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Mike's Mid-Week Chat: How do the Packers bounce back?

Senior writer Mike Spofford answered questions in his weekly live chat.


Hey everybody, sorry I'm a few minutes late, and for having to adjust the time a little earlier. A slightly different Wednesday schedule for the football team today so we have to do this now. Thanks for logging on. Let's get started.

Good morning, Mike! Would you happen to know when Cliff Christl's book on the history of the Packers will be available? I (along with more than a few others) have really been looking forward to its release!

I haven't seen or heard an official release date, but I'm sure we'll have an announcement on when it is available. It should be a great book. Cliff always does excellent and thorough work. (Update: As of now, the book is slated to be published in summer 2020.)

What happened to our tackles on Sunday? They've played good fronts all season.

Yeah, I wish there were an easy answer, but their struggles were uncharacteristic, yet they mirrored the off day by the whole team. David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga are pros. These aren't the first sacks they've given up, so they know how to bounce back. Aaron Rodgers certainly hasn't lost any faith in them.

Lets hope Packers learned their mistakes they made in LA. T bounce back and never take foot of the gas through the season.

I've yet to cover an NFL season that didn't have a clunker of a game or two. It happens to everyone, not just the Packers. That's why I always say it's such a long season. It's incredibly difficult to play at a certain level for 16 games. That's an eternity. It was a bad day and the Packers can't let it linger.

Hey Spoff, thanks for joining my lunch again. What do you see as the soft points of Carolina's D we should attack on sunday?

Teams have run the ball on Carolina. They're near the bottom of the league in rushing yards allowed and yards per rush. It has to start there. Against the pass, the Panthers lead the league in sacks with 34 and are second in INTs with 12, and they have a bunch of guys making plays in both categories. Seven guys with three-plus sacks and four with multiple INTs this year. The Packers have to get after them with the run, and then use that to set up other stuff.

Good morning Mike so excited to see this game live so how do you thinking we are gonna bounce back? Huge test for run Defense coming to town!

No doubt. McCaffrey is as good as it gets in the league right now. The Packers have faced Cook, Elliott and Jacobs -- three pretty good backs -- but McCaffrey is the best in the league at the moment. For me it always starts with tackling. You can't let him break a bunch of tackles, because if the tackling is sloppy, there's no scheme in the world that's going to help.

Hey Mike thanks for the great work you guys do. Do you think a home game is what can get us back on tracks?

It certainly doesn't hurt. Back-to-back road trips is a lot to deal with, even if the second one was in front of home fans. Traveling for a night game, when you get home in the middle of the night, and then going all the way to the West Coast is a tough back-to-back, and the Packers have a West Coast-to-East Coast back-to-back coming up after the bye. This is a big game regardless, but especially so with Carolina in the mix in the NFC.

Hi Mike,like all, was disappointed with the game. I was curious as to how does this effect the whole teams syke going into the Panthers game?

They can't let it affect their psyche. That's the challenge NFL players deal with all the time. The other guys get paid, too, and sometimes they get the best of you. You have to believe in yourself, your teammates, your preparation and the work you're putting in. That's how you get back on track.

What will it take to get a little more rotation on the D-line and get Kenny Clark some plays off? He is battling injuries and playing way too many snaps, which in turn has diminished his effectiveness. He is still a fantastic player, but you can see him visibly gassed and he is not nearly as disruptive as a pass rusher as previous years.

I wish I knew the answer on Clark, but he's not having the same impact we've seen in the past. That's obvious. Is he playing through something? Is he getting worn down? I don't really know. I don't think he's playing poorly, necessarily, that's not what I'm saying. But he's counted on to be an impact player in the middle and we haven't seen as much of that as we've grown accustomed to.

Hi Mike, Do you think the coach covered for the players when he said that there was no curfew violations?

Couldn't tell you. I don't think LaFleur would lie. All I know is I was wiped out after a day of work and the long travel itinerary, and when I got to my room at 9:30 p.m. PT Friday night, I crashed.

Reading between the lines, something was obviously wrong with the preparation for the LA game. Have we become any wiser as to what it actually was?

