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Inbox: It was part of that defensive performance

That’s a mountain, not a molehill

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Lambeau Field

Stefan from Bonaduz, Switzerland

Just beat the baloney.

That's a first. I like it.

Mike from St. Louis Park, MN

Welcome to #fake news, rumors and clickbait season and we thought it was bad last year. Ugh! Not for me!

We're not there yet, but we will be all too soon.

Aumed from Moorhead, MN

This game has become a very huge part of my life. Yet, a part of me wishes my 10-year-old self had never accidently stumbled upon a legendary wild-card game between Aaron Rodgers and Kurt Warner while flipping through channels in 2009 and hence bringing me into the world of American football and Packer nation. Would you be surprised if many fans just took a break for a while after the last 12 years? I know I'm seriously considering it just because it's become emotionally draining at this point.

That's up to you. To me, we all need things to matter in our life that don't really matter, if you know what I mean. It's part of our emotional being. Despite all the heartbreaks inherent in the spectacle of sport, I can't imagine not caring anymore.

Richard from Monrovia, CA

Like many fans I have such an emotional investment in the Packers. I was mad at Aaron, mad at Matt and of course at the not so special teams, but after hearing Matt's final press conference I returned to a feeling of hope. We are lucky to have Matt as the head coach. It's easy to understand the culture they have there because of the way he carries himself. He is a man's man. While not perfect he strives for perfection and looks to inspire others to do the same. Can't ask for more than that.

The culture he's established and maintained is not easy to achieve in the NFL, and it's a big part of this team's success. He'll never lose sight of that. He's also constantly self-introspective regarding anything he feels he can do better. The dual we/I monitoring makes him the coach he is.

Paul from Palm Desert, CA

Total crapshoot.

Maybe people will believe me now after those four games last weekend. I don't know how anyone can realistically look at the playoffs any other way.

Richard from Livermore, CA

I don't get the comments regarding "what will it take for the Pack to compete with the NFL elite?" The NFL has always been seeking parity and they achieved it this year with all four divisional playoff games going down to the final play. In my opinion the Pack was only a play or two away from beating or losing to any of them.

Ding ding ding.

Dale from Palmyra, NE

Good morning gentlemen. Please help me out. I hear talk that the Bills should have squib-kicked to take time off the clock. If the clock doesn't start until the receiving team touches the ball, couldn't the receiving team down it when they touched it? Or fair caught it? Thanks for the lessons and entertainment you guys provide daily.

Yes, but a squib or pooch kick has a good chance to make the Chiefs start short of the 25 if they want all 13 seconds.

Tom from Dubuque, IA

Thanks, Mike and Wes, for everything you do throughout the season. I know you don't like to talk about the future while the season is in progress, but now that the season has come to a painful end could you list the upcoming Packers free agents? Obviously everything hinges on the Rodgers/Adams status but who else could move on or is restricted?

The unrestricted free agents on offense are Davante Adams, Robert Tonyan, Lucas Patrick, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, and Dennis Kelly. On defense, they are De'Vondre Campbell, Rasul Douglas, Chandon Sullivan, Tyler Lancaster, Oren Burks, Kevin King and Whitney Mercilus. The one restricted free agent is Allen Lazard.

Eric from Green Bay, WI

I've noticed a pattern in our last three playoff losses. We've lost to the best D-line all three years. Each year we've had to field an O-line with fewer Pro Bowlers or All-Pros due to injury and free agency. You can get through regular seasons without your All-Pros but it's games like these where their absences are most noticeable. Rodgers has been sacked 13 times and hit 17 times in those three losses. You're not going to beat the best D-line without the best O-line. That's universal.

Fair point. The Chiefs certainly found that out in the Super Bowl last year, too. But there are ways to overcome. Joe Burrow was sacked nine times in Tennessee and the Bengals rushed for just 65 yards, but they found a way.

