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Inbox: Packers can’t let him get comfortable

Lions QB Matthew Stafford
Lions QB Matthew Stafford

Renee from Green Bay, WI

Green Bay has now shown the NFL they can be successful both running and passing the football. Up next is the Detroit Lions and for some reason many fans are looking past them, not a clue why, they are a good football team. When was the last time the Packers had a perfect record in their division and what is the Packers’ biggest concern coming into this game?

The Packers haven’t gone 6-0 in the NFC North since 2011. It’s not easy to do. Other than overall health against a team that will likely be at full health (or close to it) coming off a bye, I think the biggest concerns are the very things LaFleur brought up both after the game Sunday and again on Monday. Big plays allowed on defense and third downs on offense. The Packers have a lot of work to do in both areas.

Will from Green Bay, WI

For most of the 2000s the Packers beat up on the Lions, but GB has now lost four in a row and five out of seven in the series. I know some of this is due to Aaron's injuries/unique circumstances, but what will it take for the Packers to get back on track against their divisional rivals?

Aside from what I already mentioned, this game will be about preventing Stafford from getting in a rhythm. I recall writing in this space after the ’17 season that his Monday night performance at Lambeau Field that year signaled change was coming on defense barring a miraculous turnaround. Stafford was in complete command that game, start to finish. The Packers couldn’t do anything to rattle him and he appeared to know everything the defense was running. Last year was just the start of the transition on defense here, and now it’s a new scheme paired with a lot of new personnel for him to figure out. The Packers can’t let him get comfortable with what he’s seeing.

Brandon from Kawkawlin, MI

What is the best Packers-Lions memory? Is it the ’93 wild-card game from Favre to Sharpe? The Hail Mary from Rodgers to Rodgers in MoTown? Or that time Matt Flynn diced up Detroit on the last game of the year for six touchdowns and a win?

It has to be the Hail Mary. But at Lambeau Field, for me it was an injured Rodgers emerging from the tunnel to the “M-V-P” chants in the ’14 finale and returning to the game to win the NFC North and get a first-round bye. The Barry Sanders shutdown in the ’94 playoffs was remarkable, too, but I’m biased toward games I witnessed in person vs. on TV.

Brady from Madison, WI

Mike Daniels is a passionate, intense guy. With the Packers facing Daniels on his new team on Monday night, do you think he'll be in a friendly mood when he sees his old teammates, or will he be all business until the final score is recorded? I'd think, if anybody, he and Kenny Clark would have a moment together in pregame.

Pregame, in shorts and a T-shirt, I suspect Daniels will share plenty of hugs and handshakes with former teammates. Once he puts on that helmet, though, he’ll be in no mood for pleasantries.

Bill from Nairobi, Kenya

Hi Mike, I really enjoyed this week's WYMM. It made me wonder about the crackback-block rule. You pointed out how Jimmy Graham knocked the defender over. It looked great. Since the defender was turned upfield, could Graham's hit have drawn a flag, or have I misunderstood the rule?

If you’re referring to blindside blocks, those are when the offensive player is facing or moving back toward his own end zone rather than the one the offense is progressing toward. Graham was facing the right way, so he was fine.

Amy from Bayport, MN

I can’t get enough of those joint interviews with Za’Darius and Preston. Their genuine affection for each other is obvious and the way they interact is almost as fun to watch as their stellar play on the field. It’s hard to overstate the impact of signing this free-agent duo. There have been a lot of comments about there being a different feel to the Packers this year. I truly believe the Smiths have changed the chemistry not just on the defense but for the entire team.

The Packers projected that their best years were ahead of them, their proverbial arrows pointing up. So far the Smiths are proving them right. The vibe and chemistry to it all have been a huge bonus. Those elements help you bounce back from kicks in the teeth like the loss to the Eagles. There will be more responses needed, and these two will continue to be leaders in those times.

Allen from Birmingham, AL

II, here's a trend Rodgers alluded to we hope continues: Through the first five games the Packers haven't scored less than the previous week. Thirty-one or more should be good enough versus most opponents in the NFC.

