sideline, which apparently caused problems building off plays. However, with QB10, he's staying closer to the game plan and his checks so the coaches have been able to build and add wrinkles to what's going on on-the-field. It may not be a surprise, but, interesting to hear the coaches reveal that info. Just beat the 9ers! GPG!

I found that interesting as well, and for all the questions/comments/narratives about Rodgers "calling his own plays" or Love supposedly just "doing what he's told," I think the more accurate understanding is this: Love lets this offense and its game plans work for him, which is going to help a young QB who doesn't have as much experience (nor experience around him) to help himself, if that makes sense.

The Green Bay Packers held practice inside the Don Hutson Center on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024.

Brad from Ellicott City, MD

Edge rusher may not have been considered a position of great need at the time of the draft. But Kingsley Enagbares injury is yet another reason why you can never have too many jars on the shelf. Looking forward to seeing Lukas Van Ness get some extra snaps against the 49ers. I have a feeling he's due for a game-changing play this week.

Sign me up.

Aumed from Moorhead, MN

Interesting fact. Since the Packers won the Super Bowl back in 2011, no NFC North team has represented the NFC in the big one while every other division in the league has gone at least twice (excluding the AFC South). Here's to hoping the Packers and Lions take care of business this weekend and our division finally gets some representation.

Sign me up again.

Michael from Winchester, VA

The focus this week is San Fran, but I'm curious: What's your take on Lions-Bucs?

The atmosphere and intensity at Ford Field will be off the charts, and I think the Lions are the more complete team. But Tampa Bay won five road games this season, including three in domes. Can't count them out.

Doug from Woodington, OH

Happy Friday, Mike. Can't wait for the live blog Saturday night! I've really appreciated following along during the games. Whose defensive performance do you think is most critical to help defeat the Niners? I get the entire unit must function collectively to be successful, but do you have an eye on any particular player?

I still think we're going to hear loudly from Rashan Gary at some point here.

Bill from Raleigh, NC

Hi Mike, you talked about an underrated event when we held Dallas to a FG at the start of the second half to make it 27-10. I agree that was big. Another big play that hasn't been discussed is our second play from scrimmage. JL got sacked, but there was illegal contact downfield. Instead of third-and-12, we got a first down. I don't remember if that was a definite penalty or a "happens on every play" penalty, but maybe the game is a lot different if we go three-and-out and punt.

On film the penalty was obvious, a total restriction of Wicks' route by Bland, which made Wicks tumble to the ground. Not only did the Packers avoid the third-and-12, they ended up not facing a third down on that opening drive until Jones' TD run.

Kevin from Los Angeles, CA

Former head coach Rex Ryan said that the Packers had 60 offensive snaps against the Cowboys and that on 48 of those snaps the Cowboys had at least six defensive backs in the game. Is that accurate? That's a mighty soft defense against a team like the Packers that can run the ball. Sure makes one wonder what the heck DC Quinn was thinking.

He was probably counting Markquese Bell as a DB. He's 6-2, 218, which is safety size, but the Cowboys list/use him as a linebacker.

Read submissions from the "Letters to Lambeau" program, presented by Cenex.

Cliff from Alexandria, VA

As fans, we get caught up in the record of the team we're facing in a given week. For the players, is the record of the other team important, or are they solely focused on their specific matchup(s)? For example, would a DB be more inclined to get anxious facing a 2-10 team with outstanding receivers, or a 10-2 team with lackluster receivers?

Any player more focused on the opponent's record than his matchup(s) is destined to be focused next on the rest of his life's work.

Mike from Niceville, FL

Just to change gears a little bit on the current discussion. Has anybody ever seen a team (or teams) with talent across all three disciplines collapse so completely as the Philadelphia Eagles this season? The Jacksonville Jaguars rank a pretty close second.

At the time Philly was 10-1, they had won 26 of their last 30 games, not including the Super Bowl, and their most recent three wins before the slide started were against Dallas, Kansas City and Buffalo. Nobody saw it coming. Suddenly they lost six of seven to end their season, with four losses by 17 or more points. "Handling adversity" always sounds like coachspeak, but it's an absolute requirement. Regarding the Jags, I heard a statistical model quoted that when they were 8-3 and leading the AFC South, they had a 96% chance to make the playoffs. Then they lost five of six to end the year (the only win vs. Carolina) and got left out. Nothing can ever, ever be taken for granted in this league.

Micah from Princeton, NJ

Aaron Rodgers went 2-0 against Dallas in the playoffs, but 0-4 against San Francisco. Brett Favre went 4-1* against San Fran in the playoffs, but 0-3 vs. the Cowboys. We are obviously the underdogs again this week against a top-tier 49ers team, and I'm doing my best to keep my expectations in check, but Jordan Love exorcizing the playoff demons of our last two QBs in one playoff run is certainly an exciting prospect!

Nice use of the asterisk there. That blunder on Rice's fumble brought replay back after a brief hiatus, and the system continues to evolve 25 years later.

Curt from Pine Island, MN

What a season so far. Every possible emotion and state of the team. Are you not entertained?

Brian has the floor for a moment.

Brian from Sugar Land, TX

It has been an interesting year observing the fans and their expectations...from reload and .500 playoffs man the forget the playoffs and maybe the playoffs, they don't really belong in the playing with house a team of destiny! We are living through interesting times in Green Bay. Let's see what happens next.

Can't wait.

Robert from Sturgeon Bay, WI

If this season didn't teach fans (myself included) that knee-jerk reactions, midseason firings, and rebuilds shouldn't start until after the season, nothing will. Early this year I told people that the Packers should cave for draft picks because there was no way we could beat the 49ers. San Fran is stacked, undoubtedly. This win would be one of the greatest non-Super Bowl wins in team history, and it's theatre we would have all missed if the brass listened to the whining of the Proles.

Is that an Orwell reference? Is the clock about to strike 13?

Alessandro from Belo Horizonte, Brazil

I must admit, I'm a bit tired of the "Packers are young, the future is bright" narrative. Granted, it's probably true, but there are no guarantees. We're in this year's playoffs and I'd rather win the Super Bowls several times, this one included. I guess what I'm saying is … the present is brighter. Let's enjoy it.


Steve from Colorado Springs, CO

"Because there's no tomorrow without today." The quotes just keep on coming. Another way to say "Just beat the 49ers"?

Happy Friday.

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