I think the coaches are going to use the bye week to drill down on that and study it, because the SF trip is coming up right after the bye. You can't get bogged down by that now, because Carolina is coming in having won five of six, and no one wants to go into the bye on a two-game losing streak. But LaFleur said they'll definitely examine everything.

Mike, we all know the Panthers run through McCaffrey. Would it make sense to have Jaire Alexander shadow him the entire game? He's a good tackler and the one guy on our defense that I think can contain him.

People keep suggesting that, but if you assign Alexander to McCaffrey, that's a lot of DBs on the field when the Panthers use their regular complement of receivers, so then how do you stop the run if McCaffrey motions into the backfield before the snap? You're going to be awfully light up front.

Do you see any confusion by the offensive players in the last several games when facing Coach P's defense? I thought the strength of his defense is deception?

You can get to deceptive looks and be effective with them when your standard looks are getting the job done and the offense is focused on those. If you aren't getting pressure with a straight four up front, the offense is prepared to react to anything else you might throw at them. You have to succeed with the basics first before dialing up the crazy stuff.

Mike, would you know the status of Raven Greene? If memory serves, he is on the list of players the Packers placed on IR who is eligible to return during the regular season.

He is eligible to return but I have not seen or heard any updates on his status.

Should Rashan Gary get more playing time? Put a Smith inside and you've got Gary/Z Smith/KC/P Smith

Gary played 18 snaps last week I believe, and we'll see if he gets more. We saw more rotation amongst the OLBs in LA than in some prior weeks, and I recall Kyler Fackrell almost getting a huge third-down sack but Rivers just shoved the ball to Gordon before going down.

How does the game plan get cemented even if mistakes on the opening drive against Carolina?

It's always hard to recover from negative plays and penalties, because those long-yardage situations are no way to live. That said, LaFleur admitted he didn't stick with the run enough last week when it was still a two-score game at 9-0 and 12-0. The Packers were one TD from getting right back in it, but the offense seemed to be searching for the big play, the big spark, and it never came.

Packers will bounce back and never look back.

I think we're going to find out a lot about what this team is made of this week. They responded to their first kick in the teeth pretty well after the Philly loss. Now they got really humbled. This response will mean a lot.

Hi Mike - I think what surprised me the most was how sluggish the team was in the 2nd half as well. The 1st half could have been more explainable, but I expected them to bounce back, make some adjustments during halftime and rise to the occasion a bit more. The energy and urgency (and obviously the execution) was just not there the entire game. Do you think the lack of improvement in the 2nd half is more on the coaches, the team leaders, the whole team?

It was on everyone. There was plenty of blame to go around. I, too, expected them to come out with the ball in the second half and put a drive together. The first run lost 3 yards when a block was missed on the edge. Then a scramble when no one was open and a deep shot on third down, and it was another punt. And the Chargers hit a 20-yard pass on their second snap of the next drive and were off and moving again. The Packers didn't hit one 20-yard play the entire game. Nothing happened to get them going.

McCaffrey is a beast. How do we contain him? Thanks Mike.

If anybody knew how to contain him he wouldn't be an MVP candidate leading the league with 13 touchdowns right now. I think you have to go in with different matchup options and see what's working best, and go from there. You can't come in with one idea and just sell out to make it work.

Blankets of snow covered Lambeau Field on the morning of Nov. 6, 2019. The Green Bay Packers will play on the field against the Carolina Panthers on Nov. 10.

You're going to let us know the player to watch against Carolina later in the week, but who are you willing to put an eye this Sunday?

Offensively this game is all about the running backs for the Packers in my mind. I already mentioned Carolina's run defense stats, and the Packers need to get Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams the ball again in the passing game as well. I think those guys are the centerpiece of LaFleur's offense, and everything else needs to build off of them.

I believe the coaching staff made great adjustments after half time against the Chiefs. A score after half time last Sunday would have changed momentum. Did you think the 'shot " throw to Jake Kumerow was advisable?

They were looking for a spark. It was a couple of inches from being caught. I don't fault the effort.

Did you think we needed a week to balance the offense with Davante Adams returning?

