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Inbox: The sense of urgency is there

You can’t force it, but they need to find that galvanizing moment


James from Durango, CO

Hey Insiders, this is the hope for the division. If Green Bay wins out, it would place them with a record of 10-5-1. If Minnesota ties us, we would have the head-to-head tiebreaker. Detroit would not be able to catch us. Lastly, Chicago would need to fall two of the remaining five contests, which is possible with the Rams and Vikings fighting for playoff seeding and berths. Anyway folks, go Lions, Cowboys, Saints on Thanksgiving. Keep Calm and Inbox On. Happy Thanksgiving!

Now that's the spirit. Good morning!

Elliot from Minneapolis. MN

Am I reading the playoff situation right? A Packers win, with a Seahawks and Cowboys loss, would put us in the final playoff spot?

Strange, but true. If the Packers win in Minneapolis, they would be right there with the Vikings for the sixth seed in the playoffs. A win this week – plus the scenario you outlined – would put them back on track. It's disappointing to be 4-5-1, but everything is still within reach. More importantly, the sense of urgency is there based on what players were saying in the locker room Monday.

Patsi from Riverside, CA

It was very interesting to watch the Vikings cripple themselves last night with three turnovers and penalties, the very same things that have been troubling the Packers this year. Fortunately, Aaron Rodgers has an outstanding interception rate this year, though fumbles have been a bigger problem. Let us hope that next week's tilt is one the Pack has cleaned up and the Vikes have not yet.

The Bears got off to a fantastic start, particularly on defense in getting a quick three-and-out and then forcing a fumble at their 14. There is no more demoralizing play in football than turning over the ball in the red zone in my opinion. Chicago wasn't perfect, but that start took the Vikings out of their game plan and had them playing from behind all night long.

Brady from Lodi, WI

In my mind, most NFL teams have an identity crisis by midseason. The ones that don't are the No. 1 and 2 seeds. The ones that figure it out make the No. 3 and 4, and the ones that shake their respective crises in the second half of the season get the wild-card spots. Right now, our crisis is that we can't win outside of Lambeau. Running roughshod through a vulnerable-looking Vikings team in U.S. Bank Stadium would go a long way in solidifying the Packers as playoff contenders.

I agree, especially since it's not like the Vikings are unbeatable at home this season. They're 3-2. The Packers are in must-win territory now. Winning on the road in Minnesota Sunday night and Chicago next month pulls the Packers back into the thick of the division race, in addition to taking care of business at home like they've done.

Spencer from Rockford, IL

It's about peaking at the right time. A win against MN could provide the start to getting hot when we need it most. I'd rather see the team get hot at the right time than start fast and hope to take that momentum all the way through the Super Bowl.

Getting a road win against a division foe and then hosting back-to-back December games against dome teams would be a nice start to the fourth quarter of the season.

Mark from Bellevue, WI

The snap counts on offense have been considerably less than on defense over the last few games. When you add it to the eye test when you watch the game, it is clear that the team has not been able to control the flow of the game, except for short periods of time. How can the team turn the corner to where they control the tenor of the game?

By stringing drives together. In that Week 2 game against Minnesota, the Packers had four scoring drives where they had 10 or more plays. Against New England, they had a pair with at least 13. Explosive plays are wonderful, but as an offense, you have to go the long way at times, as well. Mike McCarthy wasn't just throwing numbers out there when he said a few years ago the goal was to play 70 offensive snaps a game. There's logic behind that philosophy.

Matt from Waterford, WI

In terms of the law of averages, the Packers are due a string of controversial calls going their way the rest of the season. Or is it more likely the players clean up their execution?

Control what you control. That holds true no matter if you're talking about penalties or the next game on the schedule. The Packers need to clean their own house. I'd love to see more consistency from the league office with its process for reviewing plays, but refs are going to see what they see.

Nick from Richmond, VA

Looking at the NFC North, what would happen if the Bears finished 11-5 and the Packers get to 10-5-1, but the Packers have a 4-1–1 division record to the Bears' 4-2? Would the division record put the Pack ahead in division or would it be based on overall record?

