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Inbox: There was something about that scene

It’s the way he’s always played

Former Packers KR Desmond Howard
Former Packers KR Desmond Howard

Evan from Little Pine Lake, WI

Is this upcoming game against SF the most important game of the year for the Packers?

So far.

Markus from Aurora, CO

Insiders, another nail-biter is just around the corner (or even closer). While there is a lot on the line, I approach this game as I have a number of others this season: Be ready for an unfavorable outcome, and encourage a favorable one. Expectations that are too high (with perceived "end of the world" status as unfulfilled) just are not sustainable for the long run. Am I brainwashed by Vic and you Insiders, or am I just a realist?

It sounds to me like you've gained some perspective. I'll add this: Win or lose, there will still be a ton of sorting out to do in the NFC through the month of December. The Packers clinch nothing with a win, and they lose nothing except probably a realistic chance at the No. 1 seed with a loss. It's a big game, but there will be bigger ones to come.

Scott from Hayward, WI

Million dollar question: How do the Packers stop those 3-4 gashing plays that have been crippling us just about every single game and costing us about 10 points per game? And how do we do that without giving up pressure on Garoppolo? If we cover the big pass and give Aaron Rodgers 3.5 to throw...we win, right?

Sure. Sounds easy enough.

Ken from Memphis, TN

Has there been another Packers coach who has taken the Packers to the playoffs in his first year?

Nope. Holmgren came the closest, going 9-7 in '92 but losing a final game at the Metrodome that would have clinched a playoff spot (I was in attendance with my great uncle's Vikings season tickets, actually). The Packers lost a tiebreaker for the final playoff spot to Washington that year based on conference record. In McCarthy's first season ('06), the Packers won four straight to finish 8-8 but lost a strength-of-victory tiebreaker to the Giants for the last playoff spot.

Blaine from Fennimore, WI

One of my favorite memories of Packers vs. 49ers was Donald Driver in the throwbacks making a ton of defenders miss tackles for a 61-yard touchdown. What is your favorite moment in Packers vs. 49ers history?

Mine would have to be Desmond Howard starting the Packers' playoff run in '96 returning a punt 71 yards through a mud-sloppy Lambeau for a touchdown. There was something about that scene.

Dan from Portland, OR

I love the Aaron Jones / Jamaal Williams tandem at RB. My question is, who do you think is the better power runner? From what I've seen, if I'm the coach and I absolutely need to get one yard, I'm going with Williams. He seems to be the better bulldozer in tough situations. Thoughts?

Williams is definitely the better power runner, but the threat Jones presents to bounce any run outside actually makes him pretty effective at running between the tackles in short-yardage situations, too.

Tucker from Temple, TX

I think there's some confusion on what "RPOs" are. A run-pass option is not a rollout where the QB has the option to run the ball or throw it, but rather a play call where the QB looks at the defensive front and decides to either hand the ball to the running back or throw quickly behind a linebacker too far into the box to be able to get to the flat in time (or some other similar situation).

That's a post-snap RPO. There's also the pre-snap RPO when the QB decides just before the snap whether he's handing the ball off or whipping it to an outside receiver. These are now more often called "run solutions" so as not to be confused with the RPO you described, but they were called RPOs before the post-snap variety made its way into the NFL. You can tell when a "run solution" throw occurs because the entire offensive line is run blocking and doesn't even know where the ball is. If the QB does hand it off, there's usually an outside receiver standing still at the line of scrimmage because he had to be ready for a possible throw.

Charlie from Cameron, NC

What does this noise "pipe" look like? This time of year I can't help but picture Eddie emptying his chemical toilet.

Too early. That's next week's movie, Charlie.

Paul from Ellensburg, WA

Hey fellas, I made my first ever pilgrimage to Lambeau this year to see the Packers beat the Lions on Monday night. I didn't see Aaron Jones dash and slash his way into the end zone like I expected. I saw Jamaal Williams bruise his way out of the backfield to keep the offense going. Maybe/probably Jones would've recovered if we kept feeding him, but isn't the great and amazing point to this whole debate that we didn't need him to?

