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Moment of truth coming for Packers up front

Here's an unsung hero from Sunday’s defensive performance


Nick from Charlotte, NC

I am loving our defense and our team. We are built for December and January football. The Cowboys are coming and they look impressive. Do you believe Elliott is on his way to Offensive Rookie of the Year and a possible HOF career?

The Cowboys have two ROY candidates, and their division has another. Long way to go. HOF? Much longer way to go. More interesting to me is whether this Dallas investment of a No. 4 overall pick in a running back changes the current draft trends at the position.

David from Whitefish, MT

Insiders, through four games the Packers' opponents are ranked 23, 27, 30, and 32 in rushing yards. What is different about the No. 1 rushing team coming to town next week?

The offensive line, and a true feature back. The only No. 1 back the Packers have faced this year was Adrian Peterson, for three quarters. The Jaguars didn't have Chris Ivory, the Lions didn't have Ameer Abdullah and the Giants didn't have Rashad Jennings. I don't think what the Packers have done against the run is a fluke, but now they have to prove it.

James from Brooklyn, NY

What do you see in Dak Prescott?

A young quarterback who doesn't look fazed by the moment. Now the moments will keep getting bigger.

Wes from South St. Paul, MN

Mike, I have always wondered what happens to a player's salary if he ends up on injured reserve. Is there something in the player's contract or CBA to address this? Especially if the player is getting millions a year.

Some players' salaries are guaranteed in case of injury. Others have split salaries in their contracts that pay them a lesser amount if they're on IR. Others also have roster bonuses that pay them more for every game they're on the active gameday 46. Players who aren't vested veterans and don't have guaranteed salaries can receive injury settlements for the length of the injury if the team needs the roster spot. Every situation has its differences.

Anonymous from Unnamed, AK

Insiders, as a collegiate mascot, I think the Packers could use a mascot. Thoughts?

If you're really from Alaska and in the mascot business, I'll count on you to come up with something to represent frozen tundra.

Nic from Milwaukee, WI

Hey Insiders, I have a question about defensive holding. At one point, the 5-yard penalty was added on to the end of the offensive gain. The next time it was called, the offense had to choose between its gain on the play or accepting the penalty. Before the game Sunday, I have only seen the latter. Why was the first penalty added on to the end of the play?

I wondered the same thing, and all I can figure is the first one was a running play (a 7-yard Rodgers scramble) and a pass was never thrown. The second was a 17-yard completion to Nelson. I guess that's why the penalty is applied differently.

Eric from Lansing, MI

What is wrong with Jim Harbaugh and college football that, leading 57-0 at the start of the fourth quarter, he allowed Michigan to score another 21 against Rutgers?

He must have wanted a free steak.

Mike from La Crosse, WI

Hello Insiders! On my drive home Sunday night I tuned in to the national radio coverage of the Packer game and was intrigued to hear it was James Lofton on the mic. This may be a better question for Vic, but do you guys have any memories of him as a player for Green Bay?

I remember him being the offensive star when I was a kid, an incredible downfield threat and a true game-breaker. He played on some offenses that could light it up, and his average yards per catch was always off the chart. Early in my time at the Press-Gazette, I was assigned a story on Sterling Sharpe's chances of getting into Canton despite his injury-shortened career, and I remember talking to John Dorsey, who played with Lofton. Taking nothing away from Sharpe, he told me the two greatest receivers in Packers history were Don Hutson and Lofton, and anyone else was a distant third.

Dave from Hartford, WI

Are the Pats onto something? Just get two great tight ends, matchup haywire?

Ben McAdoo had a great line in his conference call with us last week. He said having a big tight end who can win down the middle of the field "changes the whole ballgame." But let's also remember the Patriots were playing the Browns last Sunday.

David from Groton, CT

End of the first half, Packers have a fumble recovery. Aaron Rodgers has two interceptions. Going into this game, the Packer turnover difference was zero. Can the Packers continue to win with this low of a turnover difference? How do the Packers increase their turnover difference?

