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Mike's Mid-Week Chat: How do the Packers contain the 49ers' weapons?

Editor Mike Spofford answered fan questions in his live chat

49ers QB Brock Purdy
49ers QB Brock Purdy

Hey everybody, thanks for logging on today. I already see questions coming in so I'll just get started.

Did Jayden Reed have catch Sunday?

No, he did not. Had 3 targets. One week after a 100-yard game he got blanked and it didn't matter. Says something about this offense. Also sounds like he didn't care. Says something about him.

We need to feed Aaron Jones the ball at least 25 times!

His value to this offense is becoming immeasurable. The 49ers have a much better run defense than the Cowboys, but the Packers will need to get Jones going regardless.

Mike. I have been impressed by the receivers concentration on securing passes this year. How do GB drops compare to other teams.

I don't know. But the numbers have gone way down compared to earlier in the season, that's for sure.

Be the ball this week again Mike.


Someone suggested Bo Melton is as fast as Christian Watson. Is that true?

In a short sprint, he might be, or at least even. Longer distances when Watson opens up that stride, man, he can really fly.

I find it fascinating that most of the tv pundits are saying the cowboys sucked rather than the Packers were good. That wasn't a lucky win, it was dominate.

Why does anybody care what the pundits say? I never have.

I like our chances? How can we beat the 49ers?

It's going to take a lot of what worked last week -- fast start, a couple turnovers. The added challenge here is SF has so many more weapons offensively. They get their guys in open space and make you tackle them one-on-one. You can't miss tackles against these guys.

It looked to me like Dak broke one of our QB coaches 3 rules. "Don't make pre-determined throws" and it resulted in two interceptions. Did you see it that way?

The pick-six by Darnell Savage was definitely telegraphed. The INT by Jaire Alexander was an off-target throw on which Ja made a great snag.

Hi Mike. Any idea why Rashan Gary seems to be less of a factor lately? Is he getting double-teamed more?

He commands more attention than anyone else on GB's defensive front, and with a pair of three-sack games this year, opposing offenses have decided not to let him wreck their game. It's opened avenues for other guys, and I saw Gary getting close on a couple of rushes last week. I still think he's due to bust out.

Any insight into why the Packers wore home green jerseys in Dallas?

Always have. The Cowboys frequently wear white at home. One of the few teams that does that.

Good morning Mike, what's your best guess on replacing #55? Can this Cox kid step in and be serviceable?

They're going to need him to take some snaps. I also see Lukas Van Ness getting a bigger workload than he's had.

Any word on Jaire's ankle?

He was estimated as a limited practice participant yesterday when the team had a jog-through. I took that as a good sign.

The one thing that MOST has stood out for me with Jordan Love this last 6-8 weeks is the pre-snap process. Is that a tangible benefit of him sitting those years and the "book/film" study ?

No question, and sitting in QB meetings with 12 for three years too. The mastery he has at the LOS as a first-year starter is astounding to me. He absorbed a lot while watching and learning.

The defense is middle to bottom in most categories for the season. No question they played better than that last week. Was that a mirage?

I think the defense has played awfully well the last three games. Since that fourth-quarter struggle in Carolina, the defense has done its part. That unit has to keep it up. Dallas had the highest-scoring offense in the league, but the Niners might be the bigger challenge with the number of All-Pro caliber weapons.

I know you prefer noon Sunday home games but getting outta the GB weather for a bit has got to be nice, right?

Yeah, not gonna complain. It's been bitterly cold this week here. I know it's turning around next week, but this has been tough, even for a lifer like me.

Who covers Kittle? We seem to always have problems with TE routes over the middle? Conversely how do we use our 2 young TEs on the field at the same time to create a mismatch?

I would expect the Packers to mix up coverages like they always do, meaning on Kittle it could be Walker, Campbell or a safety, or a combination, at any given time. As for GB's 2 TEs, the Packers have plenty in their offensive playbook with both on the field. I'm sure those concepts will be in the plan and they'll see how the 49ers' defense reacts to those packages.

Mike, one of the more recent notable games SF played was against the Ravens, who forced 4 interceptions from Brock Purdy. How did it happen and what can the Packers learn from it?

