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These Packers continue to rise above

McCarthy's teams are always prepared for the biggest games


Shane from Dubuque, IA

In the first matchup this season the Packers turned the ball over four times, including one in the red zone at a time where a TD would've made it a one-score game. They also held Elliott in check until midway through the third quarter when the TOP discrepancy took its toll. Is it safe to say that the key to a Packers win is the offense using its possession passing game to control the clock but make sure that those drives result in TDs?

The Packers were 3-for-4 in the red zone last week against the best red-zone defense in the league. The Cowboys are middle of the pack in that category, but it's always different on the road.

Mark from Wausau, WI

Insiders, you've mentioned press box etiquette requires journalists not cheer, but the radio guys go crazy and display emotion. That's why I love listening to Larry and Wayne. Could you explain, though, why print has a different ethos than broadcast?

Radio booths are enclosed. Any given radio crew, whether employed by a team or not, has the freedom to display whatever emotion it feels is appropriate. The full-size press box has dozens, if not hundreds, of people in it, and a working environment is expected. Keeping conversation volume, displays of emotion, and the like in check is a professional courtesy to everyone with a job to do.

Dan from Phoenix, AZ

"He's a different cat. I don't think McCarthy has ever had a running back with his attributes." What makes his style so different?

Michael can change direction so quickly and has such a quick burst with his first step. His initial acceleration and shiftiness are unlike any back I've ever seen in McCarthy's offense. The only similar one I can recall is DuJuan Harris, but Michael still looks different to me. His lack of patience can be a detriment at times, but he truly is a change-of-pace back.

Ron from Cherry Valley, IL

Anyone (besides me) predicting we are going to see a lot of Clay Matthews in the middle on first and second down Sunday to stop the run?

Several readers have brought it up. I think it's, at a minimum, an option Dom Capers will keep in his back pocket.

Charlie from Tokyo, Japan

On OBJ, we've all been there at some point. It's a part of life. The goal is finding self-control before finding the stud. I needed the stud.

So you've got that going for you, which is nice.

Matt from Essex, Canada

Watching the replay of the Hail Mary from the far end-zone perspective gave me chills. Seeing Rodgers and the O-line waiting for that ball to come down and then the reaction of the wall of fans jumping up when it's caught?! Epic moment in Packers playoff history!

The job now is to make it a footnote to these playoffs, not the top highlight.

James from Rochester, IL

Everyone seems to have forgotten that Cole Beasley had a big day against the Packers earlier this season. What do the Packers need to do differently this time?

He had just six catches for 58 yards, but he caught two short TD passes inside the 5. Be ready for the pick plays near the goal line.

David from Stockholm, WI

Cobb clearly pushed a Giants defender on the Hail Mary play. Should offensive pass interference be called?

I don't know. Ask Golden Tate. It looked to me like Leon Hall had his back to the ball and was about to smother Cobb by the end line. No way it gets called if he does. Cobb was just being proactive.

Bill from Menominee, MI

Spoff, I'm sure Elliott will still be Elliott, but do you predict the pressure of this game will affect Prescott? He's been relaxed all season when there's been a lot thrown his way in the media, but still, this is a special game that a guy like Jared Cook could explain the magnitude of.

I don't mean to cause any nightmarish flashbacks, but four years ago a second-year QB who had started only half a season was hosting the Packers in his first playoff game, coming off a bye, and even threw a pick-six to start the game. It didn't shake him one bit and he led his team to the Super Bowl. Every description of Prescott all year has featured the terms poise and composure. I'm not counting on the rookie getting rattled.

Mike from Las Vegas, NV

The Packers beat the Giants twice and the Giants beat the Cowboys twice. Therefore, the college playoff committee has decided to put the Packers in the NFC Championship.

Good one.

Robert from Omaha, NE

Mike, in your description of a zone blitz, it brought back one of my favorite Packer playoff plays in recent memory. I believe that is the play in which B.J. Raji had a pick-six a few years back.

