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Inbox: They made the plays at crunch time their opponents didn't

The Rams’ biggest stars got it done in the end

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp

Phil from Madison, WI

Well, that'll teach you to take a couple days off.

The timing was admittedly suspect, but when the bosses of the bosses of the bosses give you permission to totally disconnect for a few days, you take them up on it without asking questions. We've got a whole week now to talk about everything that's happened since Wes and I posted the Butler HOF and Rodgers MVP stories Thursday night. Let's get (back) to it.

Jim from Jump River, WI

Insider Inbox is missing in action. I know that stuff happens and this isn't the most important thing in life, but a message on informing us that II won't be published for a day or two or whenever would be appreciated.

Wes told everyone at the end of Thursday's column. I'm sorry for those who missed it.

Paula from Apple Valley, MN

I'm already tired of the phrase, "All in."

The Rams won. Congratulations to them. But a ton of razor-thin happenstance doesn't validate the approach at the expense of others. Stafford fumbled the ball on his own 20-yard line in the final minute vs. Tampa Bay, got a lucky bounce for the recovery and then won the game. He threw a fourth-quarter interception right in the breadbasket of the San Francisco safety, who dropped it. And an atrocious defensive holding call on the Bengals on third-and-goal from the 8 provided a fresh set of downs to take the lead. The Rams were the last team standing and no one can ever take it away from them. I'm not saying they didn't deserve it, because absolutely, they made the plays at crunch time their opponents didn't. But they won a Super Bowl the same way all the winners do – with plenty of good fortune along the way that doesn't elevate, nor denigrate, their methods compared to anyone else's.

Bob from St. Germain, WI

Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams vs. Stafford and Kupp. Certainly seemed like Cincinnati struggled to shut down Kupp. We all love our guy Adams but does Kupp ever get shut down in the big games after OBJ goes down? Your thoughts guys on a great game.

Kupp took over the game and definitely deserved Super Bowl MVP. He accounted for 50 of the 79 yards on the game-winning drive. With the Rams having no one else to turn to, I'm not sure how the Bengals let that happen, frankly. I hated the defensive holding call on Logan Wilson vs. Kupp, though. It took away what should've been a do-or-die, fourth-and-goal from the 8, and possibly an all-time iconic Super Bowl moment.

Tom from West Palm Beach, FL

The decision of the officials to randomly start officiating differently with four minutes left in the game was odd and reminded me of last year's NFC Championship Game. I thought the "less is more" approach was refreshing, until it disappeared. Any thoughts?

I thought the calls after the defensive holding were legit. But the defensive holding was totally out of character as far as how the rest of the game had been called.

Ken from New York, NY

If you were a Lions fan, how do you think you'd be feeling about the Rams' victory?

I'd be pretty frustrated that my team's front office, with five draft picks in the top 10 overall from 2010-20 (after taking Stafford No. 1 in 2009), and 14 additional top 50 picks in that time, couldn't put together a consistently competitive team with a pretty good quarterback.

Ted from Amherst, NY

The Tee Higgins facemask was one of the most egregious officiating errors I've ever seen – Fail Mary level. It is definitely the worst call I can remember in a Super Bowl. All scoring plays are reviewed and it is a penalty for a coach to throw a challenge flag on a scoring play. How can the officials let something like this happen? How can the league let something like this happen in a Super Bowl?

Automatic review or not, the facemask isn't a reviewable call, not by New York, not by a replay assistant in the booth, not by anybody. Not the way the replay rules are currently written. It was a big miss, plain and simple. Perhaps the defensive holding on third-and-goal was poetic justice to a certain extent. The Bengals almost won thanks to the no-call on Higgins, and we'd be talking about their good fortune instead.

Tyler from Crane Lake, MN

Vic was right. Aaron Donald's Senior Bowl was just the appetizer.

The Rams' biggest stars got it done in the end – Kupp and Stafford on offense, and of course Donald on defense. I don't like all his extracurriculars, which chip away at the pedestal, but there's no denying he's been more dominant than any defensive player since he arrived on the scene. I remember Vic coming back from that Senior Bowl saying every team that passes on him is going to regret it. Well, a dozen teams did pass on him, including the team that took him. The Rams used their second pick in the first round to get Donald at No. 13 (they chose OT Greg Robinson at No. 2).

Patsi from Riverside, CA

With the euphoria of winning a Super Bowl buoying him up now, it is very likely that Aaron Donald may not retire as he had hinted that he might this past week. But if he did, would that potentially put three players in position for first-ballot Hall of Fame induction five years out?

No question. The HOF class of 2027 would have only two spots available for modern-era nominees if Donald joins Brady and Roethlisberger in retirement. It would be a class as difficult to crack as last year's when Peyton, Charles and Megatron were all first-ballot guys.

Graeme from Tucson, AZ

I admit it. I'm torn. So the Rams (and the Bucs) have proven that you can go "all in" and win a championship. Yet I also truly know that going all in guarantees nothing, and I agree with previously shared sentiment that getting into the postseason dance as often as you can is likely the best scenario for success. But then maybe the Packers actually did go "all in" this year and didn't make it past the divisional round. It's not as if we didn't make key free-agent signings. Thoughts?

The Packers went as all in as they ever have with their cap machinations, along with the players they acquired and pursued, while protecting draft assets. You still have to play well enough to win the games that matter most.

Jim from St. Paul, MN

I think your AR-induced headache regarding those who find him a disappointment comes from the fact that all his stats and MVPs are great for one man and not the team. Ignore this opinion, or belittle me for it if you wish, but it's a valid point regardless of your personal view.

