Mike's Mid-Week Chat: What makes the Falcons dangerous?

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

Falcons WR Calvin Ridley

Hey everybody. Hope all is well. Thanks for logging on today. Go ahead and start sending in your questions. Let's get started.

Mike. With you not travelling this year, what's your game day set up like? Do you toss on your denim and take in the action from your lazy boy?

Ha, no. For the home games, I'm up in the press box at Lambeau. For the road games, I'm in a big conference room down the hall from my desk with a big-screen TV and my laptop set up. It's very different, but I've done two games that way now so I'll keep getting used to it.

The D-backfield is supposed to be the Packers defensive strength. We will learn a lot on Monday night. What do you see after three games?

I see a group that has cut down on the big downfield pass plays since the opener, but most recently some big plays happened because of poor tackling. That has to improve, obviously. This group can cover pretty well, though the opponent has been without its top wideout the last two weeks. We'll see about Julio Jones for Monday night.

Hi Mike. What do you think was the biggest challenge Ty Summers had to face when replacing Christian Kirksey in the middle of a tight game?

Just stay calm and play within the defense. It's easy to get overhyped and try to run around like a madman. He admitted he took the bait on a couple of plays and got out of position. He missed a couple of tackles, like everyone did. I thought for the responsibility thrown at him, and for not having played defense before in an NFL regular-season game, he held up pretty well. It's not like the whole defense fell apart.

Given that Pettine has been in place for a few years and the personnel is pretty stable from last year, are you at all concerned about the D's performance so far ranking 32nd?

The group can play better. I know that. Not having Kenny Clark in the middle is a huge absence, and now we have to see about Rashan Gary's injury too. They've had stretches of darn good defense. They got the Saints to go three-and-out three times Monday night, including once in the fourth quarter. They've also had lulls and lapses. Very uneven play, but you just keep plugging away and try to smooth things out.

Any idea if Clark and Davante Adams will both held out this week. With the bye coming up this would give them an additional week before Week 6 against Tampa Bay.

No word yet, and the first practice of the week is not until tomorrow due to the Monday night game. I can't say whether the upcoming bye week will factor into the decisions or not. McCarthy never really took that approach. If a guy was cleared, he was cleared. We don't really know if LaFleur's approach is any different yet.

This game has me worried: reminds me of the Philly game last year: Packers undefeated playing a good team that appears to be struggling, and the Packers appeared pretty flat for that game. Any chance of that repeating itself against ATL?

It's the NFL. You never know how these things are going to go. I know LaFleur won't let these guys overlook an 0-3 team that should be 2-1. The film shows the Falcons are much more dangerous than their record would indicate. This team is not a pushover. They're struggling to finish games, for whatever reason.

Falcons: Downtrodden or fired up and hungry to erase the taste of 0-3?

There's going to be some of both on a 53-man roster. The big test for the Falcons will be how they react and perform the next time they have a fourth-quarter lead after what's happened the last two weeks. The Packers don't want to give them that fourth-quarter lead.

Hi Mike. Will tonight be a late night for you? Brewers don't play until after 9pm.

Yeah, it's gonna be a late night, but I'll manage. Playoff baseball possibly going past midnight. Why not?

I missed how Rashan Gary got hurt. Did you see the play? Can you describe what happened?

I didn't see the play and don't really know what happened. All I know is it was announced he had an ankle injury.

Is the Falcons' run game especially problematic? It can't be as dangerous as the Saints, right?

Todd Gurley is not to be taken lightly, and the smaller, shifty guy Hill stunned the Bears with his long TD run last Sunday. They can give Matt Ryan the offensive balance he needs. The Falcons have scored 90 points in three games. Their offense remains productive, they've just had bad stretches trying to protect leads.

Some players who lack stopwatch speed still play fast. What do you believe are important factors which contribute to game speed?

Instincts and anticipation more than anything. If your reactions are faster than a faster runner, you can get to the same spot at the same time.

The Rock posted a great analysis video about the tight end sneaking behind the linemen on play action. Is a shorter, faster player eligible to line up at that spot like Tyler Ervin?

Sure, the Packers could line up whoever they want, but if it's not a tight end, it's harder to sell the running play because the bigger guy cutting across is expected to block the backside edge player with a run.

In a game against Atlanta which is the more important player to have return for the Packers. Clark or Adams?

Given the Packers' issues on defense and the fact the offense put up 37 last Sunday, if I have to pick one, I'm picking Clark.

Is the community of Green Bay experiencing an increase in COVID-19?

Things are not good in Wisconsin in general and in Brown Co. in particular.

