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Inbox: Timely plays on defense are the name of the game

It’s truly worthy of celebration

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Bob from Cortez, CO

If we were flies on the wall in a quarterbacks' weekly meeting, would we leave understanding any more about the game than a real fly on the wall?

I'm guessing only if you knew the playbook and had a dictionary of scheme jargon handy.

Nathan from Philadelphia, PA

Good morning, Mike. It's been a while since we faced Teddy Bridgewater. What's the key to beating him?

I still think it's keeping him in the pocket. His rushing totals (239 yards, four TDs) aren't backbreaking, but he can make plays with his legs and I also think he's more dangerous throwing on the run. Make him play a stationary game.

Aumed from Moorhead, MN

What reason do the Panthers have for playing McCaffrey this week considering they are basically out of the playoff race? With the multitude of injuries he has had this year, would it not make sense to protect your best offensive player from further harm and move on?

That may be behind their apparent, highly cautious thought process, wanting to make sure he's absolutely 100% before putting him back in a game this year – if at all – with Rhule announcing he doesn't expect McCaffrey to play this week.

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Tom from Onalaska, WI

Regarding scrapping the coach bumper stickers, I know for a fact that they didn't end that with Bart Starr as head coach, because for years there was one on a street post on 4th Street in downtown La Crosse stating, "All Rhodes lead to the Super Bowl."

Joe from Wausau mentioned "Forrest Fire" and "Holmgren's Heroes." I've lived in this state my whole life and somehow missed this apparently historic pastime. Anyone remember the Lindy lingo? Was there a Sherman version, or does the La Crosse street post mark the merciful end of this sticker mania?

Matt from Hayward, WI

Speaking of the broadcasters not knowing the rules, what was with Mark Schlereth talking about the receiver going out of bounds to "stop the clock" with 10 minutes left in the game? Yikes!

If I could have effectively live-blogged the game without listening to the announcers, I would have muted Schlereth the instant I could have wrestled the remote away from Wes.

Vincent from Sun Prairie, WI

One question, one comment. Does Aaron Jones signing with Drew Rosenhaus all but guarantee he signs elsewhere this offseason? Also, I'm sure this is in no regards the truth but it seems that ML's usage of Aaron Jones this year hinted at something else. Something like maybe drive his stats down to make him cheaper. I'm pretty sure that's not a thing in the NFL but I can't come up with another reason he doesn't at least get 15 touches a game.

I don't want to speculate too much about Jones' next contract, but I think changing representation before the season is over is an indication he'd like to get something done with Green Bay while there's still nearly three months of exclusive negotiating rights. Otherwise, what's the rush to sign a new agent? I guess we'll see. As for his usage, he's had less than 15 touches in a game this year only twice, when he had 13 (in the blowout loss at Tampa) and 14 (at Indy). He's missed two games this season due to injury and had missed multiple games each of his first two years in the league. Given the Packers have a solid No. 2 back, a superstar No. 1 receiver, and an emerging tight end, his usage to have him at his best in the postseason has felt about right.

Keith from Bakersfield, CA

Your WYMM segment is absolutely fantastic. On that 21-yard pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, it looked like Robert Tonyan would have been wide open after his chip block for a higher-percentage pass and likely pickup. Aaron Rodgers chooses the tight window throw to MVS (or, what would be a tight window for a mere human QB). Was he possibly aware of the penalty against Allen Lazard, and thus taking the bigger play potential?

After another look at the sideline all-22 view, the answer is no. The flag doesn't fly until the ball is on its way to MVS. Tonyan was open in the flat, but a defender was nearby, and it would've been difficult to get the roughly 10 yards after the catch needed for the first down.

Howard from Appleton, WI

Spoff, your WYMM on third downs was great, thanks. But another VERY crucial one came on the third play of the second half by a defensive holding penalty. I didn't see it on TV, and the announcers seemed clueless and unaware almost until the next snap. Did you see the foul? On whom? Without that call the entire second half might have been totally different.

MVS was held on his go route after about 5-10 yards. On the film you can see the downfield official – to whom MVS was complaining when the deep ball fell incomplete – launch his flag back toward the line of scrimmage early in the route. It was an obvious penalty. TV only showed the hand-fighting at the end of the play as the ball came down. That had nothing to do with the call.

Dan from Cross Plains, WI

Good morning! No question, just a comment. After watching this past week's games, particularly the shootout on MNF, I'm convinced there are no "great" defenses in the NFL. It's all about managing the best you can until you have the opportunity to create a big play to turn it over or get that crucial sack. I'm glad we have an offense that is able to sustain long drives to keep our defense fresh and keep the momentum. This was a big reason for the W against Detroit.

That's a valid perspective, one that started to grow on me after the Patriots-Eagles shootout in the Super Bowl a few years back – which featured a boatload of points and then was decided late on a strip-sack. That's not to say you don't keep working toward a higher, more consistent level on defense, but any strong unit can have a bad day against a formidable QB. Timely plays on defense are the name of the game now.

TC from Waunakee, WI

Good morning II, Re: Williams landing on a defender and having the play blown dead, it was argued that the extra four yards wasn't worth a challenge. But as I understand the rules, spots can only be challenged for whether or not they made the line to gain. So if on first down, Williams had fallen on the defender after one yard and then gained eight more, this still wouldn't be challenge-able...correct?

Challenging the spot (for which only first downs apply) and challenging down by contact are two different things. I don't think you can be awarded any extra yards, though, if the whistle blew. Fumble plays have the "imminent recovery" stipulation on a play blown dead, but I'm not aware of any such application for a play continuing as-is, so to speak.

