Skip to main content

Mike's Mid-Week Chat: Is someone due for a breakout game for the Packers?

Editor Mike Spofford answered fan questions in his live chat

Lambeau Field
Lambeau Field

Hey everybody, thanks for logging on today. Hope all is well. Go ahead and start sending in your questions and I'll get things rolling here in a bit.

I didn't see the last game but it sounded like a repeat of the last few weeks. Is the team improving?

The ending was unfortunately all too familiar, with late scoring chances thwarted by interceptions. The rest of the game showed considerable promise and improvement offensively over where the Packers were a few weeks ago. Still too many mistakes and plenty of things they need to clean up, but 399 yards was a solid showing by the offense that hopefully they can build upon.

Good morning, Mike. In reviewing some of the explosive plays from last week, which ones (if any) do you feel most confident are repeatable?

It's not so much about how repeatable they are, but what variations can you now run off of them as opponents prepare for those plays that gashed the Steelers. For example, the Packers have connected on that deep corner route to Luke Musgrave two weeks in a row now, once to the left and once to the right side. What's the next option off of that? Because future defenses are going to try to take it away.

Do you think Rasul Douglas is feeling "deja vu all over again"?

I don't know. Buffalo has a lot of talent but is struggling at 5-5 with a pretty tough schedule coming up in a tough AFC. It just goes to show that playoff spots are not guaranteed in this league. You have to earn it every year. Maybe the Bills still will. They've got the talent and experience to work through this.

There have been some scenarios where the offense gets into a 2nd and long or even a 3rd and long. In these situations Jordan Love seems to feel the need to get all the yardage back/score in one shot. Is this something that the coaches are working on with him?

The Packers converted a number of third and longs against Pittsburgh with those explosive gains. That's when he has to take those shots. Decision-wise, I wish he hadn't tried the out and up to Watson on second down in the red zone in the fourth quarter and just lived to play another down, but I didn't see the Steelers game as one full of questionable decisions by him.

In your answer to my submission, which you kindly included in II today, you mentioned the game 500. I haven't thought about that game in years (actually decades) but the memories you jogged with your answer brought a smile to my face. So the question is, do you know how the name of the game originated?

Couldn't tell you. All I know is we played it with 100 points per catch, and if two guys caught the ball together they could split it 50-50.

Hey Mike, what adjustment do you think could help the offense become more consistent at putting points on the board early?

They had two TDs in the first half in Pittsburgh, the first time they've done that since Week 2 at Atlanta. So the starts are getting more productive. The downfall this last game was two red-zone stalls in the third quarter that led to FGs only. Finish one of those drives and it's a different game.

Mike, I feel like Christian Watson will be fine, but how much of his perceived struggles this year do you think have to do with having a new QB1? I feel like we have to give he and his new QB1 time to develop that connection.

It didn't help that Watson missed some games earlier this season, but it needs to start coming along now. We haven't seen it yet the way everybody hopes and wants, but all they can do is keep playing together and see what develops.

It looks like the Packer identity for 2023 is Ground Hog Day. Do you agree?

They have to change how these games are ending, but at least the rest of the game in Pittsburgh wasn't a repeat of Vegas, Denver, etc.

Hey Mike, the offense seems to stall out quite often, what is the one key adjustment you'd make to help them become more consistent at finishing drives and turning them into points?

I've always said, and LaFleur said the same thing on Monday, the key to production in the red zone is being able to run the ball well down there, because then everything else on the call sheet works off of that. A few years back when the Packers were seemingly unstoppable in the red zone, they ran the ball inside the 20 with incredible efficiency and production. That led to play-actions and other touchdowns because defenses had to honor their ability to do anything down there. The Packers haven't run it well enough in the red zone to score efficiently enough.

Mike, have the coaches said anything about Samori Toure's apparent demotion?

No. Seems clear they feel better about giving Malik Heath a shot in games at that last receiver spot right now. But Heath dropped a key pass vs. the Rams and then wasn't a factor last week, so we'll see what that means moving forward.

What do you see as the keys on D to help keep Herbert and the Chargers offense in check? How about the Packers offense vs the Chargers D?

Herbert is going to make some throws the Packers haven't seen from other QBs this year. He's not afraid to fire for tight windows and push the ball down the field. The Packers have to prevent the explosive play and tackle well. Ekeler is a guy who can make tacklers miss and he can't be allowed to do what the Steelers RBs did. On the other side, the Chargers D has struggled, and the Packers have to eliminate the penalties and negative plays. Play a clean game and the offense should be able to move it. Then it comes down to finishing drives, which means running the ball well in the red zone, as noted previously.

I know this is probably over-asked, in more offensive ways, but based on MLF's description, is our base defense a 5-2? We don't take the big OLB off the field, and it would seem the same rules would apply.

Yes, when the Packers are in base, they play a five-man front. When they go nickel, it's a four-man front. They also have a variation they call penny, which is nickel personnel in the secondary but with a five-man front and only one inside LB.

Re: 500, wasn't idea was supposed to be that the "quarterback" could shout any number upon throwing the ball for how many points a catch would be worth? The strategic implications of that never computed in my 7-year-old brain...

