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Inbox: That's when you know good things are happening

When the Packers force third-and-longs, the defense is its most dangerous

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RB Aaron Jones

Bruce from Green Bay, WI

Have the Packers ever rushed for more yards than gained through the air in a single game? Also, a shout-out to ML, Aaron Jones and company for taking the pressure off Aaron Rodgers with the rushing attack and giving Aaron almost an upper hand in the passing game, but it is truly exciting to see the trenches take control making this all possible. What will all this look like in the Saints' house should be an exciting test for players and coaches alike? GO PACK.

Oh, for sure. But what I don't know is how many times Rodgers has had a 100-plus passer rating and the Packers still rushed for more yards than they passed for. That's when you know good things are happening.

Tommy from Toronto, Ontario

During the offseason I saw a lot of pundits espousing Rodgers' "decline" being due in part to him avoiding throws in the middle of the field and sticking to sideline throws (with stats provided to show the disparity over the last few years). Yet, in the first two games this season, I've seen a lot of targets between the numbers (I don't have exact numbers, just the eye test). Is this greater rate of throws to the middle of the field updated/new schemes? Personnel improvements? Both?

It's almost like NFL quarterbacks are real human beings with imperfections. Rodgers is one of the best to ever play the game but there are always going to be moments of adversity. No Hall of Famer goes without them. I think the key so far has been Rodgers and the offense being more in sync in the second year of Matt LaFleur's offense. Rodgers didn't go anywhere. He's still the same QB he's always been, but he's seeing the field well and playing on time. That, paired with greater emphasis on throws between the hashes, will lead to more productivity in the middle of the field.

Matt from Lansing, MI

I thought the offense looked a little sloppy at times, and they still put up 35 points. Year 2 in the system is looking good so far, hopefully they can keep it up.

Meanwhile, the pundits are losing consciousness while holding their breath waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Brian from Twain Harte, CA

Through two games, there has been a lot of shuffling of the OL due to injuries. How many different combinations of OLs have the Packers used in those two games?

Five if my math is right. Three last week and two more against Detroit.

Don from Hazleton, PA

I know it's only been two games so far, but to me, the real standouts on this team so far are the offensive linemen. The way they are run- and pass-blocking, giving the offense time to get the job done, is phenomenal. Your thoughts?

The offensive line has been magnificent during these first two games, especially how Rick Wagner has stepped in at right tackle after that arm injury during camp. It hurt losing Lane Taylor for the year but this line has proven it can go eight or nine players deep. That's a major asset to have over the course of a 16-to-20-game season.

Michael from Dover, PA

Rashan Gary is starting to pay huge dividends. He seems to be in the middle of so many key plays the stat sheet just can't measure. If he's not picking the ball off he's forcing the pass that can be picked off. If he's not getting a sack he's chasing the QB into a sack. He's certainly forcing some early and bad throws without a stat to measure it. Maybe he needs a new stat like "Actively involved in and influencing a key play."

Oh, AIIAIAKP? Oh yeah, I've heard of that. That's one of those DVOA stats, right? You're seeing the evolution and development of a playmaker. Gary still has a ways to go but he's trending in the right direction. His combination of power and speed is special.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

2-0 and the offense is off to a great start. However, it seems that the D has missed their wakeup call the last two weeks. They seemed to lack focus and energy in the first quarter of both games. As the opposition gets tougher, what does the defense need to do to have a better start the first couple possessions they're on the field? Do you think the lack of fans in house is a contributing factor?

Create its own juice and set the tone on the early downs. That's where it starts. When the Packers stop the run and force third-and-long situations, the defense is at its most dangerous. You saw that in the second half Sunday.

Ryan from Minneapolis, MN

What plays from Sunday's game do I need to go back and watch closer? I know we'll get a Rock Report later this week, but there seemed to be a lot going on at the line of scrimmage.

Aaron Rodgers' 41-yard pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling is a good place to start. Not only for the pre-snap call ("Jerry Kelly shot") but also Aaron Jones' blitz pickup to allow Rodgers that extra half-second to uncork that pass to MVS.

Nathan from Philadelphia, PA

I am really liking how the different backs complement each other in this year's scheme. My question is, what is Jamaal Williams' special ability? He doesn't seem to have Aaron Jones' agility, Tyler Ervin's speed, or AJ Dillon's strength, but he sure has been getting results.

