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Inbox: That's what it means to be a team

Aaron Jones’ return to form was the biggest positive to draw from the win in Carolina

RB Aaron Jones
RB Aaron Jones

Dan from Rice Lake, WI

Mike/Wes, your dedication is much appreciated, but please, Christmas is for family, not II readers. Day before, day of or day after game is irrelevant, please take the day off. Any II reader who disagrees can see themselves out.

I enjoyed a wonderful Christmas with family, but it's back to work for the II crew. My son is tucked in bed, the cat is sleeping in my lap and Baltimore/San Francisco is on the tablet. Christmas is over and winter is here.

Jake from Madison, WI

I like Matt LaFleur and appreciate what he's helped this team accomplish during his tenure. But his postgame comments have become more and more troubling. Blaming the offense in part for yet another defensive letdown? Really? Am I missing something?

Yeah, you are. If you listened to what LaFleur said, he was talking about how the offense fell out of rhythm in the fourth quarter, including consecutive three-and-outs while Carolina was making its rally. The defense needs to play much better than it did down the stretch, but LaFleur was reminding everyone there are two other phases that have to get the job done, too. That's what it means to be a team. Leadership isn't spouting angry subreddits during an eight-minute news conference in the bowels of an NFL stadium. Real leaders review the tape, make the changes deemed necessary and keep their football team moving forward.

Paul from Port Charlotte, FL

Good morning. These so-called "Packers fans" drive me nuts with their complaints about a win. No such thing as a bad win. As Coach Herman Edwards said, "You play to win the game." Packers won now move on and get prepared for the Vikings and win it beautifully or ugly I don't care. JUST WIN! GPG.

Sunday's win is as valuable as the Packers choose to make it. Mistakes were made, but the defense played well enough early to survive the Panthers' second half. Green Bay doesn't have to be perfect to beat Minnesota, but it will need to play better than it did in Carolina.

Matt from Kolesin, Poland

You know it's not good when you are up by three, opponent's offense (one of the worst in the league) starts a drive from 25, with no timeouts, 19 seconds remaining, and you feel that everything can happen at this point. I know it's the game of inches and seconds but really the Panthers needed only one second more. Our D will have a long offseason. How the perspective can change in a few months.

There's plenty to critique with the defense, particularly in that second half, but I don't have time for the "one second more" crowd. One second is an eternity in sports. One second is the difference between greatness and regret. The spike was late. Time expired. The game was over. The Packers won.

Linda from Portage, WI

Why doesn't the defense try one-on-one coverage of receivers instead of the zone coverage that is eating up the Packers' defense time and time again?

I'm pretty sure the Packers played as much man-to-man defense as they have all season against the Panthers. The difference in the second half was Bryce Young started getting the ball out of his hand quicker and putting more touch on the ball. In those instances, the response is key. Players and coaches alike have to quash the momentum.

Anthony from Southington, CT

Who was it that spoke so eloquently in the locker room huddle after Matt LaFleur gave out the game ball? I couldn't quite place the voice. Merry Christmas.

That was Preston Smith. I'm glad our cameras captured that. Smith isn't one to draw attention to himself, but he's been doing those sort of things for the past five years.

Dan from Waxhaw, NC

From a shareholder who was at Sunday's game with my daughter I came away more positive than most. Unlike the last two weeks the Packers found a way to win when not playing their best, on the road in a must-win game. No turnovers, held the Panthers under 100 yards rushing. Aaron Jones rushing for 127 yards. Packer nation again out in force on the road. Yes, there is lots to correct and improve on, but also much to be thankful for. Merry Christmas and thanks for all you do!

Aaron Jones' return to form was the biggest positive to come out of the win in Carolina. I'm no scout, but the explosion is still very much there when I watch Jones hit a gap. I couldn't care less if Jones was classified as a running back, receiver or pianist – that's the playmaker this offense needs with Christian Watson, Jayden Reed and Dontayvion Wicks all banged up. When that Aaron Jones is on the field, defenses have to adjust, and his presence creates opportunities for those around him.

Brian from Sugar Land, TX

Many of the legion of keyboard experts are on social media proclaiming it would be a waste for the Packers to make the playoffs, expecting them to be embarrassed by their highly seeded opponent. How would you respond to that?

I'd call that a polluted mindset and wrong for two reasons: 1) Any given (whatever day of the week playoff games are now played) and B) how meaningful playoff experience can be for Jordan Love and a young roster. The Packers are chasing championships and championships require growth. The 2010 Packers don't happen without the 2009 squad.

