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Inbox: It was a nightmare scenario, and the nightmare occurred

They had to flag it

49ers QB Brock Purdy

Eric from Cary, NC

Unfortunate way for CIN-KC to end. Refs got the penalty call right, but that ending did not do justice to an evenly matched, hard-fought game.

I concur. I wanted to see overtime with the new playoff rules.

Rex from Laramie, WY

I can't believe the refs called that last foul on the Bengals and let KC win. Yeah, it was a little late, but not intentional or hard. What's your take?

I thought it was an unfortunate lack of discipline at a key moment by a linebacker who had played his butt off all day. There was no question Mahomes was going out of bounds and should've been left alone. The hit was made to look worse than it was, but the officials had no choice. They had to flag it.

Caleb from Knoxville, TN

Bigger fatal flaw for the Bengals – the Joseph Ossai roughing-the-passer penalty, or their rickety offensive line?

Kansas City's defensive front did to that banged-up Cincy O-line what Buffalo's couldn't. The Bengals made some nice adjustments through the middle of the game to protect Burrow, but with the outcome in the balance the protection didn't hold up.

Carl from Onalaska, WI

Any explanation on the Chiefs' overturned first-down challenge? A first down isn't like crossing the end zone. If a player pulls the ball back voluntarily, shouldn't he be spotted where the ball ended up? Like when a player runs backwards, it's not spotted where he was.

My thoughts exactly, and other readers were on the same page. I didn't understand it. The replay booth suddenly decided to treat the first-down line like the goal line. They made that one up. Phony, bogus reversal.

Shaun from Bayside, WI

Both of these games, the officials left their footprint. How does a championship game crew let a team have a do-over on a critical part of the game? It just always felt like the officials were going to call something on every important play.

I've come to expect the officiating to have a major impact on every game. It's not fun to watch in that regard. But with that mindset, then I'm pleasantly surprised when it doesn't happen. The NFL will look at the boffo TV ratings for that AFC title game and move on.

Kevin from Chemung, IL

Every year the road to the Super Bowl is littered with the victims of mind-numbing calls and non-calls that leave even casual fans questioning whether football is simply scripted entertainment. I realize that the players, coaches, and even the officials are human beings who make mistakes. And I'm willing to concede that controversy keeps the sport in the spotlight. But at what point does the specter of gambling improprieties force the NFL to address, and fix, the problem?

That's the only thing that might do it, because the NFL has now cozied up to the gambling industry to get a slice of that economic pie. But I'm not holding my breath. Every call that swings a bet benefits as many people as it hurts, or at least close to it. The league knows the gamblers aren't going away, just as they know the TV viewers aren't either.

John from Elgin, IL

What is MVS costing the Chiefs? Woulda, coulda, shoulda!

Kudos to MVS on a strong game and Super Bowl berth, but the Packers were not going to pay him $10M per year. That kind of contract was a non-starter given Green Bay's cap situation, and he made a good business decision for himself.

Tom from Draper, UT

Hey Insiders, we all were amazed by Smith's catch on the opening drive of the Eagles vs. 49ers game. We saw four or five camera angles and all assumed it was a catch. Then after the touchdown and commercial break, we saw the only angle that showed the ball and it was clearly a drop. What camera angles are available to the 49ers' staff in that situation? Where was the league office? Is this another flaw in the replay system?

Clearly, but on the initial live look, I wasn't sure he caught it, and while the initial replays didn't show the ball hitting the ground, they didn't confirm a catch either. The booth should've been able to fix that with replay assist, because it has immediate access to all angles, whether shown on TV or not (the coaches' booths have TV feeds only). But with it coming on fourth down, it was an obvious moment for the 49ers to challenge it. I'll never fault a coach for challenging something uncertain in a change-of-possession situation. There was too much at stake there not to. First-and-goal for them or turnover on downs and you get the ball, when it's obviously iffy? Throw the red flag.

Mike from Cascade, ID

Happy Monday Mike, I get that the QB situation was tough to overcome, but I can't help feel that the 49ers beat the 49ers.

San Francisco's early plan to deal with Reddick was at best risky, at worst negligent, and the 49ers paid for it. Dearly. That's football. Shanahan did a phenomenal job getting the 49ers that far with a rookie seventh-round pick at QB, but he's going to spend the offseason thinking about a protection call that had a backup tight end blocking one of the league's best edge rushers. It's a nightmare scenario, and the nightmare occurred.

Keith from Truro, Canada

Hi Mike, it looks like there's a very strong possibility that Bisaccia could be the new Colts HC. Hate to see him go but it would be well deserved. Would one of his assistants take over his spot if Rich ends up with the coaching job?

Congrats to Bisaccia on getting a second interview in Indy. I don't know if LaFleur would turn the special teams over to Byron Storer or not. Storer has never been a coordinator before, but the Packers are his fourth club as a special teams assistant. It would be a great career opportunity for him, but it would be up to LaFleur whether he's ready for it.

Terrance from Sun Prairie, WI

What can the special teams do to improve in the offseason?

I would suspect a lot of the special-teams periods in OTAs this spring will be focused on protection. Four blocked kicks (two punts, one FG, one PAT) were way too many.

Jim from Arkdale, WI

Hello II. I thought Gray was liked in Green Bay. What's up with his contract?

Jerry Gray was well-liked, especially by his players. But he let his contract expire so he could explore other opportunities and he found one. Part of the business.

