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Inbox: There's nothing more team-oriented in football

Things just never lined up quite right

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Packers' defensive line

Dave from Comer, GA

I don't want to use the word "hate," but I despise the Vikings and abhor the Seahawks. What do I do? Both of them can't lose this week.

But they both can't win, either. That's worth something.

Tom from Douglassville, PA

Packers vs. 49ers has been my favorite non-division rivalry over the years. What non-division team do you look forward to watching the most?

The top non-division rival for me will always be Seattle, but San Francisco is right behind.

Monty from Hazen, ND

LeRoy Butler is one of my favorite Packers ever, but my most memorable Butler moment happened in 1988, FSU vs. Clemson. Google "Puntrooski." I guarantee it is worth your time! Leap for the HOF!

Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

Michael from Madison, WI

Who is Elgton Jenkins' backup?

If Jenkins can't play Sunday night, I'd expect – as I laid out in my Wednesday story –either Billy Turner flips over to left tackle with Dennis Kelly coming in at right tackle, or Kelly takes left tackle. Yosh Nijman is another option, but in this matchup (Nick Bosa, on the road) I'd anticipate the coaches going with a veteran player.

Roger from Lakewood Ranch, FL

Mike, a Saturday good morning to you. The touchdown pass to Big Bob certainly looked like a fantastic throw. But Aaron Rodgers himself said he missed his target on that throw. As amazing as some of his passes are, sometimes lucky is better than good.

No, the one he missed was when Robert Tonyan drew the PI. We all thought he threw that ball precisely to get a DPI call, but it turns out it was just a bad throw. In that case, yes, lucky was better than good.

Samuel from Skokie, IL

As unbelievable as the throw to Tonyan was, it seemed like the wrong read. Lazard was wide open, it was third down and we needed a first down in a big way. The chances of a completion to Tonyan were very low especially compared to a wide open player in the middle. We didn't need a highlight-reel play, just a dump off to an open receiver. But it sure was cool to see.

Rodgers actually said he considers a throw like that, when the defender has his back turned, as very high percentage. He counts on being able to put it where it needs to be, and the fact it was a highly trusted target like Tonyan probably entered the warp-speed calculations going on in his brain. He acknowledged the decision would have been very easy to criticize had it not worked out.

Chuck from Gold Canyon, AZ

Hello Mike. One thing that made the Packers offense so effective last year was the involvement of many different players in the passing game. Although getting the ball in the hands of your star players is a good thing, being able to spread the ball around makes it more difficult to game plan against. Through two games are you surprised the lack of targets Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard and the TEs other than Tonyan have had? I know AR overthrew MVS twice last week but seems like we still have a ways to go.

The Packers had just 52 snaps vs. the Saints, 37 with Rodgers in the game. Last week it was 58, not including three kneel-downs. After the rough Week 1, the reset for Week 2 was focused on getting the ball to Jones and Adams. If the unit finds its rhythm and gets more snaps, we'll see more opportunities for others.

Richard from Menasha, WI

How does the Packers' defense build on a strong second half against the Lions to get off to a fast start against the 49ers?

Stop the run. Send a message early to the 49ers they aren't going to just be able to run the ball at will.

Jason from Austin, TX

Insiders, it's no secret that this game is going to come down to (1) can the Packers stop the 49ers' run and (2) can the Packers defense get off the field on third down? My question is, which defensive player has stepped up in the run defense department? Who is poised to take over this game on defense and force San Fran to have third-and-longs? The defense is currently allowing 4.8 yards/attempt. The offense scoring 50 points doesn't count as forcing the Niners to pass.

There's nothing more team-oriented in football than run defense. The interior guys, edge guys, second-level guys, etc., all have a job to do on any given call. It was interesting Thursday how Kenny Clark confessed to the media when he tries to do too much, he's not a good player. This can't be about one guy trying to be a hero.

Matt from Waunakee, WI

Mike, do you miss traveling to games or does the lack of travel make life easier?

Both. I dearly miss being at the games, but I don't miss the plane and bus rides and all the other inconveniences, work- and family-wise, that go with it.

Keith from Bakersfield, CA

I've been pondering the "touch pass" to Aaron Jones for the first touchdown against the Lions a bit too much, so I thought I'd ask II. What is the strategic value of the touch pass compared to a regular handoff or having Jones catch the snap directly? Does ML have AR on his fantasy team, and needed the extra points? I thought of two (non-fantasy related) reasons – AR taking the snap confuses the defense, or the forward pass reduces the risk as it would be an incompletion if Jones muffed it.

You finally got to your answer at the end there.

The Green Bay Packers practiced on Clarke Hinkle Field on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021.

Nick from Plainwell, MI

Good morning! Should we expect a mix of Garoppolo and Trey Lance at QB for the Niners? Or is Jimmy their guy for now?

Lance got a few snaps and threw a TD pass in Week 1. He didn't play in Week 2. So we'll just have to wait and see.

Josh from Banff, Canada

I know nostalgia can be a dangerous thing – but my oh my there was something really fun and familiar about Aaron hitting up Randall Cobb on a free play against the Lions. 10/10 wouldn't complain if we get to see that happen again.