Exactly. Jones has scored half his league-leading 14 touchdowns in two games. Finding other ways is one reason this team is 6-2 in the other eight games.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

Mike, in the chat Wednesday you were asked if Robert Tonyan or Jace Sternberger would have the biggest impact over the final six weeks. I agree on Tonyan but find Sternberger's skillset very intriguing. I'd like to ask the same question between Ibraheim Campbelland Oren Burks. Who has the biggest impact over the next six games?

I'm going to say Campbell. When I heard LaFleur talk about Campbell's presence in the hybrid position stabilizing roles and responsibilities for a lot of guys on defense, I took that to mean, among other things, he's going to be on the field quite a bit.

Dave from Coloma, MI

I know much has been said about SF creating turnovers, but the teams they have played have problems holding on to the ball. The league average is 14.3 TOs per team. Of the nine teams they've played only Arizona (8) and Seattle (13) are below that average with Tampa Bay leading the way with 25. On the other end of the scale, the Packers (7) trail only the Saints (6). The 49ers have turned it over 17 times. I like our chances of winning the turnover battle.

I don't think winning the turnover battle is a requirement for the Packers to win the game, but I don't think they can lose it and expect to win.

Scott from De Pere, WI

Eric Weddle, who is now with the Rams, stated that he won't tell his current team about any of the secrets he knows about the Ravens. You guys always say that when a former player is facing the Packers or vice versa there isn't anything that would make a difference. Does this alter your thought process on this topic?

No. The biggest things teams can't pick up from their own extensive film study are verbal signals, and those can always be changed.

Evan from Middleton, WI

If adding games is the top thing on the NFL owners' wish list for the next CBA, what do you think is the top thing on the NFLPA list?

Well, if the owners are going to insist on adding a regular-season game, the players are going to push for a bump in their revenue share. I think some of the disciplinary policies also will be up for discussion.

Ron from Kimberly, WI

It seems as though over the last few years, every time the opponent pops a big play, lack of communication is cited quite often as the reason. Can you elaborate? Is it lack of communication from coaches to players, amongst the players themselves, a combination, or just too much thinking on the players' part? Seems it has become an easy cop-out!

It's a catch-all because it really does encompass all those things. Sometimes the personnel and call aren't relayed quickly enough. Other times, adjustments aren't picked up by everyone, or pre-snap changes take too long. It's exactly what the Packers were doing on the final play vs. Carolina and got lucky. When you aren't so lucky, bad things happen. Reading between the lines of some of LaFleur's and Pettine's comments, I think they'd rather see everyone ready to play the same call, even if it's not the "perfect" one, than see an improvement/adjustment not get communicated effectively or on time and create potentially greater vulnerabilities. It's a fine line.

Paul from Hewitt, WI

Mike/Wes, without knowing the official snap count it appears the playing time for Rashan Gary has decreased the past two games. If this is the case, is it a matter of him hitting the rookie wall, game plan, or his play has not warranted more opportunities?

His defensive snap totals have been pretty consistent the last four games – 18, 14, 18 and 16. It's definitely not a rookie wall. I do think Kyler Fackrell has been playing pretty well of late, so that's a factor. We'll see if the self-scout over the bye week leads to any different patterns of utilization in the defensive front.

Max from Urbandale, IA

Blake Martinez was listed as a full participant on the injury report but has been playing with a clubbed hand and recently related it to playing with one hand. Any expectation on seeing Blake playing with both hands Sunday night?

It's something to watch for, definitely.

Col from Ludlow, UK

It's almost official. A 49ers fan from the UK is close to breaking the world record for visiting all 32 NFL cities, and when asked where had the most friendly atmosphere, he replied, "Green Bay, definitely Green Bay." Also, "The people there are some of the nicest people you'll ever meet, even after they just lost! There was no smack-talking, they just said, 'Oh yeah, good game, well done!' You could see hardcore Eagles fans not really sure how to respond to such nice people." Hats off to WI folk.