Patrick from Valrico, FL

A few weeks ago Bakhtiari implied that the only reason he played in Week 18 was because Rodgers asked him to do so. It appears that decision caused a bit of a setback and led to him being limited in practice and unavailable for the game. Do you feel his absence in the playoffs could have been avoided and do you think it might have made any difference?

Based on how David Bakhtiari looked in Detroit, I think he could have made a difference, but he also was winded and out of gas after 25 snaps in that game, not having played all season. So if he doesn't play in Detroit, it's hard to believe he could've played an entire playoff game in his first appearance, especially in cold weather that can be tough on the lungs. It feels like the whole deal was the proverbial catch-22.

Lucas from Morgantown, WV

I don't want to talk about special teams. Yes, it was a horrendous performance, but we only allowed 13 points. I also don't want to make any excuses for our offense. However, with both MVS and Dillon missing most of the game, I can only imagine the weight lifted off of their safeties. Am I wrong in thinking those two players make the biggest difference in the way teams load the box?

They are factors, sure, but the Packers spent all season overcoming injuries. They had what they needed to win. I'm sure of that.

Andy from Wisconsin Rapids, WI

Mike, I think the most frustrating part about this loss is that there are no excuses besides not playing good enough. Every playoff loss since the Super Bowl, we had something to point to – ran out of players in a position group, the defense just got whipped, or something concrete to point to and fix in the offseason. Not so much this offseason. (Obviously special teams needs addressing, but we should have been able to overcome that with the talent we had available.)

I agree, but there's also a difference between special-teams miscues that affect field position, and blunders that directly cost you 10 points in a low-scoring game. That's a mountain, not a molehill, in a defensive struggle.

Joe from Cedar Rapids, IA

Can we stop assuming that home field, on the frozen tundra, is the huge advantage we all thought it was? It certainly was from the '60s through the '90s but not in this new century. The crowd was great but it still comes down to players, plays and coaching.

Of course it does. But this is a popular take right now, and those dismissing playing at home in January need to stop and reconsider. I would argue it did provide an advantage in this case, but the Packers just didn't seize it. In the early-going, Kittle dropped a wide-open pass down the middle. Aiyuk lost one on the hit from Douglas, with the fumble unfortunately overturned via replay. Garoppolo threw a couple of slants behind his guys and some floaters toward the boundary, one of which could've been a pick-six. It's not a stretch to say those early miscues were related to the conditions, as the 49ers adjusted to playing in the cold. It's why I said Monday the Packers should have been in command of that game. But they weren't, never getting a multi-score lead, and eventually San Francisco settled in and dealt with the conditions better. Also, don't undersell the fact the Lambeau crowd kept Green Bay's defense energized throughout. It was part of that defensive performance. The outcome didn't turn out as hoped, and maybe it's not the edge it was in a previous generation, but I'd still rather take my chances at Lambeau in the playoffs than anywhere else.

Justin from Sammamish, WA

Hey guys, it occurred to me that if the Bills had held on for the win, all four road teams would have won in the divisional round. Has that ever happened before? I don't even remember a time when three road teams won (though knowing my memory it was probably like 4 or 5 years ago.)

This is also good to bring up for those wishing to discard home-field advantage based on one weekend's games. According to my research (which could be wrong), over the last dozen years, only twice did even two road teams win in the divisional round, in 2016 and 2010, involving the victorious Packers both times. Since the league merger, road teams have never swept all four, and the only times other than this year road teams won three of four were in 2008 and back in 1971.

Allen from Arlington, WA

I can't help but come back to the fact that as well as the defense played, Stokes missed a chance at a pick-six, and it seems someone else did too. Stokes is young so can't fault him too much, but that one play would very well have made all the other blunders moot. All first half I was practically begging for the Packers to go up more than one score.

I asked Stokes about that Monday, and he said he was expecting Garoppolo's pass to get there quicker than it did, so he focused on tackling Mitchell. He didn't realize how much the throw was wobbling and what an opportunity he had. Campbell also had a shot on a similar one to Kittle, but his was trickier.

