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Inbox: It's changed the unit

They can make a much bigger statement

Bears DE Montez Sweat
Bears DE Montez Sweat

Ray from Phoenix, AZ

Two cold-weather teams playing on real grass, in a meaningful game, with no dome, on a late afternoon in January. Is that not REAL FOOTBALL?


Dave from Crossville, TN

This is definitely a rhetorical question but I'm going to ask for your thoughts anyway. Does losing to a team for five years straight provide any extra motivation for a team that basically has nothing left to play for?

Streak in the rivalry aside, the Bears may be playing for their offseason, but it's not nothing. How they feel about their team for the next eight months practically hinges on this game. Frankly, they can make a much bigger statement by winning than the Packers can.

Randy from Westminster, CO

The Bears appear to be a different team than when the season opened. What has changed for them?

I think it's mostly their defense. The combination of acquiring a bona fide pass rusher like Montez Sweat, getting their offseason veteran additions to settle in (T.J. Edwards, Tremaine Edmunds), and seeing the usual maturation of young players (Jack Sanborn, Jaquan Brisker) … it's changed the unit. When the Bears started 0-4, they gave up 137 points (34.3 per). In their last five games, going 4-1, they've given up 76 points (15.2 per).

Dean from Belmont, MI

I know there is not supposed to be math in II, but if a two-point conversion attempt is intercepted and run all the way back to the other end zone, wouldn't that be a pick-two?

Something like that, which many of you submitted with gusto. Eric Berry did it for the Chiefs in 2016 (also mentioned repeatedly), and it actually won the game. The year before, the first defensive two-point conversion in the NFL was scored by the Saints, who blocked a PAT kick and ran it back all the way.

Richard from Madison, WI

No ties in the NFL this year. When's the last time THAT happened?

2017, so yeah, it's been a minute. But going back to 1990, there have been 21 seasons without an overtime tie.

Adrian from Oregon City, OR

Win and in Sunday. The Packers future looks promising. The Bears, on the other hand… do they move on from Justin Fields or build around him? What would you do?

I'll leave that to the Bears. I think they have to decide if they want a running quarterback who's going to be a major part of their running game, or if they'd rather have a more traditional run-pass balance in general. Fields has one 300-yard passing game in his career, with five 100-yard rushing games.

Racinray from Sarasota, FL

We are heading to Lambeau Sunday in a celebration of life for my father, a former Marine who passed in March and has "Go Pack Go" on his headstone. He is responsible for three generations of diehard Packer fans who will all come together there from across the U.S. to see a win-and-in game vs. the "dang" (not his word) Bears. What do you see as requirement(s) for the front seven to contain Fields and limit the ground game? I prefer to make Fields throw to try and beat us.

I would, too. Hemming him in is easier said than done, but going all-out for sacks isn't worth it against this guy. Play disciplined and pick your spots.

Matt from Waunakee, WI

As impressive as JL has been for a first-year QB, his lack of rushing yards might be his most impressive stat.

I would've bet the Bushwood estate he'd have more than 248 rushing yards by now, but it does show how much his eyes are downfield looking to make something happen.

Tom from Columbus, NJ

One thing that I think has gone overlooked is that Love was able to get wins on the road against all three divisional opponents during his first season as the starter. Do you feel like that will provide a bit of confidence for years to come, that he can walk in their house and get it done? I feel like that's relatively important moving forward.

I tend to agree.

John from Jupiter, FL

Morning Mike. First, this is not a knock on Aaron Rodgers as I believe he is the best to ever do it. But not hearing any griping about trusting young receivers or being on the same page or being in Rodgers' doghouse after a mistake … look what Love has done with mostly guys who have never played at this level. Wasn't sure Love was our guy but color me impressed. Thanks.

The early results were certainly questionable, but Gutey was onto something when he talked about putting together an offense on which young players would grow together.

Tony from Chanhassen, MN

I don't think Zach Tom has really gotten his due. I know he has been called out by you two a bunch, but the last two weeks he has faced Burns and Hunter and neither player was heard from during the game. Why does he not get mentioned more in the media?

Are you new to offensive linemen always being unsung heroes? As old as the game itself.

Dave from Hollywood, MD

During the first half of the season, Insiders were commenting that Packer receivers seldom had separation and passes were often closely contested. The tide has turned and there are often open receivers. Is this credit to young receivers honing their route-running skills, JL moving to his second and third options more often, or ML learning the abilities of his receivers and quarterback and refining his play-calling?

It's the pat answer, but it really is all of the above. LaFleur has admitted it took time for the coaching staff to learn what the young players do well, and as much as they try to get a handle on it during training camp and practices, executing in games is always another matter. As far as route running, there are times precision is required with yardage, timing and angles. Other times, it's about making the right route adjustment on the fly and seeing the field the same way as the QB. Experience is required for both pieces. I think Jordan Love has always gone through his progressions, but the more you play, the easier it is to recognize when to move to the next option quickly because the first one won't be there due to the defensive look. When the clock in the QB's head gets synced up with what he's seeing defensively, his odds of finding an open guy increase.

Margeaux from Tallahassee, FL

Since Aaron Jones' return it seems he has been primarily used as a runner not receiver. Are the Bears susceptible to running backs as receivers? Is there a wheel route coming?

I guarantee you the Bears will be prepared for the two big pass plays Jones had against them in Week 1 – the throwback screen and backfield post for the TD. The question is what else can LaFleur scheme off of those looks in the rematch?

Chas from Modena, WI

How often did the Packers rotate the offensive line during the Vikings game last Sunday? Will the Packers be rotating the offensive line during the Bears game or has the offensive line been set in stone?

