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Inbox: The goal hasn't changed

That’s why the protocols are in place

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Quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Tim Boyle

Donna from Darien, WI

Looks like it'll be an interesting week, to say the least.

At least it's a short one. Thursday cannot come soon enough.

Cameron from Brevard, NC

I believe in this team. I believe in their resolve. I believe this Thursday will be a defining game, win or lose. The Pack will come out ready to play sound, fundamental football and the result will reflect that. Too much talent and pride on this team to not come remind themselves who they can be and what they can accomplish.

The Packers knew they were going to get the Vikings' best effort and the Vikings' best effort is what they got. It was a brilliant game plan by Mike Zimmer, especially with how Minnesota's defense attacked Green Bay despite its shortcomings at cornerback. Now, just like two weeks ago with Houston, the Packers need to respond the right way in San Francisco.

Chas from Phoenix, AZ

OK, so we lost our second game. We've all said winning six division games is rare. Instead of griping about the D and complaining about the O, how about forgetting about all that and begin our focus on SF, so we don't repeat last year?

You can't forget what happened. Because the 49ers have a similar system of offense and you can be sure they'll be taking notes of what happened at Lambeau Sunday. That being said, the Packers can't let a performance like that shake their confidence. Because the goal hasn't changed.

Margo from Solvang, CA

Hi Wes! I saw that Mason Crosby kept his game streak alive but he was not at full strength, which seemed to limit him to PATs. Did his injury affect some of the decisions to go for it on fourth down or was the wind and weather more of the deciding factor? That said, I thought JK Scott did a very serviceable job on his kickoffs!

The wind was nasty. Aaron Rodgers said in his postgame Zoom call it was probably one of the top three windiest games he'd played in. The Packers used JK Scott on kickoffs to take some swings off Crosby's leg. LaFleur confirmed after the game the decisions to go for it on fourth down were his call and unrelated to Crosby's situation. Crosby was estimated as limited on Monday's injury report, so that would indicate he came out of the game no worse for wear.

Jacob from Prairie du Chien, WI

If you would've told me before the game that we lost when Aaron Rodgers threw for 291 yards and three TDs, while holding Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen under 30 yards each, I would've called you crazy. Which level of defense struggled most in guarding the run? Defensive line not getting off blocks? Linebackers being out of position? Secondary missing tackles?

All of the above. The gaps were too big and there were way too many missed tackles at the next level. All told, there just weren't enough hats collapsing on the ball carrier. And when Cook gets his feet going, he's one of the toughest backs to stop in the NFL.

Tory from Milwaukee, WI

Hey guys, is it possible that I'm missing something or could you explain this to me? As the game went on we were clearly getting beat on the run. We never seemed to move to a heavier package on D. We seemed to keep a nickel out there or only two down linemen and a bunch of linebackers. Do you think there is a reason we didn't add another DT or DE end to the mix to try and stuff them at the point of attack more, or am I just having some confirmation bias in my observations with the packages?

The Packers played almost entirely in base personnel. Nickel cornerback Chandon Sullivan only played 13 of the 52 snaps. So I don't know what more Mike Pettine could've done short of putting his goal-line personnel on the field.

Packers Head Coach Matt LaFleur celebrates his birthday Nov. 3. Take a look at photos of him from the 2020 season.

Steven from Silver Spring, MD

In grading our defense, PFF stats showed the Vikings got two-thirds of their yards after first contact. Is the issue really the scheme/coaching/adjustments-in-game or do we simply need to tackle better and this whole conversation about defensive philosophy would be rendered moot? We are not the only defense to play pass first and the current NFC frontrunner, SEA, has an even worse defense than us as measured by almost every counting stat.

Adrian Amos touched it after the game – there were too many one-on-one situations in open space. Sound fundamentals can still help a defender win but the job of tacklers is so much easier when there are multiple players converging to the ball carrier. Missed tackles lead to missed opportunities and the Vikings made Green Bay pay.

Don from Glendale, AZ

The coach said it regarding the lack of energy the team showed. Paraphrasing: Without the fans, the players need to find a way to energize themselves.

