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Inbox: That was the real story

Za’Darius Smith is on a mission to win the whole thing

TE Jimmy Graham
TE Jimmy Graham

Cameron from Wayland, MI

Post this when we win. "NFL pundits will have no other choice than to bend the knee." Time to bend the knee!

One step closer to the goal and one win away from the big game. This is what it's all about, folks. Good morning!

Gary from Springfield, IL

Might it be that a season of "winning ugly" has been a blessing, honing our Green Bay Packers both mentally and emotionally into resilient and dauntless gridiron warriors?

We've been saying it for the past two months – this team is tough to beat in the fourth quarter. When they're up, the Packers find a way to hold on. When down, they find a way to claw their way back.

Nicholas from Superior, WI

I haven't seen it talked about and just not thought about it while watching the game highlights; Seattle missed a field goal (three points) and a two-point conversion. There's the five points the Packer's needed to win that game.

And both were set up by sacks – Za'Darius Smith sacking Russell Wilson for a 4-yard loss before the missed 50-yard field goal and Jaire Alexander coming on the blitz on the two-point conversion attempt. A lot of questions about Alexander's sack – no, he doesn't get credit for it in his official statistics.

Benjamin from Bear, DE

Oops, I forgot a comment I wanted to make. I thought the "SNUBBED" T-shirt Za'Darius wore and displayed after his first sack was priceless. How can anyone not love the way this man plays and leads a team he's been on for less than an entire season? I'll never get the chance to tell him how much Packer Nation loves what he brings to the table, but maybe you can tell him for all of us: We love what he does each and every Sunday!

Smith always has been hungry but I think that fire rages even more ferociously today than it did three weeks ago. With a chip on his shoulder and "snubbed" on his stomach, Za'Darius is on a mission to win the whole thing.

Jon from St. Louis Park, MN

Just wanted to give shout-out to three people. Preston Smith for stepping up when we needed him most. He'd been a bit quiet in the past weeks and I thought a ton of focus would be on Z and he had to perform well to win. Tyler Ervin, not only for bringing our return game to life, but also for being an X-factor and making the most of his opportunities. Defenses have to respect all those fakes and jet sweeps. And finally Coach, for putting players, like Ervin, in positions to succeed. On to SF!

Ervin not only has turned around special teams, but he's also been a welcomed offensive weapon. The Packers teased those pre-snap jet motions since training camp but leave it to a December waiver claim to be the perfect fit for it. I think a lot of credit has to go to LaFleur for identifying a playmaker and finding ways to get him involved in the offense.

Marc from Dollard des Ormeaux, QC

A team can be made up of Pro Bowlers but it still won't win in the NFL without a great coach and the right game plan. Coach LaFleur deserves a ton of credit for this entire season and especially for this game. I know he wasn't the first to run extra time off the clock with his kicking team on the field late in the game, but it took a lot of chutzpah considering the circumstances. It's great to see a coach playing for the win instead of playing not to lose.

After the game, Davante Adams called LaFleur "a genius" for dialing up his post-corner route against man coverage out of the three-TE package. LaFleur is a renowned play-caller – that's why he's here – but I feel like he's proven this year he's a great all-around football coach.

Chun from El Monte, CA

I want to give the unsung heroes some love. Coach LaFleur for milking those extra 30-40 seconds off the clock taking advantage of the NFL loophole before the five-minute mark. That could have meant we would need another first down to seal the game down the stretch. Also some love to Geronimo Allison for making that great third-down catch to extend the drive and milk more clock. One down, two to go! See you in Miami.

I'm sure the NFL will seal up that loophole after the season but it's there for the taking right now. Geronimo Allison does all the little things right for this offense. It's been a tough year for Allison, who has taken some licks, but he remains fearless in the middle of the field. That was a huge 11-yard catch.

Mike from Ames, IA

Applause to Allison for basically setting a legal pick on the Jimmy Graham first down at the end of the game. That's gotta be exactly how that's drawn up, right?

That, too. The way he ran his routes on both of Adams' touchdowns was also essential to the success of the plays.

Adam from Fond du Lac, WI

The Niners must be planning to contain Adams this Sunday, daring one of the other Packers receivers to beat them. Who can answer the bell? We have not seen much of Marquez Valdes-Scantling lately. Allison has not been targeted much. What is Allen Lazard's status?

Well, Seattle made it a point to contain Adams and still failed. The extra attention doesn't bother him. Still, the Packers are hoping to have Lazard back. He told reporters on Monday his ankle should be fine.