Fifteen teams in the league are currently on the minus side in turnover differential, including the Packers at minus-1. Only three of those 15 teams have winning records, Seattle (minus-1) and Houston (minus-4) being the others. The top eight teams in the league in turnover ratio, all plus-3 or better, are a collective 29-9. Not winning the turnover battle makes winning games tougher. It's as simple as that.

Josh from St. Augustine, FL

The strength of this football team is becoming its strong nucleus up front, defensively and offensively. MM is winning his matchups. He's winning TOP. With the bye already in the rearview mirror, what's the next step in becoming an obvious NFC powerhouse?

Better red-zone offense and more takeaways on defense.

Brian from South Lake Tahoe, CA

On the play where the Giants handed off to OBJ and it appeared that he was going to pass the ball, does the Packer defense get credited for a sack or just a tackle for a loss?

The press box statisticians changed it to a sack for Micah Hyde later in the game. What I wondered was whether OBJ could have thrown the ball away when he was out of the pocket, or is that a protection only afforded QBs? I wasn't sure.

Brian from Maple Grove, MN

Mike Zimmer's double-A gap defense has confused and dominated every team the Vikings have played this year. In this copycat league, do you expect other teams to adopt the same strategy since it's been highly successful over the years for Zimmer?

Lots of teams incorporate some of those concepts, but not everyone has the personnel to employ as many variations as the Vikings do.

Dan from Colorado Springs, CO

How about no more questions or comments about why the offense appears to be struggling and Minnesota looking so good. The Packers just played their fourth game of the season and are 3-1. Has any team ever won the Super Bowl through this part of the season? It's a long season and the Packers are set up for a good run.

I hear you, but following the evolution of this Minnesota team is pretty intriguing, given what it's been through injury-wise.

Tyler from Pierre, SD

I know it's not uncommon, but is the type of tackle that took down Cobb at the end anywhere close to a decent tackle?

Mike McCarthy called it "unnecessary" on Monday. I thought that was a good word.

Dave from St. Peters, MO

Collinsworth kept referring to the missed throw before halftime as a game-changer. I think he is forgetting the many missed touchdown throws by the Packers. We complete those throws and this game is a total blowout. What did you see?

I saw examples of how quickly any game can change in the NFL. The Packers thought they had a free-play TD to go up 14-0, but the Giants get an interception on the next play. Manning overthrows a wide-open Tye for what could have been a 61-yard TD, and on the next snap the Packers get a sack-fumble leading to a field goal, so it's 17-6 at halftime instead of 14-13. In many ways, the game could have been very different.

Michael from Milwaukee, WI

It was an odd change of pace to see the Packers' defense playing the two-high safety look against another team. Will the Packers continue this look with their dominant run defense?

Keeping two safeties deep while still stopping the run is the best of both worlds for any defensive coordinator. I don't expect that to be the norm against the Cowboys.

Matthew from Denver, CO

I stopped playing fantasy football after nine seasons this year because it changed the way I watched the game. Fantasy must be given ample credit for driving the overwhelming interest this nation has in the NFL, but should it not also be credited, in part, for the current lack of appreciation for the reality of an NFL season? Thus far, we have seen incredible skills, gutsy calls, thrilling finishes, great theatrics, downright silliness, and panicked fan bases. Best of all, it is only Week 5.

I stopped playing fantasy after three seasons almost 20 years ago and have never regretted it. I don't have a problem with those who play, but I do think fantasy (along with Madden) helps fuel the FULL CONSISTENCY rants because the expectation is any given player or team will produce to a certain level in every game. It just doesn't work that way. When the Packers led the NFL in scoring with 30 points per game in 2014, they scored 42 or more four times and 20 or less four times. That's half the season with considerable variation in one major statistic. That's reality, not fantasy.

Dillon from Dubuque, IA

What would you say if I were to say that the most important takeaway from Sunday night is coming to the realization that Eddie Lacy is the Packers' best offensive player?

If that's indeed true right now, then the Packers will be in this until the end, because the one they need to be the best for the entire unit to be at its best hasn't played his best, yet.

