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Inbox: They believed in one another from the start

There’s still another chapter to go

S Adrian Amos
S Adrian Amos

Josh from Salt Springs, New Brunswick

Neophytes. Well done, sir. That is not a word thrown around often.

Rich from Grand Rapids, MI

This team just feels different. For the past several years, it has felt to me that the team will do only as well as Rodgers performs. In those years, I always felt better with the Pack trailing and ARod with the ball on the last drive of the game rather than hoping for the D to make a stop. For the first time in a long time, our D has given me every confidence that they can win game at least as reliably as the Rodgers-led offense. And now we even have a return game ...

The evolution of this team and the ebbs and flows of the season have been fascinating, really. The defense dominated early, then the offense got going in October, both lulled considerably in November, the defense pulled its way out down the stretch while the special teams built a return game but the offense hasn't quite found itself, yet. There's still another chapter to go.

Paul from Farnborough, UK

Dear Wes/Spoff, just to flip it around, what do you think the Seahawks are most worried about when they play us at Lambeau on Sunday?

If I were to boil it down to two names, I'd say Aaron Jones and Za'Darius Smith.

Scotty from Lombard, IL

Hi Insiders, when we tackle the ball carrier, we usually win. When we don't, we give up more yardage and keep the other team on the field longer. I know this sounds simple, but regardless of all the rule changes and schemes, our game is still a game of blocking and tackling, and the team that does a better job of it, usually wins.

I thought fans claimed fundamentals are boring.

Tommy from Pittsburgh, PA

What is the most memorable divisional round game in Packers history?

Wow, I don't know how to pick one. There are so many memories, some to cherish, others not so much. On the one side, you have the scoop-and-score to start it all in San Fran, Desmond and Edgar in the Lambeau mud, Grant in the snow, the Atlanta masterpiece, the Dez no-catch and Rodgers-to-Cook-to-Crosby. On the other, you have six INTs in St. Louis, 4th-and-26, the 15-1 letdown, plus read-option horrors and the unfinished Hail Mary miracle out west. That's too much history to arbitrarily narrow down.

Karen from Everett, PA

Mike, I think it was you who wrote (and I'm paraphrasing): I felt bad for Packer fans...Vic used to get angry when asked about how he "saw" the game. I don't think anybody was accusing him of lying; I think we just don't understand how beat writers "watch" sports. I would LOVE to watch a game through your eyes, btw! My questions are: At one point (I assume) you were "just a fan," do you miss being able to watch games with that perspective? Or did you always have a writer's viewpoint?

Well, I've been a sports writer for almost 25 years now, so even when I'm watching teams I root for but don't cover (like the Brewers and Badgers), my mind is always constructing the story of how the game unfolded through key moments, important decisions, etc. It's just how I'm wired. The easiest thing to lose sight of in pure fan mode is the big picture, because, in a nutshell, you sat down that day to watch your team win. In a job like this, losing the big-picture perspective is a disservice to your readers, and keeping it I believe makes anyone a better fan.

Ray from Clark, NJ

Mike, how often and when was the last time both the fifth and sixth seeds played on divisional weekend?

Three of the four 5-6 seeds won their wild-card games last year, just like this year. All four made it through the first round as recently as 2015, including both the Packers and Seahawks that year.

Keith from Yorktown, VA

Only one repeater from last's year final eight will be playing this weekend, the first time there have been fewer than two. If that doesn't make it clear you can't take anything for granted in the NFL, nothing does.

I hadn't realized that, but it doesn't surprise me in the slightest.

Jeremiah from Denver, CO

The details of an offense's timing and the QB/WR being on the same page must be extraordinarily nuanced with a sliver of room for error, etc. Can you elaborate and provide some details on what makes timing so challenging?

The defense.

Ross from Hudson, WI

Regardless of the outcome the 2019-20 Packers will be remembered as a true team. Not three separate teams but one inseparable unit. Scrappy, tenacious and enduring, this group has overcome a bevy of obstacles to a truly astonishing record. To what or whom can this coalesce be attributed?

