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Inbox: Teams that compete as one win as one

Third-down efficiency is a reflection of early execution

Packers' running backs AJ Dillon, Aaron Jones and TE Tyler Davis
Packers' running backs AJ Dillon, Aaron Jones and TE Tyler Davis

Glen from Leesburg, VA

Win the one-on-one battles and stop making stupid mistakes. It's an oversimplified game plan, but that's what the Packers need to do this Sunday and every Sunday the rest of the season. The rest will take care of itself.

It starts with winning first down. Too many times on Sunday the Packers were sitting in second-and-10-plus. Third-down efficiency is a reflection of early-down execution.

Jack from Deerfield, IL

What is the key to winning this game for the offense?

Moving the chains and protecting the football. This is as tough as it gets for any NFL team. Buffalo's defense ranks No. 1 in both total yards and scoring defense. The one team that beat the Bills this season (Miami) did so by playing clean football, capitalizing on explosive plays and being efficient in the red zone. Still, Buffalo leads the league with 10 interceptions and is third with 13 takeaways. You need to play well all four quarters to beat the Bills.

Mike from Cascade, ID

Hi II, there's been a lot of talk the past few seasons about receivers' gaining the trust of Aaron Rodgers. I think currently that would include Aaron Jones, Robert Tonyan, Randall Cobb and Allen Lazard. Do you feel that Sammy Watkins is streaming toward earning that same trust level? I've been interested in seeing Watkins' involvement in the passing game.

That process started in training camp. Before Watkins was shut down for a month, I thought his performance in Minnesota was indicative of that burgeoning chemistry with QB1. Watkins was on a rep count last week (28 snaps, 52%) but expect him to be a big part in this offense moving forward.

Brian from Urbana, IL

Thanks for always keeping things in perspective, my guys. As for me, I think two things about this game: First, I'll always enjoy watching the boys in primetime, in good times and in lean times. Second, if we pull off the upset, there'll be all kinds of articles about how people overreacted and spoke too soon and such. But that's just my two cents.

Narratives are what you make them. When you win, pundits build stories around the success. When you lose three in a row, they identify the shortcomings. That's why teams have to stay balanced. On a six-month timeline, consistency always wins in this league.

Terry from Green Bay, WI

Good morning, II. Everyone seems to be complaining about the play-calling which brings up my question. Say a run play up the middle is called. Aaron sees the defense has an extra guy in the box because they know we want to run the ball. So, he "cans" the run and switches the call to a pass play. Are the two plays always one a run and one a pass? Or could they both be runs just in different directions? Thanks.

I suppose you could audible to run the play in another direction, but they use the RPO acronym for a reason – run/pass option. When a team loads the box, typically the QB is looking to capitalize on a one-on-one matchup elsewhere. It's no different than the hot read on a blitz. You want to fit the ball to the vacancy.

Ryan from Reno, NV

I hear a lot of chatter about not using Aaron Jones enough. By my math, between his eight carries and 10 targets he was involved in roughly 38% of our plays last game. This sounds high to me. Does he really need more touches?

The problem last week wasn't Jones not getting enough touches. It was the Packers not having enough plays.

Bill from Wilmington, DE

Wes, good morning! Going into this season I really thought we were a fully loaded team (even without Adams). I am beyond disappointed so far, but I do have some faith. Do you think time of possession and keeping the defense on the field too long is the biggest problem?

That's part of it. The Packers have won so many games under Matt LaFleur by controlling the tempo and shortening games. They haven't won the time-of-possession battle enough this season.

Kelly from Stoughton, WI

The joy of reading the title and then seeing your question published and THEN reading your answer was the title is unparalleled. You guys are the best! Again, in my game planning I'm trying to figure out how you prevent a shootout here? How does GB stick with the run here? Buffalo's rush defense is good, but I suspect that most teams are playing from behind. If you win the coin flip, is coach Wes taking the ball or putting your defense out there?

For all the Packers' issues during the recent losing streak, the defense's performance in the first half hasn't been among them. So, I say defer and allow the defense to extract some early momentum. The Packers define "winning" on running plays, or run solutions, as at least four yards on first down, and then halving the remaining distance on second down. I believe Green Bay can win this game but needs some plays of 4-5 yards to get drives going.