They pressured the heck out of Purdy, and he made some bad decisions as well as got some balls tipped that turned into picks. The only way to get the Niners into those tough situations is to stop the run first, which means not only CMC but Deebo on those sweeps and other runs.

Is there a noticeable vibe around the team this week?

Later today will be our first time in the locker room this week so we'll see.

Have you heard any rumors that the Pack might play the Jags in London next season?

I have not. Jacksonville had a chance to move their 2016 home game vs. GB overseas and chose not to. I doubt they'd chose that this time either.

I sure hope Isaiah McDuffie progresses through the week. The Packers need strong tacklers this week maybe more than any.

Agreed. He's been a very productive reserve player all season long and he gives a spark with his style when he's out there.

Your WYMM segments are fantastic! Really reveals how little pieces done by all 11 contribute to success on that play. How do the Packers coaches maintain that attitude and extra effort, and avoid situations (George Pickens) where a player won't block because he doesn't want to get injured?

It's all about how you review film with the players and set the expectations for what their jobs are and how they'll be evaluated. Around here, if a receiver misses a block, that's as big a negative on their grading sheet as if they ran the wrong route or dropped a pass. There are standards for all duties.

Do you think the previous playoff matchup where our defense held them to without a TD has any merit on the game plan for this game?

I don't know. That was 2 years ago, different QB, cold night. They didn't have CMC then. He's made their offense that much more dynamic.

Looking like it might be wet Saturday night. How have our guys done in the rain?

The Packers haven't had any rain games this year that I can recall. That'll be new if it indeed comes to pass.

Is there a game plan to beat GB? It seems the games we lost were more about our lack of team play vs opponents strategy. An when we clicked the opponent didn't matter,

When Green Bay's offense is clicking, the Packers can play with anybody. They've proven that. When the opposing QB has gotten rolling, same thing. Rhythm for a QB on offense means a ton.

GB has played against defenses that either has premier pass rushers or blitz heavily since the Vikings game and pass protection has held up admirably. Who would you focus on the SF front seven and how would you neutralize their pass rush?

The Niners aren't too exotic because they don't have to be. They've got Nick Bosa and Chase Young on the edges, plus Javon Hargrave and Arik Armstead (if he's back from injury) on the interior. That's a heck of a front four, which allows an All-Pro at LB like Fred Warner to read the field and do what he wants. The Niners count on their guys up front to get home and help the coverage.

The weather may be a factor in this game the way things are shaping up. Let's hope our ground game gets going!

The Packers knew the Cowboys were vulnerable to the run and kept pounding Jones even after multiple early runs were stuffed. They'll have to remain committed this week, but that'll require the defense doing its job, too.

The offensive line has really settled in after the rotating ended and the unit stayed healthy. What else is different in the blocking schemes in recent weeks?

They haven't changed anything scheme-wise. The guys have just settled in as a unit and are playing well. The RG rotation has worked, productive play from both guys. This is the most cohesive the OL has looked all season. It just took some time due to injuries, some youth, etc.

Our O-line did well against Parsons and the couple guys in DAL middle. How do we feel like they can do against Bosa, Armstead, Young and Co?

That's the thing, down the stretch this season, the Packers have done a good job neutralizing the opponent's most dangerous pass rusher, really from the Rams game on (except for the Giants game with Thibodeaux). The Niners have a lot more than just Bosa. He's their best, but limiting him isn't likely to slow down that front much. It's going to take a more collective effort this week.

What's the status of AJ Dillon?

He was estimated as a DNP yesterday.

Mike, I think this really comes down to the game plan for both teams, and making adjustments as needed. There's enough talent on both these teams to win.

It'll come down to sharpness and execution, which means limiting mistakes. Both of these teams have shown they will capitalize on an opponent's mistake and make them pay for it.

I think I reached "football nirvana" last week. Thanks to you (and Wes) I really was watching for the enjoyment of seeing this young team's progress. The dominant win was a bonus.

What we're seeing now is both a tremendous opportunity in the moment and a huge building block for the future, no matter what happens.

We definitely heard "go PACK go" chants on the tv broadcast from Dallas. I didn't hear much mentioned about PACK fans. Was there a decent presence? I live in n. Cal and in theory it would seem to be a fun game to go to in S.F. But once you've been to Lambeau Field nothing compares…. And looking at the prices for tickets this weekend, it's ridiculous!