11 > 10

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

How does the Packers' secondary match up with the Vikings' pass-catching group? What are the strengths and weaknesses of that matchup?

I like the matchup for Green Bay at full strength, especially if Jaire Alexander is free to travel with Adam Thielen. Now, the absence of either Kevin King or Bashaud Breeland probably requires Alexander to play outside more. We just have to see where things stand Wednesday with the injuries, but King sounded optimistic Monday.

Kevin from Waconia, MN

Am I imagining things, or has the quick-hitting slant been entirely trimmed from the Packer route tree?

The Packers ran plenty of slants and crossers against Seattle. Is a player being targeted every play off a slant? No, but it's on the playsheet. Davante Adams has made a few nice plays and touchdowns off slants this season.

Barry from Mansfield, OH

I thought with the arrival of Jimmy Graham that he would have been a major part of the Packer offense. What happened?

Graham has been a major part of the offense. A 700-plus-yard season isn't something to scoff at from the tight-end position, but I think fans work themselves into a tizzy at times projecting guys to have 1,500-yard seasons with 20 touchdowns. Graham presents a lot of problems for defenses and his presence has opened opportunities for others. When it's been his turn, he's capitalized. Now, we'll see how effective he can potentially be with a splint.

Denise from Sequim, WA

Why are we not using the two-minute offense more throughout the entire game? If that is what our offense does best, why not use it more? It seems that in previous years, we ran a more up-tempo offense so that Rodgers could adjust on the line; take advantage of too many defensive players on field, etc. This year, not so much. Why?

I asked McCarthy and a few other coaches a version of this question several years ago. The short answer is it's not feasible to live in one package and play style at this level. Now can you glean things from an up-tempo approach? Absolutely. You always need proper timing and rhythm. But you need variation to counter defensive adaptation.

Mike from Hastings, MN

I'm truly disappointed Coach McCarthy doesn't show any passion on the sidelines. Watching Coach Carroll (see Mary, Fail and Incompletion, Reversed) who lobbies hard for the result he desires. In both cases, he got the result he wanted. It's not just "the numbers"; it's having some guts and passion.

Oh, give me a break. Was McCarthy showing a lack of passion when he chased down the referee on the sideline after that egregious roughing-the-passer penalty on Clay Matthews in Washington? Bill Belichick seems to win despite not doing any cartwheels on the sideline. Weak take.

Lee from Long Beach, CA

One of the talking heads mentioned Rodgers may not have the same zip on the ball as in the past; have you noticed any drop in velocity? It seems to me Rodgers has not had that type of "frozen rope" and is more like dropping the ball in.

I'm obviously not a quarterback coach or scout, but I haven't noticed any difference in his arm strength. That pass to Robert Tonyan was as good as it gets for a 58-yard throw in the air on the run.

John from Chippewa Falls, WI

After looking at the infographic of the jerseys the Pack has retired, I couldn't help but notice how the list contains three sets of teammates. Charles Woodson's wasn't retired, so have we seen Rodgers' teammate yet or is he still out there?

It's undeniable at this point Rodgers will be the last Packers player to wear No. 12. We'll have to see if he has any company from his generation. Getting your jersey number retired puts you in another stratosphere. At least five of those players – I can't speak on Tony Canadeo – were absolute game-changers. Their impact went further than statistics and even titles. They are legends.

Tom from Caledonia, MI

Do you think that the Bears' offense may be the new type that teams will start to copy, similar to the West Coast offense that hit the NFL in the '90s?

With all due respect to the job Matt Nagy has done, I don't know if I'd go that far just yet. I'm not sure the Bears are 7-3 without Vic Fangio and Chicago's defense. I mean they've given up the second fewest points in the NFC at this point. That's going to help any offense look good. But yes, Nagy's system clearly has been a good fit for Mitchell Trubisky.

