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Inbox: They know how to win

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Dean from Leavenworth, IN

Obviously Mitch Trubisky is a different and much better QB than he was Sept. 5. The Bears are currently much better than they were in the first meeting. The question is are the Packers better than they were in September?

I got 10 victories that says they are but there's only one way to find out. I can think of no better way to end a season than three straight December games against the old black-and-blue division. Good morning!

Jerry from Lancaster, CA

It doesn't matter if they played well or not, a WIN is a WIN. Time to turn the page and play well enough to WIN next week!

The other thing about this team is week-to-week rules really don't apply. Just because the Packers play one way one week doesn't at all mean that's how they'll look the next. Green Bay finds a way to win, and when the chips are down, that's an identity it'll always be able to lean back on in the postseason.

Brooks from Moore, OK

If the Packers and Saints both win out, what tiebreaker do the Packers have?

If both teams win out and finish 13-3, Green Bay would have a better NFC record. The Packers would be 10-2 against the conference with losses to Philadelphia and San Francisco, whereas the Saints would be 9-3 with losses to the L.A. Rams, Atlanta and San Francisco.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Wes, could we dedicate some applause, accolades, and approbation to the special-teams play? JK Scott pinned Washington deep in its own territory multiple times, Mason Crosby turned all of his kicks into timely points, and Tyler Ervin got positive yards in his debut as a punt returner.

And most of all, no special-teams penalties. I think that was clearly one of, if not the best, overall special-teams performance of the season. The blocking was better and Tyler Ervin catches a clean ball. That's the formula for producing yards consistently.

Michael from Winfield, IL

I'm starting to like the Packers' chance at hosting the NFC Championship Game. If the Packers win out, Rams or Falcons beat the 49ers, Panthers or Cardinals beat Seattle, and Seattle beats the 49ers, the road to the Super Bowl goes through Lambeau. None of that is going to be easy; all of it is very possible. Brian Gutekunst gave lie to the mantra "help is not on the way" with Tyler Ervin. Was he the missing piece?

The phrase "help is not on the way" has more to do with offense and defense. Special teams will always be the exception because the playbook is so much smaller, especially for specialists and returners. If there was ever a position where an in-season signing could make an impact, it's on the return units. The best way to help your offense is establishing field position. Swervin' Ervin did his job Sunday.

LeeAnn from Carefree, IN

Any idea what Tyler Ervin's 40-yard time was coming out of college?

He clocked a 4.41 at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine.

Bruce from Appleton, WI

Aaron Jones had a big game against Washington. What was the big factor in his run game?

Really good blocking – by both the receivers and offensive line – freed Jones up to do what he does. The Packers also did a better job of getting him outside in space, whether it was stretch runs or throws to the flat.

Erik from Sisters, OR

I think I saw Rashan Gary and Josh Jackson on the field more last weekend. Did Pettine use this game to give the young guys more snaps and rest up the veterans a bit?

Chandon Sullivan played slot nickel and Jackson played dime cornerback, with Tramon Williams replacing Kevin King outside. I thought Jackson made a solid account of himself on Sunday, especially given the circumstances with his father's passing on Friday. Gary made his 13 snaps count with Pettine using a larger base to combat Washington's packages with six offensive linemen. He had three tackles, including one for a loss.

Ashley from Chicago, IL

How do the Packers revert the Bears back to their earlier season form?

Shut that offense down. You have to keep Mitchell Trubisky in the pocket and cannot let David Montgomery run all over. Because you know the challenges Chicago's defense presents. One way or another, defense wins this game.

Cameron from Wayland, MI

I feel confident that adversity will bring out the best in this team. What matchup are you looking forward to seeing the most against the Bears? I would like to see how the offensive line responds to another defense that can bring great pressure...

The battle between the Packers' offensive line and the Bears' defensive front will be fun to watch, especially with Chicago likely to activate Akiem Hicks off injured reserve. The Bears are playing without Roquan Smith, which is a big loss, but that front remains as formidable as any in the league.

Eli from Yardley, PA

Hi Wes, bigger surprise this year...Smith Bros' sack totals or the emergence of Baby Yoda in Star Wars?

