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Inbox: Whatever it takes

Somebody’s getting a big win

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Offensive huddle

Thomas from Cedar Rapids, IA

How many grasting questions did you get? Is there some gamesmanship between you two knowing the next guy has to deal with some well-placed Inbox bait? I think Wes owes you lunch for that one, and not just a pilfered Ma Hod PB&J sack lunch either.

I'm the forgiving type.

Joel from York, NE

With Jamaal Williams and AJ Dillon both on the COVID list, if Aaron Jones is still out who will the Packers have at RB on Thursday?

Dexter Williams can be elevated from the practice squad. Another option is Tyler Ervin, though he's been dealing with a hand/wrist injury and has spent most of the season working with the receivers more than the backs. But that's it. There's not enough time to get anybody else into the fold. Anyone else on the current roster taking a handoff would either be doing so on a jet sweep or lining up out of position.

Scott from Palos Park, IL

Enjoyed the WYMM article as always and it raises an interesting point. The Vikes appeared to stop honoring the motion as much as earlier in the game and the couple times GB tried to get Ervin the ball they could not execute. Do you see them working the ball to Ervin early against SF to cement the motion as a key to the offense (assuming Ervin does not have to take snaps as the No. 1 RB)?

I think it all depends on how the Niners react to it. Or, with similar pre-snap activity being a big part of San Francisco's offense as well, maybe Matt LaFleur will take a totally different approach. We'll have to see.

Kevin from Grand Rapids, MI

With all the analytics available and the obvious difference in explosiveness between Jones and Williams, did scouts miss that explosiveness in Jones being drafted 50 places lower? Is there a quickness/agility test at the combine that would demonstrate explosiveness?

I think Jones lasted until the fifth round because there were questions about his 5-9 frame holding up in the NFL. He missed seven games due to knee injuries in his first two seasons before he really changed his body and had a healthy 2019. This current calf injury is a soft-tissue problem, different than anything he's dealt with before, so I'm not lumping that in. But my point is his body needed work and at draft time no one could be certain he'd be willing to put the work in he has.

Willy from Isny, Germany

So, no Will Fuller in Green Bay. What does it tell about the quality of the WRs, that the front office at least considered a trade for Fuller?

I think it's a clear acknowledgement that better was expected and they were on the lookout for an upgrade. But I'm not surprised a trade wasn't made, and not because of the potential high draft pick, though I'm sure the Texans were asking for a second-rounder at minimum because of the compensatory pick they'd get by letting Fuller walk in the offseason. But the bigger issue is the cap. Two of your four best offensive players (David Bakhtiari, Jones) need new contracts for 2021, when the cap is falling by $20-plus million. Is adding what would in the rosiest of scenarios be your fifth-best offensive player for half a season worth the financial risk of losing one or two of your top four in the long term? Remember, money not spent this year carries over. It's disappointing it didn't work out, but I completely understand the calculation.

Dar from Mansfield, TX

As I am someone who typically "regens" with a cup of coffee and a few donuts, can you please explain what Graston is?

It's what you get when you cross a Weston with a cheese grater.

Steven from Silver Spring, MD

In Year 2 of the ML offense we noticed a positive change from Year 1; that being in how we would build and sustain production as the game went on. It is notable that in our two defeats we were back to two productive drives to start the game and then a long bout of ineffectiveness which was common in Year 1. While almost all the conversations are about our defense, has ML been addressing the offense's side of being able to make in-game adjustments? It's not like MN had a great DL overwhelming our OL.

No, but the Packers need more guys to make plays when the likes of Jones and Allen Lazard are out. Jamaal Williams and Robert Tonyan helped, as did Jace Sternberger, but that's not enough. First down on the Minnesota 37, and two (maybe three) passes are dropped to kill a drive. A wide-open Sternberger is overthrown, perhaps because of a stutter-step while crossing with Adams. First down at the Minnesota 32 becomes first-and-30 near midfield after two holding calls. It's not about adjustments, it's about execution.

Colleen from Blair, NE

After the game, I mentioned to my husband during the McCarthy years, I felt confident if things weren't going well before half, adjustments would be made and I'd have hope of a victory by the end of the game. I don't have the same confidence when we go to the locker room with LaFleur. Is the sample size just too small? Have there been any times we've been behind at half and things feel out-of-hand that we've come back in the second half? Or do these losses show a lack of adjustment?

Well, this past game was 14-all at the half so I'm not sure what parameters you're applying. The Packers were trailing at half in both Lions games and the Chiefs game last year and won them. The second Lions game was the only one that looked "out-of-hand." In the rough losses to the Chargers, Niners (x2) and Bucs, there was no legitimate second-half rally. In most of those situations, LaFleur has criticized himself for getting away from the game plan too much, allowing things to get worse. So that's what we know through this first season and a half.

Dave from Huntsville, AL

Hey Mike, what is the eye formation? All these years I thought it was the "I" formation...Reference the game chat on the play Lowry sacked Cousins.

Ha, probably just the way my brain decided to type it in the fast pace of the live action.

Keith from Fishers, IN

I remember a playoff game vs. Washington many years ago. The Packers had a fantastic, unstoppable running game the entire year, and Washington surprised the Packers with a five-man defensive line. The Packers never adapted their game plan and got soundly beaten. Against teams like Minnesota who have a Cook to stop, could a four- (or five-?) man line make a difference? I know, players not plays (schemes), but stacking the box with another lineman or two might at the very least force someone else to beat you?