What is Jamaal Williams' special ability? The fact he's touched the ball 498 times in his NFL career without fumbling one time. Williams is steady, reliable and has the potential to be a 1,000-yard back in this league.

Matt from Cedar Rapids, IA

Watching another elite RB1 going down with a multi-week injury makes me appreciate the Packers' stable of backs. Jones puts up elite numbers on less touches, minimizing injury potential. Having quality players who can come in without a major drop-off will hopefully keep players healthy.

That's what Spoff and I have been trying to say all offseason. I've covered this team long enough to know what it looks like when the cupboard gets bare in the backfield. With any luck, that shouldn't be the case this year.

Renee from Green Bay, WI

Not sure how to ask this but here goes. Regarding running plays, inside, outside, up the gut and jet sweeps, which position has the responsibility of a key block to make the play work?

It's a good question. The offensive line obviously plays a key role but it's usually the skill-position players that make the biggest difference in breaking big runs. For example, look back to Jake Kumerow's block last year that sprung Jones or Allen Lazard sealing off the edge a few times this year to help his backs.

Ryan from Dubuque, IA

I'd love to talk about how well the O-line has played and the Aaron Jones show yesterday, but I can't stop thinking about how proud I am of these receivers not named Davante Adams. We heard all offseason about how we need more talent at the position and all it's seemed to do so far is light a fire under their you-know-what.

If I've written it once, I've written it a thousand times. Would it have been great to get another young receiver in the pipeline? Absolutely. Would that young receiver have had a tough time cracking the top three on the depth chart this year? Absolutely. Lazard and MVS are far better than they're given credit for – and they both fit the vision of LaFleur's offense. Hopefully, this start silences those critics for at least a week or two.

David from Milwaukee, WI

Are the Packers interested in a third wideout?

Never mind.

Bryce from Kenosha, WI

I've barely seen Kevin King or heard his name. I'm taking that to be a very good thing. What are your impressions of King through two games?

Solid. Very, very solid. I don't have an active PFF subscription at the moment but I'd be curious how many times he's been targeted this year. It can't be many.

Matt from Irvine, CA

Surprised it wasn't mentioned Monday that Matt Prater's missed field goal at halftime was the only thing keeping it from being 42-24. Oh, what could have been! Other than getting some key players healthy, what would you say the Packers need to focus on most this week ahead of the matchup with the Saints?

Wow. I didn't even consider that until now. And the answer is the quick-release nature of New Orleans' offense. That's given Green Bay fits dating back to Mike McCarthy's tenure. You gotta break that momentum early and make life as difficult as possible on Drew Brees.

John from Belleview, FL

Did you notice that nifty pirouette by Dillon in the second half? Quite a move for a big man.

His ability to come to balance after that hit was impressive. Dillon isn't just a power runner. There's finesse to his game, as well.

Rich from Grand Rapids, MI

It appeared to me that the turning point in the game for our D was the cheap shot the Lions OL took to our DL's knee from behind. Not only did that put the Lions behind the chains, it also appeared to fire up the GB D – something that seemed to be lacking up to that point in the game.

That play had me shaking my head for so many reasons. I know Matt LaFleur wasn't pleased about it. Plus, Tyler Lancaster honestly might be the nicest guy on the team. Whatever the case, the Lions shot themselves in the paw with the unnecessary roughness penalties. That was the beginning of Detroit's downfall Sunday.

Jim from McLean, VA

I know the plays weren't as splashy as an INT or sack/safety, but Jaire Alexander had some monster plays that turned the Lions' offensive momentum.

Alexander played his tail off Sunday, whether it was his pass breakups, solo tackles or just the way he executed down the stretch.

Shilo from Murrieta, CA

We're starting this year out like 2011. What will it take to make it end like 2010?

The Packers are ranked 10th in total defense right now and tied for 15th in takeaways. There are a lot of comparisons you can try to make but 2011 is not one of them.

Rich from Grand Rapids, MI

During the offseason, there were many articles written about the "ranking" of the GB FAs after this year. The consensus seemed to be that Kenny Clark and David Bakhtiari were the two most important. Watching GB use Elgton Jenkins in multiple places, I cannot help but wonder if they envision him as a potential LT if Bak cannot be signed to a new contract. If that is the case, there would be more money available to sign Jones and, perhaps, Corey Linsley or Kevin King. It will be interesting to see this play out.

