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Inbox: They need to dig deep once again

One game doesn’t erase months of progression

WR Allen Lazard, S Will Redmond
WR Allen Lazard, S Will Redmond

Bruce from Jackson, WI

We heard Mike opine yesterday so it's your turn today, Wes. If this team was getting overconfident the Chargers put an end to that Sunday. The chances of any team going 16-0 are very small, ask the Patriots. Hopefully home cooking and the 12th man's support will lead to a different outcome this week. Who do you think has the advantage this week on paper? I'm not sure I would be excited about coming to Lambeau after the Packers got their pride trampled on. Nothing worse than a wounded team.

Yeah, there is an old adage about there being nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal. Green Bay responded appropriately in Dallas after its first loss to Philadelphia. They need to dig deep once again this week. Good morning!

Herb from Palm Desert, CA

A stinker like the San Diego game should make people appreciate how hard it is to win on the road in the NFL. Those victories at Chicago, Dallas and Kansas City should be celebrated more than Sunday's loss is criticized. Disappointing, sure, especially for those SoCal fans who shelled out big bucks to witness the Packers' worst performance of the year. I hope the Inbox has been tolerable for the two of you.

It happens. That's the NFL. The best teams have a clunker or two during every 16-game season. What separates the elite from the good teams is how they respond the following week. That's the test the Packers now face with a very talented Carolina team coming into town this Sunday.

Steve from Temecula, CA

Rushing four and giving a guy like Rivers all the time he needs is a recipe for what we saw. Why don't we dial up more pressure?

Make of this what you will but Pro Football Focus has Philip Rivers for a 120 passer rating against the blitz this season compared to 85.9 against four-man fronts. He gets the ball out quickly and that creates problems. One of my keys to victory for this game was getting home with even strength and taking the ball away. The Packers didn't do enough of either.

Venny from Montgomery, AL

I'm not sure if Rivers now has a win against every NFL team after this past game against the Packers, but I wouldn't be surprised if he had it circled on his calendar. He certainly played with an edge.

Besides obviously the Chargers, the only NFL team Rivers doesn't hold a victory over is now Carolina (0-3).

Justin from Waupun, WI

What do you think the Packers' key issue was on Sunday?

Discipline and an overall lack of production. There were too many penalties, especially early on, and just not enough efficiency in all three phases. Davante Adams said it best – the Packers were sluggish and the Chargers made them pay.

Cliff from Scott, VA

I may not be an expert, but your answer to Marty (Fulton, IL) was and is spot on to me: protect, communicate, block, run, avoid penalties, and BIG PLAYS!

And start fast. The Packers made teams play to their level through the first half of the season and outpaced many of them with that play style. That was missing Sunday.

Jeremiah from South Bend, IN

In what ways were the Packers overwhelmed by a superior opponent versus underperforming on the field? Moving forward, how do they learn from these different circumstances?

They were not overwhelmed by a superior opponent. That's what happened when the Packers went into Denver four years ago and got walloped. The team underperformed Sunday and lost by 15 points. Don't get it twisted.

Michael from Houston, TX

While watching the game on Sunday I noticed that on passing plays AR12 just turned and pedaled back to set up for the pass. There was no faking to the RB. I thought play-action was what we were striving to do to throw the defense off. Any idea why we didn't use play-action any more than we did?

Matt LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers both touched on how the Packers didn't really get into their offensive game plan due to the slow start. Aaron Jones echoed similar comments in the postgame locker room. You have to establish the run to set up the play-action. Jones and Jamaal Williams only combined for 10 carries. As LaFleur said, the Packers fell behind and had to live in a two-minute offense.

Scott from Hayward, WI

Now that we are a day or two removed from laying this year's biggest egg, can we at least say that we won the injury battle on Sunday? I do not remember any Packer players going down with a serious injury that could last for weeks. Maybe staying healthy could be our consolation prize for a strong second half.

We'll see where things stand when the team returns to the practice field Wednesday but no Packers players pulled out of Sunday's game with injury.

Kyle from Osceola, WI

What does Carolina bring to the table?

Challenges. Even without Cam Newton, the Panthers have a lot of players who can stress a defense. Kyle Allen has largely played mistake-free football and Christian McCaffrey is arguably the NFL's top skill-position playmaker. Curtis Samuel also has a tweener skillset that makes him tricky to deal with. Only one defense has more sacks than the Panthers' 34, but they're also allowing 133.4 rushing yards per game.

Jeff from Brooklyn, WI

The Panthers will watch the film and try to mimic what the Chargers and Eagles did. How do they game plan to avoid this and also try and stop Christian McCaffrey?

The Packers look to me like a team in need of the bye week, particularly on defense. The Packers need to plug gaps, gang tackle at the second level and not allow McCaffrey to get free in the open field. He's not infallible. Tampa Bay shut him down twice this year. I'd look at the film and take notes of what the Buccaneers did.

Drew from Rogers City, MI

How should I look at this week in the NFC North? 1) No harm done, everyone lost. 2) Packers missed out on an opportunity to double up with a win and three NFC North losses. 3) Both of the above. 4) None of the above.

I probably lean towards Option 3. My takeaway boarding the bus after the game – it could've been a lot worse in relation to the division.

Dennis from Denver, CO

Do you consider the upcoming game against the Panthers a must-win for the Packers?

If you guys have been reading long enough, I always maintain there's no such thing as a must-win game before December. That rhetoric is only basis for conjecture and speculation among fans. Nothing more, nothing less. If you need a phrase to latch onto, it's a must-win because it's the next game on the schedule.

Sumner from Houston, TX

II, it has taken two years for Pettine's defense to come together. Everyone is expecting the new offense to be in high gear. Is that a reasonable expectation or should it bake longer?

