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Inbox: Who can seize it, and who can stop it

The Packers’ defense needs to turn its own corner

CBs Rasul Douglas & Jaire Alexander
CBs Rasul Douglas & Jaire Alexander

Matt from Fort Worth, TX

The boy wonder gets two things this week, nicely done!

Big thanks to Wes and other co-workers for managing some extra duty this week while I've been in and out of the office or working remotely due to a family matter. I'm going to have to work remotely for the Detroit game, too, live blogging and covering it from the television broadcast (a la the Covid seasons), but we'll manage. I'm sure Wes will enjoy the extra space on the plane.

Mark from West Des Moines, IA

What is the key for the Packers to beat the Lions?

Don't let it devolve into a shootout. The Packers' offense, coming off the 200-yard rushing performance in Buffalo, should turn another corner this week against the bottom-ranked defense in the league. But the Packers' defense needs to turn its own corner, against an offense that has been hot at home. The Packers could win a shootout, but shouldn't have to.

Ed from Hilltown, PA

Why do you feel the defense has not performed as well as expected given essentially the same group with another year of experience together?

I wish I knew. Maybe it just takes one game to get some swagger back.

Mike from San Diego, CA

A line that continues to come up is the Packers need to play more physical. Is this just a catch-all for winning blocks, sound tackling, and aggressive runs after the catch/carry? Football is inherently one of the most physical sports, so is asking to play more "physical" really just asking to "play better"?

In some respects, yes, but in others, there's a difference between making a tackle and delivering a hit while making that tackle, between winning your block and finishing your block, etc.

Michael from Morrison, IL

Mike/Wes, the Lions have plenty of firepower on offense and have shown as much against some high-quality teams. Where do you see Detroit focusing its efforts against the Packers' defense and what players would play a vital role in that?

Goff has spread the ball around in the passing game, but that equation changes now with the Hockenson trade. He had been the Lions' leading receiver yardage-wise with 395 (and three TDs). St. Brown and Reynolds are both well over 300 yards with multiple TDs as well, but the absence of Hockenson probably puts even greater onus on the Packers' corners now. Detroit is also the No. 3 red-zone offense in the league (72%, 18 TDs in 25 trips), and running back Jamaal Williams (eight TDs) is a big reason for that. D'Andre Swift also might be back now so they could have a 1-2 punch again if they choose to lean on it.

Andrew from Burke, VA

I don't really believe in the "lowly Lions" thought process, and thinking that way is a recipe for disaster. Their best offensive playmakers were out or limited against the Patriots and Cowboys. For the remainder, they lost by four or less to Miami, Seattle, the Vikings and the Eagles, all very solid teams. I get the feeling this will be a close game where scoring a lot of points matters. So the steps we saw the offense take against the Bills must continue against what should be a weaker D.

No arguments here.

Scott from Noblesville, IN

Perhaps it's me, but I find myself wondering the last time our guys got an early lead on the Lions. It seems like "having to come back to beat them" has been the trend for the past several seasons. I'm not certain a "good strong start" to a game with them has ever been more crucial than IN Detroit on Sunday.

You may be right, but then again, Miami was down 14 early at Ford Field and rallied quickly, taking the lead before the fourth quarter rolled around. That said, with the offensive firepower the Lions have shown at home and the Packers' disturbing tendency to suffer through a string of possessions allowing scores, this game strikes me as one of momentum. Who can seize it, and who can stop it when it's heading the wrong direction.

Drew from Eagan, MN

Regarding the Bears' moves at the trading deadline, I think the idea behind getting Claypool is to see what they have in Fields. The current regime did not draft Fields so maybe giving him another weapon to see if he takes the next step and is truly their QB of the future is behind the trade. Looking at what giving playmakers to other young QBs (Tua in Miami and Hurts in Philadelphia) has done for their development, I can see the reasoning behind the move.

Valid points.

The Green Bay Packers held practice at Clarke Hinkle Field on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.

Casey from Tempe, AZ

From this side of the desk, we get to complain about losses, or in some cases, whether the win was "satisfying enough." Listening to Sam Shields' comments yesterday, I was reminded how fortunate we are to be entertained by a limited few, who put their own physical well-being on the line for our amusement. That was tough to hear. Best to him as he continues to adjust to life outside of football.

I wish him the best, too. I always enjoyed chatting with Sam, even though he was one of the quieter ones in the locker room. I remember witnessing his first league-documented concussion in 2011, and it was a wicked hit. When he then got two more somewhat back-to-back (late 2015, Week 1 2016) and was out of football for basically two years, I was surprised he came back for that one final season with the Rams. I truly hope he can find health and happiness in his post-football life.

Tim from Olathe, KS

Insiders, Cris Collinsworth made a great point during Sunday's game. He noted we have two standout RBs, but a defense does not have to double-team a RB or cheat to one side like they did for an elite WR like Adams. Even though Vic used to say "dime a dozen" about WR, I am wondering if we have built our strength in an area that no longer drives an offense. Your thoughts?