Mikah from Brooklyn, NY

What is it about the coaching cycle and snubbing interim HCs? Many including myself thought Steve Wilks did an admirable job in Carolina, and even more people thought Bisaccia was awesome in LV. Is it the desire for an offensive mind? Or is it more similar to the way teams abandon quarterbacks because they believe they've hit their ceiling?

I don't know. Carolina bypassing Wilks for Reich, which stunned me, certainly adds fuel to the fire of the Flores lawsuit. I've never been privy to a head coach interview, but my understanding is candidates are asked to lay out a long-term vision for how to win a Super Bowl. Decision-makers are going to believe in certain visions and not others.

Dennis from Parrish, FL

Mike must have been on Friday mode when he stated that the Packers got a second-round pick when Mike Holmgren signed with the Seahawks. Where is the following, "That pick was used to select … "?

Fred Vinson.

Tom from Burlington, WI

Good morning Inbox, Nathaniel Hackett has had a busy 364 days. Is life in the NFL often just as crazy for coaches as it is for players?

This time of year, more so. By a longshot.

Ray from Phoenix, AZ

I read a review on the Packers' current roster and it sure looks like the team has a pretty good handle on the O- and D-line. We are short on edge rusher, receiver and tight end. That would make me think the top draft choice comes at one of those positions, right?

Not in my book. The least surprising top pick to me would be a defensive or offensive lineman or edge rusher.

James from Appleton, WI

Do you think Tariq Carpenter has been pigeonholed as a tweener safety/linebacker, or does he have a chance to become a starting safety?

I wouldn't rule anything out, but his next move after a strong rookie year on special teams will be to maximize his versatility to find a role in a nickel or dime sub-package and go from there. One step at a time.

TK from Grafton, WI

How come the NFL draft is not "serpentine"? Is it to increase the advantage for the teams picking early?


Joe from Hampshire, IL

Mike, do you go to Brewer spring training ever? Or does the timing conflict too much with free agency and pre-draft? Best spectator memory there and/or in Milwaukee?

I've never been to any MLB spring training but definitely need to go sometime. I have a ton of memories from Milwaukee but two that stand out are being at County Stadium for the (separate) pregame ceremonies when Robin Yount and Paul Molitor had their jersey numbers retired.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

Over recent years the Packers and other teams have used void years to push cap money beyond the length of the contract. My question is when the contract concludes, and the void years automatically void does this have any impact on whether the team can get a compensatory pick the following year?

I don't believe so.

Al from Green Bay, WI

There was much offseason discussion last year about who would be the Packers' No. 1 receiver after Davante was traded. Lazard led the team with 56 catches for 747 yards and six TDs. Watson had 36 catches for 507 yards and seven TDs. By the numbers, Lazard was tops. But I would suggest that the No. 1 receiver on any team is the guy that strikes fear into the hearts of defensive coordinators. With all due respect to Lazard, that guy is Watson by a mile. Agree? No?

Totally agree, but I'll quibble with the semantics. Nobody really fears anybody in this league. There are guys who impact how an opponent defends you, and Watson became that guy. Had it not been for the injuries, he would've been that guy much sooner, and I believe that was the plan and expectation all along.

Nate from Hartford, WI

The word that I think defines the Pack's offense this year is "hesitant." It seemed the play calls took a long time, and then many times Rodgers seemed to not know where to go with the ball or mental mistakes were being made. My question is, did the playbook get too complicated? Too many cues/options within each play? And, if Love were the QB next year…would the playbook be simpler, thereby helping the young receiving corps?

Hesitant might be a good word, but in my mind not for the reasons you mention. I just don't think the Packers ever figured out what they were best at, what they could hang their hat on when they needed something. Injuries up front and at receiver played a part, as did the overall transition and youth at receiver, and the offense didn't lean on the running game as much as I thought it would, especially early on. Watson's emergence gave them something, but even then the red zone and goal-to-go never got squared away. Whoever the QB is in 2023, the Packers need to find what they're good at, quickly, build on it, and then figure out how to finish drives.

Jake from Greenfield, WI

When you guys are covering games, Lambeau or elsewhere, do you have access to more replays or angles than what they show the crowd? I love going to games, but watching at home has the added benefit of much more replays and explanations. When at the Lions game to end the season, I had to text my dad twice to see what happened with the Douglas and Walker penalties.

There are screens playing the TV broadcast in the press box, so we get a look at those replays, or at least I try when I can take my eyes off the field or my live-blog screen.

Frogger from Marinette, WI

Hey Mike, you better go back and look at Sharpe's tape. Even "Prime Time" couldn't cover him.

I'm not convinced he could've covered Adams either, had their careers intersected.

Emma from Davenport, FL

Sure, it can get loud in a lot of stadiums, but I can't think of an atmosphere that is louder than Arrowhead. What is the loudest stadium/game you've covered for the Packers?

Indoors: New Orleans. Outdoors: Seattle.

Kerry from Lakewood Ranch, FL

Looks like the bye is more important than ever.

And the extra week off now should do wonders for Mahomes' ankle. What a Herculean effort by the current top QB in the game. He made one mistake with the fumble. Huge play, but that was about it. Incredible performance.

Janet from Auburn, WA

Is there a better matchup in the NFL right now than Mahomes-Burrow? I can't wait for next year's Chiefs-Bengals game.

The rivalry has the makings of Brady-Manning long term.

Patsi from Riverside, CA

Wow. First game not so much. Second game – Thriller. Here's hoping the Super Bowl will be that much fun to watch as well.

Should be a good one. Happy Monday.

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