Paul from Minneapolis, MN

Going into the Seattle game, I was worried about DK Metcalf but his impact was minimal. On TV, it's tough to see what's happening on the edges if the ball isn't going that direction. Can I assume Alexander shut him down?

As we talked about going in, the Packers didn't really travel any specific player with Metcalf or Tyler Lockett. They played their scheme and asked Alexander, Kevin King and Tramon Williams to do their jobs.

Gradon from El Paso, TX

Good morning! More of a statement than a question. For those complaining about whether or not Jimmy Graham made the first down or not, don't leave the game in the refs' hands. When the refs botched the fumble early in the game, I told my wife "now that I know how the refs will be in this game, we need to make sure we don't put the game in the refs' hands." We didn't put the game in the refs' hands, but the Seahawks did and they paid for it.

It is what it is, but I love how many people are taking a yellow TV graphic as the gospel. In the end, the Packers were the much better team on third downs. That was the real story.

Take another look at the Green Bay Packers' NFC Divisional Game win over the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field.

Malcolm from Fennimore, WI

Maybe the additional footage for the review came from the Patriots. Just kidding, thought you guys might get a good laugh out of that one.

That was a new one for me.

Bill from Bloomfield Hills, MI

Really happy for Jimmy Graham. He has underachieved since leaving the Saints, and right or wrong, most of my impressions have been of him having some decent catches for GB but drops going hand-in-hand. I saw his step up as right up there with Aaron's in this game. Hard to see or notice much during the broadcast, how much did his blocking and drawing coverage help out the rest of the pass game?

Allison said afterward Graham was a big part of the game plan based on what the Packers had seen on film from the Seahawks, who ran a lot of base concepts. Through the ups and downs, Graham has remained confident in his abilities. The locker room trusts him but I think Sunday was a reminder to fans of what Graham can bring to this offense.

Josh from Oshkosh, WI

Aaron Rodgers was legendary on Sunday. And joining him was Davante Adams. We all already knew he is great, but on Sunday he officially became a legend of Lambeau Field.

The pundits love to question Rodgers and ask whether he's the same player he once was. Let them. Because inevitably Rodgers rises back up and makes the legendary throws fans have grown accustomed to. And now he's two wins away from a second Super Bowl championship.

Eric from Tucson, AZ

Not a question, but a comment. You hear a lot about the Brady-Manning rivalry, and for good reason. But I think the Rodgers-Wilson rivalry is just as good. Watching these two titans battle it out over the years has been a real treat.

They are two of the best athletes to ever play the position. If you weren't a fan of either team, that was an incredible game to witness. It always is with those two.

Chris from Frederick, MD

I still can't believe Pete Carroll chose to punt and give the ball back to Rodgers with a little over three minutes left in the game. When that happened, my buddy turned to me and said, "That's having faith in his defense." I responded, "That was a mistake."

I was fine with it, especially after Smith dropped Russell Wilson for a 6-yard loss on third down. The Seahawks were at their own 36 and facing fourth-and-11. Seattle had all three timeouts and just forced back-to-back punts. I understand Carroll's logic.

John from Peoria, IL

I think the biggest difference between a veteran QB and an inexperienced one in the playoffs is the ability to remain calm while under pressure. Keep doing the little things well despite the noise and drama.

This is something to keep an eye on over the next three weeks. Rodgers has started 17 NFL postseason games in his career. Meanwhile, Jimmy Garoppolo, Ryan Tannehill and Patrick Mahomes have five combined starts among them.

Peder from Muskegon, MI

Guys, how much do you think the flu affected the team?

The loss of Bryan Bulaga was significant but Jared Veldheer was exceptional. That acquisition looks better and better by the week. The Packers just need to stay on top of this nasty, nasty bug going through the locker room right now.

Evan from Town of Sharon, WI

Who was the most unlikely hero for the Packers in Sunday's game?

It has to be Veldheer. The guy was retired four months ago, watching the Packers-Bears opener as a fan at Soldier Field. On Sunday, Green Bay told him a half hour before the kickoff he was starting at right tackle.

Mark from Ocala, FL

Putting it all together "whatever it takes!" Great Monday morning quick inquiry. Our first defensive play resulted in an apparent fumble. Challenged review clearly indicated a fumble with one caveat, "no clear recovery." How can a fumble with "no clear recovery" not really be resolved? Then to give the ball back to the offense with "no clear recovery." Would not or should not the call result in loss of a timeout and challenge being returned as there was no official clarification?

