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Inbox: The challenge does not diminish

The Packers have good problems on offense

Chicago Bears OLB Khalil Mack sacks Las Vegas Raiders QB Derek Carr
Chicago Bears OLB Khalil Mack sacks Las Vegas Raiders QB Derek Carr

Rachel from Appleton, WI

Any comment on the slew of missed kicks across the league this week? 13 missed PAT and 13 missed FG. Do we need to brace ourselves for Week 13 or could the bye save us? Serenity now.

Insanity always.

Douglas from Union Grove, WI

… and, just like that, the possibility of the trifecta (Bucks, Brewers, Packers) is squelched.

Among many, I was hoping for a much longer October distraction.

Greg from Perkasie, PA

Happy for the win in Cincy, but moving onto Chicago: This feels like it's a huge game this week. Win and you put some distance between yourselves and the closest divisional opponent, steal a road divisional victory, and collect an extra win before the real meat of the schedule of AZ, KC, Seattle, Minnesota, and LA. Lose and you give the Bears life in the division and have additional ground to make up within the conference with a tough schedule coming up quickly.

That pretty much sums it up.

Scott from Hayward, WI

I am ready to move on to the Bears game. I am seeing a pretty strong Bears defense, but an offense that runs for more yards than it passes. What's the key to breaking that defense and showing them what a real offense looks like?

Run the football to stay balanced. The Bears are allowing only 3.9 yards per rush (ranked eighth), so it's not an easy group to run on, but you have to be effective enough to keep from turning it into a straight drop-back passing game. These guys have 18 sacks, tops in the league, and 13 in the last three games. The best pass protection is a good ground game.

Al from Green Bay, WI

Bears defenders Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn have combined for nine sacks so far this season, and both were disruptive against the Raiders on Sunday. Mindful that you can't chip them both, do the Packers game plan for Rodgers to get the ball out of his hands quickly, much like he did in SF?

I'm sure that's part of it, but the Packers have chipped both ends at times the last few weeks. It's on the film, and I expect the Bears will have a counter with their rush/coverage patterns.

Kyle from Pittsburgh, PA

The cornerback situation is looking pretty unsettled heading into this week, especially with Kevin King's shoulder. Do the players that remain take any solace or confidence in the fact that they're facing a rookie QB? I know Fields has great potential, but he's still a rookie and the Packers are going to put a lot of pressure on him (legacy of the match-up, our offense should push the score, and ACTUAL pressure by the D-line).

The Packers' reserves at cornerback are more focused on their assignments than the opposing QB, to be honest. And I don't think any pressure, other than from the defensive front, is going to get to Fields considering the big games he played in at Ohio State.

Luke from Andover, MN

If King and Jaire Alexander are out, do you believe that a mix of Eric Stokes, Chandon Sullivan, Rasul Douglas, and SJC will be able to do an alright job against Allen Robinson and the Bears next Sunday afternoon?

Ike Yiadom is in that mix at corner, and Kabion Ento is an option on the practice squad as well if King is out. Plus we'll see about any more transactions. Mooney is actually leading the Bears in receiving. He and Robinson account for 60% of their passing yards. The Packers are going to lean on Stokes a lot, and he proved up to the task last week. As Wes noted on "Unscripted," safeties Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage will be vital to keeping the coverage unit on the same page with all the changing personnel.

James from Ottawa, Canada

When you guys shake hands before a season opener and/or big game, does one of you role play as Randall Cobb and the other as Nelson? I hope so. Here's to hoping word gets around in Lambeau so you two can be responsible for bringing back that simple but classic celebration after a big play!

I'll leave the big-play celebrations to the players. I've got a blog to keep updated. As for pregame handshakes in the press box, hopefully some games coming up will warrant the ritual.

William from London, UK

Hi Insiders, the re-ascent of Cobb has been great to watch, but it seems to cause or at least coincide with the nadir of Bobby Tonyan. Any thoughts on how to get him back to 2020 levels of production?

The 1-2 punch in the backfield has more to do with Robert Tonyan's drop in production in my view. Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon have combined for nearly 200 yards from scrimmage in two straight games now, and LaFleur said he wants to get Dillon the ball more. Injuries aside, the Packers have good problems on offense. They have two guys – Tonyan and Allen Lazard – who have come up big before but haven't been asked to so far this year. I believe their time will come, and the Packers know they can count on them because they've come through in the past.

Matty from Troy, MO

Should Jon Gruden's career in the game of football be over? I can't see a way forward for him.

Hard to imagine any locker room respecting him ever again, or any network wanting to go near him. Given these emails were uncovered through the investigation into Washington's workplace, I think it's incumbent upon the league to be more transparent and detailed about what its investigation of Snyder's team found.

George from North Mankato, MN

What were your thoughts about the TV coverage immediately showing Kevin King after the long TD to Chase at the end of the first half? Replay showed it was Savage who looked to have a shot to knock the ball down. Did I miss a blown coverage on the route? It just did not seem fair to No. 20 who I thought played a good game before he left.

It wasn't fair to him, and you're right about how he was playing. Wes and I talked about that during the broadcast.

