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Inbox: What a ride it was

The Packers weren’t trying to build Rome in a day but they nearly did it anyway

QB Aaron Rodgers
QB Aaron Rodgers

Ralph from Milwaukee, WI

No 2020 season-ending injuries to Packers starters = 14-time World Champions!

Paraphrasing the words Leonidas once spoke to Ephialtes, "You there, Ralph from Milwaukee. May you live forever." Good morning!

Markus from Aurora, CO

Insiders, I love and hate the playoffs maybe equally: I love them because great heights can be reached, but I also hate/dislike them because of the "sudden death" that comes with failure. I guess it's time to clean out the lockers again and start the wait anew for next July. What's next?

I said something similar to John Kuhn after media availability ended Monday afternoon. I asked him how players pull themselves back together to do it all over again in April. Based on his own experience, John said it goes back to the competitive fire driving most athletes to improve any way they can to fulfill their own perceived individual destiny.

Paul from De Pere, WI

Did this defeat do irrevocable harm to the Packers' psyche? How wide is the gap between these two teams?

I feel like this group is too headstrong for that. Listen, the 49ers did what teams needed to do against this year's Packers team – punch it in the mouth at the opening bell and not allow it to breathe. Because if the Packers are within striking distance in the fourth quarter, they'll find a way back. Overall, the gap isn't that large but Green Bay will need to be disciplined and pragmatic in its approach this offseason to take that next step. Huge opportunity lies ahead.

Tom from Rochester, NY

Did the Smith Bros. refuse to answer questions after the game? I didn't see any comments from them afterwards. If so, I know it was embarrassing again but as the leaders of the defense they need to make a statement similar to Rodgers. Just a little disappointed in them if they wouldn't talk to you guys.

They spoke to the media after the game, in tandem like always. We just didn't have a video of their scrum. We only have so many folks in the locker room for road games.

Kris from Henderson, NV

First of all, good morning II. My questions are rhetorical. What happened to our hurry-up offense? That's when Aaron Rodgers seems to get in rhythm. What happened to stopping the run? I just hope we weed out the problems. Well, great season, and have a great offseason to you II.

Rodgers spoke during the playoff bye about how there were certain concepts that never took hold in the offense this year, which isn't uncommon in the first year of a new scheme. There's always going to be a feeling-out process. Matt LaFleur's job this offseason will be to determine what to keep, what to emphasize and what to completely scrap. I doubt you'll ever see the Packers revert back to the no-huddle, hurry-up offense they used in the past but most schemes these days come à la carte. You don't need to buy the entire cow to order a steak here and there.

Bruce from Appleton, WI

Did the Packers go away from the run game too soon in this game?

Yes and no. I would've liked to see Aaron Jones get more carries with the way he was running the ball, but the game situation forced the Packers out of what I imagine was the game plan to catch up.

Scott from Milwaukee, WI

I am still waiting for Rodgers to make the 49ers sorry for not drafting him.

The Hall of Fame career, two MVP awards and Lombardi Trophy weren't enough, huh?

Summer from Williamsburg, VA

Coming off of a rough loss to end a season with a lot of incredible games, what is LaFleur's message for the guys heading into the offseason? What is their focus and mentality?

He was very complimentary of the heart and determination this team displayed over the last nine months. We'll get a better idea of what he sees as the next step later this week when he addresses the media.

Rob from Louisville, CO

Let's keep this in perspective; the play of the game was when Allen Lazard went up in the air, spun upside down, and did not land on his neck. That could have been life-changing for him. It also looked like the nearest 49er tried to help him rotate a bit, which was a nice reaction.

I was in awe of that play. That's not 5-nothing, 100-nothing Wes Hodkiewicz helicoptering through the air. Lazard is 6-5, 215. That's a lot of human being elevated. I was happy to see Lazard land safely.

Tom from Two Rivers, WI

The deep pass to Davante Adams was one of the filthiest moves I've ever seen a receiver make on a defensive back for a release at the line, and it looked so simple. Any chance of Allen Lazard hooking up with Davante in the offseason to learn how to run routes from a great route runner?

That's not a bad idea. I talked to Lazard about how much he learned from Adams this year for a story sometime in the coming days. He's still getting his offseason plans finalized but he trains in Denver. That's not too far from Adams in California.

Dirk from Marquette, MI

The 49ers finished with 285 yards rushing and 77 yards passing. That's just sad!

I saw a lot of comparisons to Colin Kaepernick in 2012 after the game. I don't know if I agree with it. The Packers were blindsided by the read-option in 2012. They knew what they were in for on Sunday night but were still overtaken by the storm. They gotta find answers because allowing 285 rushing yards on that stage isn't good enough.

Paul from Rockford, IL

How do we stop the run?

It doesn't take a scout to point out how masterful the 49ers were in scheming that game up and their players executed the game plan to a T. George Kittle and Kyle Juszczyk were fantastic as lead blockers. Gap fits and lane integrity are the starting point. From there, it comes down to how your strength and speed matches the opposition.

Ricardo from Ventura, CA

Obviously the execution wasn't there, but what adjustments did you see Pettine at least try to make to stop the run?

Yeah, it certainly wasn't for a lack of trying. The Packers used every defensive formation and a plethora of personnel to find an answer to Raheem Mostert. As a couple defensive players remarked after the game, Green Bay never got a firm grasp on what it needed to do to nullify that ground threat.

