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Inbox: It has to start there

One of the best things to happen to the Packers’ defense was … 

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RB AJ Dillon and QB Aaron Rodgers

Rex from Laramie, WY

So I rolled out of bed last week and fell on my shoulder, too. Can I say I was imitating Charles Woodson rather than admitting I'm a klutz?

Whatever works, Rex.

Eddie from Onalaska, WI

Mike, I hope that the residents of Kokomo, Ind., aren't burying you with complaints over Wes's "grasshopper" comment! As Wes is not a professionally trained entomologist, he didn't realize that it's a 17-foot mantis, not a grasshopper. We shouldn't bug him about it, but we'll be praying for him...

And you can see yourself out.

Phil from Marietta, GA

You can blame me for last night's Vikings game. I figure the Packers have a big enough lead in the division so I was cheering for MN to mess up their draft positioning. (Sorry)

I don't want the Vikings to make the playoffs, though, plain and simple. I cast that warning in the Inbox earlier this week. Most of the night I felt the knock-down, drag-out battle against their bitter rival Baltimore last week must have taken all the starch out of the Steelers, and they just couldn't bring it on a short week. Then they almost pulled off a comeback for the ages. Incredible game. Tremendous throw by Big Ben, superb play by Harrison Smith on the final snap.

Bret from Hertel, WI

Dear Mike and Wes, the Packers have played well as team. What areas of the team would you like to see improved over the last five weeks?

In no particular order, and not including overall health, the ones off the tip of my tongue are more consistency with the ground game, a reduction in big plays allowed, Crosby getting on a roll, and impact from the return game.

George from North Mankato, MN

What are the strengths of the Bears defense? Anyone who you need to account for at all times with Mack out?

I know Wes highlighted Robert Quinn yesterday, and for good reason, but in Mack's absence my eyes are on Akiem Hicks. He hasn't been healthy this year. He tried to play through a groin injury in the first meeting two months ago and reaggravated it, and he's on the injury report again with an ankle issue. But when he's full-go, he just causes problems, period. He's a scary dude to try to block.

Page from Baltimore, MD

Mike and Wes, curious on your thoughts on the "gold zone" struggles this year. I'm sure losing three All-Pro linemen for periods of time (David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins, Linsley) has plenty to do with it, but watching the film, is there something else that stands out to you two?

I've felt all along they just haven't found any groove with the running game when in scoring territory, which LaFleur confirmed on Thursday. It has to start there. If they can run the ball better in close, they'll finish more drives.

Rudy from Tempe, AZ

Can you shed some light on the performance of Jon Runyan Jr. and his improvement over the course of the season? While he has not been flawless, he sure seems to get more comfortable each game and learns from his mistakes. With EJ out for the remainder of the season, the Packers have to be feeling pretty comfortable about that LG spot.

I mentioned last week I thought Jon Runyan was one of the unsung heroes of the squad to date. For whatever reasons, his training camp and preseason were below expectations and his own standards, but when his opportunity came in the regular season he seized it. He has established himself as, while not dominant, certainly reliable in the trenches and it's worth watching where his game goes from here.

Thomas from Cedar Rapids, WI

Wes, Gezundheit.

That ranks as one of my all-time favorite moments on "Packers Unscripted." We just rolled with it.

Wilb from Mount Hope, WI

What did a core injury used to be called? And will Randall Cobb be out for the season? (worried)

A core muscle injury used to be called a sports hernia, and it's a significant deal. I don't know that Cobb's injury is the exact same CMI issue that Allen Lazard dealt with last year, but Lazard was out seven weeks before returning. Whether or not we see Cobb again this season could depend on how far the Packers go in the playoffs.

Ross from Hudson, WI

What is the most yards rushed by two backs in Packers history? Have we ever had two backs get 700 yards rushing each? 800? 900?

John Brockington (1,027) and MacArthur Lane (821) both topped 800 in 1972, in a 14-game season. But in this context, I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention 1985, when the Packers had three running backs with at least 500 yards each – Eddie Lee Ivery (636), Jessie Clark (633) and Gerry Ellis (571).

Tanner from Mount Horeb, WI

Spoff, I'm curious after watching "For Love of the Game" for the umpteenth time, is there an event in pro sports that warrants a player/team to truly congratulate their opposition? I fully appreciate the head coaches and QBs meeting following the game, but what warrants complete humility to say "you beat us/me and I respect or appreciate you more for it"?

To me, there's no greater sportsmanship tradition in the pro ranks than the handshake line at the conclusion of an NHL Stanley Cup playoff series. Whether it's a four-game sweep or a seven-game marathon, that ritual has meaning.

Rob from Aiken, SC

I've noticed as I age, I'm 55, that my short-term memory gets worse and worse. I'll forget something from the day before and my wife will look at me and incredulously say, "We JUST talked about this, how could you have forgotten already?" My standard answer is "because in 1978 Terdell Middleton rushed for 1,116 yards." Who else has this condition and what is your go-to stat?

