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Inbox: It's the biggest team effort there is

The phrase might last all 17 weeks


Thomas from Dunkerton, IA

I love the still shot for the link to the locker room speech in Wednesday's Inbox. JK Scott, looking all of 15 years old standing next to Mason Crosby looking...well...not 15 years old, and both smiling ear-to-ear. Hats off to the person responsible for that classic image.

Priceless indeed.

Keith from Farmington Hills, MI

Great to see Mason Crosby named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week. I never doubted him. We all have bad days, just most of us don't have ours broadcast on national TV.

It comes with the territory. I had forgotten until someone reminded me on Twitter that I chose Crosby in Final Thoughts for our "Who's your guy and why" segment, in which I invoked the memory of Jacke's walk-off vs. San Francisco on MNF 22 years earlier, almost to the day. And here I was patting Wes on the back for the Kevin King pick.

Elizabeth from Sylvania, OH

Can you explain why Aaron wanted to run another play with only six seconds left on the clock and the offense already at about the 10-yard line on Monday night? Was he going for the touchdown to take the pressure off Mason or trying to get even closer?

He was just trying to kill a few seconds to make it a walk-off situation and not have to run a kickoff after the field goal.

Ross from Hudson, WI

Aaron looked to be channeling Curt Schilling on Sunday. How's the elbow?

Bravo on the October baseball reference. He didn't say anything about his elbow and didn't have it wrapped or bandaged that I could see in his postgame presser, so I assume it was just a flesh wound.

John from Charlottesville, VA

After the failed fourth down in the red zone, I was really hoping for a safety. There have been a few other times this year when the opposing team's offense was backed up inside the 5-yard line and I was wishing for the same. I can't remember the last safety scored by the Packers. Can you?

I had to look it up. Week 17 of 2014 vs. Detroit at Lambeau. Stafford was flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone.

Stephan from Vienna, Austria

On a called intentional grounding, there's a loss of down. What happens if the call occurs on third down?

Then it's fourth down. Lucky for you there are no Inbox Hall of Fame inductions during bye weeks.

Jeremiah from Denver, CO

What do we need to do in order to win the bye week?

Good one. But an actual answer is to morph into an AFC East fan on Sunday. Patriots at Bears, Vikings at Jets, Lions at Dolphins.

Al from Green Bay, WI

Looking at the NFL matchups this week, which is your "must-see" game? New England at Chicago could be fun, and New Orleans at Baltimore is intriguing. There is so much we still don't know about lots of teams this year.

Outside of the NFC North contests, Carolina at Philly has my attention.

Anthony from Brisbane, Australia

In spite of their record SF is a competitive team – see results at Minnesota, at the Rams, at KC, and their MNF record. Sure Packers need improvement from all phases but remember the other team has a say in how well you do that. Hopefully coming out of the bye we are more efficient – MM plan balance, AR accuracy, receivers healthy, run game pounding, run D up a notch, special teams less penalties. 2-2 from the next 4 and I think we will be in a good position ... no one is running away with this just yet!

If the Rams and Saints both win on the road this week, they will clearly stand out atop the NFC as the halfway point approaches. But after that, it's wide open.

Nick from White Bear Township, MN

Hi Mike, thanks for doing extra duty this week to keep us entertained. Regarding the NFC North, I think this has been the most "surprising" division of 2018 (good and bad). If we took power rankings of the division today, do you struggle as much as I do to rank the Pack anything but fourth right now? Not knocking our squad, so much as saying the Bears and Lions have put together some complete football where we haven't, and the Vikings still look like the team to beat. December friend? Is that you?

I don't think anybody in the NFC North has separated themselves. The Bears have blown double-digit fourth-quarter leads twice on the road. The Vikings lost badly to the Bills at home and would have lost at Lambeau if not for a ridiculous rule application. The Lions have been as up and down as the Packers. I know I say "it's a week-to-week league" a lot, but this year the phrase might last all 17 weeks.

Green Bay drove down the field for a walk-off field goal in the Week 6 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field

Scott from Minneapolis, MN

The good news is we are above .500 and reasonably healthy for this time of the year. The truth is, we have not gotten off to the start the fans had hoped for. Defensively, I am surprised at how many teams have pushed us around up front. Offensively, the red-zone issues have jumped out considering the addition of Graham. What is one thing on each side of the ball you look for the Pack to improve upon after the bye as we head into the guts of our schedule?

The offense needs to find the type of run-pass balance that gets the whole unit in a rhythm and makes life easier on the quarterback. The defense has to stop the deep balls over the top, having given up a monster play in four of the last five games.

Matt from Salt Lake City, UT

Wes/Mike, the more I read your work, the more I'm intrigued about the day-to-day logistics of your work. I'm a lifelong contractor and my good friend, we'll call him "Andy," is a lifelong musician. He currently plays bass for the Milwaukee Symphony. Some of the more fascinating discussions I've had with him are over the details of daily life in our respective fields. Can you give us some insight into your typical in-season week?