Matthew from Roseville, MN

It's not easy to live up to expectations of an early first-round pick but Rashan Gary's regular-season play did just that. His play against San Francisco launched him into a different category, though. He looks like he is realizing his full strength. His strong first sack reminded me of Reggie White. So excited to see him next year.

And so many people wanted to call him a bust throughout his first two seasons. #hot-takes-exposed

JR from East Moline, IL

In terms of football-young players, I feel real good about the defense with Clark, Gary, Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes, Darnell Savage, Krys Barnes (not sure Barnes' age but seems on the younger side). Who would be the football-young core on the offense side? Elgton Jenkins, AJ Dillon?

Barnes was a rookie in 2020, so he certainly qualifies. As far as starters/regulars, others on offense include Josh Myers, Royce Newman, Yosh Nijman, Jon Runyan and Josiah Deguara, while Aaron Jones is still just 27.

David from Oak Hills, CA

I asked this question at the beginning of the year but I feel the need to ask it again. We have been spoiled as Packer fans for the last three decades with both Favre and Rodgers under center. Most fan bases would give anything to experience what we have had the opportunity to witness for the last 30 years. There's been a lot of amazing victories and baffling heartaches in it all. How will this era of Packers football go down in the history books?

As wildly successful, but not as epically successful as it could've been. I'm not conceding it's over, though. I'd go on my "Animal House" Bluto rant, but it's too soon, and I'd just have everyone questioning my knowledge of WWII history again.

Dan from Toledo, OH

Positive outlook: Had you guaranteed me at least the divisional round every year since LaFleur took over, I'd have signed up immediately. Negative outlook: LaFleur and Gute have their work cut out for them more than ever to keep this train rolling.

All valid.

Scott from Hamlin, NY

How hard is it to clear $40-60 million in cap space? Is the situation as dire as it appears or is this a routine offseason?

It's not routine by any means, but it's not doomsday. There will be tough calls to make, some inevitably painful, but they have a plan. It's not like they made all those cap moves and restructures last year without some ideas about how to work through to the other side.

Jeff from Montclair, VA

Guys, thanks in advance for a thankless job, answering all the questions this offseason about whether 12 will be back, including mine. In Monday's II, you stated that the Packers will start to build next year off of Rodgers and Adams. But didn't Aaron specifically state that he'd make a decision only AFTER seeing what the plans were for the rest of the team and discussing them with Gutey? Seems to me that he really meant it when he stated that he wasn't going to stick around to rebuild. Thanks.

I believe, and am thoroughly convinced now after hearing LaFleur on Monday, the Packers will present their plan to Rodgers and see what he thinks. Then some of the moves could change based on his decision, and/or possibly his input.

Kyle from Pittsburgh, PA

Who can I propose this solution to OT rules to so someone will listen? Go back to sudden death. NO COIN FLIP. The last team to score in regulation has to kick off in OT. End of story! I know people don't like sudden death. But this idea would take away any discussion about the "luck" of the coin flip deciding the game. It would also serve the interest of player safety because coaches would be compelled to go for touchdowns or two-point conversions more often if their defense was gassed.

I absolutely do not want to reopen the OT discussion we've had way too many times in this forum. So please, save it. But I owe a follow-up to my Monday comment, because now I think I could actually come around on an idea like this.

David from Minneapolis, MN

Well, that was terrible. My favorite story from the weekend is Andy Reid telling Mahomes before the last drive that "when it's grim, be the grim reaper." That is an all-time quote and made me happy after a bad weekend.

Great line.

Tom from Eau Claire, WI

I blame the poetry. It has made us all soft.

Spoken like a man I know who wears khakis and flip-flops.

Gary from Davenport, IA

Mike, at least you can start watching "Ozark" now rather than waiting a few more weeks. Not much of a consolation, but I'm trying to look at the bright side.

Sounds like tonight's as good a time as any to start diving into Season 4. No spoilers, please. Happy Wednesday.

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