George from North Mankato, MN

Hopefully we are catching the Vikings at the right time. I know we are banged up, but they are without Kirk Cousins, Alexander Mattison and likely Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson on offense. Also, a couple of defenders. Danielle Hunter is putting together a great season and Justin Jefferson and K.J. Osborn are able playmakers. Which players worry you the most?

Jefferson always concerns me for obvious reasons, but the player who worries me most is Hunter. He's playing at an All-Pro level again in Brian Flores' blitz-heavy defense. Hunter didn't just come back from a serious neck injury. He came back better than ever, and the Packers will need a better answer than the previous meeting at Lambeau Field in which Hunter had three tackles, two forced fumbles and a sack in a pear tree.

Tom from Palatine, IL

Very interested in seeing which version of our defense shows up in Minnesota. The Vikings' offense hasn't been that formidable in recent weeks with musical QBs but J.J. is back and he has always put up solid numbers against us (and virtually everyone else). We need a lot of help to make the playoffs even if we win the rest of the games, but I must say this season has kept my interest and I love what I have seen from the receivers and Jordan Love. GPG!

The name of this game is gonna be takeaways. Nick Mullens threw for more than 400 yards on Detroit's defense but was intercepted four times. The Lions don't win that game if they don't win the turnover battle as decisively as they did. The Packers need to generate pressure and takeaways to prevail against the Vikings, whose 30 giveaways are tied for second most in the league this season. Only Cleveland has more (32). Interestingly enough, Green Bay has now worked its way into the top 10 in fewest giveaways (16) after not turning the ball over against Carolina.

Johnny from Fort Myers, FL

With Jaire Alexander healthy but still very rusty, does it still make sense to start him against a very healthy Justin Jefferson?

I don't know if "healthy" is the word I'd choose, but Alexander's shoulder was good enough to play on Sunday. We'll have to see how he came out of the game. If Alexander is no worse for wear, though, I have no qualms playing him against Jefferson. In a must-see game against a division rival, you want your best on their best.

Brian from Chesapeake, VA

Sometimes my best II submissions are the ones I don't send. I was beginning to wonder if Romeo Doubs was fading from being a receiver Green Bay could build around as this season has progressed. He showed me a lot Sunday. How do you view his arrow?

As steady as an evening breeze in Egg Harbor on the Fourth of July.

Gretchen from Dousman, WI

It appears that many teams have had big disappointments in recent games, even some teams that are expected to be dominant. "Any given Sunday" (or Thursday or Monday or Saturday) rings true. Let's support our team like true Packer fans.

Twelve years covering the NFL has taught me it's hard to stay in a groove and easy to fall into a rut. I never thought I'd see Kansas City's offense, with Patrick Mahomes at the wheel, struggle as much as it did against Las Vegas. That's football, though.

Nathan from Williamstown, MA

Merry Christmas, Wes! You've said recently that the playoffs would be better with the Packers in them. Do there happen to be any teams you think would not improve the playoffs by their presence?

I'm not poking my head into that fox den, but the fact it's Week 17 and a battle of two 7-8 teams was not flexed out of Sunday Night Football should tell you everything you need to know about the Packers' drawing power.

Richard from Livermore, CA

It has to be difficult being a pass rusher these days, not knowing how the officiating crew is going to call roughing the passer. I didn't think any of the three roughing calls in Sunday's game were actually penalties. Later, I saw in the Cowboysh game a 300-pound lineman land squarely on the QB but because his arms were spread out wide like he was trying to avoid grabbing the QB as he landed, there was no penalty called. Is there any consistent advice to give the rushers to avoid a penalty?

I felt Alex Kemp's crew was a little trigger-happy with the 15-yard penalties, but that's also how today's game is officiated. I mean, Haason Reddick got a roughing the quarterback penalty for tripping into Tyrod Taylor's legs on Monday. In my mind, the only two surefire ways to avoid a personal foul while rushing the passer seem to be chasing him down or forcing him to turtle up. If you're not gonna get home, you better hit the brakes or that flag is flying.

David from Sheridan, WY

Just watched the Giants kicker Mason Crosby hit a 52-yard field goal. Got really excited to see he's finally been signed and accurate as always. Big fan of Mason.

All week I kept telling Spoff and anyone who would listen, "I don't care if Mason goes 0-for-5. He deserves to go out on his own terms." I didn't want to see his NFL career end as a late signee to the Los Angeles Rams' practice squad who's elevated, declared inactive and cut over a span of four days. If Crosby was done, then that should be proven on the field. But as Mase showed in Philly, there's still plenty left in the basement. The Packers made a major investment in the future of their kicking position when they drafted Anders Carlson and he looks like he could be the guy in Green Bay for a while, but it floors me it took this long for Crosby to get a legitimate opportunity elsewhere in the NFL.

Check out photos from the Week 16 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 24, 2023.