As Spoff said, I feel like the referees didn't know what they were looking at. I would've liked to have seen a bit more urgency to officiate the play but nobody saw the ball come out. The league office acknowledged Jacob Hollister fumbled upon further review but the failure to break up the scrum led to Chandon Sullivan's recovery being nullified because there wasn't an angle definitively showing Sullivan got the ball.

Al from Spearfish, SD

This question should be part of the equation. "If it had been ruled a fumble on the field instead of down by contact, whose ball would it be?"

If it was ruled a fumble, I don't see any way it wouldn't have been Green Bay ball.

John from Green Bay, WI

Now that we get a second shot at playing the 49ers, what are the keys to change from the last meeting?

Third downs. The Packers need to be more efficient than the first game when they were 0-of-13 in that area when Rodgers was in the game. Run or pass, the Packers need to get the ball outside, stretch the 49ers horizontally and stay in manageable down-and-distance. Defensively, Green Bay is playing much better than it was in late November because it's defending the run well and cut down on the big plays. The Packers will need both to prevail in the rematch. More Rodgers magic like we saw Sunday wouldn't hurt, either.

Ryan from Mountain Home, ID

When I watched the Niners and Rams play about a month back, the Rams recipe for success was in the screen game and rolling Jared Goff out to the right or left. He very rarely was dropping back waiting for that extremely fast defensive line to come get him. Those quick hits and screens have to be part of the game plan. Thoughts?

That's what I was alluding to in the previous answer. The Rams worked the quick passing game and got the ball outside. I think there are yards to gain out there.

Nathan from Philadelphia, PA

Do the 49ers' different backs bring different styles to the running game? And if they all worked together to serve dinner to the team, would that make them the hosters with the Mostert?

Tevin Coleman has a little more size than the rest but he, Raheem Mostert and Matt Breida are all more than capable of playing the same every-down role in this offense. They'll throw the kitchen sink at you with that backfield, so you have to be ready for every knife, fork and spoon flung your way.

Jon from Sparta, WI

Traveling to the West Coast. Packers fell flat both trips in the regular season. Us average fans do not know the details involved in making that trip. What can and will the Packers do differently this weekend? Or would changing the travel routine subconsciously plant a seed of no-confidence in your team by altering travel plans? Perhaps taking a second trip to the same locale requires no changes as it will be familiar experience the second time (e.g. same team, same game). Just play better?

The Packers will leave on Saturday again, but LaFleur and his staff reassessed everything before putting together the plan for the team's return trip to San Francisco, from the practice plan to travel and meeting schedule. Cali has been cruel this year but they're aiming to learn from it.

Michael from Federal Way, WA

Some of my local friends are making excuses about how the game ended. One of them said the Seahawks were down eight starters and still almost won and said it's sad the Packers struggled against a team in that condition. I just told him there's nothing sad about playing for the NFC Championship.

I didn't hear any tiny violins playing when the Packers went into Atlanta three years ago with half their roster on injured reserve. That's the game.

Ben from Pensacola, FL

Also, the championship games will all be very entertaining. That TEN running game that can't seem to be stopped against the undeniable KC aerial attack. The No. 1 NFC seed that boasts a strong defense and very good running game against the most talented passer in the game (biased I know). How could these not be entertaining?

It's going to be great. That game may not have the name power of Brady, Manning and Roethlisberger, but I'm fascinated by that matchup. I can't recall many matchups where an unstoppable run game has squared off against a potent passing threat like Mahomes.

Gary from Davenport, IA

I guess Mike Holmgren should have taken a job as a network pre-game analyst. Any thoughts on the coaching selections for the Hall of Fame?

I had Don Coryell as my shoo-in, and was torn between Jimmy Johnson and Mike Holmgren as the second pick. Either way, I'm thrilled for Johnson and Bill Cowher. I believe more coaches should be in the Hall of Fame. I'd be in favor of having one coach in every class, much like the contributor system.

Randal from Naples, FL

Thank you all for the work you've done for us! While we're reveling, you're heading upstairs to write. And you didn't even ham it up for the cameras as you went by!

I knew what was happening…and there was literally no other way for Spoff or me to get back to our offices. So we walked right into the shot. My dad got to see it, so that was cool.

Henry from Brown Deer, WI

Hey Insiders, that was a great dub. On to San Francisco. I know we will be bringing our A game. A piece of advice: Wash your hands and wash your butts. GO PACK GO!

I had my flu shot but I'm still taking no chances. Wash, rinse, sanitize, repeat.