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Inbox: It's the perpetual challenge

Any missed opportunity can end up looming large

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QB Aaron Rodgers & the offense

Simon from Santa Clara, CA

How was Sunday off for everybody?

Relaxing. Thanks for asking.

David from Sheridan, WY

"Just win, baby!"

Since Week 1, the Packers are 12-1 with Aaron Rodgers at QB, the lone loss coming by three points on a walk-off field goal. For all its warts, and this team has them, it's a good team.

Venny from Montgomery, AL

Do you think we've seen a complete game out of the Packers this season?

I said last week the Rams game was the closest we've seen. That observation still holds.

Kirsten from Madison, WI

I'm not one to look a gift win in the mouth, but the Packers need to start playing like the No. 1 seed, not like a team that's a play or two away from losing each week. Thanks, as always, Spoff and Wes, for your insight and perspective. I hope your Christmas was merry and your new year is, indeed, happy for you both. GPG.

I can appreciate the concern. That's where I put the focus of my postgame editorial, the continuing roller coaster play of both sides of the ball. I'm always less critical of any win on the road, but at home, with a lead, this offense can't go three possessions and produce just a single first down. And the defense can't give up a 30-yard run on third-and-10. Momentum shifts like that are much harder to recapture in the playoffs.

Scott from Grovetown, GA

*In my best Yoda voice* "Tackle. You must learn to tackle better."

LaFleur called it the defense's worst tackling performance of the season. I'd have to agree.

Patrick from Elkhorn, WI

Knock on wood it seems like Mason Crosby and the field goal unit have got back on track.

I mentioned in the live blog it would be good to see them connect on a long one, like a 45-plus yarder. But yeah, they're in a rhythm and things are looking smooth. The coverage units had a solid game, too.

Ron from Lafayette, IN

Dear Mike and Wes, I noticed on the TV coverage when they showed the record-breaking ball being put away, that the ball had a label on it with the number 433. Was that a mistake? (Should have been 443 to commemorate AR's 443rd touchdown pass?). Or does the 433 mean something else, and only a coincidence that it is similar to 443?

You're not the only person to mention this, and I have no idea.

Ron from Cornell, MI

Guys, it looked to me that the main contributors to the Browns' success running the ball were poor tackling on defense and being really gassed from the offensive three-and-outs. What is your take after seeing film?

The lack of defensive fundamentals against the run – setting the edge, tackling – was startling. On top of that, the coverage wasn't challenging receivers on short routes after LaFleur specifically addressed that issue at the podium the day after the Ravens game. The defense needs to catch its breath and reset this week. But it's also a true team game, and the offense is as important to protecting a multi-score lead as the defense, especially when your offense has the best player on the field.

Lambeau Field hosted the Green Bay Packers and Cleveland Browns on Christmas Day.

Steve from Salem, OR

Why are the packers struggling in the second half to put these games away?

Facing teams that are playing for their playoff lives certainly has something to do with it, but lately both sides of the ball just haven't maintained the level of play that established control of the game. It's frustrating, sure, but it's also the perpetual challenge. If it were easy, nobody would ever be able to rally in the fourth quarter.

Rich from Hayward, WI

Spoff, excellent use of the of the word "bupkis" over the weekend. Its meaning in modern Yiddish is "nothing." The etymology is from Eastern Europe, where it meant "goat droppings."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

Dave from Comer, GA

When will play-callers learn? The Browns were imposing their will on the ground. All they needed was a field goal to take the lead with less than a minute left. What do they do? Incomplete pass, screen pass that gets batted down, interception. What ever happened to "dance with the one what brung ya"? That being said, thank you Browns, for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

They had all three timeouts, too, and they acted like they were in a hurry. Arguably the bigger head-scratcher was in the first half, when Nick Chubb had five carries while Baker Mayfield threw three picks.

Dave from Lake Zurich, IL

Do the Packers have the personnel to fix the run defense?

Yes.

David from Fishers, IN

It seems everyone wants to point out that Rasul Douglas held on his last interception. However, it is pretty clear that there is also a blatant push off by the receiver. The only reason Rasul was able to make a play at all was because his hold nullified the push off (offensive pass interference). So, to me, it was either the refs would have called offsetting penalties or it was a good no-call. It seemed refs were letting the guys play as opposed to blowing the whistle?

Several readers mentioned a similar explanation by Randy Moss on ESPN Sunday morning. My take is it wasn't a game where the flags were flying in the secondary and suddenly didn't with the game on the line, nor vice versa (see Jan. 24, 2021). The officials let them play, and in general, the game is better that way when only the most egregious penalties are called. I don't see how any fan would disagree with that.

Jon from La Crescent, MN

Favorite Baker Mayfield commercial?

It has to be the one where he pumps the nacho cheese into the kids' Halloween bags, right?

Dennis from Parrish, FL

So Oct. 6, this year, the guy is walking around a Fry's grocery store looking at produce, when he gets a call, "Hey, want to come to Green Bay"? Five picks later … You can't make this up!