I think winning their first two games, against division opponents, at the wire, had a lot to do with it. They believed in one another from the start.

Jay from Brookfield, CT

I have read all about ugly wins. My quote for this year is a win is a win. And as you guys have been saying, 13-3 is pretty darn good. So I propose the following: We are 13-3 without all three phases playing one complete game. That game is coming and so I am feeling confident about our chances for a Super Bowl appearance. Am I wrong?

LaFleur reiterated this week "putting four quarters of consistent football in all three phases" together hasn't happened yet. It's still out there for this team.

Dayna from Jackson, NJ

Not a question but a big thank you to the Packers Inbox for providing us fans with awesome clarity all year. My hat's off to you for a great job and your patience with Packers fans everywhere. Keep up the good work! It matters to everyone. I don't think we say that enough.

Striving for clarity amidst the insanity. We do our best.

Greyson from Ann Arbor, MI

How well do you think the Vikings match up with the 49ers?

Just fine I think. The whole question in my mind is whether the trio of Harrison Smith, Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr can do what they have to in order to stop the run and contain George Kittle at the same time. Dalvin Cook and the running game have to be Kirk Cousins' best pass protection.

Donny from Green Bay, WI

Very random question, but I wonder how David Tepper feels having sold his $770 million of Apple stock to buy the Panthers when that stock has almost doubled since then. The price of belonging to a very exclusive club, I guess.

If he hired the right head coach, he won't give it a second thought.

Corey from Bethlehem, PA

With the Rooney Rule being back in the light, what are your thoughts on the rule? Being a person of color myself I honestly feel conflicted. I would want to be interviewed if you truly believed I had a strong case to be a candidate, not because you need to fill a quota. That said it's still shocking with the amount of coach/manager turnovers there isn't more being highly considered.

I'm surprised as well. The Rooney Rule has the right intentions, but at least a couple of the searches this year clearly had targets in mind, and when a job is someone's to lose, there's little consideration elsewhere, minority or otherwise. It really comes down to owners/franchises conducting wide-ranging, thorough searches in order for minority candidates to gain traction, and it seemed this year with fewer openings and some very quick decisions, the exploration process was minimal at best.

Daniel from Pittsburgh, PA

Has Wayne Larrivee ever called "dagger "too early, only to have a "W" slip away? If so what was the most heartbreaking premature dagger?

I'm not aware of that happening, though I do recall him delivering the dagger on Raji's pick-six at Soldier Field, only to have the Bears be within 30 yards of the tying touchdown with a minute left. Maybe that was a lesson learned.

Jenn from Peoria, IL

I've heard the expression "Any Given Sunday" most of my life but I don't think I truly appreciated what it meant until this year. If the playoffs have shown us anything, it is that any team can win at this level. What I don't understand is why pundits and general sports media appear to completely forget or ignore this. The Packers may or may not be the best team with 13-plus wins, but they do HAVE 13 wins. How is that overrated?

The ratings don't matter anymore. It's time to watch the show.

Tim from Upland, CA

How underrated was the decision by Brian Gutekunst/Matt LaFleur to keep Mike Pettine and his defense together while the offense figures things out throughout the year? I've gotta believe that a new defensive and offensive scheme would not have gotten us to the playoffs.

The improvement the defense made in Pettine's first year was evident, so to not see where that was headed and start over, again, would have been a huge risk for a first-year head coach. Gutekunst clearly felt progress could be accelerated with personnel changes, and I'm sure he shared those thoughts with LaFleur. It was the most sensible approach.

Dan from Cross Plains, WI

I was speaking with a co-worker about the expectations for the upcoming game. Because of the early season expectations, he basically concedes we are playing with house money now. Is that a good way to look at this week's matchup? I'm going to the game and personally believe the game will be close with the loser experiencing a heartbreak, so I've mentally prepared for both outcomes. What are your thoughts and how are you managing expectations for this game?

I remain optimistic without expectations. I haven't changed.

Andrew from Tiffin, IA

Settle a debate I had last year with my brother, please. I thought a healthy Aaron Jones could be as important to winning titles for Rodgers late in his career as Terrell Davis was to Elway. My brother thought I was nuts.