The trend won’t carry on forever, but the most promising development is the last two games the Packers found some passing rhythm vs. the Eagles and a formidable running game at Dallas. Rodgers hadn’t thrown for more than 235 yards in a game until his 422 against Philly, and Jones had been held to 40 yards on the ground over the previous two games before last Sunday. Now, get healthy and let’s see where it goes.

Josh from Melbourne, Australia

All the talk about questionable refereeing got me wondering, is the standard of refereeing actually getting worse? Are the refs not being held accountable for mistakes enough? Or does it just look worse because of technology and how fans and pundits dissect plays in increasingly fine detail?

It’s the latter for me, but also the now incredibly byzantine rulebook that requires them to watch for things – in many instances without the benefit of replay backup – that officials 20 years ago never had to worry about. The job has never been more complicated and with more unfair expectations, in my book.

Dominic from Chesapeake, VA

What happened to Dexter Williams? He was on the active roster last weekend, but Tra Carson was later activated for the game. Just curious as to the events that led to this.

The coaches trust Carson more in pass protection and as a receiver out of the backfield right now. It was evident during training camp Williams needs to improve in those areas, and he has, but Carson is more reliable even if Williams might be the more dynamic ball carrier.

Kyle from Osceola, WI

So can we assume Tra Carson is the new third running back on the depth chart? Or was he all along?

My read on the situation is he was all along, once he returned to the practice squad. But the Packers figured he had a better chance to clear waivers than Williams, as far as their end-of-camp decisions were concerned.

Carolyn from Greenlawn, NY

Since Jamaal traveled with the team to Dallas am I correct in cautiously assuming that he is progressing in the concussion protocol?

Based on my past experience and observations, there have been plenty of positive signs. We’ll see if he’s back on the practice field Thursday.

Tom from Lehi, UT

From the respect I’ve seen Aaron Jones show towards others, based on his upbringing, I wouldn’t be as concerned with Ben Sirmans’ feedback as I would be with his mother’s.

Good one.

Steve from Middletown, KY

Did you watch the Sunday and Monday night games? I can't believe I saw a player in each game give the same wave as 33 to a defensive player while on the way into the end zone. I know this is a copycat league, but that didn't take long to catch on. What has he possibly started?

Only what one flag will end.

Rich from Grand Rapids, MI

Ben from Winston, OR, had a great point that may not have been clear to Wes. It is undisputed that red-zone offense has underwhelmed. His point is that we are a couple of seconds away from being two touchdowns (and maybe one win) better. In a league of thin margins that bears mentioning. Also, don't tell Kevin Koger (or our other QC coaches) not to look in rear-view mirror – that is his job. I guarantee that the Lions' defensive QC coaches are aware of those near misses by 12.

I hear you on thin margins, but to say the red-zone offense has “underwhelmed” simply isn’t accurate. It was one bad game vs. Philly, 3-of-7. In the other four games, the Packers are 10-of-12 in the red zone. Yes, two of the six total stops were first-and-goals at the 1, and those are frustrating, but 13-of-19 overall is currently tied for fifth in the league. Any team would take that.

Ryan from Whitesburg, KY

Is it just me or does Aaron Jones get tackled awkwardly often? Why do you think this is? Possibly his running style? I find myself wincing quite a few times every game thinking he's hurt because of how he was brought down. We need him healthy!

It’s his running style, from what the players say, and it’s a good thing. Rodgers has noted before how Jones’ shiftiness allows him to avoid taking a lot of direct blows, which should prolong his career. Yes, he’s had knee issues his first two years in the league, but I don’t think they’ve been the result of awkward tackles.

Carol from Manitowoc, WI

In the game against Dallas, Rodgers had no touchdowns and no interceptions as we all know. How many times has Rodgers done this before and the Packers still won?

After some quick research, this was the sixth time Rodgers did not throw a TD pass and the Packers still won the game. Interestingly, three of the six have been games at Chicago (’09, ’10 NFC Championship, ’16). The others were in ’10 at the Jets and ’12 vs. Detroit. Only once in those six games did he throw an interception. He had two in the NFC title game at Soldier Field.