Douglas is the story of the year in the NFL, honestly. It's not just five picks. Two of them were game-savers. Two others he took to the house. He'd been with the team for a few days and got thrown in off the bench after the first series in Chicago, and basically hasn't come off the field since. You're right, you can't make it up.

Tina from Rotonda West, FL

Matt is this amazing coach with player relations skills. With that being said is he already the third-best coach in Packers history right now?

Whoa, let's pump the brakes a little. Four coaches in this franchise's history have won championships. Let's hope he joins that club and then we can discuss this further.

Tyler from Green Bay, WI

I couldn't help but notice all the proclaimed one-play games took place away from Lambeau. We've debated the bye before, but this would seem to suggest the Packers are much better suited playing postseason games at home, er no?

Including playoffs, the Packers are 23-3 at home under LaFleur, 17-8 on the road. Where would you rather take your chances?

Daniel from Lakeland, FL

In both the Baltimore and Cleveland games, the defense epitomized a "bend, not break" M.O. This may be very risky in the playoffs. What might be the highest priority to address?

Stopping the run. Whether against running QBs or not, the Packers have allowed 499 rushing yards the last three games.

Joe from Las Vegas, NV

Fourth-quarter heart attack team … Special teams played well, the offense sputtered too many times and even though the defense made some big plays they had trouble beating the Browns' offense. To beat the Vikings this Sunday what do they need to clean up?

On defense, tackling first and foremost, but also pursuit to the ball. A missed tackle doesn't hurt as much if there's another defender right there to finish the play. On offense, they just have to convert when they have the advantage. They had a second-and-3 and missed a couple of blocks, and then a wide-open Davante Adams dropped a ball he lost in the lights. They weren't really that far off from putting this one away, but that's this league – any missed opportunity can end up looming large. Just ask the Browns about the missed PAT and subsequent two-point failure.

Jon from Andover, MD

I understand a lot of fans are complimenting Gutekunst for his finding Rasul Douglas, as well as De'Vondre Campbell, and there is no denying acquiring these two players has been huge for the team. I would like to comment on one particular player he had the wherewithal to retain, and that one player being Preston Smith. What an incredible bounce-back season he's having! I have no idea what process of thought was put into the decision to do so, but well done, sir. Well done.

The Packers saw Smith's value to the defense, but not at his previous price, while giving him the opportunity to earn the bulk of his money with a strong season. Smith could have scoffed at the pay cut and shopped himself around, but he made a smart business decision based on the league-wide cap constraints. Things work out right when both sides understand the big picture.

Tim from Cape Coral, FL

Hey Packers, we fans appreciate your focus on making sure you don't peak too soon. But please begin your final and quick ascent now.

I'm not sure how much we'll learn about the Packers over these last two regular-season games, but regardless, this is a team that believes in its ability to pull out close games. It doesn't get rattled when the game's in the balance, and that counts for something. For as frustrating as it might be to see them fail to put teams away, I get the feeling the crunch-time experience is going to serve them well in the playoffs.

Zach from Manistique, MI

Although it's a bit of a technicality, Rodgers' TD to Adams before the half should count towards his TDs scored on free plays, right?

Correct. Denzel Ward was flagged for being offside.

Christina from Rochester Hills, MI

Is Aaron Rodgers the No. 1 quarterback in the league right now?

I don't see how it's even a debate.

Mark from Canton, GA

I know the playoff teams are not decided yet, but looking at the non-division leaders, who scares you the most as a possible wild-card team that could make a run? IMHO the 49ers are starting to play some pretty darn good football.

I was thinking the same thing until I saw their second half in Nashville the other night. They're talented, but hard to gauge.

Ronald from Panabo, Philippines

Hey Insiders, it seems that the Eagles are really flying under the radar right now. Do you think they or any other team still in the hunt could do some damage in the playoffs?

The Eagles haven't faced the most dynamic competition of late, but here are their rushing totals over their last seven games: 236, 176, 216, 242, 208, 185, 238, 130. That is not a ground game to be trifled with.

Greg from Sacramento, CA

John Madden is treasure to the NFL and society.

I have to find a way to watch that special on him. Didn't get a chance with pregame work.

Jim from St. Pete Beach, FL

Thanks for giving me permission to cheer for the Rams in the latest edition of P2P – I couldn't pull for the Vikings, I just couldn't.

All good, and you were far from alone. Pretty amazing a team that started the season 7-0, Arizona, is now headed for the No. 5 seed.

Marc from Gainesville, FL

Not a question, just a comment. Vic talked about our "December friend." To me, the Inbox is a year-round friend – always there, informing and entertaining. You both set just the right tone, bringing in a wide variety of viewpoints, while still being respectful and NOT clickbaitish. I appreciate – and don't take for granted – the daily delivery of another II column. I know it's a challenge to do that year-round. Thanks for all you do, and the happiest of holidays to you both.

Many of you sent holiday wishes to me and Wes, and please understand they were all read and appreciated, whether posted or not. Rest assured we don't take your loyal readership for granted either. Wes and I may write the column, but you folks make it what it is. Now let's ring in the new year right this week and keep this thing rolling.

Dale from Prescott, WI

Okay, I got this all figured out now. Just beat Minnesota.

Happy Monday.

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