I've heard of that, but we never played it that way.

Have we overrated the talent of our defense? Experience not the issue here. The expectation this year was for a defensive lead team. Where are the turnovers?

Great question. The defense to me feels a lot like last year. Stretches of good play, but not enough consistency. Playing the run as well as they did vs. the Vikings and Rams but then falling apart vs. the Steelers run game is the latest example. The turnovers have come down to a lot of missed opportunities in my book, the controversial replay in Pittsburgh aside. The Packers have had their hands on plenty of INTs this season that haven't been caught. But overall, there's a lack of consistency on the defense that feels much the same as last year to me.

In response to the points on the board early, I was referring to as a whole since they're ranked 31st at 5.4 points average in the first half. The Pittsburgh game was much better. What I meant was, how do you keep the momentum off of that? Jones touches, certain personnel, etc.?

They've come out of the gates stronger the last couple of games, which allows the concepts in the game plan to build off of one another. Even if some early drives don't produce points, if you're moving the ball and getting some first downs, you still have something in the plan to build on. What those concepts are often are opponent-dependent. It's not as simple as saying more Jones touches or certain personnel groups. The plans are most often built off of ways they feel they can attack an opposing defense best.

I think GB needs to have a renewed focus on the run. I know opponent game plans are specific, but...yeah.

I think they tried to run the ball plenty in Pittsburgh but didn't have much success. They have to run it better but still stick with it. Staying committed to it can help open up those bigger gainers in the passing game.

If you had to predict on draft day which pair of WRs would go on to have better NFL careers - Watson/Doubs or Reed/Wicks - wouldn't it have been almost a toss-up? I'm just saying these guys hopefully all have a lot of football in front of them.

I agree. Way too early to tell on anybody, really. I do like the dimension that Reed has brought to this offense, though. He's a different type of receiver in terms of size, quickness, etc., and they're using that well.

So, his statement that "base" is 3-4 is not accurate?

It's 3-4 based on how the positions are labeled on the roster. Going by how they line up in base defense, it's a five-man front.

Why do other teams seem to have our number on gadget plays? Every time I see the pack try some trickery I role my eyes. If you can't do it straight but, what makes you think you can add complexity. Idk.

The one in Pittsburgh had a chance but Jones dropped the throwback. He had blockers in front. I'm not sure he would've gotten the first down, but that play had a chance. The opponent wasn't onto it. The Packers didn't execute it properly.

Hi, Mike! Almost halfway through November and I am struggling to figure out what this team's identity really is. Is that an issue for such a young team at this point in the season?

That handful of games earlier went so poorly on offense there was nothing being established. There have been signs of improvement but they must continue. Whenever an identity forms, we'll know it. But it's more about just executing more consistently right now.

Well, the difference in Russell's comment is that a team like the Lions in the past has lived off of those. For a time frame, it felt like the only way DET could score on GB was based off of the trickery. No need for super creative trickery with AR12 at the helm - so it might not have been practiced/repped a lot. Am I off base with that?

Not entirely. You're right, trickery was uncommon with Rodgers at the helm. Throwing in more wrinkles with Love helps to keep a defense honest.

Whatever you label them as, if most of your front defenders are small enough that the other team believes they can move them out of the way, they're going to run the ball on you.

As I always say, you're going to get blocked in this league. The key is not to stay blocked.

As a whole is our offensive line lighter than most?

I don't think so. I don't have any lists in front of me, but my gut response is no. Zach Tom might be just a little on the small side for a right tackle, but he's playing pretty darn well.

Any more news on the end of game scrum? Do you expect fines, since they couldn't do anything in-game?

I have no idea. I missed it all, frankly. I was so focused on getting our bulletin story up after the final play that my face was in my screen.

Simplified as a fan, I'm sure, but to me the defense inconsistency:
1) Not enough talent to do what is asked (seems BG has done a lot to change/address that)
2) Scheme has a natural weakness that isn't being addresses (i.e. Matthews to MLB mid-season)
3) Coaches can't properly teach the scheme, or the players aren't buying it.

I'm not an X's and O's expert by any stretch. All I know is there's plenty of blame to go around. Allowing 200 rushing yards three times in nine games is a unit-wide failure, players and coaches.

Hey Mike, what do you do to de-stress on rough weeks? Play more racquetball? I find smashing that ball helps. But now I'm waiting for my racquet to be restrung.

Unfortunately I've been a little banged up lately so my racquetball has been too infrequent. Been immersed at home in a lot of yardwork too. That'll be my Saturday this weekend with the game at home and Thanksgiving around the corner. One more day of yardwork.

I imagine you'll be busy Sunday evening, but who would you root for in Bills-Jets? I've love to see Rasul get a win and nudge that Jets draft pick back up again.

I've always liked Buffalo. Watching them lose 4 Super Bowls in a row in my college years left something about that franchise that has stuck with me, and then my son went to grad school out there, so I visited the city a couple times to see him, both with and without having to cover a game.