Any idea what the coaches said to the D after the awful Kamara play with all the missed tackles? I thought the D did a GREAT job of tackling after that play (particularly the three and out with two strong tackles in the open field to the right and on the 3rd down play where the Saints had 3 receivers lined up against 2 defenders -- that looked like a big play waiting to happen, but the D stuffed it!)

Unlike high school football, ranting and raving to professional athletes on the sideline usually doesn't do much. These guys know when they screw up and know what they need to do better. As I wrote Monday, I thought the next two defensive series after the disastrous Kamara play showed some character by the guys on that side of the ball. That one play could have demoralized the whole unit, but it had no lingering effect.

Hi, Mike. One of the things I noticed from Turner is he kept his feet moving in order to make Jordan work around a moving object. Who has had the best footwork of any lineman you've covered?

David Bakhtiari and Clifton are the first two who come to mind.

Is it me, or did the routes on those two big Allen Lazard completions look awfully Marquez Valdes-Scantling-like? Wayne even mistakenly called them both as MVS before correcting himself in his radio calls

They are routes that MVS has run, yeah, but the Saints were shading a safety toward MVS most of the night. So Lazard was the guy getting open deep.

Hi Mike. Speaking of play speed, knowing you were an athlete growing up, were you ever timed in the 40? What do you think your time would've been at your peak?

I never was timed in the 40. In college in baseball drills, I was once clocked home to first in 3.9 seconds (30 yards). Those were the days.

Calvin Ridley stats: 130, 109 and 110 receiving yards the last 3 games. Other than the obvious, what can the defense improve from last week performance in order to contain Ridley?

He's a big-time weapon, and he'll be even harder to deal with if Jones is back Monday night. You can't let Ridley get behind you, and you have to tackle him on the short stuff so a play doesn't rupture with big YAC. He's been a good one since he arrived there and he's only gotten better.

Mike, BIG fan. But I have to say, I think I saw you at Erberts and Gerberts without a mask on...please tell me it wasn't you!

Nope. Haven't set foot in E&G for a long, long while.

Which player do you think has been the biggest surprise for the Packers over the first 3 weeks?

I don't know if anyone has truly surprised me. Kingsley Keke definitely jumped out with the two sacks all of a sudden last week. Now he has to build on it. Lucas Patrick has been really valuable. His play hasn't been a surprise because he's done it before, but his ability to jump into any of the three interior spots and hold his own is impressive.

Hey Mike! Seems to me like this offense's plan is pretty much the same each week. Win TOP and capitalize in the red zone. Everyone is maligning the defense, but I see a group that makes the most of their opportunities and one big play (usually in crunch time). I like the Packers chances

A big defensive play or stop here or there at the right time can make up for other moments things don't go well. The game is geared toward offense, this year more than ever based on the scoring statistics right now. On defense you can't get down. With an offense like the Packers' putting up points, the defense has to just keep playing and trying to turn the tide when possible.

Hey Mike, what has impressed you more with the Aaron Rodgers and Lafleur combo: 17-4 overall record, or 8-0 NFC North record? Not bad for 2 guys who apparently hate each other.

That narrative grew old pretty quickly. Not losing a division game yet is really something, because there's so much prep that goes into those from both sides. There's no overstating the value of division wins in the overall picture.

Hi Mike. Are there any benefits you have experienced in covering the away games by watching television? What aspect of not being there in person affects your coverage most?

The hardest thing while doing the live blog is not always knowing exactly what the yard line is because the TV broadcast is showing all kinds of things between plays. From the press box, I can always see where the officials are spotting the ball.

With Foles replacing Trubisky in Chicago, do you see the Bears as the only NFC North team challenging Green Bay this season, or do you believe Detroit and Minnesota will right their respective ships?

The Lions are one catch away from being 2-1, and they just beat a 2-0 Cardinals team that was playing really well. Detroit has been better than I thought. Minnesota has struggled more than I thought. It's too early to write anyone off. The Bears are 3-0 and now have a better quarterback. Buckle up.

Who/what is Atlanta's biggest defensive threat against the Pack's O?

Grady Jarrett is a handful in the middle of that defensive line, and he leads them in sacks early despite being an interior rusher.

Mike...really respect your work and imagine you are a GREAT resource for young journalists like Wes. What's the biggest the piece of advice you gave him when he came on board? I imagine he's asking you for your perspective all the time...he'd be silly not to!

Wes is his own man and his own writer. It's a treat working with him. The only "advice" I give him is usually little things from when I'm editing his stories. We talk about story ideas sometimes and how to present them, and we help each other that way. Wes's work stands on its own.

Hey Mike! Interesting takes in WYMM this week. Do coaches ever comment to you about what you see on film when you walk by their offices?

