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Inbox: It just speaks volumes

The list keeps getting longer

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RB Aaron Jones

Joe from Swansea, IL

I challenge everyone: Just try to find me another sports site containing the words, "fibrous vegetation." II, you guys are a constant delight! Hope you can catch your breath for the stretch run.

We're still posting content this week, just not as much. Taking a weekend off will be nice, though.

Andy from Lowell, MI

"Now, it's just a pain in the butt." I'm no doctor, but my understanding is it's more a pain in the side.

Mine sure was a couple months ago, and they had that thing outta me within five hours of checking into the ER. Talk about a night I didn't plan on. I'll be very interested to see if David Bakhtiari gets cleared to return this season. My surgeon told me no lifting anything over 20 pounds for a month, so Wes was my luggage boy for the London trip. The things you don't see in the photo galleries, amiright?

Jordan from Osterdock, IA

To counter Wes calling the appendix a "pain in the butt," recent studies show evidence the appendix aids in production of immune system cells that fight infections.

So you're saying it was inevitable I was gonna catch something before the season ended? I see, it's all coming together now.

Barton from Tulum, Mexico

Since the "tuck rule" game in January 2002, has there ever been an NFL QB who has been helped by the officials more than Tom Brady? Especially in the fourth quarter and/or overtime. We saw it again on MNF during the Buccaneers' last drive: holding on every play but no flags thrown. Infuriating when referees decide the winner of a game!

Easy, big fella. First, there was a holding call on the final drive that nullified the first time they scored, and the Bucs overcame it. Second, you know what Brady is being helped by the most? Having a top 10 scoring defense (in points per drive allowed) for the 10th straight year. You know which elite QBs have enjoyed top 10 scoring defenses a combined 10 times? Rodgers (4), Peyton (4), Brees (2) and Mahomes (zero). Hat tip to NFL writer Scott Kascmar for that one.

Johan from Evansville, IN

Another day, another team gifted a first down on the 1-yard line due to defensive pass interference when they were running very short on time. That leaves a very bitter taste in the mouth, but unfortunately the NFL needs to find a way for teams to keep scoring points.

Nobody forced Dennis Allen to call single-high man coverage on second-and-20 with a 13-point lead and three minutes left, so Mike Evans is one-on-one deep and can draw a 44-yard DPI that changes everything. Fans hate playing "prevent" defense, but that's what can happen when you don't.

Mike from Sidney, IA

Two things resulted in victory…1) DC made changes at half that worked, something new 2) Watson brings talent that makes ML scheme work. Someone who can make the "motion" phase work and the QB willing to use it. Nine times they used Christian Watson in motion, it worked seven as a distraction and one for a TD. Watson running for that 46-yard TD off motion will cause more defensive shifts even when he doesn't get the ball and open lanes both running and passing. We finally found the "man" to complement ML's scheme.

A lot of truth there. The more the defense has to honor the jet motion, the more difficult it is to defend the whole field. That's what I saw developing in London before the hammy cropped up on him again. As I outline in my WYMM for those who would like to see the clips, the 46-yard TD was the eighth time Watson went in motion in the game, and the variety of plays the Packers ran on the first seven is emblematic of LaFleur's scheme. The ninth time was a partial motion on the two-point play to Big Dog.

Bill from Fort Worth, TX

I normally wouldn't be jumping on the Watson-impacts topic if it weren't a bye week coming up, but with only one view of the play, it seemed very clear the defense respected and bit on the fake Watson jet sweep on Dillon's TD run. Like you've said, just his presence changes everything.

That is included in the WYMM clips, and it shows that it's not always about making them bite but even just getting them to hesitate, which is what costs Jack Sanborn on the Dillon TD. That play is also very nicely blocked.

Ned from Laguna Woods, CA

And they also had just two penalties. It all helps.

Indubitably.

Rachel from Hudson, WI

As a follow-up to the comment on the holding disparities between officiating crews, when do teams find out who the crew is for the week and does that factor into the game planning at all? More so just being aware of a crew's tendencies than changing the game plan itself.

