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Inbox: It's been a pretty good return on investment so far

Fourth-quarter efficiency is the key to winning in the postseason

G Elgton Jenkins

Jeff from Eau Claire, WI

One more at Lambeau.

For all the (NFC) bacon.

Rob from Louisville, KY

I remember watching the third period of the 1980 U.S.-USSR.Olympic hockey game and Herb Brooks telling his team "Play your game" again and again. Shouldn't that be the overriding message from the coaching staff this week?

Spoff said it last week and I'll echo those comments again – the Packers are a darn good football team and just need to play their game and protect the football. This isn't the 2016 team "running the table" to rebound from 4-6 or the upstart 2019 squad surprising everybody. The Packers are the top seed in the NFC. They aren't chasing anyone. They deserve to be at the head of the table. Now show why.

Jack from Racine, WI

Is it me, or did the 6,000 fans make much more noise than the artificial noise that they previously piped in?

It wasn't you. As Allen Lazard said afterward, those 9,000 made it feel like 90,000. That was a great atmosphere to be a part of. I've never experienced an NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field. I'm excited for the encore.

CJ from Menomonee Falls, WI

How loud was the crowd at the game on Sunday? There was a report out of Buffalo that the crowd of 6,000 was so loud it caused the missed snap and the fans' hands were black and blue from banging on the empty seats. The fans, lucky enough to be there, need to have any impact. Go Pack Go!

I'll see their missed snap and raise them the Rams calling a timeout on third-and-16, while down seven, from their own 26 with 10 minutes, 17 seconds remaining.

Darien from Edmonton, Canada

Kinda fitting to make the Bucs come to Lambeau so we can go to Raymond James.

It really is. Meanwhile, the sub-story to this is Aaron Rodgers trying to get back to the Super Bowl for the first time in 10 years and Tom Brady looking to make the Buccaneers the first team to play in the Super Bowl in their home stadium.

Brian from Urbana, IL

Rodgers vs. Brady in the playoffs at Lambeau. If they could put videos next to words in the dictionary this game would go right beside "football."

We may have never gotten Rodgers and Brady in a Super Bowl but having the two greatest QBs in NFL history face each other in an NFC Championship Game isn't a bad consolation.

Mike from Cascade, ID

In Corey Linsley's postgame comments I thought it was great for him to give props to Billy Turner and mention his contributions to the team this year. There have been multiple questions this season in this forum about which player(s) were going to step up. The guys on the front line have not only stepped up but stepped in wherever needed. Oh, and we got us a little defense too!

There will be plenty of time to assess the 2020 season once all the perch is in the livewell. When that time comes, however, I think we'll look back on the year and be in awe of what the offensive line accomplished in the face of injuries.

Thomas from Folsom, CA

We scored the most points in all of the playoff games this past weekend and that's an amazing feat in and of itself. Not totally unexpected but can we finally get some respect for the way our defense has been playing, especially against the run? We stopped Derrick Henry when we needed to and Cam Akers was good, not great. Ronald Jones is up next. He's just above average. Brady is going to have to throw it 40-plus times in the snow (hopefully), at Lambeau, against a stout secondary. Or am I dreaming?

The Packers made the necessary adjustments after giving up that big gain to David Montgomery early in the first Chicago game and haven't looked back. Green Bay's run defense didn't get the job done against Ronald Jones the first time but it's a much different unit with Kenny Clark healthy again and Krys Barnes cemented in the middle of the defense. A new challenge awaits with how Leonard Fournette has emerged in the Bucs' offense. The Packers need to stop that duo to get after Brady.

View some of the best photos from the Packers-Rams NFC Divisional matchup at Lambeau Field on Jan. 16, 2021.

Randy from Lyman, SC

Here's one thing l haven't heard discussed: How big was the drive at the end of the first half with 29 seconds left? Most teams would take a knee and go into halftime. Instead, the Pack stole momentum back from the Rams and came out hot in the second half.

I loved the aggressiveness for two reasons – 1) You want to respond after the defense just gave up a TD. 2) You have one of the smartest QBs in NFL history who has thrown just 89 INTs in his career. LaFleur trusted Rodgers to get the Packers down the field and was rewarded with three points.

Ray from Phoenix, AZ

What kind of grade did Elgton Jenkins get at his combine workouts? I know Aaron Donald was hurting, but he has been stopping everyone he has faced. Jenkins, Rashan Gary and Jaire Alexander are really playing lights out and prove our GM really know what he is doing. Your thoughts on those three picks?

