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Inbox: The plan won't get the job done by itself

It’s the fine line pro athletes must walk all the time

Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey
Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey

Jack from Skull Valley, AZ

Can somebody let Carolina know? Winter is coming.

I'm hearing high of 30 on Sunday, nighttime low in the teens. The sun will be gone by halftime. It's going to be a very chilly second half.

Al from Green Bay, WI

The Panthers lead the league in sacks (34) and they are second to only the Patriots in defensive interceptions with 12 this year. Is the recipe to get the ground game moving first and foremost to temper the pass rush? I'm fully expecting to see a GB offensive line wanting to make a statement after their struggles last week. I hope they're still ticked.

I would suspect they will be. The Packers have to get the ball to Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams however they can, run and pass, so the ball is out of Aaron Rodgers' hand quickly. Get the Panthers to defend the running backs sideline to sideline and then dial up a protection to take a shot downfield. Kuechly is the one who makes that plan so difficult to execute because he covers so much ground.

Randy from Sheboygan, WI

How hard is it to forget last week's performance and get ready for this game?

You remember it to the point it teaches you, grounds you and motivates you, but not to the point it distracts you. It's the fine line professional athletes must walk all the time.

Dave from Roswell, GA

Everyone keeps saying they fell behind so they were forced into a two-minute offense. They were only down 12-0 into the third quarter. What am I missing?

I think the point was they went two-minute the rest of the game in the third quarter at 19-0, but they had only 26 snaps on offense before that, so a huge chunk of the game plan was never touched. LaFleur admitted he didn't stick to the run enough when it was still a two-score game.

Bruno from Harwood Heights, IL

If we can't stop the run, we are going nowhere in the playoffs. This needs to be addressed. NOW. What say you?

Interesting juxtaposition of immediacy with playoff talk. Regardless, the Packers do have their issues stopping the run, but the tank was empty in the second half. At halftime, the Chargers had 250 yards of offense, but only 49 of them on the ground, 16 of those on one rush. The game was 9-0, and then the Chargers piled up 110 yards on the ground against a worn-out defense that got no help from the offense. Failure to stop the run didn't lose the game.

Renee Marie from Green Bay, WI

Green Bay will be tested again this week against a team with a productive running back. What will it take for Green Bay to get its defense rolling again? They seem to be going downhill and I don't see injuries to be a valid reason, sacks have gone down and the backfield has been giving up chunk plays consistently. The bright side is holding opposing teams to field goals till they seem to get gassed from being on the field so much.

Christian McCaffrey will be a handful. No question about that. Pettine will have a plan for McCaffrey, but the plan won't get the job done by itself. The players will have to stay assignment-sound, get off blocks and make tackles. It's about being better than the other guy. The defense is going to hear all week about how it's falling apart, going the wrong way, etc. I saw slow reactions, miscommunications, and lack of a consistent push up front when I went through the defensive film from LA. If I saw it, I know the players and coaches saw more. I don't have the answers, but I'm very curious to see the response Sunday.

Brian from Grand Rapids, MI

II, when you said the defense looks like it needs the bye week, it reminded me how early in the season there were concerns regarding the snap counts of the Smith Bros. and Kenny Clark. Do you think this has played into the troubles in the run defense, and do you think we'll start to see a more even distribution of snaps to guys like Rashan Gary and Kingsley Keke as we get later in the season?

Snap counts for a lot of rotational guys up front – Kyler Fackrell, Gary, Montravius Adams, Keke – were up in LA. I expect that trend to continue. The play time for the top guys early in the year wasn't sustainable. Everyone knew that. Now everyone has to do his part when called upon to put the entire unit in a better position for the stretch run.

Bill from Wilmington, DE

Mike, let's beat the Panthers and get rested at the bye! 8-2 will make us forget the egg that was laid Sunday.

That's exactly how I view it. Win Sunday and the trip to LA becomes a forgettable bump in the road. It's up to the Packers to make that perspective a reality for everyone.

Matthias from San Antonio, TX

The NFL has teams from all over, but there are a couple teams that don't consistently draw a lot of fans to games. The Chargers and the Jaguars. Once the new stadium is built in Los Angeles, I feel as though Los Angeles has room for only one team: the Rams. This leaves the Chargers without a real fan base, San Diego won't build a stadium, and San Antonio/Austin is a great, growing area in which the AAF showcased it can support pro football here. Thoughts?

There's a report from a reputable outlet the Chargers could end up being a London-based team, with their owner adamantly (to put it mildly) denying it. Stay tuned.

Mutt from Blaine, MN

On to Carolina. Would Pettine consider putting a corner on McCaffrey? Would be interesting to see Jaire Alexander take him when in man coverage.

I wouldn't totally rule it out, but to have enough corners on the field for all the perimeter weapons would make for a light box if McCaffrey motions into the backfield.

Jeff from Athens, WI

There is a website out there that says the Packers should add three specific free agents to bolster the roster. The thing with this is who would you release to add a guy like Wilkerson? We already have a lot of talented players on the roster and they really just need to pull it together defensively. I am not sold on the whole adding players at this point unless it is out of necessity because of injuries or something else that affects a player's availability. Your thoughts please.