Corbin from Plymouth, WI

As a follow up question from Monday, why doesn't a wide-spread, finesse offense complement the current Packers defense? Just hoping to understand!

I think what Vic was getting at there is you can't develop a stout, active defensive front in training camp if it's practicing every day against a spread offense. Camp was all about run the ball, stop the run. It was the foundation McCarthy wanted for 2016, and he got it.

Dennis from Naples, FL

I will guess that the emails asking for Dom Capers' head have been discontinued?

Temporarily. It's always temporarily.

Brian from Golden, CO

Nobody is talking about how bad our punting has been with Jacob Schum. Against the Giants, he failed to pin the Giants inside their own 20, and his long was only 42 yards when the Packers needed him to flip the field on several occasions. Was his amazing preseason game performance just an aberration?

It's hard for me to believe it could have been, with all the pressure of securing a job on the line that night. There's plenty of talk about Schum's punting not being good enough, and it hurt the team in last week's game. If he could respond in KC, he can respond now.

Jake from Racine, WI

Tell about the Packers' unsung hero from the Giants game.

I thought it was Morgan Burnett. In a pinch he was asked to play the slot-dime corner as well as his usual various safety roles, and he was on point with everything, even coming off an injury. Tackled well. Communication issues appeared non-existent. He was bumming he missed that interception.

Jed from Mahtomedi, MN

It seems like James Starks is always running laterally so far this season. He has the speed to get to the second level in a hurry, but not when he's going sideways. I'm really looking forward to him getting in the groove. Do you think the Packers need that 1-2 punch to put the offense over the top?

Absolutely. Lots of folks asking about Starks, and I mentioned this in**my chat yesterday**, maybe he's pressing. He wasn't off to a great start this year, and then the early screen vs. New York that could have gone for a TD was botched. The late fumble was a near-disaster and he wasn't even hit. Coaches talk all the time about not trying to do too much. Starks is better than this.

Jon from Bloomfield, NJ

It's amazing what taking a Pro Bowl QB off the field can do to a team (Carolina). And at the same time, it didn't impact the Cowboys or the Patriots. Any idea what the difference is?

The talent level of the replacements probably has something to do with it.

Matt from Minocqua, WI

I do not understand why Abby can't even sniff the field. AR is in his corner, he had a remarkable summer by all accounts, MM said that every player has a role. What is his, bench warmer?

Another common question. I don't know why Abbrederis hasn't played more. Reporters are not allowed to watch the 11-on-11 portions of practice in the regular season, so I can't speak to what the coaches are seeing. I have to believe at some point he's going to get his chance. He just has to be ready to seize it.

Isaac from Nashville, TN

Insiders, what would it take for Packer fans to enjoy football again? A 60-nothing Super Bowl win? Megatron declaring that he must un-retire so that he can finally play for Green Bay? An offense comprised of nothing but long balls to Jeff Janis? I honestly don't know anymore.

All of the above might not be enough.

Owen from Downers Grove, IL

Vic thinks Packers fans don't like defense. That's not quite it. We don't TRUST defense. For over two decades we have been spoiled with a great passing game. We have come to assume that we will win by out-passing the opponent. In that same time, we have not had a dominant defense since 1997. Since then, we have had glimpses of good defense, but merely glimpses. I, like other fans, are starting to trust that this defense is not a mirage. Just give us some time to get used to this.

OK, but 1997? The defense in 2010 finished fifth in yards, third in sack percentage and second in points. It held six opponents to seven points or fewer and allowed more than 21 points only once in a span of 12 games, from late October until the Super Bowl. I know things went sideways in 2011, but that wasn't merely a glimpse of good defense.

Maggie from Kenosha, WI

I said it during the game and I truly believe it. I don't think the game was as close as the score would indicate. The Packers' defense played extremely well given the field position the Giants started with, and if the offense turns those field goals into TDs, it's a blowout. I'm liking this 2016 Packers team. Is the run defense a new identity?

The moment of truth will come Sunday.

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