It should still be able to, if receivers can win one-on-ones, if play-action can create throwing lanes, and if the ground game can be equally effective inside and outside. There are also a lot of different ways to get standout running backs the ball, and I think we've seen more of that over the past couple of games.

Eric from Erie, PA

Mike, I have asked a variation of this question for four weeks, and haven't had a response. It's OK, but I would like to know that I am not crazy in my analysis. Is Aaron Rodgers seeing the entire field? I know he was working a very young WR group, but I feel he is not seeing the field the same. The two big plays give me a little hope, but he is still missing wide-open receivers trying to fit it into specific targets that are covered.

Please understand it's not as simple as watching a TV replay and seeing who was open. Those broadcast moments do a tremendous disservice to fans. Every pass play has a progression. The QB's eyes go from here, to there, to there, and a decision is either made during that time or immediately thereafter. That's why Rodgers talks about guys understanding the entire offense so they get open "on time" within the progression. It doesn't do any good to make your best move for separation right at the snap if you're the No. 3 on the play, for example. And sometimes, if it appears he's forcing it to a covered No. 1 or 2, it's because he feels the pressure is getting there, and he doesn't have any more time to look or an opportunity to escape. I'm not absolving Rodgers of the offense's struggles, because I think he's made more off-target throws than in recent years. But I don't believe reading the defense and seeing the field as he goes through his progressions are the issues. I do think we saw a few more vintage Rodgers throws in Buffalo than we'd seen lately, so I'm hoping that bodes well.

Mike from Maribel, WI

RPO plays – if the quarterback can choose to either pass or hand the ball off, what blocking technique does the offensive lineman utilize? Initially you would want to drive the defensive player off the line of scrimmage, but then if it is a pass you would need to adjust your footwork? The defensive player has the advantage of continuing on with the defensive call as he doesn't have an in-play adjustment to make. It feels like you are placing the offensive linemen at a disadvantage.

On an RPO, if the QB opts to pass, he's got to get the ball out quickly or move the pocket. That's how they're generally designed.

Dave from Wascott, WI

Just a quick thought on challenges. The bar to overturn is too high with irrefutable evidence. The call on the field does bias the review process. If "the play stands as called" then nobody knows for sure what the right call is. In that case, it seems to me there should be no penalty for the challenge. Your thoughts.

I don't think that's the answer. But I have said for a long time the precedence given to the call on the field is a sorely outdated notion. With the multitude of camera angles and slo-mo speeds now accessible, there's no way on God's green earth any official on the field is seeing anything any better in real time, so the call on the field shouldn't matter. If it goes to replay, make the best judgment based on the replay. The call on the field is arbitrary at that point.

Mike from Austin, TX

My question is around "setting an edge" in the run game. What exactly does that look like when it's good vs. not? What goes into doing it well? What should I look for?

Look for whether or not the running back gets outside the edge defender, or if he's forced to cut it back to the middle where there's more help. If the edge defender can make the tackle, all the better. But if he peeks inside too early to try to make the tackle and can't, that's going to hurt the defense, as will getting sealed off for a swift cut just outside that block. If the back does get outside but has to take a longer, loop-like route to do it because the guy on the edge held his ground and got some penetration, that should be successful as well because the pursuit has more time to stretch things to the sideline.

Tom from Dade City, FL

Hi guys. Running the jet sweep (or faking it) seems to be built around Christian Watson. Now that we have the speedy Kylin Hill back, could he maybe be used in those times too? That would really keep teams guessing!

No offense to Hill, but I think Watson is the player who draws respect and attention to that type of pre-snap motion.

Scott from Sauk City, WI

Spoff, as a Brewers fan, you are banned from using the phrase "bites at the apple" ever again! I'm still salty about the Hader trade, and the Packers are not helping my sports depression. What do you make of Stearns stepping down?

Sorry about that phrase. My bad. I don't quite get how a GM could make a trade of that magnitude with an eye strongly toward the future and then two months later not want to see that future through. As a fan, that bothers me.

Robert from Chandler, AZ

There's a weak bit of analysis that is commonplace: "If only there hadn't been this one bad play, and this one bad call, we would have won and all would be well." When we say that, we forget that the other team also made a bad play and suffered a bad call. However, there's a better inference to be made, which is to observe how close most NFL games are, certainly, most Packers games. Yes, right now, we're playing losing football. But the disparity between GB and the top teams is not huge.

The margins are forever small, and teams that win do enough to overcome those bad plays and bad calls, while teams that lose do not. That's the NFL.

Anthony from Southington, CT

It's funny the perception between the fans and the players. Fans give up hope. Players remain resolute. Fans take a moral victory. Players have none if it – a loss is a loss. Fans want to add more players. Players believe in the people in that locker room. I'm going to stick with the players' view on things.

A dichotomy well stated.

Johnny from Fort Myers, FL

I've always believed in, "The harder the chase the sweeter the catch." I think it will just take one victory for this team to take flight. Too darned much talent not to!

I don't believe in guarantees, but color me curious as to how this team would respond to a victory, given what it's been through. Happy Friday.

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