It's pretty much bouncing around each day from taping "Unscripted" episodes to attending press conferences and practices, to getting interviews when the locker room is open to the media, to sitting at my desk writing stories and answering Inbox questions. Some days include other individual obligations like Periscope/Facebook Live, reviewing game film, taping Packers Daily and Final Thoughts, etc. Everything is pretty much centered on the media schedule, so you plan the rest of your work around that access.

Robert from Birchwood, WI

Al from Green Bay's question about why the 49ers declined a holding penalty on a touchback was a good one, but he missed the most important part...why are we holding on touchbacks?

Stupendous question.

Collin from Kirkwood, MO

Aaron Jones got his first start of the season and provided an immediate spark. Again, he was productive with limited opportunities. All three backs bring skills to the table for different situations, but in a game as tight as this game was, I'm surprised we didn't see more of Aaron Jones. Do you think they are trying to keep him fresh so they can lean on him for a stretch run, or do they not feel he's separated himself enough to be featured in close games where the ground game can be critical?

I think McCarthy has packages of plays he feels suit each running back best, but I also think everything schematically is going to be parsed over during the bye.

Nick from Dallas, TX

Mike, don't you think our offense is more efficient in the hurry-up? It seems to me that we have gotten away from it more so this year and in part, it's caused our offense to stall at times, especially in the red zone. Watching the games, it appears this year more than ever before, Rodgers is running the play clock down to 1 or 2 seconds. I get that he likes to make reads and adjustments at the line, but that also gives the defense a chance to catch their breath and make reads of their own.

You've raised a lot of issues many readers are asking about. I think they all fall under the self-scout process the Packers are going through during this bye. Rhythm on offense has been hard to come by, no doubt. If playing faster is the trigger for Rodgers to get the ball out and for the offense to find balance with the running game to keep defenses more on their toes, maybe we'll see more. By the same token, I'm not sure getting into an up-tempo track meet is the best approach against the next two opponents. We'll see what evolves from here.

Brandon from St. Paul, MN

Thanks for feeding us all the amazing football content even during the bye week. In your mid-week chat you talked a lot about limiting the big plays against the Rams, but my inner Vic has to disagree with you on this one. I think the key to the Rams' offense starts with Gurley. His power running strikes fear into a defense, and most of their big plays come on play-action. Take away Gurley and you take away their big-play potential. Who's going to have to step up to keep Gurley in check?

Stopping, or slowing down, a dangerous running back is the biggest team effort there is on defense. It takes everyone. Gurley draws safeties closer to the line of scrimmage, which creates one-on-ones on the perimeter. The run can always be stopped. The question is how much personnel must be committed to do it?

David from San Francisco, CA

It appears the biggest factor keeping Aaron Rodgers out of the top 10 in passer rating (despite a 12/1 TD to INT ratio) is his completion percentage of 61, good for 27th in the league. Usually this will lead to a few extra lost possessions in bad down-and-distance situations. How can Green Bay put themselves in better passing positions?

That comes down to avoiding sacks and penalties on offense, and building the running game to a consistent level. The negative-yardage plays have been higher this year than I can ever recall in McCarthy's tenure, leading to an inordinate number of third-and-longs. It's the biggest thing the Packers must fix on offense.

Claus from Honefoss, Norway

Mike, I often hear that hard-fought wins, like the one on Monday, will benefit the team later in the season. I'm interested in whether there is actually any data supporting that claim? Do teams with many close games fare better than those who have been dominating?

I don't know if you can quantify it or if anybody has, but I think there's truth to the idea that tight, adversity-filled games early in the season harden a team for those situations later on they absolutely have to have it. It doesn't guarantee success by any means. Nothing does. But you aren't likely to lose for the wrong reasons.

Alan from Fresno, CA

Mike, I don't have a question which directly relates to the Packers so I thought the bye week would be a good time to ask. How is it that an offensive or defensive lineman can be called for hands to the face, but a stiff arm to the facemask of a defender by the ball-carrier is a good play? More than once we see a defender's head snap back from a stiff arm and it is applauded. If the shield really wants to protect players shouldn't this play be a penalty also? Thoughts?

You've discovered hypocrisy in the NFL's rules? Shocking.

John from Onalaska, WI

Boy, Oct. 15 sure is a popular birthday around here as I too was born on that day. Certainly enjoyed the birthday game this year, compared to what happened on Oct. 15 last year...

Amen to that.

Eric from Kenosha, WI

Mike, have the Brewers' bats gone on bye week with the Packers?

Aguilar carried the offense the first half, Yelich the second, and both have slumped this series without enough pick-me-up from the rest. That's baseball. But good hitters can snap out of it at any time, just like Justin Turner did for the Dodgers after four strikeouts in Game 1. That's also baseball.

Dale from Lewiston, ID

In my daily newspaper this morning was the article, "NFL says it wants players to play with a 'free mind.'" After the mistaken calls on Clay Matthews having altered the outcome of two games, can the league get more hypocritical?

Serenity now.