Jon Runyan and Sean Rhyan have split the snaps at RG fairly evenly for two weeks straight now. Meanwhile, Rasheed Walker has taken all the snaps at LT with Love in the game the last two games.

Andy from Wisconsin Rapids, WI

What did you think of the decision on the failed fourth down to Bo Melton? It seemed a bit too aggressive that early, up 10 and in FG range. League wide, I think the over-aggressiveness fad has started to backfire more often (ex: Detroit). Hindsight of course, and I admit LaFleur had the perfect play, just a failed execution. I'd just rather save that play for a more critical moment.

It was a great call. They had it. Barely missed. If you're going for it on fourth-and-1, it's a critical moment, regardless of when it occurs. What are you saving it for? The prom?

Josh from Jacksonville, NC

From an outsider's perspective, the Packers' defense seems to be playing better with Carrington Valentine and Corey Ballentine starting at CB. I know that Jaire Alexander has a great amount of talent and that the Packers have shown their commitment with their investment in him, but is there a scenario where the Packers go forward starting Valentine and Ballentine this season over a healthy Jaire?

A popular query. That's for the coaches to decide. Taking nothing away from Valentine and Ballentine, who have more than held their own, I think this defense overall is better with Alexander on the field, and I don't think he was at his best in Carolina after missing six straight games. If he's healthy, I believe he can help this team.

Jeffrey from Eveleth, MN

It just seems like this defense is so much better when it plays aggressively. Blitzing, jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage, and man coverage. Do you agree with that take?

I think the opponent has a lot to do with the approach, and mixing up coverages is always required in an attempt to disrupt any QB's rhythm. If they know what you're in, down after down, and can call plays and adjust routes accordingly, life gets immensely difficult defensively.

Jason from Austin, TX

When will we get word on Christian Watson's injury status and Luke Musgrave? It would be incredible timing to get those two back this week.

We'll see how the week of practice goes. I doubt we'll know anything definitive until the end of the week, and it could go all the way up to 90 minutes before kickoff Sunday night.

Nhoj from Windsor, WI

Is Patrick Taylor (and his return to the team) underrated? He has been in a lot for pass protection and has been amazing.

PT is as reliable as they come in that role. Emanuel Wilson's injury was unfortunate because he would've had a huge opportunity the second half of this season, but it was a nice stroke of luck to get Taylor back when the need arose.

Kenton from Rochester, MN

What an interesting season this has been for the Green & Gold! I do have one question that has been bothering me. Anders Carlson is about 84% on FGs. Not great, but acceptable for a rookie kicker. However the five misses on PATs is concerning. According to my research (WCBW), Carlson is perfect on FGs inside of 43 yards. A PAT is equivalent to about a 33-yard FG. So is there something significantly different about PATs versus FGs that would account for this? Puzzling.

It is puzzling, because there's no difference. Everything about the operation is the same. Your statistics are correct. I don't have an answer for you.

Thomas from Cedar Rapids, IA

As difficult as it was cheering for the Cowboys, I just couldn't bring myself to pull for a division rival. What is your take on the two-point penalty? From what I understand, Detroit tried to get cute and confuse the Cowboys with which player was reporting as eligible. Three players go to the refs, one verbally says he's reporting, then Skipper gives what is accepted as a "signal" that he is the eligible receiver, so the refs told the Cowboys it was Skipper. If that's true, Detroit beat themselves.

I opined on the two-point controversy in Monday's column if anyone missed it. The part I didn't address then was the fiasco of calling tripping on the wrong team with about three minutes left in the game. Hutchinson tried to trip Pollard, and they called tripping on Hendershot, the Dallas TE trying to block him. That mistake was the difference between Dallas having first-and-10 on the Detroit 11-yard line looking for a TD to put the game away, instead of first-and-25 on the 44 and settling for a field goal that gave the Lions a chance. That was a FAR bigger blunder – 33 yards and a crippling down-and-distance – than the one getting all the attention.

Dustin from Kansas City, MO

Well, now that the dust has settled on the NCAA playoffs, who you got in the final? Michigan or Washington? I'm leaning towards Michigan, but Penix and his receivers are something else. Gonna be a fun game to watch.

I agree. I'm inclined to pick Michigan as well, but Penix is scary good. Very impressive player.

Brandon from Chippewa Falls, WI

Mike, the WYMM segment from the Vikings game was top notch. Seeing the step-by-step breakdown of how JL10 was dissecting and analyzing the pre-snap defensive schemes was hard for me to keep up with, even after you provided the answer key and visuals! Were the Vikings doing something rather "predictable" in their play-calling, or is Love simply hitting that next level of mastery late in the season? Can he replicate it against the Bears?

The Vikings will see on the film they gave too much away, but Love is definitely hitting that next level. This week? Different opponent, different defense, a long time since the first meeting with a lot of changes since. But we'll see if the hard count at home can help him the way the silent count did in this particular road game. Programming note: There was so much intriguing film from Minnesota I'm posting a bonus WYMM today with some defensive clips from the Vikings game, too. Be sure to check it out.

Bryant from Jacksonville, FL

Could we maybe get a Path to the Playoffs link that, when opened, consists of a single sentence: "Just beat the Bears"?

I like that idea. But there are permutations regarding potential seeding and destination to discuss, so we'll get those out there, too.

Steve from Cottage Grove, WI

As Tausch says, "not trying to get too in front of my skis," but I have my sights set on playoff scenarios between the Lions, Cowboys and Eagles (pending outcome of Sunday's games). I'm curious to know your preference on playoff opponent. The Eagles would be nice as they appear to be struggling on both sides of the ball. Lions will most likely play with a strong revenge mentality. Going to Dallas (contrary to Packers undefeated record there) could be a tall order. What are your thoughts?

Easy. Just beat the Bears. Happy Wednesday.

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