Ferd from Woodbury, MN

Is the Pack “for real”? REALLY? Ask Dallas fans after the Cowboys started 3-0 against struggling teams. Ask here in the Land of Purple as Cousins looks great against non-playoff bound teams and then comes up woefully short in big games. Don’t ask in Green Bay. There’s been no smoke or mirrors. Get and stay healthy and enjoy the ride. This is as real as it gets in the NFL!

There are no fake victories in this league.

Brandon from Girard, FL

During the Bucs-Saints game, the Bucs challenged there was a fumble by the Saints when it was initially ruled down by contact. The call was reversed to a fumble, but there was no clear recovery so it stayed Saints’ ball. Despite the call being overturned, the Bucs lost the challenge and a timeout. Is being awarded the recovery the only way for them to win the challenge?

Yes, if they didn’t have a clear recovery, they shouldn’t have challenged it.

Scott from Greensburg, IN

Rules question: Did we have the option of re-kicking after the running-into-the-punter call? I realize we had Dallas "fairly deep in their own territory," after the punt, but if we would've preferred to re-kick to kill a few more valuable seconds, did we have that option? If so, am I correct we would've kicked from five yards from the previous spot? The official said we declined. Five yards taken away at the spot of the catch seems more fair if there's no re-kick. Keep up the awesome work.

The Packers could have taken the five yards and re-kicked, but Scott’s punt was 58 yards with a 9-yard return. A net of 49 is outstanding and you take that anytime rather than quibble about another 7-8 seconds on the clock and tempting fate against a returner like Tavon Austin.

Adam from Wausau, WI

Hey Mike, to answer Howie's question from Monday about Garrett being flagged when he threw his challenge flag, it wasn't that the refs missed the call. It was that Garrett had to use his final challenge with a quarter of football left to go. Now imagine if that happened in the second quarter instead of the third. I know you said this before and I 100% agree with you, coaches should be able to challenge until they get two wrong (and as long as they have a timeout). The NFL needs to change this.

It has seemed like a no-brainer to me for a long time.

Dave from Edina, MN

The problem with Skip Bayless is people mistake him for a sports analyst. He does not get paid to provide thoughtful analysis. He gets paid to make statements that no informed and objective observer would agree with. If he was a sports analyst he'd be terrible at his job, but he is very good at his real job of trolling for views.

Click-bait with no Wi-Fi required.

Max from Ingolstadt, Germany

In the postgame press conference, Rodgers talked about the locker room being closer together, people liking each other more and a new leadership that hadn't been there before, and a lot of the media got crazy and blamed him for taking cheap shots at Mike McCarthy. I feel like that wasn't about the coaching staff at all, but the additions in the locker room like the Smiths. Am I being naive? I really see no shots fired here.

I took those comments to be about the new players on the roster.

Dan from Sao Paulo, Brazil

Hello, Mike. After listening to Lucas Patrick's interview yesterday, I can understand why Wes said he has a lot of respect for the guy. It's really easy to like that down-to-earth, blue-collar attitude of his. What about you, Mike, do you have any stories or anecdotes about Patrick to share with us?

Nothing specific, other than really enjoying the conversation I and a handful of other reporters had with him yesterday. His insights into Rodgers’ leadership are worth reading about, and I did my best to sum them up in the story I wrote.

Ray from Clark, NJ

Mike, I have mixed feelings about the Packers’ defense so far. They have made a lot of big plays (turnovers and sacks), but have also given up a lot 20-plus-yard plays. What is your overall assessment of this defense at this point?

It can make game-changing plays and it can give them up. So far the ledger is tilted the right way. It needs to stay that way until the feast-or-famine settles down a little bit, which I think it will, and I believe the unit has the personnel to win when that time comes.

Scott from Fredonia, WI

Spoff, was it a coincidence that you were reminded of the “Finding Nemo” phrase during the game when Dory's voice was in the stadium?

The universe works in mysterious ways. Happy Wednesday.

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