Indeed, that was a zone blitz, with Shields coming off the right corner and Raji dropping off the line, angling toward the receiver on Shields' side. Capers called that one "right cat," if I recall correctly.

Justin from Gilbert, AZ

Spoff seem to be in postseason form with the subtle Dez Bryant reference Tuesday. How valuable do you think it is that the Packers have already played every team that is still alive in the NFC? I think it will pay dividends.

I think in this case, much like last week, it helps that in the first meeting the Packers weren't the Packers we see now. There are fewer differences with the Cowboys, though they're adding Bryant to the mix.

John from Madison, AL

OK, here's a hypothetical question that many fans I talk to wonder about. Clemson has one more game left on the season. Two weeks from now, they play the Cleveland Browns. Who wins and why?

The Browns. I'm not an expert on Clemson, but I'm guessing they have anywhere from four to 12 players who will make it to the NFL. The Browns have 53 who have made it to the NFL. It's not a contest.

Matt from Bremerton, WA

I've seen some games lately where a defensive back had the better position to play the pass, so the wide receiver tried to play through the defensive back to catch the ball. When he can't make the play, he (or fans) then complain that it's pass interference. Am I missing something or is that clearly not pass interference?

The rule of thumb these days is if the defender turns his head to see the ball, the officials give him credit for being in better position. Keep your back to the football, though, and the contact, even if initiated by the receiver, will likely draw a flag.

Jay from Fairfield, IL

Who has been better this year at stopping the run? Is it Blake Martinez or Joe Thomas? Thomas usually jumps out at me more when he's in the game, but I also like Martinez. Who has a better chance of slowing down Zeke?

I think Thomas packs a bigger wallop, and I would expect Martinez to add some size, as Thomas did, as his career continues. I think one key of late has been having all three guys available – Ryan, Thomas and Martinez – so no one has to play all the snaps and Capers can mix and match in packages a little bit. Each guy has dealt with injury issues at some point this season.

Duncan from Fort McMurray, Canada

I saw on the Dope Sheet that McCarthy is now 9-7 in the playoffs, which equates to a full season. Other than his record what do some of the other numbers look like?

Do any other numbers really matter in the playoffs? I'll say this: my measure of McCarthy as a playoff coach is that only twice have I watched his team in the postseason and said, "Well, the other guys were just plain better today." Other than the 2011 and '12 divisional rounds, the Packers have either won or been right there with a chance at the end every single time. That says a lot about how a coach prepares his team for the biggest games.

Santiago from Rome, Italy

"That's the play call, it's called the 9-seconds pass play," might be MM's best line ever.

It ranks right up there.

Blake from Fort Wayne, IN

Hey guys, I was a bit surprised that nobody has mentioned anything about Mason Crosby setting a playoff record for 21 straight made postseason field goals. Given the conditions he's had to play in over the years, his consistency when it matters the most has to contribute to the Packers' success. Do you think he is the most underrated kicker in the league?

I'd been avoiding questions about Crosby's postseason streak so as not to jinx it, but y'all are way too persistent and can't take a hint, apparently. I think Crosby's kick to send the NFC title game to OT two years ago was the most clutch kick in franchise history since Chandler in the '65 playoffs, but it won't be remembered as such, for the obvious reason. Maybe he's got a clutch make coming that will be remembered better.

Sean from Johnston, IA

I have a strange question. While reading about the special teams play as of late I had a strange thought. With Rodgers' ability to throw the ball so high and far (the Hail Marys), why not do something similar on fourth down instead of a punt? The placement would likely be more precise than a kick, and if by chance Janis or somebody gets down there first, they could catch it. Also, it eliminates the ability to call a fair catch. I know it's weird, but I'm just wondering the possibilities and downsides?

Sorry to do this in the playoffs, when emotions can certainly cloud our better judgment, but I must induct you into the Insider Inbox Hall of Fame.