Lynn from Riverside, CA

Boys, the 49ers were (I think) Raheem Mostert's fifth or sixth team. In your estimation, were the evaluations of his ability from his former teams wrong, or is he just an example of a guy having the game of his life? With respect to the latter, the Redskins' Super Bowl hero from long ago, Timmy Smith comes to mind.

I don't know how the entire league missed on this guy. He ran a 4.32 time in the 40 with a 40-inch vertical at his Purdue pro day in 2015. What a career that young man has had.

Ray from Clark, NJ

With all due respect to Aaron Rodgers, playing at home would not have mattered. In Atlanta in 2016, I understood his point vs. a track-team offense indoors. Last night it was the wrong narrative. How will 20 degrees, snow and wind stop a team that runs for 280 yards and throws eight passes?

The way the Packers played in the first half it wouldn't have mattered if the game was played at Lambeau Field or North Platte, Neb. If you give the ball away and give up explosives, you got your work cut out for you. But Green Bay was so much more consistent at home this season.

Richard from Greenwich, NY

First half, Packers were in or close to the red zone, down 17-0, when the fumble occurred. A TD then would have changed everything. Instead, they go down 27 at the half. Backbreaker, dagger, game-changer.

My key to victory for both games against the 49ers was to take the ball away and score. The Packers lost that battle both times and lost. There's a little more room for error against the likes of Detroit or Washington, but you just can't make those mistakes against a team like San Francisco.

Kevin from Whitehall, WI

"They needed to summon their best game on Sunday, but they never really did all season long." I got the feeling the Packers never really peaked all season on either side of the ball. What is one thing on each side of the ball that will help them peak next year?

More cohesion. The Packers did a fantastic job of getting everyone up to speed with LaFleur's offense and centering the defense on the Smiths. However, that massive culture shift had to come together in like nine months.

Ryan from Merrimac, WI

I thought there were a couple plays in the fourth quarter where a Packers receiver caught the ball, ran out of bounds, and the game clock continued to roll. I know that this wouldn't have changed the outcome of the game, but I thought the clock stopped when the player goes out of bounds before being marked as down.

The clock doesn't stop unless there's less than two minutes remaining in the first half or five minutes in regulation.

Mark from Sturgeon Bay, WI

Let's see if I get this right. Challenge a non-fumble call, play overturned because it was a fumble but still charged a TO because they couldn't determine who recovered the fumble. Challenge PI, lose the call but because the spot was off, no TO charged. How do I explain the logic of challenges with a scenario like that?

All reviewable aspects of the play are considered. A week ago, the problem was the officials couldn't decipher who had possession of the ball because the play was blown dead. On Sunday, it was a smart challenge by LaFleur knowing he had a questionable spot of the ball as a secondary option.

Mike from Madison, WI

Mike and Wes, thank you for a great season. I enjoy reading the II every day. This team came so close; closer than many people expected. What does next season's roster look like? Who are the free agents we have to re-sign? Is there talk from any of the older veterans about retiring? What is your schedule for the offseason?

The Packers have several tough calls to make. Bryan Bulaga and Mason Crosby are on to their third or fourth contracts now, but I felt like both veterans had two of their best seasons. Marcedes Lewis told me he plans on returning for a 15th season, while Jared Veldheer said on Monday he hasn't made a decision on whether he'll look to play again in 2020. As for my schedule, I head to San Diego next week to start training for next season.

Richard from Canton, GA

Simple question from me today. Who on the squad are becoming unrestricted free agents?

Bulaga, Crosby, Lewis, Veldheer, Blake Martinez, Tramon Williams, Geronimo Allison, Kyler Fackrell, Ibraheim Campbell, Tyler Ervin, B.J. Goodson, Ryan Grant and Jason Spriggs.

Gary from Warsaw, IN

What a great season following last year. My question is: Do you think the Packers will pick up any new players in free agency? Or wait on the draft?

The Packers aren't in a position to sign four marquee free agents like they did last year, but they have enough room to make another potential splash if the right player is available.

Matt from Waunakee, WI

As disappointed as the players, coaches and administration must be, how disappointed are Mike and Wes for missing the opportunity to cover a Super Bowl?

I don't want to speak for Spoff because he has covered two of them already. For me, that's the only unconquered ground in my eight years as a full-time beat writer. I'll never forget Ryan Wood turning to me in the CenturyLink press box five years ago and saying, "We're covering a Super Bowl, buddy," after Morgan Burnett's interception.

Mike from Ames, IA

This is the last question I wanted to ask this week, but here it is: When do we know for sure if any Packers are suiting up for the Pro Bowl this week?

We'll find out this morning.

Dan from Indianapolis, IN

Nine ugly wins => One ugly playoff loss. Many of us saw it coming.

And a hearty congratulations to all of you. You may pick up your plastic trophy for world-class foresight and prognostication by the nearest dumpster.

Michelle from Camp Lejeune, NC

Last night as I watched the game with our two kids and it became obvious that it wasn't going to happen, they were disappointed by the ending of a season. But after I turned it off, our 9-year-old daughter said, "They made it really far for no one giving them a chance this year." And our 8-year-old son said, "Yeah. This is just the beginning."

Leave it to the children to see the big picture. The Packers weren't trying to build Rome in a day but they nearly did it anyway. This was the first chapter of a new book.

Dale from Wilton, WI

Well, I enjoyed the ride. On to the future now.

And what a ride it was.