.331 – Robin Yount's batting average in his first MVP year, 1982.

Michael from Winchester, VA

Mike, I saw in the chat that you prefer the Manning brothers without any guests, not that the guests aren't good, but because you enjoy the banter and football comments of the brothers. So, maybe one guest they really should have would be Cooper. I understand his humor is as dry as theirs, and I enjoy his Uber Eats TV spot. What do you think? The more Mannings, the merrier?

Cooper for a quarter would be good, and he could be in charge of scoring the barbs Peyton and Eli lob at one another.

Lou from Edmonton, Alberta

Mr. Christl's books are a fantastic read, kudos. In Volume 1 he describes using the telegraph to provide play-by-play updates to fans in Green Bay for away games in the 1920s, pre-radio broadcasts. Is your in-game live blog a happy coincidence or a purposeful update from telegraph to blogging?

I hadn't thought of it like that, but it makes you wonder how people will consume the games and stay connected to them remotely 100 years from now.

Steven from Silver Spring, MD

Playing against Justin Fields at QB will again highlight (hopefully) how our edge group has been able to create pressure while maintaining gap discipline. I think that in addition to De'Vondre Campbell and Eric Stokes, this phase of our defense's game is what is making this year's defense different than prior iterations.

I go back to what I said in late October – one of the best things to happen to the Packers' defense was letting Washington QB Taylor Heinicke run all over Lambeau Field on them. It was the reminder they needed to contain mobile QBs, and the ensuing responses against Kyler Murray, Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson have shown this defense at its best. Now it's Fields again, followed by (as Darryl from Glen Carbon, IL, pointed out) Lamar Jackson in Baltimore, worthwhile prep for yet another challenge in that realm.

Bryce from Kenosha, WI

Reporter, wrestler … but don't forget McAfee also made a name for himself as a swimmer during bye weeks.

It's a crazy story but one McAfee credits for ultimately saving his career and putting him on track to live the life he's living now.

Nic from London, UK

I like McAfee in small doses but he's not a reporter. He's an entertainer. He doesn't abide by any discernible standard of accuracy, objectivity or impartiality. Rumors are repeated without verification. Interviewees are not challenged or held accountable to their claims. Hyperbole is rampant. It's OK, people just shouldn't confuse talk shows with journalism, though they do daily.

Agreed.

Damien from Boston, MA

Bakhtiari was activated off the PUP list before the Seahawks game to meet a league deadline, and he has been a gameday inactive for all three games since then, if I'm not mistaken. If the Packers had known that he was certain to miss these three games when they activated him off PUP, could they have designated him as IR-return in order to free up a roster spot?

No. First off, I'm not sure the Packers knew he would miss these last three games when they activated him. But more to the point, they couldn't activate him off PUP and then place him on IR with the same injury. That's not allowed.

Greg from Conway, SC

Why is Bak listed on the injury report, but Za'Darius Smith and Josh Myers are not?

Because Bakhtiari is on the 53-man roster, so his practice/game status must be accounted for on the injury report, while Z. Smith, Myers and Alexander currently remain on IR.

Bob from Port St. Lucie, FL

Is there a cutoff date for players to be activated from IR in order to be eligible for the playoffs?

Not to my knowledge.

Phil from Los Angeles, CA

Help is on the way.

Perhaps, and the best part is the Packers aren't desperate for it, but will certainly welcome it.

Christine from Yuma, AZ

So with Jaire Alexander coming back, who is going to be left out, or do you think it will be more of a rotation? Anyway, I suppose it isn't a bad problem to have.

I'm always about having options. We don't know when Alexander might be game-ready, but if the Packers can have their top five corners healthy at some point here – Alexander, Stokes, Rasul Douglas, Chandon Sullivan, Kevin King – it would give Joe Barry and Jerry Gray a bevy of choices in terms of alignments and matchups. I like the possibilities, one of which could include Alexander taking the slot in certain nickel looks with Stokes and Douglas outside.

Preston from Tallahassee, FL

I thought Aaron's answers for his offseason concerns were fair. Now, with the team being hit, along with Baltimore, with more impactful injuries than any other team in the league, I would be curious of No. 12's evaluation of the job Brian Gutekunst has done finding and bringing in players and has he been involved in the discussions at an appropriate level? I think Brian and his staff's work has been nothing short of spectacular – in the draft and, maybe more so, off-the-street.

Aaron Rodgers certainly has been complimentary of the moves made, though he hasn't talked publicly about his level of involvement. My guess is he doesn't want to bring undue attention to that aspect of it while the team is chasing a championship, and all of that will be part of the offseason conversations.

Steve from Algoma, WI

What time is the Bears ownership meeting at Lambeau on Sunday? (Asking for a friend.)

Funny, but the answer is hopefully when the clock hits zero. Brett Favre had 22 wins vs. the Bears. Aaron Rodgers has 22 heading into Sunday night. I'll have more in my Saturday "One Last Look" column.

David from Minneapolis, MN

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Just beat the Bears

Now that's my kind of poetry. Happy Friday.

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