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Inbox: It's taken many things

Trust is everything

DL Kenny Clark and LB Preston Smith

Michael from Berrien Springs, MI

Today, one can truly look back with 2020 hindsight.

Only here can you find wisdom like this, folks.

John from Fox River Grove, IL

Gentlemen, it may not be a happy start for the new year if the news I heard is true. Did David Bakhtiari tear his ACL in practice Thursday? If so, who's his replacement?

The reports on Bakhtiari are distressing, to say the least. It's not appropriate for me to comment on the situation until LaFleur addresses the media after practice today. Let's see what he says.

Deb from Green Bay, WI

Just heard that Fitzpatrick tested positive for COVID. The NFL has done so well in getting thru the season. Boy is it going to be important for the team to be careful for the next six-ish weeks. The margin for error is so slim. Stay safe everyone!

That threat hasn't dissipated, either.

Trevor from Cheyenne, WY

I like the idea of bringing in Damon Harrison. Who loses snaps if he plays? Is he just a 10-15 snaps a game player on potential run plays, or can he get to the QB too? Only downside is I feel like the defense is really starting to gel. Any issue with throwing a monkey wrench into that with a new guy?

I don't think so, not with a veteran guy who's going to be given a specific role. He's a run-stuffer, pure and simple. I think he might take a few snaps from Tyler Lancaster and/or Kingsley Keke, the latter being better in the pass rush anyway.

Chris from Eau Claire, WI

With how well the offense is performing, the defense can be overlooked. Jaire Alexander might be the best player on this team. With his lack of traditional stats, is there any chance he is in the running for DPOY?

Unfortunately, no, but that's no disrespect to him. History shows that it's pretty much required for a defensive back to have the INT stats to win it, and some touchdowns don't hurt. Last year's winner, Stephon Gilmore, had six picks, two returned for TDs. In 2010, Troy Polamalu had seven picks, one TD. In '09, Charles Woodson for the Packers had nine picks, three TDs. In '04, Ed Reed had nine picks, one TD. The only exception in the last 20 years was Indy safety Bob Sanders in '04, who had just two picks, but he also had 3½ sacks. Prior to those mentioned, you're going all the way back to Deion Sanders and Rod Woodson in the early '90s for DBs who won it. It's a tall order for a DB to get it.

Mike from Algoma, WI

Good morning Spoff. Could you ask Davante Adams how much hopscotch he plays to practice his get-off at the line?

He had to be the schoolyard champ in his youth, right?

Mike from Allen, TX

Gentlemen, Jimmy Graham is enjoying more success in Chicago than his past few years. Are the Bears scheming differently? Is it the dearth of pass-catching talent around him? What do you see?

His stats aren't drastically different from his years in Green Bay, except for the touchdowns (eight this year compared to five over two Packers seasons). Frankly, I think he's just caught the ball better on those scoring opportunities with the Bears than he did here. The Packers gave him a lot of red-zone chances and he wasn't as efficient at coming down with the ball.

Doug from Castle Rock, CO

Can you explain what it's meant when they say "the quarterback trusts this receiver"? Does he target a receiver specifically, or if all things are equal, he will look to that receiver first?

Sometimes, but not necessarily. It means he's confident the receiver will be where he's supposed to be when he's supposed to be there, and that the receiver reads defenses and sees the field much the same way the QB does. Whether he's first in the progression or someone the QB can go to in a bailout scenario, trust is everything.

Blake from Tokyo, Japan

We all know he gives great postgame press junkets and interviews in which he remembers specific the details of things that happened over 10 years ago, but what about Aaron Rodgers' locker-room presence? I've never heard or seen a video of him talking to the whole team. Does he ever?

I would imagine so on occasion as a designated team captain, but he's utilized many other forms of leadership, probably more often, over the years.

Jeremiah from Madison, WI

Explain how the season passer rating is determined. I thought it was an average of each individual game's rating and as such Rodgers would need a rating of about 170 (impossible) to break his season passer rating record since he has a current 119.4 over 15 games. But I keep reading he does have an outside chance of doing it?

