Mike's Mid-Week Chat: What will it take to turn things around?

Senior writer Mike Spofford answered questions from fans


Hey everybody. Thanks for logging on. Sorry I'm a few minutes late. Some technical issues. Hopefully they won't continue. Feel free to start sending in questions.

The last two games may be "good losses", but to make the playoffs, Green Bay will need to beat someone they aren't supposed to beat.

I don't know if I look at it quite that way, but they've put themselves in this position by playing so poorly on the road at Washington and at Detroit. Those were very winnable road games that didn't require perfect performances. The Packers played better on the road the past two weeks, but they were against much better opponents. Now they have to just prove they can beat anybody on the road, but they have to keep winning at home this week. It is what it is at this point.

Would pursuing Bruce Irvin be a good move for this team?

I'm sure the personnel department has studied his latest game film and will make the decision whether he's worth it. The trap fans fall into all the time is locking on to a player's name and his career. But what matters is what he's doing now. I don't know the answer to that because I don't study film of other teams/players.

We may find ourselves rooting for the Vikings a couple of times from here on out in order for the Packers to make a move in the division. This is going to be tough.

Can't worry about any of that at this point. It's about beating Miami and then going on the road to a tough place on a short week and getting a road win. That's all that matters. If they don't do that and have to start scoreboard watching by the end of November, I don't like their chances.

Lots of negativity this week. But we're still right in the thick of it for the division! Losing isn't fun, but at least we're not the Cardinals or the Giants.

The Packers have opportunities in front of them. They had two huge opportunities the past two weeks they let slip away. They have to grab the ones they still have this month and then see where things stand when December rolls around.

When Blake Martinez was briefly off the field, who wore the headset?

I believe it was Antonio Morrison, who filled in nicely. Tremendous effort by Martinez to come back and finish the game. I can't imagine how sore his ankle was Monday morning.

Very interesting article about AR12's increased throwaway rate. It is substantially higher than ever before. Is this a reaction to not taking sacks and risking injury? Has the coaching staff or AR12 gone on the record that they are trying to play differently to avoid sacks and hits?

I haven't heard anything to that effect. I chalk it up to working with more receivers (Graham and the rookies) who aren't as familiar with scramble drills with Rodgers. Cobb and Allison have missed a ton of games and they've got that experience with Rodgers. The others, aside from Adams, don't.

Mike, Well it's looking bad for our team right now. The New England game was way more difficult for me then the Rams. How do we turn this around??

The Packers have to finish games better, but they also have to clean up the errors that are shrinking their margin for error in that fourth quarter, whether you're talking about dumb personal fouls, penalties on special teams, missed throws, etc. The defense also needs to start taking the ball away. I've never seen this team go on a run without the defense getting a turnover or two per game. No takeaways the last two weeks made the Packers' one turnover each week a huge, huge play.

What matchup problems do the Dolphins pose this week?

Miami's pass defense in particular stands out most to me. 15 interceptions this year. Four guys with multiple picks. Offensively, they haven't been much different with Osweiler vs. Tannehill. Gore and Drake have run the ball well. They miss Wilson as a big-play guy with his injury. Stills is the one they rely on now. There aren't any matchups that should make anyone freak out. The Packers need to play a solid game and the results should follow.

Hey Mike! I asked about Jimmy Graham's lack of impact a couple of weeks ago and I'm still not super impressed. He just doesn't seem to have "it" anymore. Why do we continue to struggle at the TE position?

I thought Graham's impact in the first 2 1/2 quarters on Sunday night is what you're looking for. The Pats tried to put Chung on him, and Graham won most of those matchups. Rodgers also missed him when he was wide open on the sideline early. After his TD, New England adjusted to make Rodgers go elsewhere, and Graham never saw another pass.

Hello Mike, I'm a fan of coach McCarthy and believe he still has the drive to continue coaching this team. IYO, does it seem he's lost a little bit on the innovation to mix things up on offense. Andy Reid seems to be doing a wonderful job in KC. Isn't the NFL a copy cat league anymore? thank you.

I see this comment a lot. The narrative that Andy Reid reinvented himself is pretty common. Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill reinvented Reid in my opinion. You play to your personnel. Adams, Jones and Graham are the Packers' three best weapons right now, and MVS is coming on, but I don't see any comparables to Hunt and Hill. The Packers have had their chances. They were at nearly 350 yards through three quarters against the Patriots. The offense was moving the ball but just didn't finish the game.

Did the offside on the opening kickoff get the team off on the wrong foot, so to speak?

The special-teams miscues continue to pile up and there's just no excuse for them. The Pats started that first drive at their 41 after Patterson's return and the 5-yard penalty. That's a 16-yard advantage over the usual. The RTK on Tonyan cost 24 yards of field position in the final analysis. Those things don't help.

Packers defense has gotten more stops on 3rd down this year but still are not getting turnovers. If this can change it might be just the jump start to get the offense going. Thoughts

Turnovers are the one missing ingredient on defense right now. The number of times they stopped Tom Brady, and stopped Jared Goff and the Rams, should have been enough to win the game if the offense plays better, but as you said, one turnover here or there could really help that offense get going, too.

At least GB went 2/3 in the RZ. It's amazing what running the ball accomplishes when the field gets tighter.

6-for-13 on third down and 2-for-3 in the red zone are a good start to get those categories turned in the right direction. Now they have to keep it up. Only 3 red-zone possessions isn't going to cut it against the Patriots, though. They were headed for a fourth when Jones fumbled.