They find out mid-week and it's always part of a team meeting at some point. Awareness is helpful, but I honestly don't think it impacts much how teams play.

Mike from Ames, IA

It's irrelevant with how the game ended, but did anyone ask Aaron Rodgers about the throw where he missed Randall Cobb in the fourth quarter? The commentators pointed out how he seemed to still be thinking about it after the next play, knowing his competitiveness and memory I wondered if he talked about it at all. It looked like a video game glitch.

He wasn't asked about it after the game. My best guess is he just didn't realize Cobb was standing flat-footed and not able to continue a route up the sideline.

Dale from Prescott, WI

Congrats to Aaron Jones on his nomination for Walter Payton Man of the Year. After reading the article on him, how does he not win it? He has done so much off the field for meaningful charities.

I don't know how the selection committee compares what players have done across the board. It can't be easy to choose only one winner. Jones has been the Packers' nominee multiple times now. It just speaks volumes about his commitment to causes, whether he ultimately wins the award or not.

Zak from Huntington Beach, CA

Speaking of AJ Dillon's "rock the baby" celebration, did anyone else see Lazard kneeling before a seated Dillon on the sidelines after that play, and placing a crown on each of his quads? That gave me a chuckle. I always liked when Lazard did the crown celebration to Davante or Rodgers in the past, and that was a new wrinkle.

I didn't see it, but that's pretty good.

Jim from St. Paul, MN

Mike, nothing but respect for your response. Here's my follow up. Losing in the playoffs can still result in a decidedly successful season. The one-and-done nature can be very cruel to superior teams. But over the course of a decade plus, the consistent failure to play your best at the most important time must be considered when evaluating coaching talent. Especially considering how many times we've appeared completely outmatched or embarrassed. I'm looking big picture, not any single season.

Every season is its own entity in the NFL, and every playoff game is its own challenge against the league's best and/or hottest teams. So I just don't think it's fair to look at the random, whimsical nature of postseason football with a big-picture lens. Here's my collective thought: McCarthy went 10-8 in the postseason here, and LaFleur is 2-3. I don't see any shame in those marks, even if they've only produced a disappointing one championship so far. Getting outmatched or embarrassed? Sure, it happens. The 2011 Packers had literally their worst performance in a stretch of two dozen games, and a tragedy had befallen the organization days before. The 2012 Niners kept Kap's read-option under wraps, honed it during the playoff bye (which the Packers missed by three points in Week 17), and then sprung it on its first unwitting victim. The '16 Packers got hot and vastly overachieved before running out of gas and into the superior Falcons (who led the Patriots in the ensuing Super Bowl 28-3). The '19 Niners were the NFC's best team all season long, and proved it, while the Packers were the conference's clear No. 2, just a distant second. All the other losses over the last two regimes have been darn close if not down-to-the-wire games, which is par for the playoff course. Meanwhile LaFleur's best team to date (2020) lost its All-Pro left tackle in Week 17, which was the biggest reason for five game-changing sacks by the Buccaneers. I do agree there are several times the Packers have failed to play their absolute best when they needed it, but I don't believe that defines some systemic coaching or leadership problem. I think it defines an unpredictable, ultra-competitive human game that features the ultimate human confrontations, both on the field and on the sidelines.

Eric from Crystal Lake, IL

It's hard to believe that only two months ago this team was 3-1 with a 20-10 halftime lead. If someone had told you then that the Packers would be 5-8 with four games left to play, what would you have said?

Something or things would have gone terribly wrong, which this league can do to any team at any time.

Hannes from Glendale, WI

Looking around the league, I can't help but noticing the tough luck the 49ers have. Starting the season with two legitimate starting QBs and then losing them both is crazy. Especially on a roster with that much talent overall.

I'm not counting the 49ers out, even with Brock Purdy. I know it's a QB-driven league, but that's how strongly I feel about that defense and the offensive triumvirate of Samuel, Kittle and McCaffrey. And now it's sounding like Garoppolo could be back before the playoffs conclude, too.