The yearlong rating is determined by plugging the full-season stats (attempts, completions, yards, TDs, INTs) into the formula. It's not an average of all individual games. Mike from Bronxville, NY, yesterday laid out the nearly impossible numbers in the finale Rodgers would need to surpass his 122.5 from 2011. After the game last Sunday, I was curious how much that second-half interception cost Rodgers. So I punched in the numbers as though that pass were incomplete instead of picked off, and it was worth almost a full rating point (.9 to be precise).

Joe from Eau Claire, WI

Mike/Wes, good morning! Thanks for all your work...especially the live blog and postgame stories! I'm just trying to "feel" better about having the No. 1 NFC seed/bye week/home-field advantage. The bad taste of 2011 still lingers, along with the Packers' struggles coming out of recent regular-season bye weeks. Any factors to point to?

I'll let Dan answer.

Dan from Memphis, TN

In the past seven seasons, every Super Bowl contestant was either a 1 or 2 seed. In other words, teams that played on wild-card weekend were a combined 0-for-56 on reaching the Super Bowl. How important is earning that bye in Chicago?

It's gone in cycles over the years, and the current cycle has shown the playoff bye to be incredibly valuable. The dynamics are different this year with only one bye, so the odds of a team playing on wild-card weekend making it go up considerably, but you get the point.

Bruce from New Canaan, CT

I'll cop to being one of those who thinks the notion of a running back "getting into a rhythm" is an overused cliché. However, sometimes it really applies and Dillon's night was a classic example. I thought he looked awful early on. He was impatient and seemed to be tripping over his own feet. He appeared to be too amped up. Then he settled down and we saw the results.

Couldn't agree more. I'm curious to see how his first couple of carries look on Sunday now.

Michael from Winchester, VA

Is it just me, or does the emergence of AJ Dillon in late 2020 remind anyone else of James Starks in late 2010 (leading to XLV)? Their running styles are completely different, but each was/is just what opponents don't want to see: another weapon on an already stacked offense.

While I appreciate the sentiment, let's not rewrite history and talk about the 2010 offense as "stacked." That team's leading rusher had barely 700 yards. Jordy Nelson didn't have a 100-yard game in his career until Week 16 that year. The best tight end was lost for the season Week 5 and no one really took his place. Different teams, different paths, the emergence of a new running back notwithstanding.

Ross from Roswell, GA

Gents, why do I feel like this Sunday's game against the Bears will come down to a fourth down in the fourth quarter? Is John Kuhn available to throw a block on Khalil Mack?

I'll check with him.

Gary from Pulaski, VA

I know it was only one catch, but it was so nice to see Equanimeous St. Brown catch that touchdown pass after all he has been through the past couple of years. Being a Notre Dame fan I've really been rooting for him. Is that the kind of play that boosts both his confidence and Rodgers' confidence in him? If so, I really think he can be a big help to this offense and give opposing teams something else to worry about.

It's absolutely a confidence boost on all fronts, including for the play-caller. So much of this offense goes through Adams, Robert Tonyan and the running backs that all the other perimeter guys will have limited chances. It's just the nature of it. They have to make them count when their number is called.

Nate from Sioux City, IA

Gentlemen, to what would you attribute the Packers' success defending the run during the latter half of the season? Personnel and scheme aren't all that much different from the teams that were run over by the 49ers twice last year and by Dalvin Cook this year. I fully expected Derrick Henry to have his way with the Packers.

As I mentioned in my Mid-Week Chat, a lot has come together. Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry and Preston Smith are all playing better than they did earlier in the season. The inside linebacker rotation is paying dividends. The safety duo of Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage is playing at another level. Guys are sticking to their responsibilities – whether it's fitting the right gap or setting the edge – and they're getting off blocks and making tackles. It's never just one thing. It's taken many things.

Carl from Wisconsin Rapids, WI

I can't wrap my head around the Steelers resting their starters this weekend. The difference between the No. 2 and 3 seed would be either playing in Buffalo in the divisional round or playing at home. Even without fans, that's a big difference. Maybe they are just playing the odds that Buffalo will beat Miami to clinch the No. 2. Thoughts?

