Mike's Mid-Week Chat: What's the top priority vs. the 49ers?

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

49ers RB Tevin Coleman
49ers RB Tevin Coleman

Hey everybody. Thanks for logging on. I'll have to quit a little earlier than normal to get to practice today, but I'll get to as many questions as I can. Let's go.

What is your take on the number 1 priority help get a win in San Fran?

Defensively, it starts with stopping the run. The 49ers will pound the ball all day if you let them. It's no easy task dealing with Garoppolo if you are able to stop the run, but if you don't start there, it'll be a long night.

So after the MLF presser you race back to your desk and immediately dive into the chat. This is what you do all that offseason conditioning for Mike. Good mourning, thanks for the chat.

Very astute observer. Yes, it's a tight schedule today. I have to get to practice a few minutes after noon, so plenty of exercise.

Looking forward to the chat, Mike! And looking forward to some highly anticipated Packer football this weekend after the bye week.

I can't recall the Packers coming off a bye week and having such a big game with so many implications right away. It's just the start of a bunch of NFC contenders playing one another down the stretch. It's going to be a fun final six weeks.

Nice that the Packers get their bye exactly halfway through their campaign, no?

I think from a rest/break perspective, they could have used it a couple of weeks ago, but they got to 8-2 and are in as good a position as they could hope for with a big game coming up.

Seems like with all this running around and getting from one place to the next, you won't have time to steal Wes' lunch today!

Some things I work desperately to avoid missing out on.

In your article on the importance of the scout team you mentioned "cards" that are drawn up of the opponents plays. Thought this very interesting and difficult for the players to master. Any chance you could get hold of some old cards that you could break down and explain, maybe in a WYMM? Thanks

Appreciate your interest in the story, but I don't think they'd ever let me get my hands on any. They call them "cards" but they're really notebook pages in a binder. They'll hold up the whole binder in the middle of the huddle, whichever side is the scout team, so everyone gets one last look at the X's and O's and responsibilities before they run the play.

I'm still frustrated with that OPI on Allen Lazard. All he did was push the defender's hand away, and then the guy faked a huge flop. Do you think it wouldn't have been overturned if challenged?

No, but it was a bad call. The official who called it was at least 20 yards downfield, and there's no way he could have determined whether the minimal contact Lazard made caused the player to fall or not. He guessed and was clearly wrong.

Other than us (of course) who could you see beating the Vikings in their remaining games?

The Vikings are on their bye this week and then play at Seattle on Monday night next week, so that's another big one between contenders. Otherwise, I see Minnesota's schedule as rather favorable, much like GB's, heading into their Week 16 showdown. But the Packers have this one to deal with first.

When do you think will our return team start to deliver?

The sooner the better. Hopefully Tremon Smith is coming out of the concussion protocol this week. It was a good sign he was on the practice field Monday, so we'll see how it goes. But the blocking has to improve on KO returns, for sure. On punt returns, it would help if the defense could get some stops deeper in the opponent's own territory, because there have been a lot of punts from midfield, and the return unit has been forced to honor potential fakes and not really set up for returns.

Mike, which would you rather see: 1. Packer blow out 2. Aaron wins it with final second heroics 3. The ball with 4th quarter lead and running out the clock with a few 1st downs?

Style points never matter to me, and they certainly don't matter when you're on the road against the conference's top team. You get the win however you can get it.

It seems many readers are eager to see Robert Tonyan and Jace Sternberger get more snaps. I understand the enthusiasm, as these two have bright futures, however I want to see Jimmy Graham on the field. There's a reason he's making TE1 money.

Graham's season is coming on. I think he'll be a significant piece of the offense the rest of the way. He's a veteran who definitely smells a chance at a special season.

I know it starts with stopping the run but do you think our secondary comes up at all against Jimmy G? I'm looking for a Darnell Savage pick six!

If you can stop the run, the Smiths and the Packers' pass rush can get after Jimmy G, especially with the 49ers banged up at offensive tackle. The Packers have matchups they can win there, but they have to get in the right d/d situations, and that will come from containing the run game.

Hello from Germany Mike, there are alot of questions in II about the quality of the D. But I'm a little bit concerned about the O. Aaron Rodgers does not have been the same in the passing game. Or is this just wrong Observation ? The running Game is good though, but we need more trusted receivers, or am I wrong?

Let's see where things go now that guys have had a week off to get their bodies back. Davante Adams should be closer to full strength. Marquez Valdes-Scantling was playing through ankle/knee issues. Geronimo Allison has taken a few big shots this year. Lazard is certainly coming on. I want to see what the week off did for the corps.

I see that the Niners don't give up big plays downfield and that has been our strength especially with Adams back. Hopefully a week off helps Scantling get to 100% to take the top off once or twice.

LaFleur just got done saying downstairs that you can't try to force the big play on these guys. You have to grind out drives, and that means limiting the mistakes like false starts and delay of games that have hampered the offense.

The PI review is a total farce. At this point I think Al Riverton and the NY review process are either totally inept or under instructions from Godell and the league office to kill the new rule. I think the league recognized very quickly this was a can of worms that needed to go away and now they're paying the price for opening that can. True?