Dan from St. Louis, MO

It's not fair to attribute the 2017 Vikings' success to staying "remarkably healthy" when they were down to their third QB. I take no joy in sticking up for the Vikings, but can we stop implying that the Packers are at a unique disadvantage due to injuries all the time? Same with the griping about the refs – Rodgers has gotten plenty of roughing calls throughout his career and catch-rule shenanigans have gone in our favor, too.

Let's not act like Case Keenum was the No. 3 quarterback behind Fran Tarkenton and Daunte Culpepper. At best, they were all probably equal to some extent. I don't disagree you have to overcome injuries, but the Packers were 4-1 going into U.S. Bank Stadium last year. That game changed a lot of fortunes.

Daniel from Appleton, WI

I didn't ask yesterday, because I was confident you would have many Inboxers asking about Ron Rivera's decision to go for the two-point conversion. The Lions were not moving the ball at will throughout the game and the Panther defense generally plays well. I know Prater could kick from a mile, but Stafford has a penchant to fold under pressure. What did you think of the call?

I guess I understood the logic after Graham Gano missed an extra point and field goal in the game, but the Lions still had a minute on the clock and multiple timeouts regardless of whether the Panthers take the lead. I'm conservative by nature, so I probably would have trusted my kicker. At the same time, maybe we're singing a different tune if Cam Newton throws a better ball. That's the NFL.

Russ from Billings, MT

Hey Insiders...more of a thought than a question. Can't speak for anyone else but I'm really tired of all the speculation with regard to coaches/players and "placing" the blame on someone. There's enough to go around if need be. Still the possibility of 10 or 11 games left. At the end of the day it's still the Green Bay Packers and it's still football. Can anyone else hear Vince Lombardi driving the point home, "It's who we are and it's what we do."

That's a great line. Leaders lead and losers blame. My dad hammered that ideology into me since I was a child. (A very happy birthday to him, by the way.) You win as a team. You lose as a team. And you improve as a team. Rodgers is right, though. The Packers need a galvanizing moment. You can't force it, but they need to find it.

Jeffrey from Wentzville, MO

Joe from Clio, MI: "Mike, what does New Orleans do better on offense than Green Bay does?" Spoff: "Score more points." I got curious and looked this up: New Orleans points for: 378. Points against: 239. Green Bay points for: 277. Points against: 243. That's 131 (almost two touchdowns per game) offense and only four points defense, so point taken. However, a New Orleans road record of 5-0 is also a "tad better" than the Packers' road record of 0-5, as well!

Likewise, the Packers outscored their opponents by 201 points when they were 15-1 in 2011, so it's pretty clear points translate to victories, home or away.

Mark from Oak Harbor, OH

Wes, you responded to Dave from Minneapolis that the Detroit loss hurt but you were OK with the other four losses because they were against "quality opponents." My question is how do we start beating these "quality opponents"? The last few years Rodgers is 2-10 against top talent – 2-1 against Russell Wilson, 0-1 vs. Brady, 0-1 vs. Goff, 0-1 vs. Luck, 0-2 vs. Cam Newton, and 0-3 vs. Matt Ryan. At some point we have to beat the good teams. We don't get to play rookie QBs and San Francisco's backup every week.

I wouldn't say I was OK with them, but they were all relatively narrow loses to either division leaders or playoff contenders. The answer to your question isn't a secret. We've been talking about it for weeks. Finish. You have to finish. The Packers just haven't done a good enough job of that in these last three losses.

Mike from Des Moines, IA

Wes, pop culture references are TIGHT. But isn't it difficult to work them into your columns?

I try not to force it. Let them come naturally.

Maggie from Kenosha, WI

Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving game memory? It must be nice to be able to spend time this year with family rather than traveling to Ford Field. You've earned the reprieve after the hectic turnaround for Seattle.

I've enjoyed this reprieve from having to travel to Detroit for those games. It was really tough when I was at the Press-Gazette because we couldn't get back home until Friday morning. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I don't have a memory from a specific game, but I fondly recall all the moments playing the backyard with my dad during halftime of games. I can't wait to do that with my own son someday.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

Week 12: Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Days grow short and winters chill is upon us. Good men, do not go gentle into that good night.

Longfellow couldn't have said it better.


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