It's so frustrating to watch the offense stall so often. I feel like every single drive I'm saying "Wow, here comes another 3rd down" and then every defensive coordinator on the planet knows its going to be a pass play. It's difficult to understand how we've ended up in that position so often this year, honestly.

Sorry, but I'm not going to buy the predictability narrative. A big third down at LA, Rodgers checked to Jones run needing 5 yards, and he got only 2. Kicked a FG. Third-and-1 at NE, Rodgers tried the read-option run around the end, but Clayborn made a good play and stayed home. Probably cost the Packers a shot at a FG before half. The last two games they've avoided the third-and-forevers for the most part, but the results have to keep improving.

How do you think Breeland played on Sunday night?

He looked like a guy who hadn't played in a real game in a while. He wasn't awful but he wasn't on his game. He didn't even get a preseason this year. He's a proven pro who should start to settle in. He's going to keep getting snaps with King's hamstring injury now.

Mike, Any news on injuries? We are limping which sure doesn't help

Sounds like Bulaga and Martinez are up in the air for this week, but nothing major for either guy. Allison will be out awhile. With King unlikely for this week, the short week next week could be in jeopardy as well. We didn't get any update on Brice.

Mike, Even though the Packers were never down by more than one score until halfway through the fourth quarter it still seems like the run/pass ratio was not well-balanced. Are defenses taking away the run and daring the Packers to pass? If so, that is quite unusual for the A-Rod era.

I can't speak to what Rodgers sees at the line of scrimmage when he has the option to change the play. The Packers have obviously run the ball effectively, but to me it's never as simple as keep doing that because it's working. Maybe it's working when they do it because they are trying to throw so much. A greater commitment to run could be something to try, but we actually don't know what the results will be. I don't believe in easy answers.

Last week on NFL live Darren Woodson said that the Packers secondary would be the best in the NFL next year. Also Tedy Bruski said that Martinez is impressive. High praise from 2 guys that in past never had much good to say about Packers.

This Packers' defense is coming around. It's still not where it needs to be, but it's giving this team a chance. Hopefully the days of one disastrous half, like in Washington back in September, are over.

Do you think the Packers will get back to the quick passing game? It seems to get the offense in a rhythm when they mix a little of that in.

The Packers usually get one good drive with quick passes each game, but when they don't immediately go back to it on the next drive, I'm assuming the defense has made an adjustment so they're going to probe and attack another way. The Packers have to start making those other ways work, too.

Disappointment had marked the first part of the season. I know he's human, but does Rodgers need to do something to spark the offense to get where we know they can go? Coaching or player leadership?

Rodgers just has to play better. He's admitted as much. He's missed throws all season he normally hits. He hasn't practiced as much as he usually does, obviously. There's a lot that goes into it. When Rodgers plays well, it seems to lift the entire team. It's usually not the other way around. He knows that.

MVS has really helped bring back the deep ball. I think his ability to stretch the field opposite Adams is going to get this offense humming pretty soon.

If defenses are going to continue to focus on Adams and Graham, MVS has to take advantage. I think he's tough to cover one-on-one. He's got size and breakaway speed. He caught one of two contested sideline passes in New England. He needs to keep making those plays, too.

There has been a lot of conversation about run vs pass balance, but what about pass route balance if that exists? AR12 seems to be throwing towards the sidelines a lot and passes over the middle seem to be way down from previous years. Is my perception off or has his throw chart changed markedly from prior seasons?

The last two weeks, the majority of the pressure Rodgers has faced has come from the interior. That takes away the inside throwing lanes. I don't think is some chronic avoidance of the middle. The deep connections the last two weeks have been down the middle. The outside stuff helps to set those up.

Is it Kumerow or Davis time yet?

We'll see. It could depend on the final prognosis for Allison, how many weeks he's projected to be out. I don't think that's been determined yet.

A win changes everything.

Yes, it does. That's why I say this is all about beating Miami and then finding some way, any way, to win a road game.

They typically say you don't win with gimmicks. Yet it feels like that's how the patriots beat us.

The Patriots do that to almost everyone. As I said in Monday's Inbox, I don't think I've ever seen a team that runs a full-blown gadget play in the middle of a hurry-up/no-huddle sequence. Second down, everyone hustles to the line, and then, surprise, and they caught the Packers with several rotational players in the defensive front seven on that sequence. The Packers need to execute their regular stuff better before you start spending all kinds of practice time on gadget plays.

How do you think Tramon played at safety Sunday night?

Just fine. One bad missed tackle, of course, but I didn't see miscommunications or other things that might come from a midseason switch there. The Packers' defense is no worse off with that move. What could hurt is continuing to miss King. I've said quite often the defense has just looked different this year with both King and Alexander as the top two cover men. They haven't been on the field together enough, but I like the way Josh Jackson is coming along, and he's going to get a big-time shot now.

Mike, Its looking like that 1st round pick from the Saints is going to be a low 1. Look at their last few years. Packer fans are spoiled.

I felt the Saints were the best team last year and would have won the Super Bowl if not for the Minneapolis Miracle. They've picked up where they left off after a rough Week 1, and if the road to the SB in the NFC goes through the Superdome, good luck to all. They're really tough to beat there in big games. All right, I'd better get going. Thanks everyone. I'm not sure on a day for the chat next week because of the Thursday night game, but I'll try to squeeze one in. Maybe Wednesday? Take care, Mike

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