The Packers made some tough calls last March on their unrestricted free agents because they understood how many great players were coming up for contracts in 2021. They will find a way. I'm confident about that.

Luke from La Crosse, WI

Can you explain the defenseless receiver rule and why the first big hit MVS took while diving for a catch wasn't a penalty?

The safety avoided helmet-to-helmet contact and was playing the ball. The rules get hazier when it's a play to the ground like that and not the receiver extending for a catch in the air. From my vantage point, it was a nasty-looking collision but no malicious intent. Maybe others would disagree.

Gary from Cross Plains, WI

What are your thoughts on special teams so far? Pack and league-wide. Without preseason, I was expecting it to be a bit sloppier (more penalties/big returns/missed tackles). But doesn't seem too bad so far. For Pack, I noticed JK Scott's net yards seemed a bit low (compared to Detroit) – just a matter of field position/wind or are kicks not looking as great so far?

The Packers have played clean football in all three phases and that's allowed them to maintain solid field position throughout these first two games. I think Shawn Mennenga's unit has played well early on and JK Scott's net yards have been fine. You'll take 42.0 any Sunday, especially when you're pinning the opponent inside the 20. This is a marathon. The Packers need Scott to improve throughout the course of the year to take that next step.

Mark from Appleton, WI

Was the piped-in crowd noise audible to the players and you folks in the press box or just to the TV and radio audiences?

I couldn't hear it until the windows were opened in the suite I was working in. Even then, it was rather faint. It was like background music when you're studying.

Nathan from Lino Lakes, MN

I've seen some stadiums get creative with fan cutouts in the stands. Considering the environment, I think it would be neat if Lambeau would put something fun (stuffed animals?) in an area for Packers players to jump into after a score. Any discussion on how to create a fun environment in the stadium next home game?

It's a work in progress but the Packers' hands are tied on the end zones. It's a league mandate to have a tarp over the first eight rows. The only thing you can put on them is an advertisement.

Dave from Waterford, OH

Rodgers has had a great career. He'll go down as one of the best QBs to ever play this game. And some people claim that he's the best ever at the position. But, as a receiver, he has had a less than stellar career (two catches for minus-7 yards).

There's always room for improvement.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Wes, what penalty is assessed when a quarterback throws a pass after catching his initial pass that was batted down by a defensive player?

Illegal forward lateral. It's a 5-yard penalty from the spot of the foul.

View some of the best photos from the Week 2 Packers-Lions matchup at Lambeau Field on Sept. 20, 2020.

Paul from Minneapolis, MN

How good have you two gotten to anticipating the subject matter of questions submitted on the day after a game? Are you more accurate after a win or after a loss?

I think fairly decent. But submissions always are way easier to predict after a loss.

Joe from Dundee, IL

On the Dallas onside kick, could the Falcons players have blocked some of the Cowboys before the ball traveled 10 yards? At least form a wall of three guys to let the hands guy recover it? Also, what is the penalty if Falcons recover it before 10 yards? Could they do that, take the penalty, making Cowboys kick again, thinking no way they make another perfect onside kick?

Yeah, Falcons special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica will want that one back. You gotta stay on your players about understanding the receiving team does not have to wait 10 yards to field the football. It's a fumble if you touch the ball and don't possess it but the kicking team cannot prevent you from doing so until that happens. Credit where credit is due, though, that was a fantastic spinning kick by Greg Zuerlein.

Darren from Warrington, UK

How many teams this week will be trying the Cowboys' onside kick in practice?

Several.

Brennan from Syracuse, UT

Man, I wish we were playing the 49ers next week...

Or the Panthers.

Hanly from Bozeman, MT

"If Aaron Rodgers is the straw that stirs drink in Green Bay, Aaron Jones is the ice that keeps it cool." Then, the vessel must be Lambeau Field and the fans are the drink. Here's to a glass half-full. Hoping soon we'll be hearing the throngs once again chanting "Go Pack Go" loud and clear.

Y'all had way too much fun with this analogy.

Mark from Westminster, CO

You four (Spoff, Wes, Larry and Chris) put out a ton of content, whatever the Packers pay you is not enough...keep it up.

Not sure who Chris is but I won't argue with any of this.

Clipton from Pasadena, CA

What's even more remarkable about the Packers' drubbing of the Menominee North End A.C.'s and Marinette Northerners in 1919 is that they didn't draft a wide receiver that year. (I'm having trouble finding the exit.)

Let me show you the door.

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