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Inbox: Hope still resides within these walls

With the surface scratched, we patiently wait to see what comes next

QB Jordan Love hugging teammate
QB Jordan Love hugging teammate

Ken from Middletown, KY

Greg from Chicago mentioned in Monday's Inbox that the Packers have had more postseason heartbreak than any other team. My immediate thought after reading that was, I agree, however you don't experience postseason heartbreak if you don't make the postseason. The Packers gave us two extra very entertaining games this season than I think anybody thought remotely probable. I'll take that any time. GPG!

The 2023 season was a fun ride you didn't want to see end. While Super Bowls are the standard to which all organizations are measured, the foundation for success is rooted in belief. Nine months after the Packers stepped boldly in the future, I'm happy to report hope still resides within these walls.

Bill from Oswego, NY

Making and winning a game in the playoffs exceeded my expectations for this season. Are we a better team now than in September? Certainly. And with the improvement comes hope and higher expectations for next year. The window has opened; get through before it closes.

The Packers understand the urgency of that moment, as well. That was clear in Matt LaFleur’s season-ending address of the media. This season was loaded with promise and potential. With their 10 victories, the Packers earned the right to have higher expectations in 2024. As LaFleur cautioned, however, there's still plenty of work to do for this team to earn another postseason opportunity. With the surface scratched, we patiently wait to see what comes next.

Scott from Lake Wissota, WI

Another tough playoff pill to swallow. After a dismal performance in Week 16 vs. Carolina, Matt LaFleur promised changes on D. In the next month, they played more aggressively, almost resembling the attacking, aggressive unit we fans have been looking for from all those high draft picks. So, what changed? It wasn't different personnel. Was there a schematic change or someone else calling the plays? Such a noticeable difference that I wonder if either of you can either of you put your finger on it?

There is no one single answer to that. The scheme, itself, wasn't vastly different other than maybe playing a bit more physically. The defense tackled better and also got a little healthier. Getting Jaire Alexander back was key. He contained DJ Moore, nabbed a huge pick in Dallas, and helped control the aerial attack against San Francisco.

Bill from San Antonio, TX

I wanted to see the Monday II before I posted this. There were no comments on the fact that after the missed field goal, we were still up by four points. Forcing a punt or a turnover on downs instead of a 65-yard touchdown drive would have gone a long way toward winning the game. I'm just saying.

The Packers won as a team in Dallas and lost as a team in Santa Clara. It wasn't one phase. It wasn't one player.

Doug from Onalaska, WI

More of an observation than a question. Back around October during the postgame press conferences, ML would say "We're close." I remember at the time thinking that was just "coach-speak" to make us feel better about a loss. Then all of a sudden, we go from futile to fantastic, and seemingly overnight. I guess it wasn't just "coach-speak" after all. I can't wait for next season to see how this all plays out! Thanks for all you do!

You guys have heard me talk about Jordy Nelson's comments about how the response to a loss is putting in the work on the practice field. That never made the lower third on ESPN, but it's as true as any statement I've ever heard uttered in a locker room. This football team trusted in one another – players to coaches and coaches to players – and found its best form down the stretch.

Andrew from Belleville, IL

San Fran was able to really melt the clock down in the final stretch. I can't help but wonder what the final drive looks like with more time on the clock? How much did that tie into "10" trying to force that throw?

The 49ers did what they do…and frankly what the Packers have done during their four-game winning streak. Having a good four-minute offense is one of the more underrated aspects of winning football teams. That said, it's not like there was 35 seconds left and no timeouts. The Packers had time to work the ball down the field. It was just an unfortunate turnover.

Aumed from Moorhead, MN

Tough loss. But I can't stop re-watching the Bo Melton touchdown. The catch was amazing itself, but the play design was even better. Play-action the fake screen with Bo Melton selling the fake block to perfection to get both defenders to bite. I'm almost certain Tom Brady and the Patriots burned us on the same play back in 2018 at Foxborough. I'm excited, Wes. I'm very excited to see how much more advanced LaFleur is going to get with this young team next season.

One of the hardest parts of that loss was not being able to fully appreciate everything Melton did to contribute to the Packers seizing control of that game on those back-to-back plays (the 41-yard defensive pass interference call and 19-yard touchdown). Five years ago, Gutekunst signed a little-known receiver named Allen Lazard off Jacksonville's practice squad and he developed into a core offensive player. Green Bay might have just found another.

Dan from Richmond, VA

Reading Monday's Inbox gave me insight into how our fan base is processing the playoff loss and helped to give me the perspective I needed to cope with my own disappointment. Do you have any similar insight into how our players and coaches are coping as they clean out their lockers and prepare to head home? There's pain and perhaps some regrets, for sure, but have you also detected a healthy dose of pride and "wait until next year" optimism?

The locker room was a mix between optimism and heartbreak, I'd say. I don't know how many of you have seen the end of Jon Runyan's media scrum, but I think it could bring the strongest individual to tears. As strong as the response can be from fans to a loss, it's easy to lose sight of how much winning matters to these players. This is everything to them and the window is so short to capture a Super Bowl ring.

Dan from Catonsville, MD

What can the Packers do to get Tom Clements to return next year?

That decision is ultimately up to Clements. He's not the type of person who wants a parade. Clements knows how the Packers feel about him. It's just a matter of how long he wants to continue coaching. With the promise Love has shown this season, I don't think it's reckless to call Clements one of the most influential assistant coaches in team history.

Jeff from Dauphin, MB, Canada

Hello II, on the failed fourth-down conversion, were a couple of Niners players lined up offside? I only had a quick glimpse of it on the broadcast, but it looked like multiple helmets were in the neutral zone. Just curious if anyone else noticed.

I, too, saw that screenshot from the sideline, but like Football Zebras said, I'd have to see the aerial view. Objects in mirror aren't always what they appear. Angles matter.

Check out photos from the NFC Divisional playoff matchup between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024.