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Inbox: This is their chance to change the narrative

Get the stops and takeaways…and you’ll get that elusive win inside Levi’s Stadium

WR Davante Adams

Ryan from Carmel, IN

Mike or Spoff was on point Wednesday! Wes or Hod or Biff, I know you got this!

He left me with a big lunch box to fill.

Jeff from Muskego, WI

Is the Packers' game going to get canceled?

The game remains on schedule for tonight, according to the NFL. The team actually had just taken off at the time in which I started answering your question Wednesday night.

Vinny from Arlington, VA

In light of COVID impact on at least three members of the team, including two starters and a backup, and the fact that the team will be confined together on a plane for a West Coast trip, why wasn't the game against SF moved to Saturday or Sunday? GB has already been forced to move its practice virtually. Seems like a reasonable change given the circumstances. Why has the game not been rescheduled? Why is competitive balance being ignored?

Because this is the game that was scheduled for Thursday Night Football. I was on the call Tuesday with the league medical officers. The NFL believes it has the protocols in place to keep players safe and the season on schedule.

Matt from Oshkosh, WI

I cannot tell you why but my gut is telling me that this game is much, much bigger than what I thought it would be a couple of weeks ago.

This always was a big game regardless of San Fran's struggles. And despite all of the injuries the 49ers have suffered, few head coaches have done more with less at times than Kyle Shanahan. I think all of you remember how close that 2018 game was at Lambeau Field. But the 49ers are hurting right now. There's no doubt about it, so the Packers need to bring it tonight. Because this is their chance to change the narrative, whether it's what happened last week or back in January.

Doug from Indianapolis, IN

What can the Packers do to become a better "catch-up" offense when they fall behind? If your scheme is based so heavily on the run/play-action and requires multiple TEs/RBs most of the time, how do you catch up? Opposing defenses will ignore all the jet stuff and play-action, plus this roster only has one WR to worry about.

By not getting too far outside themselves. It obviously isn't easy to stitch together 10-, 12-play series with run personnel in a timely fashion but you also don't want to start living in two-minute, "11" personnel. That's when things get predictable. Green Bay still needs to play to its strengths – pre-snap motions, misdirection and creativity.

Jacob from Mason, OH

Can Aaron Rodgers successfully perform with the possibility of no running backs?

It's not like the Packers don't have any running backs. Tyler Ervin, Dexter Williams and even fullback/tight end John Lovett are all available. But Rodgers historically has been just fine when Green Bay's backfield has been depleted. I think back to a few years ago when Davante Adams occasionally lined up in the backfield to keep defensive coordinators honest. So if the Packers gotta roll with Ervin, Williams and Co. tonight, Rodgers and the coaches will adjust accordingly.

Andrew from Baraboo, WI

What if we find out the other Williams is an awesome RB? Wouldn't that be nice!

People forget Dexter Williams was a sixth-round pick 18 months ago. He came from a credentialed program and had one of the fastest short-shuttles of any running back at the NFL Scouting Combine. This is a great opportunity for Williams, who had that miscue on punt protection in Houston. I'm sure he's champing at the bit to get the pads back on.

Jason from Austin, TX

Why wouldn't Tyler Ervin start if Aaron Jones can't play Thursday (assuming he's healthy)? He's so fast that I'm excited to see him get an expanded role. If Dexter Williams is the starting running back coming up from the practice squad, that's a heck of a jump.

Ervin could start but he's not built like a traditional north-and-south NFL back. At 5-foot-10, 192 pounds, he's more of that gadget player and fly-motion receiver. Don't get me wrong. If Jones doesn't play, the Packers need to get extra creative with how they utilize Ervin's skill set. But Dexter Williams is a little more of the between-the-tackles runner.

Markus from Aurora, CO

Insiders, keys to victory Thursday night?

Stop the run. I talked last week about how that Vikings game was a big moment for the Packers' run defense and it didn't pass the Dalvin Cook test. The 49ers have a top 10 unit but are down their top three backs. Capitalize on that. Get the stops and takeaways…and you'll get that elusive win inside Levi's Stadium.

Jeff from New Berlin, WI

Why doesn't Pettine call his plays from up high? Instead he calls from the sideline. To me that's a tactical advantage to see the opposing offenses' setup clearer. He can also see where there are problems in his defense easier, mismatches, players not doing well or being lazy.

Pettine worked from the coaches' box in 2018 but moved to the sideline during Matt LaFleur's first season as head coach citing occasional communication issues and the amount of time it takes to get to the locker room at halftime. The Packers still have several defensive coaches, including secondary coach Ryan Downard, upstairs to relay that intel.

Joe from Tuckahoe, NY

All the talk was about the Packers not getting a wide receiver at the trade deadline, but it is the defense that needs major improvements. Were there any defensive players available we could have picked up?

I mean there were only like four defensive players traded (inside linebackers Kwon Alexander and Avery Williamson, defensive tackle Eli Ankou and defensive back/returner Desmond King), so it's not like the Packers missed out on C.C. Sabathia or anything.

Shin from Shimoda, Japan

So, the Packers need some more guys in the backfield. Who's wearing 88 these days?

I don't know but I'm willing to bet someone'll let me know soon enough.

Brian from Pensacola, FL

So is Thursday lining up as a big game for Juwann Winfree? The numbers don't lie...

And there you go.