The Green Bay Packers held practice at Clarke Hinkle Field on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022.

Subhadeep from Middletown, CT

Follow-up question on your answer from Matt saying we abandoned the Hail Mary when Washington blitzed. So, if it is the last play of the game to win by a TD, how do you intend to score that TD if you get blitzed? If the lateral musical chairs is only way to score a TD if D is blitzing, as a D, I will always blitz on last play preventing a Hail Mary. So why doesn't D always blitz on last play where Hail Mary is the only passing-play TD possible?

The Packers had numbers. It's like meshing the hot read on a blitz pickup and a screen play. The number of defenders behind Tonyan, the higher percentage of a positive outcome. The Packers got really close to pulling it off. As Spoff said, it would've been a moot point because the refs would've blown the blindside block call, but Green Bay's execution was actually pretty good on that lateral.

Frank from Lake Zurich, IL

Concerning staying the course vs. change direction, do you have a sense where the coaching staff is at with each position group? Are the expected changes more focused on personnel groupings or play-calling?

I'm not sure. Going into the Washington game, I think we all had a feeling Yosh Nijman might move to right tackle and Elgton Jenkins would bounce back inside. But I couldn't give you a breakdown of which players and positions will be featured in Buffalo. Part of that is injuries (e.g. Allen Lazard and Christian Watson) but it's also figuring out what's working best in the scheme. Behind closed doors, I'm sure the Packers have their preliminary plans for how to attack.

Rod from Mt. Calvary, WI

Has there been any word on Christian Watson? It would be great to see him get a breakout out game against the Bills. And how does Kawaan Baker look? I know he's on the practice squad, but it sounds like he's got some speed we are lacking right now.

Watson was back at practice Wednesday in a limited capacity, so that was good to see. The Packers need him. I don't know a whole lot about Baker, though. He's got some explosiveness to his game.

Barton from Tulum, Mexico

Packers have two promising young receivers on the practice squad with good size and speed in Travis Fulgham and Juwann Winfree. Will both be activated for the Bills game? Which one knows LaFleur's offense best and can avoid mental errors?

Everything is on the table, though Winfree would need to be signed to the active roster. He's already reached the maximum of three elevations for the season.

Steven from Golden Valley, MN

Given the small sample size Amari Rodgers has been deployed as a wideout, he has shown some semblance of being a viable option, and he's healthy. We know he's lost confidence fielding punts, so could he solely be used as a WR? Any thoughts ML/AS/AR might involve and target him more possibly creating some rapport/rhythm? At this juncture, how could it hurt as Amari appears to be hanging by a roster thread as it is?

Again, everything is on the table. Rodgers has had some ups and downs, but I like his effort level. The kid competes. He threw a few nice blocks in that game, too.

Oliver from Los Angeles, CA

First and foremost, Go Pack Go! It has been tough this season but I still believe. What do you think is the root issue with the Packers' offense? Is it the O-line shuffle, missed assignments, a disconnect with the receivers?

It's all the above. When the pass protection has faltered, the running game produces. When the running game gets stymied, the passing game looks good. When there's been a perfect pass, there's been a drop. The engine is firing. We're seeing it work, but everything hasn't been in sync…yet.

Kary from Sheboygan, WI

I respectfully disagree with the notion that there are no moral victories. In 2010, when the Packers found out they were not eliminated from the playoffs was one. After the loss to Washington in 2016, when we got the "run the table" comment, was another. I don't believe they happen every year, but the way the team plays, even in a loss, can absolutely improve confidence.

The 2016 Washington game was interesting in that the Packers lost 42-24 but found a weapon they desperately needed in Jared Cook. They came out next week in Philly and the legend of Davante Adams began. Predictably, Rodgers was exceptional in both games. Like I said Monday, Green Bay needs to find that moment. You can't force it, but it needs to happen.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

It seemed like Elgton Jenkins looked pretty good at guard. Do my eyes match reality?