Rich from Grand Rapids, MI

Of the remaining three teams on the regular season schedule, do any have particularly strong special-teams play? Of the teams likely to face GB in the playoffs, which ones have enjoyed notable special-teams success?

I haven't looked at any potential playoff matchups yet, but Carolina's Trenton Cannon has a 98-yard kickoff return this season. The Panthers also have allowed an 83-yard punt return for a score, so there's that. The Bears, in Week 17, have Cordarrelle Patterson, whom the Packers handled fine the first time. Green Bay will continue to be tested in this phase.

Elliot from Hopkins, MN

Congrats to Giannis. I wonder how Rodgers feels as an owner dishing out large sums of money like that to a player!

I don't think he signs the checks. But news like this says something about the sports fans, and sports communities, in this state. I know the NFL economics are different, but in baseball and basketball for players like Yelich and Giannis to make long-term commitments to Milwaukee, it's truly worthy of celebration.

John from Fox River Grove, IL

Knowing December and January are ground-game months, is ML going to shift to a propensity of running? We certainly have a plethora of weapons in both air and ground, but the Detroit game seemed there was a dearth of running in the first three quarters. Thanks.

Weather conditions and matchups will factor in. The Lions were really banged up at cornerback, so I won't argue with the approach. Even so, before the Packers went into two-minute mode late in the first half, they'd run 22 plays, and nine were handoffs. Not terribly out of balance. Then the Packers ran Jones or Williams on four of the last six snaps of the third quarter and the first four snaps of the fourth.

Michael from Houston, TX

Longer-time reader. What would be the outcome on an onside kick if, before it reached the 10-yard requirement, one of the receiving team players slapped the ball out of bounds?

If it were deemed intentional, it would be a penalty for illegally batting the ball and the kicking team would move up five yards and get another try.

Tom from West Palm Beach, FL

I can't help but notice every game the opponent runs at least one misdirection play that gains at least 20 yards due to over-pursuit and/or lack of setting the edge. We also witnessed Detroit run successful screen passes on back-to-back plays, which was quite alarming to watch in real time. It seems the defense has a discipline issue. Is there enough time to fix this before playoffs, or is it "we are who we are" at this point?

To be fair, the Packers were caught in a blitz on one of the screens, which is the best blitz-beater anyone could ask for. But three successful screens on one drive was alarming, I agree. Defending screens isn't as much about discipline as recognition in my book, though. They have to see it when it's coming because it involves so many offensive players. End-arounds and other misdirection are usually more about discipline, as far as reading keys and executing assignments.

Nic from London, UK

ML doesn't get credit because he's erroneously penalized for having Rodgers. Meanwhile, new coaches get additional credit for leading turnarounds, overlooking the fact that they will tend to play weak schedules against division losers. Both maintaining dominance and leading a turnaround are important and worthy of recognition, but they aren't equally valued. My money is on Stefanski. You?

Carlo in Browns country (North Canton, OH) mentioned Stefanski, too. I think he, Flores (Dolphins) and McDermott (Bills) are all worthy candidates, and so is LaFleur. If he doesn't get credit for last year because of Rodgers, when the QB threw for "only" 26 TDs and a 95.4 passer rating, then he should get credit for helping Rodgers resume an MVP level of play with a nearly 25-point boost in passer rating. The voters can't have it both ways. Harbaugh got it last year when Jackson won the MVP. I do think there are legitimate arguments for multiple coaches. I would expect a somewhat fractured vote this year.

Brendin from Sault Ste. Marie, MN

I liked seeing Tavon Austin get involved with some short routes and screens against the Lions in his Green Bay debut. Do you think this is something we will see an expansion of as he gets more familiar with Aaron?

Indubitably.

Randy from Raymond, IA

When was the last time our Packers have clinched the black and blue division with three games still left to play?

2011. The Packers' other NFC North crowns this decade were clinched with one game left in 2012 and last year, and in the regular-season finale in '13, '14 and '16.

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Derek from Eau Claire, WI

With only 500 fans and the game only shown in the local market unless you have the NFL Network, might this be the "lowest eyeball" Packer game in recent memory?

Maybe we'll set a new audience record in my live blog, eh?

Richard from Canton, GA

What to you is the most impressive thing about the team this year? For me, not having anyone on the reserve/COVID list as of now, with community infections running at an all-time high. It speaks to the leadership and the discipline of everyone involved.

Aside from that, I'd say scoring at least 30 points in 10 of 13 games. Even the record-setting 2011 team had four sub-30 games by this point, and the 2014 team had six. Those teams rank 1-2 in team history for total points in a season.

Josh from Chicago, IL

Good morning Mike! Is it PATs or PsAT? The internet doesn't seem to know what PAT stands for.

Wasn't the PsAT that test I bombed as a sophomore in high school?

Thomas from Cedar Rapids, IA

At least the dog didn't eat Mike's homework. Too bad Wes doesn't have the same luck with his lunch. On that subject, what do you both have for pets? My old yellow lab is losing his hearing, which isn't a bad thing sometimes on Sunday afternoons when the D is especially porous. We considered Lambeau and Kinnick for names (being from Iowa) but settled on Hawkeye. Considering his poor timing for game day bathroom breaks, "Red Zone" might have been an appropriate name, too. Gives WYMM new meaning.

You've worn me out. Happy Wednesday.

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