Jerry from Salem, OR

Greetings Insiders! I just finished listening to "Unscripted," and I didn't hear either of you mention Kyle Juszczyk during your comments of the 49ers' offense. Isn't the ol' fullback worth a nod?

Juszczyk is great. He just hasn't been a huge target in the offense this season (11 touches in eight games) but you never know what Shanahan might have up his sleeve with losing Kittle and all the running backs the 49ers have. But Juszczyk does all the little things right. He makes that offense go.

Eric from Denver, CO

With all the injuries the 49ers have had, is there anyone the Packers will have to key in on playing defense?

On the 49ers' defense? Fred Warner. You have to know where he is at all times. San Francisco has been on a crazy run with its inside linebackers over the past 10, 15 years and Warner is the latest in that line of Pro Bowl-caliber players at that position. He's a sure tackler, can play sideline-to-sideline and is a consummate playmaker.

David from Appleton, WI

In this COVID environment, there is greater use of the practice squad around the league. If a team attempts to sign a PS player from another team to its active roster, does the original team holding the rights to the PS player have the right of first refusal in order to keep them? Does the player automatically get signed to the active roster for three games minimum?

The only way a team can prevent a practice-squad player from signing elsewhere is if it protects him. Every Tuesday, each team is allowed to protect up to four practice-squad players. Otherwise, if a player receives an offer elsewhere, he has the right to void his practice-squad contract at any time.

Gary from Sheboygan, WI

Insiders, Packers signed another TE to the practice squad. There seems to be a lot of interest in TEs by the Packers. What is the fascination?

Robert Tonyan was one of those practice-squad tight ends three years ago. You gotta cast the line to catch a fish.

Elliot from Hopkins, MN

When do the Packers need to make a decision for Allen Lazard to come off the IR?

The Packers need to activate him by the Wednesday after the Jacksonville game.

Terry from Tomah, WI

I understand your comment about getting the defense mentally focused for the game. However, could you clarify your meaning of "finding a way to win"? That term is used a lot in sports.

To me, that phrase means doing whatever's necessary to succeed in less-than-ideal circumstances. It is so rare in this league that a team goes out, imposes its will on the opposition for 60 minutes and leaves with a dominating win. You have to overcome adversity at some point.

Dave from Bentonville, AR

It seems the NFL is doing some good things to battle COVID within the league. That being said, why haven't they put a stop to the postgame pleasantries between players? Every week you see face-to-face hugging with no masks. Seems very irresponsible.

The league announced this week that masks are mandatory for postgame interactions.

Nick from Richmond, VA

Someone asked a question about DK Metcalf and how he was passed by so many teams. I saw both Metcalf and AJ Brown at Ole Miss and they were monsters and I hoped the Pack would grab either two years ago. Since then, they've done well in NFL. However, Laquan Treadwell was also a monster at Ole Miss but struggled in NFL. My question is: Do scouts use the success of past position players from a school as a measurement for how future players from that school might perform?

To an extent. I don't think GMs and scouts compare players from specific colleges, but I know of many around the league who take time after every offseason to revisit their grades on players to see what they might have missed.

Brian from Sussex, WI

My understanding is refs are being deployed more regionally this year. The refs from Sunday could be assigned to several more Packer games this year: home games plus Chicago, Detroit, and Indy are all in the general area. The Packers need to adjust to a group who calls more penalties, and you would hope Sunday was a bad day for the refs.

Teams always research tendencies of upcoming officiating crews and relay that data to the locker room. So if the Packers get Alex Kemp's crew again, you can be sure they'll throw the film up on the projector of the called penalties in that game, especially offensive holding.

Todd from Winona, MN

I was just talking to a friend of mine and he asked me if my going to a Packers game every year would end this year with the coronavirus. Got me to thinking about all the season-ticket holders that have not missed a game for 50-plus years. Seems many will be starting over with going to one game in a row for one year hopefully starting next year.

Hopefully it doesn't come to that but again the numbers will need to come down for the Packers to welcome fans back to Lambeau Field. On Monday, Wisconsin had a record 5,700 new cases. No Bueno.

Barb from Marengo, IL

I recently had the pleasure of listening to the game on the radio instead of listening to the often negatively biased commentators on the TV. Is John Kuhn allowed to wander the sidelines with a mask on? Or does he have to stay in a specific area of the stadium? I'm looking forward to hearing what the dagger is in San Francisco!

John is masked up but he's in the stadium bowl (like the many of the sideline reporters you've likely seen on the TV broadcasts).

Bruce from Jackson, WI

Here I am again guys. I must be blacklisted for asking tough questions and making tough comments. R-E-L-A-X! You seem to take exception more often to readers' questions or comments this year than you have in years past. Short, curt responses to readers aren't appreciated or necessary. You encourage non-football drivel from some and smack others down? As much as I love the column if the COVID is stressing you out take a vacation and release the reins of the II. Seriously. I know, lifetime ban!


Dean from Leavenworth, IN

Battered with the bitter taste of defeat and little time to recover and heal

A long journey to the vast blue sea

A journey to a hostile land of past humiliation and defeat

Beware the seen and unseen enemy's that threatens near and far

Exercise the demons and enact your revenge

Rise brave men of the Bay

Victory will be yours

This week couldn't be short enough. Keep thinking positive thoughts until kickoff…and then enjoy the game.