It's far from a crazy notion.

Scott from Syracuse, NY

I believe that this team is built more like the Giants were, with Phil Simms judging the defense and calling the right play. I think that AR does not need to have a 300-yard passing game to win. I think the team is so much more complete and all aspects are in good condition so he does not need to be the hero to win. I think that his brain is more important than his awesome arm at this time. Do you agree?

To an extent, though I also think he'll need to make a few key throws that remind us why his name is Aaron Rodgers.

John from Green Bay, WI

Does it seem like in the latter part of the season we haven't been seeing as many impactful splash plays from Preston Smith and Darnell Savage? "Z" seems to have been putting on most of the QB pressure and making sacks and Savage appeared to be making plays earlier in the season as compared to the second half of the season. We can't see the "all 11" camera angles so it's hard to see what responsibilities are, but it would be good to see more impact from the two of them in the playoffs.

I mentioned both of them last week on "Unscripted" as my guys to watch in the postseason because they're fully capable yet, as you said, have been rather quiet lately. Preston has just 1½ sacks over the last five games. Savage broke up just one pass over the last four. I think both are primed to make an impact.

Greg from Montgomery, TX

Obviously Jadeveon Clooney is the Seahawks' best defensive player. Who is the next best defender we should keep our eye on? Billy Wagner?

Really? You're gonna nail Jadeveon but totally whiff on Clowney and Bobby? The Inbox never ceases to amaze.

Stan from Merrill, WI

Good morning II! With all the sacks and pressures the Packers have applied to quarterbacks this year, how many late hits/roughing-the-QB penalties have we committed? My perception is that the number is quite low.

Three roughing the passers, and there were only two until Za'Darius got flagged for one at Detroit in Week 17.

Corey from Eatonville, WA

If you had a "space time energy projector," which players in Packers history would you call for this game to reinforce the "LaFleur-ians"?

It's obvious, isn't it? Al Harris on defense, Ryan Grant on offense.

Nick from Washington, DC

When was the last time a coach with a previous Super Bowl win was hired like McCarthy just was?

Jon Gruden. Mike Shanahan before that.

Alex from Wichita, KS

If you had to choose one of the more under-appreciated players on this team, who would it be? I think Marcedes Lewis would be my pick, maybe one of the more valuable players who doesn't get the recognition he deserves. Epitome of a true team player.

Lewis is as good a choice as any. I'd also nominate Kyler Fackrell and Adrian Amos.

Levi from Denver, CO

On "Three Things" you mentioned that there are 33 players on the roster that have never seen playoff action. Back in 2010 when the Packers won the Super Bowl, I recall that the Pack had one of the youngest rosters in the league. How does this team compare to the 2010 group and against the rest of the league in 2019?

I can't speak to the rest of the league, but a large portion of that 2010 group had played an overtime playoff game in Arizona the year before. Bryan Bulaga, James Starks, Sam Shields, Mike Neal and Frank Zombo were among the rookie class, but the vast majority of that '10 team had playoff experience.

Doug from Storrs, CT

Watching the national coverage, it seems that the storyline is that the Seahawks are tough fighters as evidenced by all their close wins, and the Packers are inconsistent and can't be trusted because of all of their close wins. Do you see that storyline as well, or am I just sensitive?

The stark contrast in injury situations both teams have dealt with has played into that perception.

Scott from Lincoln City, OR

I messed up and bought tickets to a hockey game on the 19th. There's no way I'm going to miss a Packers game so I'm prepared to eat the cost of the tickets. What I'm wondering is when will we know the times of the championship games and which networks get which times?

CBS has the AFC title game next week at 2:05 p.m. CT. FOX has the NFC game at 5:40 p.m. CT. And you get the penalty box.

Ryan from Rib Mountain, WI

The finger touch on yesterday's "Unscripted" had me rollin' while I was donating plasma. Even got yelled at for moving. That was a classic!

I never know what he's going to do. Honest.

Dylan from Belgrade, MT

Well, I guess there's only one thing left to do...

Happy Friday.