I've noticed ticket prices out there since they got the new stadium are pretty outrageous regardless of reg. season or playoffs. I didn't really sense visually there were a lot of Packers fans in Dallas last week, but the Dallas fans were so quiet the GB contingent was able to make itself heard.

Mike, do the 49ers feel pressured to make this year's SB run count due to the draft capitol and salary cap they gave up to get McCaffrey?

This feels much like last week where the greater pressure is on GB's opponent. The Niners have been really good for several years now but haven't hoisted the Lombardi. Last year I thought they were the best team but Purdy got hurt in Philly and that was that. They know they have to cash in at some point on this strong run.

Is the team traveling to SF early or sticking to "day before" travel?

Plane leaves Friday afternoon.

If you actually do learn more from a loss than a win, I think the Packers now have a PhD in how to beat the Niners in the playoffs.

Except this is a completely different GB team.

A lot of Love (pun intended) was been thrown the GMs way lately. Hard to argue with that. I know he doesn't care about any awards, but it would be nice to have the "experts" give him, or the head coach, a little hardware, you know, for the effort.

I'm sure that would be nice but trust me, they couldn't care less. Any such hardware both would consider a group effort of those around them, LaFleur with his other coaches and Gutey with his personnel staff.

Do you think the Bills can finally get past Mahomes and the Chiefs in the playoffs? They finally get them at home.

No doubt Buffalo has been waiting for this rematch since the 13-second game. It's crazy to me this will be Mahomes first postseason game (other than the Super Bowls) not at Arrowhead.

The defense played way more snaps than normal with Cowboys trying to get consolation points at the end. Due to short week, how might this change our approach to the niners and figuring out best way to defend them?

My concern there is the defense having to play 90 snaps, get back really late Sunday night, now a short week and a longer flight to the next game. They'll need a lot in the tank to get through this.

Did you notice Romeo Doubs' body language after a catch? He looked like an assassin on a mission.

As LaFleur said after the game, Rome was "on one." Fantastic performance.

Zach Tom was the biggest factor for me in this game. You just never hear his name called. What was the knock on him for tackle, arm length or undersized?

A little bit of both, I think, but he's really settled in and made RT his home.

Hi Mike - how does coach ML keep his guys loose and confident? Stakes are higher, they REALLY want this one, the 49ers will require a "perfect" game. It just feels different compared to exposing the Cowboys... Thanks!

I see this team remaining loose and confident. They know if they play their game they're as good as anybody out there. That's the mindset to take out there. Then see what happens.

Hi Mike, I agree the D has been playing well for this winning stretch. I think it should be noted the D finished the regular season 10th in points allowed. There's always going to be stats to pick at but games ultimately come down to points.

They do, of course. The issue with the defense these last 2 years has been the rollercoaster nature of its play. Always up and down. Plenty of good, then rough patches that last too long. Right now they're on an upswing and need it to continue.

I also think we have a better front 7 than the 49ers are used to playing against GB.

I would agree there.

Another week for the Packers without a jet sweep or push pass?

Who knows? The coaches watch all the film and see what they think will work.

Mike, empty backfield. Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Dontayvion Wicks. Reed in motion. Luke Musgrave at TE. Who gets the double coverage?

Most likely the deepest routes.

With this group and with the potential they have do you believe we have a chance at a Super Bowl within the next couple years?

There's a chance now and in the near future, yeah.

Memory is a fickle thing, but mine is that, in past disasters against the 49ers, the biggest difference was speed. We didn't measure up to the speed the 49ers had on both defense and offense. Have we closed the speed gap?

I think so. The Packers have changed their overall team speed the last couple of years for sure, on both sides of the ball frankly.

Mike - you really helped define the season by saying the Packers are just one of eight teams left in the hunt. I suppose that also means the highest they could possibly draft now is 25?


Christian Watson did not seem to make any plays on Sunday. Is he healthy?

I doubt he's 100%, but he was out there for a portion of the game. Had one catch. Hopefully he came out of the game OK and can play more this week. But if you had told me before last week's game that Watson would have one catch, Reed none, and the Packers would score 48 points, I wouldn't have believed you. The strength of this offense is making it work with whoever they've got.