The Steelers, whose schedule was mangled all season long, were sputtering down the stretch, losing three straight and trailing the Colts by 17 in the second half last week before rallying to win their division. Mike Tomlin has been doing this a long time. Maybe he feels his guys need a breather, a chance to reset mentally and physically, and that's going to be more important to a playoff run than home field for one game.

George from North Mankato, MN

Looking back, I sure am glad that ML and the Pack took a cautious approach with Davante's injury early in the season. While it might be fun to wonder what if, imagine if he was rushed back to action only to suffer a further setback. How do you think da Bears will try to cover him this weekend?

Adams potentially reaggravating that hamstring in Week 4 would not have been worth it, not at all. There was too much season left and the Packers smartly took the long view, even if he wanted to play (which is why those decisions are generally not in the players' hands). I suspect the Bears will devote a safety to help on Adams as much as they can at the expense of run support, and they'll count on their inside LB tandem of Smith and Trevathan to fill any run gaps Hicks, Nichols and Mack can't.

Dex from Madison, WI

In response to Bill from Windermere, FL, regarding the possibility of co-MVPs this year. I was talking with my daughter about the history of co-MVPs with Favre and Sanders. My daughter, much wiser than the Old Man, says, "Having two MVPs is actually a much bigger honor. When the competition is so tight that it's impossible to choose just one, it speaks volumes about the high level these guys are playing at." Dang, she's smart. I believe she is the MVP in our family.

I like the perspective. For the record, when Favre and Sanders shared it in '97, six different players received votes among the 44 cast. The co-MVPs tied with 18 votes apiece.

Andrew from Pella, IA

A comment and a question. I believe No. 12 right now at 37 to be top three of all time in both mental acuity and pure throwing skill. At this stage of his career, would you say Aaron Rodgers' best attribute is his mind or his physical skill?

It's impossible for me to choose. It's the way they work together to make him the player he is.

Mike from New Orleans, LA

Vic used to talk about players waiting for their time as "jars on the shelf." After listening to Davante Adams' interview, I vote we should change the phrasing to being "in the fridge." Which do you prefer?

Adams' line is apropos for this market, wouldn't you say?

Jared from Blue Bell, PA

Always a fan of the Lego highlights, but this may have been the best one ever. The little details and moments that don't get missed are commendable...the snow falling off the wall from Adams' second TD, No. 92 taking Dillon's shot in the hole, and clearly Aaron Jones stayed in bounds! Who are the masters behind those productions? Always excellent and deserving of a shout-out.

Those are so good I half-expected the producers to figure out how to cover the field in snow except for the brushed-off yard lines and hashes. And even without that, there was zero disappointment. As many readers pointed out, that might have been the best one yet with the exquisite attention to detail.

Jeff from Vandenberg AFB, CA

Happy New Year, Mike! It's crazy that one conference will have a sub-.500 division champ and possibly an 8-8 wild-card team and the other may have an 11-5 team miss the playoffs. I don't know if it means anything but I guess it's just so 2020.


LeeAnn from Carefree, IN

Mike had a question about this team's identity and gave it a bit of a non-answer. IMO the Packers' identity is a complete offense that can move the ball and score points in any fashion that fits the moment. An ascending defense that's peaking at the right moment, that will adjust and rise to the occasion when their best is necessary. And that's exactly how I see it playing out Sunday. Thoughts?

Sounds like a plan.

Mike from St. Louis, MO

What is the mission of Insider Inbox?

On the first day of 2021, we will remind everyone what it says in the small decorative picture frame that resides in my cubicle, courtesy of Cheryl from Strawberry Point, IA: Insider Inbox – A quest for answers to the questions that won't go away.

Venny from Montgomery, AL

So, we have our Howard Green (Snacks Harrison), impact rookie UDFA like Sam Shields (Krys Barnes) and two impact second-year, first-round players like Clay Matthews and BJ Raji (Rashan Gary and Savage). It just feels like this is the year the Packers break through. Let's see how the story unfolds.

Just beat the Bears. Happy New Year, everybody.