Players gotta bring their own juice without fans, especially on the defensive side of the ball, and they gotta do it every week. But what's strange, much like in Tampa, is the Packers started the game fine. They just haven't sustained, or built, any momentum on either side of the ball in Q2.

Kenton from Rochester, MN

Tough loss for the Pack. Of all the things that could have changed the outcome, do you think perhaps the lack of fans at Lambeau could have been a factor? Rodgers talked about not feeling much energy and LaFleur hinted about lack of "juice." Is that something a crowd can give the home team? I can't help thinking that had there been a typical Packers crowd, we would have seen a little more team mojo.

I'm not saying it would've changed the outcome – because Minnesota played a heck of a game – but it would've been interesting to hear the crowd in the fourth quarter when the Packers began to mount their comeback. But every team is (mostly) dealing with the same circumstances right now. You gotta rise above it.

Jim from McLean, VA

I'm not saying the loss to the Vikings wasn't disheartening – it was – but divisional games are the toughest for a reason. The ML Packers are 8-1 in the division. You can't win them all, can you?

As long as the Packers take care of business against Chicago and Detroit, everything lines up well for LaFleur's crew during the second half of the season.

Scott from De Pere, WI

II, the Packers' defense has created four turnovers all year. I wouldn't have guessed that after seven games. Is there another stat that you are surprised with so far?

Red-zone defense…which kind of plays into the low number of takeaways. The Packers were stout in the red area last year (tied for sixth at 50%). They're 28th this year with opposition scoring TDs at a 73.9% clip.

Jerry from Allouez, WI

Stopping the run is important, but they need to figure out how to attack this two-high shell defense. After Tampa and Minnesota used it successfully, there will be more of it until they beat it.

And you know how you break the two-shell? Running the football and forcing defenses to drop their strong safety into the box. Bill Huber had a good question to Rodgers after the game – are there any problems with this offense that can't be fixed by the return of Aaron Jones (and Allen Lazard)? The Packers need their starting running back…back.

Jordan from Virginia Beach, VA

In a game that can be won on one or two plays, why wasn't the time after the catch to Robert Tonyan looked at? After being tackled in bounds, he got up quickly and tried to get the ball to the ref. The Vikings defender was blocking his path and even knocked the ball out of his hands. Is there anything that could have been done about that with it being so obvious? It cost Rodgers two snaps within striking distance.

I parsed my words in real time but I can say confidently upon re-watching the game that Alex Kemp's officiating crew had a rough day. Not only did they miss Jeff Gladney grabbing the inside of Tonyan's helmet during the tackle, they also failed to recognize the Vikings cornerback knocking the ball away from Tonyan when he's trying to hand it to the official, which could have been delay of game. Now some might say both of those are ticky-tack calls, but considering how ticky-tack Kemp's crew officiated the game – until it decided not to, of course – a flag may have been justified. Listen, I've felt there have been some really strong performances by crews officiating Packers games this year. Sunday was not one of them.

Jim from West Allis, WI

Could you please explain to me the rationale of Matt LaFleur when he allowed the clock to wind down to the two-minute warning and then proceeded to use his last two timeouts? With all the analytics that are used I would think it tells you if you are successful in holding them on second and third down you have whatever time it took your opponent to run those two plays extra for your final drive.

I've gone back and forth on this. The problem was the defense gave up six yards on first down, which created a whole bunch of new scenarios. As the game was unfolding, I didn't have a problem with the decision. Feel free to disagree, but understand the plays Minnesota ran might not have necessarily been the same if the Packers used their first timeout at 2:33.

Paul from Los Angeles, CA

The broadcast never showed what it looked like downfield on AR's fumble at the end of the game. He was clearly going deep. Was there any one open or was it just a Hail Mary?

There didn't appear to be anyone "wide" open. There were three receivers downfield with two on the side Rodgers was scrambling and Davante Adams on the backside. The Vikings were in prevent, though, so the pass would've been contested wherever the ball was thrown.

Eric from Stramproy, Netherlands

So now the "who" is known, guess it is "guess who is next?" I hope he's going to get through this okay and all others are safe. Man, this does re-shift focus on what's important…Again.