It's gotta be Baby Yoda. The Smiths had 12½ combined sacks last year and are entering their respective primes. Nobody saw Baby Yoda coming.

Eric from Green Bay, WI

In 2016, when Rodgers said they would "run the table", they had very winnable games the first half of that six-game stretch. The real test was going to be the fourth game when Seattle came to town. Green Bay laid an absolute beat-down on Seattle that afternoon. Run the table became real that Sunday night. Chicago is now coming into Lambeau for the real test of what its team is worth. Can we put a moratorium on any complaining if Green Bay wins?

This is a critical game Sunday. The Packers absolutely cannot look past the Bears, who are playing better as of late. That being said, the Vikings game represents the real "Seattle" litmus test. The Packers have yet to win at U.S. Bank Stadium. If they do it this year, after a win over the Bears Sunday, the Packers are a team to be feared come January.

Bill from Wilmington, DE

Wes, it was nice to see "Big" Bob Tonyan get his TD. Do you think he will become a bigger part of this offense?

The Packers have been slowly easing Tonyan back into the offense, but he's worthy of taking on an increased role. He's one of the Packers' best downfield threats and his in-line blocking is sufficient. It wasn't just his 12-yard touchdown, either. I thought he had a couple nice blocks to set up a few Aaron Jones runs.

Joel from West Des Moines, IA

To which other player's ascent, Packers or other, would you compare Allen Lazard's assault on the WR depth chart, from cut-down casualty to presumptive No. 2 in just two months?

Geronimo Allison (2016) and Tyler Lancaster (2018) are the first names that come to mind. The only difference is those two were undrafted rookies. Allen was technically on the 53-man roster last year. His emergence has been a calendar year in the making. More on that to come.

Fran from Negaunee, MI

If the Packers beat the Bears and the Lions, do they secure first place in the division even if they lose to the Vikings?

Facts.

Jennifer from Middleton, WI

This will sound like criticism but it's a genuine question. The pattern has been more often than not busting a big play for success vs. methodical drives. Once upon a time the two-minute drill, full of no-huddle, quick slants and rhythm throws, was what we did best. What about the new offense prevents us from doing it now?

The slants are there but those are rhythm plays. When the Packers' offense has struggled, it's been because it can't establish or maintain rhythm and tempo. That's the area I want to see the offense improve over the next three weeks.

Andrew from Fullerton, CA

We've seen the run D look great (CHI), the pass defense stifling (MIN), the run offense break free (DAL, DET, WAS), and pass offense look superhuman (PHI, OAK, KC). My assessment of this team is that we have more of a consistency issue than talent deficit. I see a team that has been good enough at enough things to beat most opponents, and I think we can compete with the big boys if we put enough of those performances together. Thanks for the Dark Knight reference on Saturday, Wes.

On Sept. 1, I wanted to see progress. On Dec. 10, I can confidently say we've seen progress from 2018. What many didn't anticipate was the Packers being legitimate contenders in Matt LaFleur's first year and they're struggling with how to react to it. So when people get upset at a five-point win over Washington, I challenge you to appreciate this wasn't a "let's sell out for a Super Bowl" year. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year but the new parts took quicker than expected. This is the first chapter of a much longer story.

Jim from Tucson, AZ

This year is going to be a wonderful finish. Looking far, far ahead, how many teams are positioned as well as us for next year? We have a high-caliber president, general manager, coach and quarterback all under contract. We can use the draft and capital to fill in or upgrade some positions. I am happy.

The Packers are going to have a lot of flexibility this offseason, both with the salary cap and as it relates to the draft. Brian Gutekunst has picked up additional assets with the trades he's pulled off over the past two years.

Mike from San Antonio, TX

Good morning...I keep hearing "inside-zone blocking" and "outside-zone blocking." Would you please provide a description of each? If it is easier to show on a WYMM segment or one of Larry's sessions, that is fine. I watch them all. Thank you.

This would be a good topic for Larry and/or Mike to tackle, but in its simplest terms, inside zone is starting your run inside the outside hip of the guard and working outside to find a gap. Outside zone is starting outside and looking for a cutback lane inside.