I think Adams needed a week to get back into the flow of things. Missing a month is a long time. But the penalties and sacks were really the damaging elements to the offensive performance, and those were irrespective of Adams' return.

With Davante Adams' return, what do you believe the Packers plans will be for Ryan Grant?

Couldn't tell you. He hasn't been active on game day yet. I think we're going to see Allen Lazard get more opportunities, and the offense wants to get Marquez Valdes-Scantling going as well.

Seems we have a huge problem with stopping big plays and it seems to be progressively getting worse. We are strong in the red zone, which is only because the big play isn't there. Is this a personnel issue or coaching? Tough to watch the struggle!

The big plays have been a problem for the Packers' defense going back to Week 2. They haven't really solved it. I don't think it's just one thing. Sometimes guys try to do too much and get out of position. Other times it's a missed tackle in the open field. Or a miscommunication. This defense has recovered well from explosives to limit teams to FGs a lot, but it's difficult to sustain that as a formula for success.

We need a breakout game out of the secondary this week. The plan should be to make Allen beat us then step up and pick 6 him.

I get the feeling one big play on defense can get the unit's mojo back. They feed off the momentum shifts. The forced fumble in KC was the play that changed that game. That type of play didn't happen in LA, didn't happen vs. Philly, and didn't happen against Detroit either, but the offense did enough to get the walk-off win.

What was your favorite part about working in such a small stadium on Sunday?

The view from the press box was great. Low, right in the middle of the field. I don't do all that well with noise, so the open-air makes it tougher to work, but it was kinda fun to actually hear the natural crowd for once.

Although I'm not a big zone D fan there are times when it's appropriate. McCaffrey seems to be about 75% of the Panthers offense. Is their such a thing as a zone 10 and 1 defense? By that I mean 10 players playing zone concept with one DB closely tracking McCaffrey all over the field on every play?

Ha, I don't think it really works that way. But as I said in Inbox this morning, the plan is only the starting point. Players still have to recognize formations and plays, get off blocks and make tackles.

So, should we win the toss, we get the ball and try to score or differ and risk trailing early?

I don't know. I don't get as worked up about this as a lot of other folks do. It's a long, 60-minute game no matter who gets the ball first. Every offense has its plays it wants to run right out of the gate. You're going to run those on your first possession to try to establish something whether it's 0-0, 3-0 or 7-0.

Big fan of our middle linebacker, needs to have a great game Sunday. How's his hand? Will it still be wrapped?

I don't know. We'll see how he dresses for Thursday's padded practice. That'll be a big indicator there.

How has Josh Jackson gone from second round steal to inactive last week? Have Chandon Sullivan and Tony Brown really been that much better? With his nose for the ball, it feels like there should be a role for him.

I think all the time Jackson missed in training camp this year really set him back, and other guys took advantage and moved ahead on the depth chart. It's tough to make up ground in the pecking order in the regular season because there's only one padded practice per week, and everything is game-plan specific. Jackson just has to be ready for when he gets put in there. That's all he can do right now.

With Ibraheim Campbell back is he going to be where Greene was the hybrid Safety and will the pack play him this week?

I think that's going to be Campbell's role in Pettine's defense, I just don't know if he's going to be ready to play this week or if his debut will come later. The deadline was up, so the Packers had to make a roster decision on him, based on when he started practicing. He got his three weeks, and they put him on the roster rather than shut him down for the season. That's obviously a good sign. Stay tuned I guess.

With the onside kick being so unsuccessful with current set of rules, how would you propose to to change rules to make it less of a given that the receiving team gets the ball?

Great question. I think a team should be allowed to declare it wants to try an onside kick, and with the declaration comes the freedom to line up 5 yards off the ball again (rather than 1 yard) and you can overload one side by one guy -- 6 and 4 on either side of the kicker instead of the 5-5 regulation. It would just take onside kicks back to what they used to be.

All right, folks, again sorry for the adjusted timing today, but I have to run now. Coach LaFleur is having a press conference in about 10 minutes, so I have to get downstairs. Take care and we'll talk again next week. Later, Mike

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