An All-Pro, a Pro Bowler and a 23-year-old edge rusher with enormous potential. Yeah, I'd say it's been a pretty good return on investment so far. The first thing that crossed my mind after Donald was shoving Jenkins was, "Elgton Jenkins has arrived." When you're getting under the skin of a future Hall of Fame defensive lineman, you know you're doing something right.

Marin from West Lawn, PA

Another factor worth mentioning in the win vs. the Rams was the Packers converting key third downs in the fourth quarter to keep drives alive. One of the keys for next Sunday has to be time of possession. The longer the Packers have the ball, the less time Brady has. Plus, it keeps the Bucs' offense shivering on the sidelines.

The Packers' third-down offense (8-of-12 on Saturday) and their fourth-quarter efficiency have been on point for most of the season. The Rams game was another prime example, whether it was the short fade to Marquez Valdes-Scantling on third-and-3 or how Jamaal Williams slammed the door with his runs up the middle after the turnover on downs. That's the key to winning in the postseason.

Scott from Helena, MT

Early in the game, you could easily see the three running backs matching each other's intensity and waiting for their turn to make a play. Instead of sticking with the hot hand, it looks like the Packers have the ability to let each runner try to match the intensity of the others. Let's hope that chemistry is still here next season.

For everyone who wondered what the offense might look like with all three backs involved, that was a good indication of what's possible. Jones talked after the game about how having AJ Dillon in the backfield helped take some of the pressure off him when he motioned into the flat, as well. That alignment is one more thing for the Bucs to think about. LaFleur also credited position coach Ben Sirmans for how he rotated those running backs through.

Troy from Westminster, CO

I texted my brothers halfway through the third quarter Saturday – "The only reason I know Jaire is playing is because he's listed as a starter." How in the world does such a phenomenal player stay so invisible every game? Dude is incredible.

One catch allowed…for minus-3 yards. The island is real.

Nathan from Philadelphia, PA

I don't understand LaFleur's two-point conversion strategy. Is he just trying to make up for a missed extra point at the first opportunity? (Analytics suggests whether you go for two doesn't matter all that much if you're already up by two scores).

LaFleur was asked about this after the game and said he was trying to make it a three-score game. I don't think he regrets the decision as much as he does the play call.

Jim from Tempe, AZ

Great team win against the Rams. Not easy for a TE to have such a big impact on a game with zero catches. Marcedes Lewis is officially the honorary sixth lineman.

As long as Lewis is cool with that role, I see no reason he couldn't play until he's 40 if his body holds up. It's a supply-and-demand business, and the college system just isn't producing many tight ends like him.

Rodney from Colleyville, TX

What game plan will the Packer defense have to stop Brady from doing the same as against the Saints?

Collapse the pocket. The Saints started fast, sacking Brady on the Bucs' second offensive possession, but then lost some of their steam – either through attrition or the tough field position after the turnovers. It was a gutsy call for Bruce Arians to go for it on fourth-and-1 in the first quarter from the Bucs' own 34 but Brady has been the QB-sneak whisperer. Once Brady pulled off that first fourth-and-1 sneak, Tampa was hard to stop.

Mark from Bettendorf, IA

Wes, I know everybody is watching the weather report but am I crazy wanting the weather to be just as "nice" this week as last week? I want their best and I want them to go down at their best, with no excuses.

I wouldn't say you're crazy, but I think there is a definite advantage to welcoming in a warm-weather team like Tampa Bay into a 30-degree Lambeau Field if it really does snow on Sunday. It fits this Packers offense quite well.

Aumed from Moorhead, MN

The Bucs are 0-8 when playing at Lambeau in below freezing temperatures. So we have that going for us.

…which is nice. Just keep your fingers crossed for that 30-degree prediction.

Keegan from Atlanta, GA

Does the matchup against the Bucs strike you as one that will require a more specialized offensive game plan that accounts for the dynamic play of Lavonte David and Devin White?

I don't think so, especially with all the other playmakers in that defense the Packers must account for. David and White are a problem for any offense. To me, the key is the Packers getting into an early rhythm with the run game and get those linebackers moving – and protect the football.

Thomas from Oconomowoc, WI

The Bucs were the one team I didn't want to face in the playoffs. Of all teams, they are most built to win: great run game, stout offensive line, strong defense, and countless weapons on offense. And on top of all that, a HOF quarterback. Am I the only crazy nervous about this?