Clyde from Iron Mountain, MI

Are you aware that the field goal attempt after the interception in overtime would have been good if kicked from that spot but not losing 5 yards on two ill-advised running plays? Why take chances with runs when you are well within the FG range of your kicker?

I wondered doing the live blog if that kick would've been good from 35. But your suggestion to kick right away was more popular in the Inbox than I could have imagined, and in other circumstances I might understand. Not here, when your kicker has missed two field goals and a PAT already that day, and you have a low-risk opportunity to make it easier for him. The runs were called simply to get the Packers a little closer. The Bengals wrecked that plan, so LaFleur cut his losses and kicked on third down. Just because it didn't work doesn't mean the strategy was wrong. Can you imagine the howling about a decision to kick on first down there if Crosby misses?

Paul from Palm Desert, CA

Do you think Mason pushing the ball left on the missed attempts has anything to do with the poor kick protection on the right side of the line?

LaFleur said Monday he didn't think so. Mason Crosby was not asked that specific question after the game.

Josh from Holgate, OH

So let me get this straight. If you line up for a field goal on any down but fourth, and the snap is botched where the kicker does not attempt to kick the ball and the holder recovers, you can attempt to kick the field goal again on fourth down?

Yup. The greatest lesson in that vein occurred in a rather iconic game. Remember the Antonio Freeman rainy Monday night miracle "He did what?" overtime against the Vikings in 2000? At the end of regulation, with eight seconds on the clock and the ball on the 15, Minnesota (out of timeouts) was lining up for a game-winning field goal on first down. Vikings holder Mitch Berger mishandled the wet snap, got up running and tried to complete a pass that the Packers intercepted, sending the game to OT. If Berger had just thrown the ball away incomplete, Minnesota would have gotten another chance at the kick, on second down, as long as at least one second remained on the clock.

Chad from Wisconsin Rapids, WI

Years ago, it was common for the backup quarterback to be the holder on field goals. It seems to make sense as a QB would likely have a better sense of what to do, or more ability to make something happen should the snap go amiss. Why is it now more commonplace for the punter to do the holding?

Available practice time.

Keith from Wallace, ID

Hey Spoff, during your blog Sunday I said "don't chase the point" after the PAT miss. Monday night both teams chased the points, I think it cost Indy the game.

Maybe, but if both teams just play it straight in the third quarter after the initial PAT miss, it's probably 26-10 in the fourth instead of 25-9 and the situation is still the same. But yeah, it drives me nuts when coaches do that. It is absolutely not worth it until the fourth quarter.

Shannon from Ovilla, TX

I thought the Packers game was crazy. Then I watched the Chargers-Browns amazing finish. Followed that up with the Indy-Baltimore game. It seems like every week has incredibly entertaining games. Is this why the NFL is so popular?


Mike from St. Louis, MO

What about Matt LaFleur as a person has made it so easy for him to get buy-in from the entire squad so early and so consistently during his tenure so far in Green Bay?

Because there's nothing phony about him. Professional athletes will spot a fraud, or even a temporary show, from a mile away. LaFleur keeps it real, and he never carries himself with an air of infallibility. He always looks at himself first for what he can do better and players respect that to the utmost.

Jennifer from Rio Rancho, NM

Just finished WYMM (great as always) and needed to get this down. On the long shot to Davante Adams as the ball is descending, Adams is heading to his left and suddenly moves his route to his right a bit creating more separation. This didn't seem accidental. I just thought that was such a subtle but vital move to make that catch even more of a phenom. Seeing things?

If you're talking separation from the defenders, he had that already. I think that little angle to his last few steps was to create separation from the ball, so to speak, so he could catch it with his hands and not his body, and not break stride.

Mike from Tucson, AZ

So far the defensive play is encouraging. In past years the stats seemed better for "situational" rankings such as red-zone D, third-down D, and scoring D. This year the stats are better for yards given up against the pass and run. Which do you think is more important to success as the season progresses? Even though there have been no RZ stops the total number of trips allowed in the RZ is tied for fifth lowest, not bad!

Ultimately, I believe third down and red zone are where games are won or lost, because offenses in this league are eventually going to get their yards and make some plays. It's how the game is built. I noted on "Unscripted" there's a lot to like about the progress the defense is making, even in the face of significant injuries. Start getting one red-zone stop per game and the whole unit takes another big step forward.

Nicole from Easthampton, MA

Mike, you were wrong, but not by much – 24 points would have been enough. You definitely weren't wrong about the challenge of getting even that many points, though.

Ha. I suspected that Bengals' defense was the best the Packers would face in the first five weeks, and that proved true. (I don't think it's overly dismissive to call the New Orleans game an outlier at this point.) Statistically, the Bears are remarkably similar with a better pass rush. The challenge does not diminish.

Ron from Bellaire, MI

On to Chicago. The Bears had a good game in Vegas and handled the Raiders pretty well. Let's hope what the Bears did in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Works for me.

Nate from Naples, FL

Can I be the first to say, "Just beat the Bears"?

Sure. Happy Wednesday.