Haven't seen but is Eric Stokes on IR


In light of recent weather problems, are you concerned the 18 week season with all the playoff games in January might lead to AFCC and NFCC at remote locations? I hope not.

I certainly hope not as well. That would really change the value of playoff seeding and jockeying for position late in the season if nobody gets to host the conference title game.

I've seen some static about the fake slide (if it was that) in Buffalo that lead to a touchdown because the defender held up for a second. Then the next time, there is a slide and contact is a penalty. What does the NFL do...if anything?

Give the officials the latitude to blow the play dead if at any moment they feel the QB is giving himself up. They can't be allowed to abuse a rule that's designed to protect them.

Hi Mike, Can you speak on the impact of the Chase Young trade to the 49ers' D? How well has he performed individually and has their D as a whole significantly better statistically?

I can't speak to it much. He's got 2 1/2 sacks since coming to SF. He definitely gives them another threat up front.

Can't help but feel this could be a payback game for a couple years ago when SF took our #1 seeded PACK out. I know different year different players but there is still a mystique between these franchises that doesn't go away. Do you think these thoughts linger in the minds of the players that were there last time?

Honestly, I doubt it. Two years ago is like a lifetime to NFL players. Their focus is on what's in front of them, not behind.

Follow up on the Purdy deflections at the line against Ravens. GB line has been getting more lately. Which seem to be almost as disheartening to the QB as sacks How much do linemen work on this.

They're all taught to try to time getting their hands up if they aren't in position to get the sack or hit on the QB. It's easier said than done, but it's part of their training.

Let's not forget the Vikings beat the 49ers.

Right. The Niners had a three-game losing streak back in October when Deebo and Trent Williams were hurt. Their offense was not the same back then.

Mike, I think the problem for opponents is they can't blanket anybody and count on the other guys being ineffective. If they blanket Reed, someone else goes off. If they blanket that person, then it's Doubs and so on. Yeah, the 49ers have great players. Uh, yeah, so do we. I like our chances.

There's no reason for the Packers not to be confident. They know what they're up against, but they know what they're bringing to the contest as well.

Hi Mike, on the first video in WYMM, I saw 3 DBs going into C. Watson's way. I believe Watson will have a big game this Saturday if he's 75% healthy.

The Packers kept running the Cowboys' safeties off with the deep routes and it opened up the middle of the field. I'm sure SF will have an adjustment for that, and Love will have to read what's going on out there.

It seems the Cowboys really keyed on Watson/Reed last week and that allowed Doubs to flourish. is it safe to say we haven't seen this weaponry since Jennings, Jones, Driver, Jordy XLV days?

I'd have to look at specific seasons more closely to make meaningful comparisons but it feels like that in the moment, yeah.

I don't want him to be pushed, but how do we feel about AJ being able to go with his thumb? Him at his best hard running could be a factor in wearing out this front.

It's not the thumb keeping Dillon out. It's the neck stinger.

Our line has to force SF to send more rushes to open up the back end. Can't let them cover with seven.

Right. That's part of it. If the Niners can get the job done with four-man rush all night, that makes it a lot harder. Love has really made teams pay lately when blitzing him. I'm sure the Niners would prefer not to blitz.

Hi Mike, has there been any rhyme or reason to the RG rotation? Obviously it's working but I haven't noticed a pattern or anything.

It started as a way to get a longer look at Sean Rhyan in game action, and it's turned into a competitive boost for both players it appears.

If our O line holds up and keeps Love upright Saturday night, how will our receivers do against the SF's secondary?

I think there will be plays to be made, but sometimes it's going to require Love to get the ball out quickly.

More RB and WR screens to slow the pass rush a bit?

Warner and Greenlaw cover so much ground they're tough to screen against. But I would expect the Packers to try and see if they catch them in a certain call.

Nobody I've seen has mentioned this but, has Jordan Love adjusted more to the game speed of the receivers throughout the season, improving his accuracy? It has to be tough to replicate in practice and it sure seems like that has been a big part to the success of the offense.

Timing is everything, and timing comes with time on task. All these guys just needed to keep playing together and the benefits are obvious.

Mike, will Matt LaFleur and Kyle Shanahan look to whisper in their DC's ears leading up to and during the game Saturday? They seem to know each other's offenses really well.