Something tells me it won't be the last time we see that this season.

Tom from Traverse City, MI

Seems that tight ends have been hard for recent Packers' defenses to stop. Do you expect a better performance against Kittle? If so, why?

I don't know what to expect, but I do see containing Kittle as a major key to this game. He's going to make some plays, we all know that, but he can't get the explosive ones that change a game. Last week for the Lions, Hockenson had eight catches but for just 66 yards, with one short TD. That would be a reasonably good effort against Kittle, I think.

Christopher from Frederick, MD

Do you think other teams treat Big Bob Tonyan as an elite tight end, like they would treat Kelce or Kittle?

No, or at least not yet.

Nate from Amherst, WI

The secret weapon against Kittle? I'm calling it now: the much-maligned Kevin King.

That's a bold strategy, Cotton. I mean, Nate.

John from Quad Cities, IL

People complaining about ones not playing in the preseason have taken a lot of criticism, but year after year the starters seem out-of-sync for the first few games. They improve in time, but I am one of the complainers who would like to see the ones play a few series in the preseason. I think they need to see more variety of opposition and get the feeling of playing in a real game.

Was the 6-0 start in 2015 worth it with Jordy Nelson out for the season? I'll hang up and listen.

Keith from Lincoln, IL

Who/what do NFL head coaches hear through their headsets? Do they hear chatter from offensive, defensive, and special teams? I would imagine there is a lot of "radio traffic" during a game and just wondered how they keep straight what they need to know. Thanks!

My understanding is the headsets have multiple communication channels, one for each group of coaches (offense, defense, special teams), and the head coach has a switch that allows him to get on any channel he needs to.

Pete from Chippewa Falls, WI

Why don't the Packers take more chances on defense? The risk is you give up the big plays when you blitz. But the reward is you create turnovers with sacks and pressure. Since the Packers have Rodgers, I'm not worried about the risk because Rodgers will typically get those points back if the defense gets burned on a big play. And the reward of creating turnovers likely means the Pack will win. Barry can't sit back and let offenses go on long drives that limit Packers possessions.

That's one school of thought, but those opportunities only come from stopping the run first. The Saints rushed for 140 yards in the first half. The Lions were keeping the pass rush at bay in the first half with effective runs followed by play-action. When the game dictated the Lions couldn't stick with the run, the whole look of the defense changed.

Michael from Burnsville, MN

Will the 49ers' offense play a different brand of ball than they normally do, due to the RB issues?

That would not be my expectation.

Chase from Fort Leonard Wood, MO

Good morning team. I just saw a tweet graphic of "Seasons with an MVP winner by franchise." GB and the Colts were at the top with nine each. The one that surprised me was the Saints had zero. How did Brees not ever win the MVP? Thanks.

I did some research, and it's fascinating when you look at it. The first time Brees threw for 5,000 yards, in 2008, he won NFL Offensive Player of the Year, but he didn't get a single MVP vote because the Saints were 8-8. Peyton Manning won MVP that year. He led the league in passer rating in '09 (109.6), going 13-2 in 15 starts, and got some MVP votes, but Manning won again. Brees' best year statistically was 2011 (5,476 yards, 46 TDs) for a 13-3 team, and he won OPOY again, but another QB you might've heard of set the NFL record for passer rating on a 15-1 squad. Brees threw for 5,177 yards and 43 TDs in 2012, but the Saints were 7-9 and Adrian Peterson rushed for 2,000 and won it. He threw for 5,208 yards and 37 TDs in 2016, but again, the Saints were 7-9 and the Falcons won that division, with Matt Ryan taking MVP. Brees' best passer rating for a full year was 115.7 in 2018, going 13-2 in 15 starts, but Patrick Mahomes won it. Things just never lined up quite right, I guess.

Peter from Madison, WI

Fellas, Green Bay is now 29-9 under Matt LaFleur and an even more impressive 24-2 under LaFleur when Aaron Jones gets 15 or more touches (the notable exception being the 2019 NFCCG). Am I oversimplifying things by saying: Feed Jones early and often?

It's never that simple, but I don't know how many times I said leading up to free agency and after he signed his big contract that this offense just operates on another level when Jones is doing his thing. He's a special player, which is why the Packers paid him and didn't let him go, despite the impact it had on other decisions.

Mark from Altoona, WI

As awful as the Saints game was and how improved the Lions game was, where do you start to get clarity? I try not to let the first game of the season send me into the fetal position or the second one bringing out my championship gear. In your opinion, how many games are played before we understand who this team is?

At least four, if not five or six. But it also continues to be a week-to-week league, and no matter the results, teams aren't the same in September and October compared to December and January. There has to be enough body of work to separate an established level of play from the outliers. We're just getting started.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

Week three, a new challenge for the men of Green Bay

A long trip to a state that has often been unkind to the men in green and gold

A primetime clash with the spotlight shining at its brightest

An undefeated foe led by a fierce defense that will challenge all you do

An opportunity to show the full measure of who you are and what you can be

An opportunity to answer the questions

Only your best will do to stay on the right side of the ledger

Embrace opportunity, Rise up Green and Gold

Just beat the Niners. Have a good weekend, everybody.

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