Valentine has a little more game experience than "Ballentine" (Sheesh, that's gonna continue to be difficult). Do you feel like Picket went after one over the other more, or was it pretty equal? I also think those snaps will benefit GB D in the future, but I really hope Ja is able to come back because there is a real difference when he's out there (but especially healthy).

I thought coverage-wise they both held up pretty well. The early DPI on Valentine with the jersey grab turned out to be a huge play, coming on third down and leading to a TD. Other than that, he got beat on the back-shoulder to Pickens in the second half which is really hard to defend, and the Steelers executed it perfectly. Ballentine seemed to get picked on early a little bit but made some key stops in the passing game as the contest wore on. Everybody in GB's secondary needed to tackle better, though. It was a rough tackling day.

Not taking anything away from Jayden Reed's nomination for Rookie of the Week but I don't see C.J. Stroud not getting the win after their big win over the Bengals. From your perspective, how is Stroud as a rookie having as much success as he has had compared to JLove's season so far?

Haven't watched a single Houston game this season, so I have no idea what Stroud and the Texans are doing to make him so successful early. It is impressive, though. Defenses are going to adjust and then it'll be interesting to see if he/they can keep this up. It's never easy in this league, even when it looks easy sometimes.

Anyone you sense having a breakout game this Sunday?

Somebody on that defense is due for an interception or two, I'm just not sure who it's going to be, partly because this early in the week I have no idea who's actually going to be playing. If Jaire Alexander can come back this week, Herbert is going to challenge him.

Did we have any injuries in Sunday's game?

I don't recall any injury announcements in the press box during the game for GB players. Hopefully that's a good sign.

Mike, just a theory, but a guy like Rodgers can hide a lot of inadequacies by winning close ones. Love is just getting started and dare I say the weaknesses are still fairly similar. They simply have been exposed a little more clearly now. Pittsburgh was a step in the right direction.

Winning games at crunch time can cover up a lot of flaws. The Packers have had their chances and come up short. I'd say five games have come down to the wire -- Atlanta, New Orleans, Vegas, Denver, Pittsburgh -- and the Packers are 1-4 in those games. If you can somehow pull out two of those four losses, suddenly you're 5-4 instead of 3-6 and everything looks different. That's how this league goes.

What is Wicks doing that he is successful? Wasn't he a middle draft choice?

He was a fifth-rounder, and he did a nice job in Pittsburgh finding openings downfield vs. zone and giving his QB a clear target to throw to.

Dillon's 40-yard scamper was a thing of beauty. Looked like the run blocking was perfect. How do we get more of those plays?

Great question. Execute to that level more often and we shall see. Every block was executed to perfection, and Dillon made the safety miss as he shot down for the initial tackle. That's how plays rupture.

I do love the number of explosives in PIT - against a team that historically, to my knowledge, doesn't really allow explosives and makes you go the full length of the field slowly and methodically. Each of the young players getting involved with a couple big plays hopefully breeds confidence moving forward. Two important contributors to this upcoming game I have a feeling of: Luke Musgrave and Kenny Clark.

I felt like Clark was really gutting it out in Pittsburgh with that banged up shoulder. Hopefully he's getting healthier.

Not to take anything away from Stroud, but the TD highlight they've been showing from this past weekend is at least as much due to the receiver dodging defenders. Just like Love gets most of the blame, Stroud gets most of the credit.

Fair or unfair, that's how it goes.

With all this work, I don't know how you have time to steal Wes' lunch, or go on a beer run. Tough times all around.

Ha, yeah. After these road trips, I feel like I blink my eyes and it's Wednesday already.

Personally, I feel like it is better to expose the problems with losses than to cover them up with wins. I feel they'll be better because of this in the end. Though, the final say is up to them. Lafleur has these guys fighting, though, and that's a good thing.

This team battles. There's no denying that. The difference this past week was instead of trying to pull out a game they really hadn't played well, like Vegas or Denver, they were trying to win a game with a lot more strong play all around offensively. That's why I commented early in the week how much that win would've meant. It was too bad they couldn't get it, but all you can do is fight on in the next one.

Musgrave is a big play waiting to happen. Is the timing/accuracy off just enough that he can't keep his feet? Seems it happens often.

Sometimes he's gotten his feet tangled, other times he's reaching up to haul in the pass and can't quite keep stride. It'll come. It's getting there.

....they may be bettet for it and also have a higher draft pick. :)

That's one way to look at it. I'd still rather win games.

I was happy to see Keisean Nixon finally get loose. Have you noticed improvement in our special teams blocking or was that a fluke?

The blocking has given him a chance. The ST return units have also cut down on penalties, and Nixon has been able to make a guy or two miss. Lots has to go right for those returns to break like that. It's been good to see.

I don't care if it's a little unreasonable at this point, I'm not giving up playoff hopes until there is no chance, just like last year. We can beat the bucs, giants, panthers and bears, we snag the chargers win and maybe beat the Vikings and we're 9-8. Not sure that's enough. Either way, I like the promise I'm seeing, just some heartbreaking losses.

Just beat the Chargers. And with that, I have to head to practice soon so I'm going to call it a chat. Thanks again everybody and enjoy the rest of your week. Take care, Mike.