Mike from New Orleans, LA

When reading Crosby's numbers (for game-winners) last week, I was struck by the limited sample size. I had just assumed that for a guy with a career as long as Mason's, more opportunities would present themselves. Then, watching the game Sunday it hit me. Mason hit a late FG that put the Pack up by two scores. While that isn't a "game-winner" it has a similar impact on the game, with what I assume is, a similar amount of pressure. Who cares what the actual stats are? Give me Crosby kicking any day.

The Patriots signed their kicker on Saturday. Saturday. When you have a legitimate NFL kicker, you appreciate that legitimate NFL kicker.

Richard from Madison, WI

Every year the Packers play all four teams from one other NFC division. This year we had the good fortune to draw the NFC East (combined record 16-34). When are we next due to play all 4 teams from the NFC West (currently 32-19-1)?

2021 (assuming there's no change to the rotation with a new collective bargaining agreement). Green Bay just played the NFC West last year.

Tom from Sacramento, CA

It appeared as if Mike Pettine dialed up some exotic blitzes against Washington, which were fun to watch. Was this just to confuse a young QB or is this something we may end up seeing more of moving forward?

It's not like Pettine kept throwing the kitchen sink at Dwayne Haskins. According to Pro Football Focus, the Packers only blitzed on seven of Haskins' 31 drop-backs. He was 3-of-6 for 46 yards against the blitz and was sacked once. If anything, I think Green Bay was better at shuffling its personnel groups and really taking advantage of Za'Darius Smith's versatility in this game. He lined up everywhere from base defensive end to inside rover in dime.

Packers LB Preston Smith and S Adrian Amos signed autographs at Lambeau Field Monday night in exchange for donations to the Salvation Army.

Margeaux from Tallahassee, FL

When was the last time the Packers won all their division games?

2011.

Julian from Las Cruces, NM

I am hoping for an ugly WIN on Sunday against the Bears. Folks, our team is not a flashy, win-by-20-points type team. It's late in the season. Fight hard, play smart, and outscore the opponent is our signature. Just win baby!

The Packers ran over everyone – besides Kansas City – in 2011 and we know all the good it did them in the playoffs. Survive, advance and see if you can win the whole thing.

Chun from El Monte, CA

I am pretty sure in the last few seasons we would have lost games like these to the Redskins. Glad we were able to get the win and convert on those final drives to milk out the clock. I am very encouraged by the way we play on big downs on both sides of the ball to either convert a third down to win the game or stop them on fourth. Is this team more focused than in previous seasons due to the coaching and veteran presence?

The Packers were 3-6-1 in one-score games last year. They're 6-1 this year. You can teach players the game of football but you cannot teach them how to win. You just have to do it and this year's team has more often than not.

Sandy from Green Bay, WI

Congratulations to Coach LaFleur on reaching 10 wins so far this season. I have been impressed with how he handles interviews with the press and it seems like he has the support of the locker room behind him. A winning season certainly can smooth the path for a coach, but is it your impression that Coach LaFleur is settling in to his role as an NFL head coach? The wins are on the books, but how does he seem to be handling the other duties and responsibilities that come with the position?

I see LaFleur getting more and more comfortable at the podium each time he speaks. It's been fun watching his personality come out more and more, as well. He was asked about 10 wins on Monday but he's shelving that talk until after the season. Right now, everyone's focus is on the Bears.

Terry from Chicken Bristle, IL

Insiders, how important is the will to win at this stage in the season?

If you don't have the will to win in December, then you probably should be doing something else for a living.

Shilo from Murrieta, CA

Wes, in Saturday's Inbox, did you say that you have a "no brother good-in-law from Illinois?" You know, like in the "Turdy-Point Buck" song? It's Bears Week, so we need to know. By the way, happy early birthday!

Ha, yes I do but we still love him dearly. And thank you.

Dave from Milaca, MN

I know the Pack is 10-3, but all their wins almost feel like losses. Why is that?

Because your glass is a quarter empty.

Lori from Winona, MN

Why all the fuss about "identity"? How about this: Just win, baby.

Last time I checked, "winning" is an identity. Welcome to Week 15, folks.

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