Jeff from Victorville, CA

After hearing about how many fans were dissing the team for drafting Watson, I'd like to just point out that learning processes and injuries have much to do with how fast one lives up to expectations. Knowing this (or not knowing) has nothing to do with football sense but everything to do with common sense. The readers know who they are and I want to say to them, stop the animosity and venting about young players to Mike and Wes as they're going to tell you the same thing. Give a player a chance!

The list keeps getting longer. Davante Adams, Kenny Clark, Rashan Gary, now Christian Watson. Sure, there are always high draft picks like Josh Jackson and Amari Rodgers who get their chances, maybe too many, and it doesn't work out, but draft picks are chosen for the players they're projected to become, not the ones they are when picked, and embedded in the investment is a team's commitment to finding out if its projection is accurate.

Ryan from Sun Prairie, WI

With Christian Watson's last four games I have to assume he is in consideration for at least offensive rookie of the year if not rookie of the year. Who else is in the running?

The league awards an offensive and defensive rookie of the year. Gambling remains illegal at Bushwood, but if you go by the oddsmakers, the top candidates on the offensive side right now, in whatever order, are Seahawks RB Kenneth Walker, Saints WR Chris Olave, Jets WR Garrett Wilson and Watson.

Doug from Parker, CO

Fourth-and-4. Rodgers scrambles and finds Watson in the end zone. This is where consistency, repetition, and practice come into play. Watch Watson. He doesn't just scramble. He reflects Rodgers and finds the open spot. If Watson is healthy, this connection is developed 3-4 weeks earlier. Watson stays healthy, announcers will be talking about knowing what each other is thinking by this time next year.

Quite possibly.

Mutt from Blaine, MN

Well, Watson went from bust to perennial All-Pro in the span of four weeks. Optimism is high, but we should keep expectations real. We've seen so many rollercoaster careers in the NFL and you just never know. Can we just keep our hopes up that things continue to progress for Watson instead of assuming a best/worst case scenario?

I also agree here. The film shows Watson still has a ways to go with the finer points of route-running, setting up DBs, etc., and he's confessed to that. He also has work to do in order to become more of a hands catcher and better overhead-ball tracker. He's definitely not a finished product, which is exciting but also comes with no guarantees. All indications are he won't shy away from the work ahead of him.

Vic from De Pere, WI

Christian Watson clearly had his man beat. If the ball is not underthrown it's a TD, instead we get PI. Funny how things work out.

Most DPIs on deep shots occur on underthrows. Experienced receivers know if they slow down to create contact before the defender turns his head, there's a great chance of drawing the flag.

Izzi from Raleigh, NC

Did it feel like Rodgers' postgame salute to the Chicago fans was "good-bye" to you? Because it felt like good-bye to me. And I mean, like, good-bye good-bye. Know what I mean?

Rodgers said he did that because you just never know. I can respect that, even if he ends up doing it another time or two.

Matt from Cottage Grove, WI

What do you make of Gute's comments regarding the QB situation in future years?

I mean absolutely no disrespect to Brian Gutekunst, but I don't think his comments Monday told us much. Because the time isn't now. He was being posed questions that were understandably (and rightfully and expectedly) being asked, and that he answered as best he could in the moment. But they're all for the offseason, during which numerous discussions need to take place before there's any clarity as to what will happen at the QB position moving forward.

Rob from Lennox, SD

II, this is somewhat of a double-edge sword…They need to to evaluate 10 on a several-game run to help them decide what to do as far as the fifth-year option. What are your thoughts?

If there's one thing I did hear clearly from Gutekunst it's that he's seen enough to pick up Jordan Love's fifth-year option for 2024. What happens between the end of the season and when that decision becomes official by early May is what I'll be paying attention to more so than anything else anyone is saying right now.

Frogger from Marinette, WI

Hey Mike, it's when pigs fly, not donkeys. Ever see a pig fly?

No, but you've clearly never seen Flo. Not the one in the Progressive ads. The one who used to wait tables at Mel's Diner with her friend Alice.

Jesus from El Paso, TX

When they inevitably add the 18th game, can it be against the Bears?

Good one. Happy Wednesday.

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