Elgton did fine – and he would've been fine at right tackle, too, over the long haul. What this move back to left guard does, though, is it allows Jenkins to regroup at his home base. It's also the blueprint for how the Packers developed their past offensive lines – having their best tackle (David Bakhtiari) and best guard (Jenkins) protecting Aaron Rodgers' blindside (a la Bryan Bulaga/Bakhtiari and Josh Sitton in 2013).

Tyler from Fox Crossing, WI

OK, I just have to say it. I get Rodgers is frustrated with the inconsistency around him, but what good does calling teammates out in public do? Should these be more closed-door conversations? From my perspective he hasn't been exactly perfect this year either.

Rodgers was asked this question Wednesday and said it's conversations he's had privately, too. It's not like he's going to go on the record with something he isn't already saying in meetings. But it's important to understand public reaction to criticism differs greatly from how that's viewed inside the building. Every week, these players are going through corrections – from the guys on the practice squad to a four-time MVP like Rodgers. It's being a professional. For example, here's what Sammy Watkins had to say on the topic: "This is a business. If you're not performing or executing or doing the things that you're supposed to be doing, then I'm with Aaron. If I'm not playing well and I'm freaking up and busting plays, get me out of the game because that's not helping the team. I think that's a wake-up call to everybody, wake-up call to myself. I try to limit myself to having one M.A. (missed assignment) a game and that's my goal. The goal is to have none, but things happen in the fire. I'm with Aaron, man." Nobody is above reproach. Rodgers said, "We all need to be on the details and that includes me." Every player on the 53-man roster can do more to help this team win. More importantly, to a man, they also want to do more. Teams that compete as one win as one…and the Packers want to win.

Dave from Fort Knox, KY

Real odds of Packers doing a trade prior to deadline for big-named player? Seems by past history the odds are very slim along with the cap status for this year.

Are "real odds" like the first cousin of "strenuously object"? What are the chances of the Packers doing a deal prior to the trade deadline? I'd say better than after it.

Tom from Mt. Juliet, TN

Why the refrain from discussing the officiating? Is it because you are employees of the Packers and can be fined? If not, tell it like it is.

There's nothing to be gained from it. I can say the officiating was bad without fear of having to put a quarter in the swear jar, but at the end of the day, I'm a team employee and it just looks like sour grapes. Moving on.

Richard from Madison, WI

Wes, for those who lack Spoff's encyclopedic knowledge of the game (or who came to it only in the last two decades), you might offer this tidbit: "Playoffs? Don't talk about – playoffs?! You kidding me? PLAYOFFS?! I just hope we can win a game! ANOTHER game!" – Jim E. Mora (1935- ) American football coach, response to a question in 2001 about the Indianapolis Colts' postseason chances after a loss in which his offense turned the ball over five times.

Offering his birth year in the submission got a chuckle out of me. Thank you for that.

Phil from Oshkosh, WI

All I want this Sunday is to see some real FIGHT from the Green Bay Packers. Is that asking too much?


Jacob from Melbourne, Australia

Beating the Super Bowl-favorite Buffalo Bills, on the road, in primetime, as an extreme underdog, when the sky appears to be falling down around us? If there's a better way to galvanize the team and announce to the world that "we aren't done yet," I'd like to hear about it! Nothing cures quite like winning. Just beat the Bills.

I'm not counting the Packers out. Very little about this NFL season has made sense, so it's plausible Green Bay walks into Buffalo and shocks the football world. But again, it'll take a strong week of preparation and focus to do it.

Will from Milwaukee, WI

"It's easy to grin, when your ship has come in, and you've got the (NFL) beat. But the man who's worthwhile, is the one who can smile, when his pants are too tight in the seat." Can this Packers team still smile and get the job done against the Bills? Are they sticking together through adversity?

OK, Gary from Bear Valley. Do the honors.

Gary from Bear Valley, WI

My wife informed me yesterday I have been hanging our Packers flag on the wrong side of the deck for game day. Starting Sunday, I will correct my mental error and place the flag on the correct end of the deck. I look forward to watching the Packers playing better the rest of the year. Go Pack Go!

It's rally cap, err…flag, time. Have a great day, everyone.

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