I have no interest in revisiting the 1972 playoffs under Dan Devine, who won a whopping 25 games in four seasons. Nickel corner Chandon Sullivan played only 13 of 52 snaps on Sunday. Putting another lineman or linebacker into the box would have left the Packers with only three defensive backs for some of those other 39 snaps. There's no way you can cover Thielen, Jefferson, Rudolph and/or Irv Smith with three DBs.

Peter from Durham, England

Hi II, do you feel the main men on D played above themselves last year and haven't been able to match that this year, or have other teams worked out how to negate their ability with better schemes?

I think some players haven't played as well as they have in the past, and some who were expected to take jumps haven't. It's produced a unit far more inconsistent than a year ago.

Patrick from Folly Beach, SC

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and sometimes you get the COVID virus. I for one appreciate what the league is doing to keep NFL football on track as well as they have!

It hasn't been easy, and the protocols are going to hurt the Packers on Thursday night with Williams and Kamal Martin now out in addition to Dillon, but there's no other way to do it.

Jodi from Grand Rapids, WI

Hmm...maybe it's been Brady all along...

I'll give you a line in the spirit of Vic: Chuck Noll was a Hall of Fame coach who had seven sub-.500 seasons. That aside, the Giants' young QB gave that game away to Brady on Monday night. Just gave it away.

Jordan from Virginia Beach, VA

Could you elaborate on what would have happened had the delay of game been called on the defense? Do they look to see how much time would have been on the clock had the infraction not happened or award yardage and a first down? I am on to San Fran. Let's get this W on Thursday and use the mini-bye to get right health-wise and R-E-S-E-T. Stay safe.

They would have stopped the clock at the time of the penalty and given the Packers five yards. That would have put the ball on the Minnesota 36-yard line with, I'm guessing, 25 or so seconds left.

Matt from Oshkosh, WI

Nobody liked to hear it, but you could have played a McCarthy post-game presser stressing pad level and individual execution on blocking assignments after Sunday's game and covered it pretty well. We have a defense with plenty of talent – they just need to play better, more sound football as a unit.

Which they're capable of, because they've done it before. But the lack of a steady level of play is understandably frustrating.

Zach from Delavan, WI

Hey Mike, everyone talks about improving our tackling, which is very much needed. But if you are a defensive position coach how do go about doing that with such limited practice time in pads and so much of the week spent in walk-throughs? Tackling theory only goes so far. I can't see drastic improvements without the practical in full speed. What would you do if you were a defensive coach to try to help with improvement?

That's the conundrum any team faces when the fundamentals slip, and it's exacerbated on a short week. It's up to the players to focus in the moment on what they've done their whole careers. Then you get back to drill work next week when there's time and their bodies are right. This is only the third time since I've been here, dating back to '06, the Packers are on a short week coming off a loss (the others were 2012 Week 2 and 2016 Week 7). It's about getting mentally focused and finding a way to win a game, whatever it takes. The rest you work on later.

Shane from Saxon, WI

The 49ers are pretty banged up with Kittle and Garoppolo being added to the list. How much pressure if any does that add to the mental part of the game for the opposing team?

If you're the Packers you can't let it distract you when you've got plenty of your own issues to deal with.

Tom from West Palm Beach, FL

For anyone still looking for a silver lining in the loss to the Vikings – it effectively took them out of the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes...so we've got that going for us, which is nice.

I never really considered them an entrant anyway.

Cory from Milton, Canada

Hi, have you ever seen one team have so many injuries to key players in a season compared to the 49ers this year? As a Packer fan, I won't even complain we are possibly going to be without the top three running backs. We have it pretty good considering!

What the Niners are going through injury-wise this year qualifies as absolutely insane to me. I can't think of any reasonable or even approximate comparison.

Shawn from Kissimmee, FL

Maybe the whole team needs those smelling salts like Brett Favre used to use in order to have some "juice." When I watch other teams' defenses, I see ball-hawking and multiple players there for the tackle. Our defense looks like one player at a time, while the others wait until he misses the tackle then go for their shot at a one-on-one tackle. Blaming a lack of fans in the stadiums is like saying I don't have to work unless someone is there rooting me on.

As I said to Wes on "Unscripted," the best tackling teams are the ones that don't have to make a lot of solo tackles in open space. As for the lack of fans, I get that it's weird, but seven games in it should have zero impact on performance.

Eric from Pewaukee, WI

I know most people don't see the Packers ILB room as a strength, however Krys Barnes and Martin are an intriguing pair to watch grow in the future and hopefully together. I do believe it wasn't too long ago that a pair of running backs were drafted the same year together. It seems they have grown into one heck of a tandem themselves. How does your view compare?

They've had their moments but they have to own their part in what transpired against Cook, too. It's all part of the process. They've proven in a short time they belong. That's a start. The unknown is their ceiling. Usually third-day picks and undrafted players are seen by scouts as having limitations to their upside. But the league is filled with players who rise above. There's no way to say anything definitive about their futures yet.

Corey from Bethlehem, PA

Normally I would want to play the 49ers at full strength to show we belong with the elites, but the NFC is too crowded with contenders this year to not get a win any way you get it. Not saying Thursday will be a cake walk, but definitely like the odds in our favor.

As I said Monday, these are two teams that – for varying reasons – don't feel too good about themselves right now. The 49ers are close to playing for their season, given the crowded NFC you mention. The Packers are searching for a standard of play that has eluded them since the bye and now have additional, unexpected challenges being thrown at them. Again, somebody's getting a big win.

Terry from Canton, MI

Thanks for providing a forum to vent, thanks for not publishing my downer comments. I'm better now, couple of recovery days and enjoying my afternoon cup of coffee. Football is entertainment and it's been an entertaining year thus far.

Let's at least keep that part going. Happy Wednesday.

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