This does not surprise me in the slightest.

Drew from Rogers City, MI

As I look at the potential playoff scenarios, I can't help but notice the NFC will have some very good teams inevitably miss the playoffs. Meanwhile the AFC has some teams that will be playing a game in January that leave something to be desired. Will we ever go to a "best 12 records" playoff format?

Not without revamping the entire scheduling formula, which I don't see happening. It would make no sense for every team to play three-quarters of its games against conference foes but then not separate the playoffs by conference.

Brett from Onalaska, MN

Why is no one talking about the Seahawks as a likely No. 1 seed?

Because to me no one's the "likely" No. 1 seed with all the clashes amongst contenders coming up. Seattle's schedule is almost as tough as San Francisco's. If the Seahawks get through these next three unscathed (at Eagles, Vikings, at Rams), perhaps the conversation changes.

Agrim from Shakopee, MN

I know that this is far-fetched, but hear me out. If rules like this PI rule are going to stay in the game, why wouldn't the NFL just completely abolish challenges? All replays would be initiated by the official in the booth/New York or the officiating crew on the field. Coaches could ask the official on their sideline for a review, and if the official thinks that the play warrants a review, the crew can gather and the referee can make a decision as to whether or not to review the play.

I think the "sky judge" concept that was bandied about last offseason is going to gather more steam this coming spring. Just a hunch.

Logan from Lamar, CO

I'm curious how long coaches sit on a trick play before ultimately deciding to use it. The "Philly special" comes to mind. Do you think over a bye week coaches seek to come up with brand new plays/unscouted looks? Or are they more focused on fine-tuning some tricks that they have already had up their sleeves? Seems tricky knowing when to deploy new looks while still saving enough to use when the games count even more.

Gimmicks can be opponent-specific, but they can also sit in mothballs for a while. Either way, generally it's a confluence of events that leads to the call – the situation, the feel for the game, the defensive look. Everything has to line up for the moment to be right. Coaches don't call trick plays just for the sake of calling one.

David from Oak Hills, CA

It was awful to see the Tua injury on Saturday sideline him for the year. I know it's crazy to bring up so early, but wow, he went from being a sure-fire top pick, to very likely falling to a contender. One has to wonder now if a 2019 playoff team will end up with the top QB prospect.

Barring trades, there are still 20 teams that will pick in the first round before the playoff teams do. If the medical reports are good five months from now, he won't last long enough.

Marty from Grafton, WI

I didn't know anything about AR in or coming out of college other than expecting him to go number one. Was AR always very careful with his throws or did he learn to be more cautious after watching Brett and his sometimes wild throws?

Rodgers has said he learned in high school he couldn't turn the ball over or he was going to be benched. It's the way he's always played.

Darrell from Richmond, VA

I feel very strongly we can beat the 49ers on Sunday, because Seattle doesn't have the pass-rush tandem we have. I expect World War Z to wreak havoc in this game. He's been quietly getting pressure for his brother. I think it's time. After all, the 49ers have played a soft schedule, now the real elite teams are coming. Who's your player to watch?

Dave from Chippewa Falls, WI

Do you put any stock in the Packers' HC, DC and OC being sons of career coaches?

I don't think it's an accident that people who grow up around it develop the wherewithal and the drive to make it to the top of the profession.

Patrick from Minneapolis, MN

The problem with direct questions is that a majority of them are Google-able. Obviously we want to do our best to get you stuck making an opinion that contradicts past opinions and make you eat crow. Don't you see?

Resistance is futile.

Nick from Oquawka, IL

"Optimism without expectations." I thought that was as good of a way to look at this season as possible. Until this week. If we win this game I think we can tweak it a little. Just beat the 49ers.

Happy Friday.