Wes took a lot of heat for how he left off that last Inbox regarding Rodgers, so I've got to respond to this take in particular. It sounds as though you're saying Rodgers winning MVPs doesn't translate into any team accomplishments, or that the only team achievement that matters is winning it all, both of which are absurd. Look, I get the frustration with postseason chances not being maximized, and he bears responsibility for some of the shortcomings. No one's denying that. But his MVP play has given this team many opportunities it otherwise wouldn't have had. It's a valid point regardless of your personal view.

Brian from Menomonee Falls, WI

Do you believe there is any validity in the argument made about Rodgers' fourth-quarter playoff performances? The one stating Rodgers started nine fourth-quarter drives with less than a six-point deficit and the Packers only won one of eight games? I feel most playoff games are going to come down to the wire. How much of those late-game drives (mostly game-determining) should be on the shoulders of a top-tier player like Rodgers?

A quarterback of his caliber is expected to get it done with the game on the line, and he'd be the first to say so. But while I'm not going to excuse the fourth-quarter offensive no-show a few weeks ago, there's a lot more to those games referenced in your stats (if they're accurate). He pulled off an incredible comeback in '09 at Arizona, only to lose in OT on a missed facemask. He drove for the tying field goal in '13 vs. SF but didn't touch the ball again. Did the same in '14 at Seattle when the game was crumbling all around him, but never got the ball in OT. After the miraculous drive and Hail Mary in '15 at Arizona, he once again didn't get the ball in OT. Dallas in '16 was not a game the Packers trailed in the fourth quarter. You get the point. I don't think boiling all that postseason insanity down to a stat or two does anyone justice or serves a meaningful purpose.

Scott from Hudson, WI

I was really happy that Aaron Rodgers acknowledged Ted Thompson during his MVP speech. Shortly after his speech, I was wondering why Ted wasn't included in the Honors show's "in memoriam" segment.

I thought I saw Thompson in last year's. He passed away a couple weeks before the Honors program.

Paul from Lexington, KY

In Rodgers' MVP acceptance comments, "thanking Green Bay for 17 years" sounded like a goodbye. How did you interpret his comments?

The Athletic beat writer Matt Schneidman's tweet Thursday night said it best. During the speech and Rodgers' postgame media comments, any thoughts on what he might do kept changing throughout. There was no nailing it down, though if I'd be so bold as to narrow it down, it sounds like playing elsewhere might be the least likely possibility. But whether it's really just Packers or retirement, I honestly don't know.

Former Packers S LeRoy Butler has been named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2022. Take a look back at photos of Butler during his 12 seasons with the Green Bay Packers.

John from Green Bay, WI

Vic used to use the metaphor of the train coming down the tracks when teams pushed out money to future years for short-term cap gains. According to reports it sounds like the Packers will do that this offseason to stay in "win now" mode. Is salary cap hell really a serious thing anymore, or do adjustments like slotting rookie salaries make that a notion from the past? Is the new reality that teams can go from cap hell to healthy again in just a season or two once their window has closed?

We're in uncharted territory with the cap. We just had a year when the cap dropped due to the pandemic, which was unprecedented, and now we're a year away from the cap skyrocketing due to the new TV deals. Every team is playing the angles it feels are best based on its current status as a contender (or not) while the timeline unfolds. There's really no comparing this to anything from the past.

Gabriel from Palm Desert, CA

What is the likelihood of the Packers bringing back all 10 of the top-earning players from last season?

Slim to none, and Slim (like Wes) is on vacation.

Jessi from Sterling, KS

Has LeRoy called Wes yet to ask him to be his presenter at Canton?

Ha, good one.

Susan from Oak Creek, WI

Now that LeRoy has been selected to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, who do you think the next Packer to be inducted will be?

A popular query. I'd say there are two possibilities prior to Rodgers. Mike Holmgren has the best chance, with the new coach category pushing forward one coaching candidate to be considered each year. The other, as I mentioned last week, would be if the senior committee reviews Sterling Sharpe's case.

Mike from Glendale, CA

Ten years ago, the Bears held a 27-21 lead over the Packers for the distinction of having the most Hall of Famers. This summer, once LeRoy Butler receives his gold jacket, Chicago's six-man lead in Canton will have been cut to two. Ten years from now, how likely is it that Green Bay will have surpassed their Windy City rivals?

That's a great question. Right now, it's 30-28. Devin Hester is getting in at some point, and so is Rodgers. Beyond that, it comes down to what happens with Holmgren and Sharpe, and then further down the road, guys like Davante Adams and David Bakhtiari. On the Bears' side, there's possible senior committee consideration of Jay Hilgenberg and Steve McMichael, and then Kahlil Mack, if he stays in Chicago a while longer. I don't think the Bears nor Packers should "claim" Julius Peppers when he goes in, based on years of service. Those are the main names to watch moving forward, at this point.

David from Sheridan, WY

Congratulations to LeRoy and Aaron! It's about dang time LeRoy got into the HOF. I'm upset ML didn't get coach of the year. If Baltimore could have MVP and coach of the year recently, why didn't ML win? Packers had a huge number of injuries. I don't understand.

The Titans actually had more injuries. They used an NFL-record 91 players to get through the season, earning the AFC's top seed, and that appeared to tip the voting toward Vrabel. Any other year, the injuries LaFleur navigated to help the Packers get the NFC's No. 1 seed likely would've carried the day.

Ashley from Durand, IL

Can you post the COTY pictures and article you had prepared for LaFleur? We want to see it anyways. Coach of the Year in our hearts.

Another good one.

Nathan from Manitowoc, WI

Can the NFL force the Packers to play an overseas home game?

It now can in the years the Packers will have nine home games, which is the case in '22.

Mark from Bettendorf, IA

Where did everybody go?

Not far, but I'm back now. Wes is still in the wind, and wherever he is, I hope he and everyone else out there had a great Valentine's Day. Happy Tuesday.