I think it's reasonable given how the league works – hired today and expected to produce tomorrow. Yes, the offense took a step back against the Chargers but it also had steadily improved over the first half of the season. One game doesn't erase months of progression.

Dakin from Clearwater, FL

I was reminding my coworkers and myself all last week not to look past the Chargers due to something that a wise man once shared; "Players, not plays." The firing of Whisenhunt meant the Chargers had something to prove, especially since their offensive playmakers were mostly the same from last season. Kudos to the interim OC they have currently.

In this case, it was probably both. The Chargers wanted to run the ball more and they did. Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler combined for 32 carries against Green Bay. Shane Steichen deserves credit for how he called his first game.

Mario from Montevideo, Uruguay

In the press conference, did Aaron Rodgers call out some of his teammates' preparation for the game in Los Angeles, without naming them? Or did I read too much between the lines? What's your opinion on this?

I'm not going to play interpreter for Rodgers, but when a team comes out that sluggish, it needs to revisit how it prepares for a long road trip like that. LaFleur said they're going to look into it and have a plan for handling San Francisco later this month.

Connor from Salt Lake City, UT

Wes, I hope you're doing well. I wanted to ask this after the KC game but now is still appropriate. Why aren't we playing more Oren Burks? He can cover tight ends and doesn't give up as much size in the run game. I understand we play five down a lot with a nickel back end, but OB may be the answer to a better run defense and covering of tight ends. Your thoughts?

It's a good question and one that was asked of Mike Pettine last week. The Packers like the way B.J. Goodson is playing right now in the base defense and they're still using a third safety in most nickel situations. That's been the roadblock for Burks getting on the field more.

David from Janesville, WI

For a number of years now, the special teams have struggled. Some blamed Ron Zook; he's gone. Some blamed an older and slower roster; the Packers have added speed and youth. While I think there has been noticeable improvement in reducing penalties, the production just isn't coming around. Now that we've had over a half season to observe, what elements do you think the special teams are lacking (specifically returns) and are there any signs they will improve by the end of the year?

It's a bit of everything. So much is put on the returners but the blocking hasn't been good enough, either. Tremon Smith could have fielded his one punt return cleaner against LA but he still had a wave of coverage players bearing down on him regardless. The most consistent performer on the unit has been Mason Crosby, who's now 12-of-13 on field goals after his 54-yarder Sunday and 26-of-26 on PATs.

Chris from Minneapolis, MN

One positive from the Chargers game: There were signs of life on kickoff returns.

Smith's 36-yard kickoff return to the Green Bay 40 helped make Crosby's 54-yarder possible. The Packers need more of that from their return units, if only to prevent teams from mortar kicking so frequently.

Pancho from Neshannock, PA

What did LA do to remove the running backs?

The Chargers won first down, which led to more second- and third-and-longs. It reminded me of the issues the offense faced in September. If you're not winning consistently that initial first down, it's going to be a long afternoon.

Mark from Bettendorf, IA

Two questions/comments. Going for two down 17 was a bad idea, no? Going for it on fourth-and-goal at the 1, up 16, was a bad idea, no?

I don't know if I would say that to either of those questions. What I will say is you could've cooked a three-course meal with the time the officials gave Anthony Lynn to decide whether he was going to go for it on fourth-and-goal or not.

Drew from Visalia, CA

Did the soccer stadium seem substandard? Did the league or Chargers consider the Rose Bowl a better option to grow fan base, revenue?

The view from the press box at Dignity Health Sports Park was terrific…and that was pretty much where the positives ended. It all felt amateurish. After the game, I got booted out of an elevator to the team locker room and had to walk across a tennis court to get there. The Chargers didn't have any options. The Rose Bowl voted like four years ago to take itself out of the running as a temporary venue.

John from Grand Forks, ND

I was perusing an article about the Dolphins likely giving up a home game to the international series next season. Are the Dolphins on the Packers' rotation next year? Seems like a prime way to get the Packers in London.

Not until 2022.

Cindy from Oshkosh, WI

For a "home game" crowd Sunday, I thought the crowd noise was a little much when the Packers were on offense. Or is it just me?

While the crowd was skewed towards the Packers, there was a healthy contingent of Chargers fans who let their voices be heard when Green Bay's offense was on the field. The unique result of that is cheering pretty much from start to finish without any lulls on either side.

David from Oak Hills, CA

For those of us Packer fans who could not be in attendance Sunday, how would you describe the venue and atmosphere at Dignity Health Sports Park, both in and around the stadium? Seems like there will never again be an opportunity to see the Packers play in such an intimate setting of less than 26,000 fans. Unfortunately the Packers couldn't capitalize on having a "road game" filled with Packer fans.

The team didn't get the desired result, but the Packers fans in attendance were incredible to say the least. As bleak as it looked at times Sunday, there still were "Go Pack Go" chants well into the fourth quarter and a thunderous ovation for the Jamaal Williams touchdown. Those fans brought it.

Dave from Comer, GA

Watching the Jets-Dolphins highlights it sure looks like Sam Ficken is kicking very well this year. I'm glad he found a job and is doing well.

It's been a bizarre year for the Jets, which has contributed to Ficken only attempting seven field goals and seven extra points. He was 3-of-4 against the Dolphins, with a make from 52 and a miss from 49.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Wes, was it a tougher weekend for Packers fans or Patriots fans? What are your thoughts on New England's loss to the Ravens?

It's probably Packers fans by a nose because of how many packed into a road stadium, but that certainly was a tough pill for the Patriots to swallow against the first legit contender they've faced this year.

Jeff from Tucson, AZ

Still waiting to see LaFleur's brand new playbook.

Then, I suggest you start watching the games.

Austin from San Francisco, CA

I've typed out seven different responses and then deleted them because they were all so negative. Let's just get to next Sunday and put this in the rear view. The glass is half full.