I think there's plenty of familiarity all around.

Everyone is bringing up Love's first Playoff experience but lets not forget about Purdy.. He was cut short against Philly last year unfortunately but I have to assume a lot of pressure is on his shoulders to come back and bring the most talented team to the SB.

No doubt. It's redemption for him from last year's injury for sure.

I'm concerned about our kicker. He seems to miss at least one kick every week and he has few kickoffs make it to the end zone. Is that a concern or over reaction?

Everyone would like things to smooth out there.

Hoping Daniel Whelan keeps up the good work on punting inside the 10. Field position another big factor.

Yeah, he's been very good lately. If the weather forecast for SF holds, that could be pretty interesting too.

Loved your "all ball, no filler" description of Romeo Doubs. He's an unsung hero of this offense.

That was Wes's description, and it was spot on.

What time do you land? Do you go straight to the pep rally?

I'm guessing so. Haven't seen the detailed itinerary yet.

The Packers have been in "win or go home" mode now for four weeks. That has to help maintain a positive frame of mind.

For sure. It can fuel a team for a long time.

Everyone says SF has a great run defense, yet they give up the same yards per carry as the Cowboys and more than the Vikings and Bears. It's all about not letting them get a lead in this game. If we win the toss, I think we take the ball again.

I noticed that statistically, too. They're third in the league against the run, in part because they get big leads and teams can't run the ball in the second half. Have to stay close and stick with it.

Do you think if the Packers win the coin toss they will elect to receive the ball first just like last week?

I'm guessing so, but I honestly don't know.

The Packers success in goal to goal situations thus year is ridiculus. Especially without there stud back and end missing so many games. Is it Love's decision making or are they run.

That was a huge offensive downfall last year, red zone and goal to go. The turnaround there has been significant.

They key to this game is to disrupt Purdy's Pocket. He's like a statue when he has time and steps up to deliver a textbook pass to a wide open receiver. Disrupt that timing, and if his receiver isn't open when he's on the run and he has no running lane he's gonna throw it anyways. Force him into that, and good things happen for defenses.

Agreed, but easier said than done.

There were several times last week when I saw Love make a play and thought "That's 12 in the Atlanta playoff game". What you can learn by watching is hard to measure, but being able to actually do it? Hard to believe. Is he always that calm off the field as well?

As far as I can tell. He's as level-headed as they come.

Would be pretty cool if both the Bills and Packers vanquish their respective playoff boogeymen this weekend

Sign me up.

Speaking of Mahomes, the relationship right now between Love and LaFleur reminds me of Mahomes and Reid….. they seem to have something going beyond just the playbook.

Also agreed.

We're now 4-3 against playoff teams and 6-5 against non-playoff teams. The upside on this team is pretty high.


Has LaFleur taken a more active role in the defense lately? Not in an Xs and Os fashion, but in a more philosophical sense? Seems we're a LOT less passive lately, even without key starters sometimes.

I don't know any details. I don't think it's an active role. I think some conversations were had regarding approach when things weren't going well.

I'm trying to be realistic about the San Fran game. But it's hard to not have an optimistic outlook that we could repeat the Dallas performance. Have we really played our best game yet? If not, we have a realistic chance right?

Of course.

Bo against the Vikes, Reed against the Bears.. Rome against Dallas.. Who you picking this week for huge WR/TE performance?

Great question. Maybe it's Wicks' turn.

What Tampa did to GB defense and what GB did to DAL defense goes to show the unpredictability of this league; if the SF upcoming game has something that no one would have predicted, what do think that might be that determines the winner? Just for grins…

I don't think there's any way to forecast that in advance. This league and this game is crazy, especially this time of year. You just never know.

Read an astute writer penned "the playoffs are a crapshoot, just get in and see what happens" -Mike S. You nailed it!

Always my belief. Not changing it.

I took one for all of us and re-lived the last four 49ers playoff disasters. Funny how many moments you forget (probably for the better). The page is turned.. it's a new era.

Bingo. And with that, I'm going to call it a chat. Thanks for all the participation today. Sorry if I didn't get to your question, but I've gotta go and head out to practice soon. Take care everybody, talk again soon. Best, Mike.