Brian Gutekunst acknowledged back in the summer there would be positive tests. Fortunately, since players reported in July, the Packers went more than three months without a flare-up. With any luck, this is an isolated incident. This is why the protocols are in place.

Brandon from Saint Charles, IL

Will the Packers be allowed to practice before SF?

Yes. The Packers have been in contact with the NFL and are complying with all the agreed-upon standards and practices. As of the time I'm writing this, the team is planning to be in the building today in preparation for Thursday's game.

Dave from Middletown, CT

Thanks to II, I have a general idea what a preparation schedule is like in the NFL during a normal week. What do the players and coaches "give up for Lent," so to speak, in their preparation during a short week, especially when they have a long trip added to the mix?

It's a big mental preparation week, regardless of everything that occurred Monday. There typically is only one non-padded practice on Tuesday and then more of a walkthrough on Wednesday. The players also do more regen work, whether it's hot/cold tub, Graston, etc.

View some of the best photos from the Week 8 Packers-Vikings matchup at Lambeau Field on Nov. 1, 2020.

Chris from Victor, ID

It will be interesting to see if any of the IR/practice squad changes for this year lead to permanent changes. I'm sure the coaches like the general flexibility, but I suppose we'd have to see what the competition committee has to say. It's also hard to know if the NFLPA would see these things as beneficial to the majority of players.

I've been stumping for increased flexibility with the practice squad for years. It started with Kewaunee, Wis., native Colin Cochart making Cincinnati's 53-man roster in 2011 and playing the entire season with the Bengals. But Cochart didn't make the roster the following summer and no longer was eligible for the p-squad since he played in too many games his rookie year. Cochart deserved another chance and never got it. For that reason, I like the changes the league instituted. It's enabled Chris Banjo, Jayrone Elliott, Billy Winn and so many others to continue their NFL careers.

Michael from Merrill, WI

Does the strong wind like Sunday make a difference when the stands are empty compared to full?

I heard some rumblings Sunday about how the wind sort of boomeranged in the stadium bowl. It would have been interesting to hear Crosby's take on the conditions. As far as throwing the ball, it didn't seem to change anything too drastically. Rodgers threw some solid deep balls towards both end zones.

Herb from Palm Desert, CA

This Packers defense reminds me of my 1-9 freshman high school team. I look at each of the Packers' individual players and love each one's skill set like I loved my teammates. Of course, we blamed the coaches. Looking back, our talent level wasn't what I thought. Am I overrating the Packers' defensive talent, as well?

I think you're overrating your ability to form an analogy.

Charles from Omaha, NE

This game was not fun to watch, but I watched it to the end because I am a fan of this team and this is what we do. I will let the paid professionals on the staff figure out how to fix the issues. I am developing a very distinct lack of patience for fans who look at a 5-2 team and declare that the sky is falling. Mistakes were made and plays not executed. Now let's move on. There's time to hold staff accountable after the season ends. Now to my question: What is your favorite comedy?

May you live forever, Charles…and my favorite comedy is "Office Space."

Tony from Southington, CT

Packer fans were screaming to draft Metcalf, but we drafted Darnell Savage, who for some reason yourself and the organization have a love affair with. I've seen nothing to justify this affair, but a whole lot to justify Metcalf.

Do you even scout, bro? I don't remember a huge push for the Packers to draft DK Metcalf from the fan base. Not in this column, at least. Now if Metcalf played at Wisconsin, maybe it would've been a different story. Congrats on your perfect vision, though. You can pick up your ribbon near the exit.

Tony from San Juan Capistrano, CA

Well, you promised us adversity and now we have it. But, to keep things in perspective, my lifelong Packer, my wife Orrie, underwent open heart surgery yesterday at the same time as the game. So thankful to God above, she did beautifully and is now in recovery. I had the game on, mostly as a distraction, but truly wasn't distressed by the outcome. The surgeon did ask me afterward how the Packers did and when I told him he said, "I'm not telling her. You'll have to do that!" Enjoy your time!

All the best to you both. Stay safe, everybody.

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