It's fine to be nervous. That means you give a (darn). But there is a difference between nervousness and being afraid. The Buccaneers are a good football team. No ifs, ands or buts about that. But so are the Packers. Do you think Tampa Bay cared that it got its butts kicked by the Saints twice during the regular season? No. It was about that game and that day. My advice? Play to win and cheer to win. It's time for certainty – not second-guessing.

Chris from Hickory, IN

In case you missed some Rodgers genius at work, re-watch the touchdown play to Lazard again in the fourth quarter of the Rams game. He simply yells "Allen!" and nods downfield before the snap. Does he miss anything? Would you look at that.

You're right. I'm not sure if Rodgers saw the safety creeping up and felt like Lazard could work inside and find an opening up the seam. That's the beauty of marrying run concepts with the pass. By making everything look alike, it's that much more difficult for the defense to diagnose pre-snap. And when they do cheat, Rodgers can make them pay for it with his omnipresent field awareness.

Greg from New Berlin, WI

"Until the Lazard TD, that was the one play that made me jump out of my suite seat." So you can jump out of your seat in the press box as long as you don't cheer while doing so? Noted.

We should have had a GoPro set up in our suite, though I'm pretty sure I said a few expletives that wouldn't have made it to air.

Bill from Brooklyn Park, MN

How did things go with the fans in the stands and social distancing Saturday? If everything went smoothly, is there any indication from the team that they may be able to increase the number of tickets available this week?

It sounds like it went well. But it won't be increasing this week. The same number of tickets as last week will be available to the season ticketholders who opted in.

JR from East Moline, IL

Had the Saints won, then each team in the final four would have a player who had played for the Packers, and I was wondering if that was a rare stat or not, since players move around so much. Not sure if Bucs have any ex-Packers.

It's probably more uncommon for there not to be at least one ex-Packers player in the Super Bowl each year. The Bucs have one ex-Packers player: long snapper Zach Triner. Former Badgers linebacker Jack Cichy is also on TB's 53.

Jules from New York, NY

Hey all, I know a lot was made of the difference between playing the Saints and the Bucs, but there is one key difference I didn't realize until during the game between those two. When they showed the special-teams ranks, the Saints were far better. Don't know what effect it could have had, but I sure am glad we don't have to face a unit like that, especially in a year like this.

If there's any silver lining to the Bucs winning in dominant fashion, it's that the Packers don't have to worry about seeing Deonte Harris for a second time this season. Spoff would've been blue.

Nic from London, UK

Please don't think I'm gloating or suggesting anyone received their just comeuppance, but seeing the injury to Patrick Mahomes reminded me of how thankful I am we protect Rodgers from as many unnecessary hits as possible. The NFL is a violent game and your season can be derailed by a single (legal) hit. Sacks already present enough risk that I'm content not to roll the dice with further exposure to contact. Here's to hoping for a swift Mahomes recovery. The game is better with him in it!

My stomach sank when I saw Mahomes go down. First and foremost, you never want to see anyone go down with a concussion. Beyond that, Mahomes is a huge part of the NFL brand right now – right there with Rodgers and Brady. The playoffs are better when he's on the field. I wish him a speedy, but more importantly safe, recovery.

Scott from Hayward, WI

Just wondering how we came out of the game as far as injuries. Did we lose anybody for this weekend, like AJ?

We're all awaiting word on AJ Dillon and Mason Crosby. I assume Barnes will be able to keep playing with the club.

Dana from Santa Fe, NM

The question was raised whether the 2003, 2014, or 2020 Packers' best O-line was the best. Perhaps it is just because of my age, but I think older teams/players are often underrated. To wit, 1962: Forrest Gregg, Jerry Kramer, Jim Ringo, Fuzzy Thurston, and Bob Skoronski should at least be in the conversation. Right?

Absolutely. Three Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive linemen on a 13-1 team that won the NFL Championship? That's iconic.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

How does Rodgers know that the MVP chants were for him? On TV, it looked like everyone was turned around facing the Insider Inbox suite.

Honest mistake.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

Wes breaking it into two parts this week, one for Tuesday and one for Saturday.

Your walls, boss.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

A shining victory and a week to prepare

The finish line comes into focus eight becomes four

Stay the course Men of the Bay

As always beware the unseen enemy that has felled so many

Two more chapters to write

Two more victories to wear the crown

Succeed and you will bask in glory

Succeed and children will sing songs

Succeed and men will gather around campfires and tell stories of your triumph

Stay the course and victory will be yours Men of the Bay

And so it begins. It's going to be a wild week, folks.


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