I'm not sure if it's the league office or the officials themselves. They're a union just like the players.

Tonyan or Sternberger. Who has the biggest impact over the next six weeks?

I'm going to guess Tonyan. It's great to see Sternberger getting in there, but he's still a very young, raw player.

Hi Mike, if you could pick one thing to completely turn around for the rest of year what would it be? Less penalties on O? Fewer big plays out of the D? Improved Run D? Other?

The defense cutting down on the explosive plays would be my top priority. Those breakdowns are going to cost you games against contenders.

Hi from Costa Rica, it's one game at the time, but do you think beating the niners would give this team the ideal December and January stamina to go for the SB?

A win would put them in great position, but the division needs to be won first, and that's still a long way from being decided.

When the Packers and Vikings played earlier in the season someone was designated to be in Kirk cousins face on play action roll outs and it seemed to be effective. I have not seen other teams do this and Kirk has been on a roll lately have you noticed this?

If you're referring to Cousins throwing two TD passes on rolls to his left against the Broncos, yeah, it was surprising to see those work so well when the Packers put on film some good defense against those rollouts (though in GB he was mostly going right). I heard an interesting stat the other day -- since Cousins threw that pick in the end zone at Lambeau to Kevin King in the fourth quarter, he's thrown only one INT. The Vikings are a very different team now than the one that came to GB in Week 2.

Mike, what's it going to take to secure the middle of the field on defense?

Better communication and assignment-sound football. I think the defense gets caught up too much in trying to make presnap adjustments and get everything perfect before the snap, and then they're not quite ready for what's coming. Don't worry about perfect alignment, just stay sound and react accordingly.

I'm as excited and impressed with Aaron Jones as the next guy. But MVP? The last RB to win MVP had over 2,000 yards rushing. In my opinion, Rodgers was trying to give Jones huge kudos while taking a slight at Carolina who has had the Packers number the last few years.

I think he was just trying to say Jones doesn't take as big a back seat to McCaffrey in the NFC RB picture as many projected going into the game.

After this Niners game, we play Giants, Redskins and bears. All teams who seem to be just trying to get to the off season. If we get this W and don't have any slip ups, the pressure will be on Vikes to have a chance for dec 23rd game

And even if the Packers don't get this one, they will have an opportunity to get rolling again before Week 16. But flying to the East Coast will be a tough trip after coming home from the West Coast after a night game, no matter the opponent.

Hi Mike! Kyle Shanahan lost Super Bowl LI because he didn't run the ball. The key to this game will be force the Niners to quit on the run game early. Who needs to step up and have a big game against that backfield?

Kenny Clark started to look like the Clark of last year in the Carolina game. They're going to double-team him plenty, but when he's not double-teamed, he needs to keep making those impact plays.

In your wildest dream could you have imagined four months ago 8-2 and we'd be talking about the #1 seed at this time? Be honest Mike.

Nothing surprises me in this league. My motto going into the season was optimism without expectations. I knew this team had a chance to be good. But they've also won a bunch of close games that could have gone the other way and made things look radically different. It's how this league is.

Mike, I have not watched the Niners much this year, other than the Seattle game. What strikes me is that they are number 1 against the pass and number 20 against the run, giving up 142 and 110 yards per game, respectively. I can't tell for certain, but Aaron seems to audible out of running situations at times. How important is commitment to the run, even if the defense shows signs of loading the box?

You have to trust Rodgers to get the offense in the best possible play when the situation warrants. There's no reason to run uphill if there's another option that's better. Yes, the Packers have to commit to the run in this game, both play caller and QB, but the Seahawks didn't run the ball all that much and Wilson made plenty of things happen.

Mike, How about some Quarterback run plays by design... One more thing for defenses to think about?

With Rodgers? No thanks. He's going to run when he gets opportunities, but there's no reason to expose him unnecessarily. The Packers have plenty of other ways they can run the ball.

I know you will say its too early to worry about this.. but between Bryan Bulaga, Clark and Blake Martinez, who is most important guy to get locked up for extension?

Yeah, way too early, but based on age and position played, I'd put Clark as the top priority. He's going to be the most expensive, too. Nothing against Bulaga and Martinez, who are playing well, but a young guy who is as disruptive in the middle of the trenches like Clark would be really tough to replace.

Mike, apologies if you already talked about this and I didn't see, but which players are likely going to be out for the niners on Sunday, and conversely how can the packers use the consistent starts of their healthy players as an advantage in the long run? Thanks, and hopefully the pack stays healthy!

We'll have to watch SF's injury situation all week. Kittle, Sanders, Breida, Gould, Ford will all be on the injury report, among others, but it's not known whether they'll be available come Sunday night or not.

Hey Mike, does 2 losses feel like the margin of error for this team to be in a good position (division / seeding?) because that seems like the general consensus by most fans.

It's hard to get a gauge on the big picture because there are so many games coming up with NFC contenders against one another. GB-SF, MIN-SEA, SF-NO, SF-SEA, and there's another one I'm forgetting. Lots to sort out.

All right folks, sorry to cut it short but I do have to get to practice for the media portion we're allowed to watch, so I have to run. Thanks again for your participation and we'll talk again next week. Take care, Mike

Related Content