I think the Packers have who they have at this point. Looking for a savior to walk through the door in November is a defeatist mentality. These players have proven they can get it done. The coaches have to put them in position to do it, and then they have to come through.

Jason from Central Valley, UT

Do you think Vic gets a chuckle from the Harbaugh khakis commercial? Every time I see it, it makes me think of how many times Vic wrote about his love of khakis and I get a chuckle from that.

How many times did Vic write about khakis? I don't have the list in front of me.

Julian from Gastonia, NC

I asked this question earlier this year but it wasn't answered. Since LaFleur mentioned gap control this week, I'll ask again. We're nine games in and our defense still doesn't do well maintaining their gaps. I also understand that the issue is critical if you play a 3-4 type defense. So here it goes, is learning to maintain gap discipline difficult?

It's not just discipline. I'll go back to being better than the other guy, who's trying to push you out of that gap. When you can't at least draw a stalemate with your man, there will be an open gap. Also, the second level has to read the front and fill correctly and quickly. Filling the wrong gap is costly. So is filling the right one too slowly.

Daniel from Atlanta, GA

That play from WYMM where Za'Darius Smith spins away from a block coming from behind him reminds me of why I'm not a professional athlete. I haven't grown the pair of eyes in the back of my head yet.

Knowing that block is coming is one thing. Playing it cool and not revealing to the blocker you know it's coming so he can't adjust and you can beat it is the game within the game.

Bill from Menominee, MI

In your response on offensive trend not being deterred by one game, I offer something Bill Nye (yes, the science guy) stated when being asked about stats during the World Series. He stated that generally, too many people try to establish a statistical pattern in sports when realistically, the sample size of most situations is too small. In short, the offense isn't regressing, it just had a bad game.

It took a step back. It doesn't mean the next one will be back as well. These are important moments in a long season.

Thorben from Bochum, Germany

Any stray cats living inside of Lambeau Field? Seems like a decent place to survive Wisconsin winters.

Remember the squirrel from the Colts game in '16? Today is the anniversary.

Gavin from Albuquerque, NM

I didn't have a chance to dig back through, but I swear I read in this space that it is a foul for a lineman to pull a ball carrier forward. Yet twice this weekend I witnessed just that, with no flag thrown. This includes an incident Monday night where Booger McFarland pointed it out as if celebrating the extra effort by the lineman. Am I wrong it thinking that should be a foul? I understand that it's not a point of emphasis by the league, nor a risk of injury, just curious.

It's right there in Rule 12 (Player conduct), Section 1 (Blocking, use of hands and arms), Article 4 (Assisting the runner). "No offensive player may pull a runner in any direction at any time." How this rule is being so blatantly ignored this year is beyond me. It's ridiculous. The fact that so many national announcers don't know the rules is embarrassing.

Will from Denver, CO

I am hoping for a quick clarification on some penalties; what is the difference between offsides and neutral zone infraction? And why not consolidate those to the same penalty since they seem to be interchangeable?

It's a distinction with one subtle difference, really. Offsides is a defensive player not on his side of the line of scrimmage at the snap. A neutral zone infraction is a defensive player entering the neutral zone and causing an offensive player to false start. As an added bonus, there's encroachment, which is a defensive player entering the neutral zone and making contact with an offensive player prior to the snap. You can get a free play with the first one (barring "unabated to the quarterback") but not the latter two, which both result in a dead ball.

Sam from Brentwood, CA

Wow! Did anybody else notice how easy that 54-yard field goal looked from Mason Crosby? He looked like he was kicking a chip shot.

Probably his last truly warm-weather kick of the season, aside from going indoors in Weeks 16-17. Harrison Butker's 54-yarder in KC with 2½ minutes left to tie that game with the Vikings was one of the most clutch kicks I've seen in a while. He hit it dead center.

Evan from Appleton, WI

Kevin Harlan's call of the black cat on MNF was simply classic. The enthusiasm of the play-by-play of the game and cat simultaneously (and even the product promotion) was simply outstanding. It's sad we only get him during the preseason and one or two regular-season games as a broadcaster.

Kevin's the best. His radio call a year or two ago of the rowdy fan getting chased on the field by security guards was great, too. Total pro.

Jason from Austin, TX

I keep reading variations of the same question, "Will teams see what the Chargers did as a blueprint to beat the Packers?" Sure. If you can only rush four and still create a lot of pressure, you're going to win a lot of games. They blitzed once. That's shocking.

When you do nothing on offense to get a defense out of its foundational looks, why would the opponent change? I think LaFleur summed it up best on Monday. The Chargers won on the edges with the pass rush and the Packers hurt themselves with penalties and impatience. If that's a blueprint, there's certainly plenty the Packers can do about it.

Dale from Wilton, WI

I read that every home team won on Sunday (ignoring the Jags in London) and that brought home teams above .500 for the season. And this is after a World Series of all road wins. Some things just can't be explained.

Like a mild-mannered soul such as Wes's being obsessed with the brutality of UFC. Happy Wednesday.