I don't walk by anyone's offices this year. We're pretty relegated to our own spaces. But even when we're more mobile, no one ever says anything. They have more important things to do than talk to me, and I'm perfectly fine with that.

It looks like there aren't any dominant defenses so far this year in the NFL. The Packers are the only ones struggling to stop teams. Some of this might be because there were no pre-season games, but a lot could be the emphasis by the league that the refs only call clear and obvious infractions. From your eyes is that making the game better for you and the fans?

All the offense is making things more exciting for the fans, I think. Holding calls are way down on offense, by dozens of percentage points last I saw. That's been huge.

Hi Mike, I recently saw a comment that Oren Burks has taken some snaps at outside linebacker. Is there any validity to that?

Yes, that's where he was playing Sunday night after Gary went out. It appears the Packers are trying him at a new position on defense. He's still a regular on special teams, and a darn good player in that phase.

I wrote in last week with the opinion that we'll need our tight ends to make a leap in the passing game. And boy did they ever! Congrats to all three who were involved on Sunday, especially Robert Tonyan. You called it!

It was interesting the Raiders gashed the Saints with their star TE, Waller, and then the Packers were able to get a big collective impact from their unit in very different ways... a lot more horizontal stuff off the boots, and just a couple of downfield throws. 100-plus yards and two TDs is major production, whether it's from one guy or a group at the same position.

Asked as a greedy fan: Why only two Packers Unscripted SDS a week? Is it too time consuming with the COVID protocols and all? As the not so greedy fan: Thanks to you, Wes and your Team for every edition you produce.

Without being able to just walk into the studio, sit down at the set, and turn on the cameras, it's a more involved production, and our producer has additional responsibilities with all the different stuff going on this year. So two episodes per week is the best we can do right now.

Team to beat in the NFC? My pick is the Seahawks.

Russell Wilson is off to a phenomenal start. So is Aaron Rodgers. The Rams are a whisker away from 3-0. And there are multiple 2-1 teams that look darn good. The NFC race is going to be phenomenal.

What's the biggest challenge of covering a game from watching on television Michael? I feel like sport writers don't get enough credit for what they have to do in 20-20.

In addition to what I said earlier, you also don't get to see what's going on along the sideline, or who's coming in and out of the huddle as far as personnel groups. From a press box view, you can look at what you want. On TV, you're limited by where the camera is.

Mike, after Tonyan getting TDs in 2 straight, do you think he will be the go to TE moving forward?

There certainly appears to be something developing between him and Rodgers, but I still think it's going to be about that group collectively. Josiah Deguara was in there right away Week 1. Jace Sternberger bounced back after the drops vs. Detroit. Lewis caught a TD pass. All those guys are going to play when they're healthy.

Read a Sage Rosenfels article a few years ago about struggling teams pushing too hard to right the ship and making more mistakes. What do the Packers need to emphasize to keep Atlanta struggling?

The Packers just need to keep focusing on their own game. Stay sharp on offense, limit penalties and negative plays. That's been a good formula, and they're converting 50 percent on third down, up from 36 percent last year. That's huge. Defensively, I already mentioned just hanging in there, being more sound with the tackling, and make a big play when it counts.

Well, 1st game is postponed due to COVID (Steelers-Titans); any idea how they plan to make up these games?

It sounds like they're hoping to make up the Steelers-Titans game Monday or Tuesday. If it ends up being Tuesday, that puts both teams in a tough spot for the next game. But things are going to come up this season that will be unfair. I think the league has accepted that and the hope is to have as little disruption as possible at the possible expense of overall fairness.

My daughter goes to Wyoming and we saw Josh Allen play there. It was obvious he had all the tools to be a star. Could the Bills finally unseed the Patriots?

Buffalo is going to be in that race all year. The Bills were a wild-card team last year and are aiming for a division title. The Patriots are playing well with Newton. The two matchups between those teams this year should be entertaining battles.

If the Saints decided to double cover Lazard, do you think MVS would have been the star of Sunday night's game?

Rodgers has been taking what the defense gives him. If you look at those bootleg plays (go to the latest Rock Report if you wish), there are multiple levels, multiple options for Rodgers to throw to. Deep, intermediate, short. The short guy, that TE coming across the formation, has been open right from the jump every time, so Rodgers just gets it to him. The downfield guys are covered, but it's opening up other avenues.

I see 3 pro-bowlers in the Packers O-line.

Me, too, but with Elgton Jenkins being in his second year, the recognition may not come just yet. The voting process usually takes a bit to catch up.

All right folks, I'm going to call it a chat and sign off. Thanks again for the participation. Enjoy the rest of your week and we'll talk again soon. Best, Mike

Related Content