Mike from Turku, Finland

Wes, it can't be "Don't Stop Believing." The boy was born and raised in South Detroit.

Two weeks ago at Ford Field, I got a kick out of hearing the entire crowd scream "South Detroit!" when that lyric was played during a TV timeout. It hadn't been loud enough there to register before, but I love hearing those types of traditions in other stadiums.

Braden from Aurora, CO

On numerous scrambles (long pass to Jordy, Davante TD), Rodgers seems to know where to take a step to lead the pass-rusher into his blockers. Is this something you can really practice, or do you just have to have a natural sense of where everyone is?

Rodgers commented on this specifically Wednesday in a short side session with reporters. He said, "There's subtle moves you can do inside the pocket to kind of bait a guy to come up one way or the other." I think he's speaking about trying to create an escape lane rather than funneling defenders back to his blockers somehow, but either way, Rodgers' feel in the pocket is amazing. He'll get caught unaware of something occasionally, but not very often.

Will from Arlington, VA

Insiders, when will we know if we are wearing green or white on Sunday?

Right now. The Packers are wearing green on Sunday.

Brian from Waycross, GA

Which Cowboys player do you think the Packers coaching staff should pay special attention to besides Elliott? I'm thinking David Irving. He can be a dominant, game-changing pass-rusher at times.

It's impossible not to notice Irving on the film from some of those Dallas games. There's no way the Packers aren't giving Irving due attention.

Jesse from Ham Lake, MN

Can you talk about the formation where Davante Adams lines up in the backfield? If I'm recalling correctly he goes in motion out of that every time. Is Rodgers reading the defense and sending him to a certain side?

He doesn't motion out every time. Sometimes he flares out at the snap as an option for a quick pass. I don't know all the ins and outs of the offense, but when he goes in motion, seeing how the defenders react pre-snap can give Rodgers a clue as to what coverage they're in.

Madison from Chicago, IL

Mike, how did you determine your answer about the players from the XLV team on Tuesday? Was there a reason you left out Morgan Burnett and Sam Shields?

I was counting only players on the 53-man roster for Super Bowl XLV who are on the 53-man roster now. Burnett was on injured reserve then, Shields is now.

Ryan from Big Bend, WI

Dallas hasn't played from behind once all year. Our entire season was a come-from-behind. I like our chances in crunch time.

It's a myth that the Cowboys cruised to every victory. By my quick research, they trailed going into (or at some point during) the fourth quarter in four of their 13 victories. Your point about the Packers is valid, but the Cowboys have made plays when they've had to as well.

John from Roscoe, IL

I just re-watched the divisional round game against the Cardinals from last year, and it seemed like the theme of that game was not making the handful of plays that could have turned the tide of the game. Right now this team looks ready to make those plays. What do you guys see?

The biggest thing I remember from last year's game was the missed Shields INT near the pylon, which was directly below my press box seat. Other than that, it was an undermanned offensive team playing on guile and guts. This year's team has so much more going for it, Nelson's injury notwithstanding. In the last two weeks alone, the Packers have shown what they can overcome. Seven offensive penalties in Detroit, plus a few obvious missed assignments, yet 31 points on the road. Five straight punts and five sacks vs. the Giants, yet 38 points against the No. 2 scoring defense in the league. I don't think the 2015 Packers, nor the pre-Thanksgiving 2016 Packers, rise above what they have the last two games.

Joseph from Clifton Park, NY

My favorite was the team's response to the Giants TD after fourth-and-1. They confirmed McCarthy's faith.

That's exactly what I'm talking about.

Mike from Mount Prospect, IL

Gentlemen, both Green Bay and Seattle are underdogs this week. Who has a better chance of the upset? I like Green Bay on the road more than this version of the Seahawks.

I concur, and I'll stand by my previous comments about the Falcons, though I always wonder with a team like the Seahawks if last week's rather lackluster performance was the best chance to knock out a veteran, playoff-tested bunch. But enough of that. Just beat the Cowboys.

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