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'Tis the season for defense

Time of possession will be critical on Sunday


Adam from Green Bay, WI

Don't dismiss Sean's idea so quickly, Insiders. If we elect to throw a Hail Mary instead of punting, the defenders would have no incentive to catch the ball. Which means they would probably try to bat the ball down, giving our receivers a better chance of catching the ball. Given the right circumstances and field position, I could see the fourth-and-long-jump-ball play working.

How does defenders wanting to bat the ball down translate to a higher percentage of a catch? Isn't that what a defensive back is trying to do on every pass attempt? I also don't get what's the point of doing it on fourth down? The defense has no incentive to catch the ball. You might as well do it on first, second or third down. Call me crazy, but it still sounds like something a 12-year-old does on Madden when he's thrown four picks and is ready to propel his controller at the nearest window.

Scott from Washougal, WA

Because if the ball hits the ground on a fourth-down pass, the ball comes back to the original line of scrimmage. That's why we don't do it.

So you're saying it's a bad idea, then?

Rick from Denver, CO

At the risk of joining Sean in youse guyses Inbox HOF, I think it would be a worthwhile idea, given our success at the Hail Mary, to run one almost at random now and then, regardless of down, distance, or time remaining. If nothing else, it would help open up everything underneath and make safeties awfully leery of coming up into the box.

The Packers run their share of four-vertical concepts. The receivers aren't bent on running to the end zone, but they already have those type of plays available to stretch a defense vertically. Why are we still talking about this? Moving on.

Tom from Rochester, MN

You need to take a survey to discover the most popular Packer fan superstition. Mine is: the Christmas tree is left up and decorated as long as the Packers are still playing.

What say you, Inbox? Thoughts?

Robert from Valrico, FL

Please, people, please, for the love of all things holy, please stop with the "Thoughts?" and "What say you?"s. They're nauseating, disingenuous, and needless. Yeah, that was an Oxford comma throw down.


Dave from DeKalb, IL

Hi Insiders, the Packers defense has been forcing turnovers in bundles since the start of the winning streak. This defense has learned to capitalize when it gets the opportunity and I have a feeling one gets returned for a score soon. This would be a good game to do it.

The biggest difference in the second half of the season has been the takeaways. A lot of those sacks and big tackles were there in the first half of the season, but the ball wasn't coming out. I remember hearing Mike McCarthy and Dom Capers talking about that and the importance of maximizing those opportunities. It's fun to talk about yards, but this game is based on points and takeaways. The defense has been exceptional in both categories as of late.

Dar from Irving, TX

One perception I've gained living in Cowboys' country is that the 'Boys top ranking in rush defense is rather misleading. Because their running game controls TOP and opponents' possessions, and they've frequently led games, opponents don't have as many chances to run. In short, I think the Pack can run on these guys. Do you think we'll see a more balanced attack than most fans might expect this weekend?

You're absolutely right. The Cowboys have been excellent at controlling the clock, running the football and taking the ball away. It forces the opposition to go into catch-up mode. It's a similar script to what the Packers have done as of late. You're going to see two of the league's best at controlling the clock throw down on Sunday. Whoever prevails in time of possession could very well win on the scoreboard, too.

Stephen from Toronto, ON

With Sean McDermott's hiring, Dom Capers becomes the longest tenured DC by three years (prev. only two). Is the stability in this organization a key to their sustained success or is it a byproduct of it?

I think stability helps in any walk of life. The Packers have a system established and found players who fit the scheme Capers, Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy have put in place. It really says something about the fluidity of the NFL that Capers' eight seasons in Green Bay represent the longest active tenure for a defensive coordinator. Just look at someone like Wade Phillips who has had so much success as a DC, but also had such a wide array of stops in recent years. There are so many factors that go into it.

John from Southwick, MA

These Packers remind me so much of the 2010 Super Bowl team. It will be up to the defense and I think Capers will have an answer. He's the guy who stopped Peterson in his prime in playoff runs. I really think the most underrated guy on this year's team is Micah Hyde. He just shows up game after game and quietly does his job and does it well.

Hyde has been underrated for years. It's been that way since the Packers drafted him in the fifth round out of Iowa in 2013. To your first point, I think Capers has done some of his finest coaching in the playoffs. I know, I know, the 2012 playoffs against San Francisco hurt, but he's stitched together some really fine performances. The Packers nearly beat the 49ers the next season despite heavy injuries on defense (Matthews out, Perry and Mulumba played injured, and Neal and Shields left early). They also held their ground against Dallas and Seattle in 2014 and made really solid adjustments last year in Washington and Arizona. 'Tis the season for defense. The Packers will be ready on Sunday.

Alex from Kansas City, MO

How much effect will the bye week have on Dallas? Looking back at their bye week in the regular season, the Eagles took them to overtime and it seemed as if Prescott started rather slowly. This was also a home game for Dallas, and Elliott gained under 100 yards. Could the slow start be due to the week off? If it happens again, the Packers could take advantage of this in a big way with the hot offense.

We will find out Sunday. I think it goes both ways and depends on the team. The fact the Cowboys had literally everyone on their 53-man roster practice on Wednesday and Thursday suggests it benefitted them. What will it mean against the Packers? I truly don't know. While I'm sure Green Bay could use the break, it definitely is carrying seven weeks of momentum into this game.

Mike from Mount Prospect, IL

Gentlemen, the two Packer/Arizona games were vastly different. Game 1 was no predictor of Game 2. I expect the same scenario with Dallas. While the outcome may or may not be the same, the journey there will be quite different.

Indubitably. It's two different games in two different seasons. Can you learn from the first game? Absolutely, but it doesn't dictate what's going to happen on the field at AT&T Stadium.

Jared from New Providence, Nassau Bahamas

Dak Prescott has made his living this season playing mostly ahead of the chains, thanks to Elliott, and working off play-action passes. How are the Packers going to stop this? Am a Green Bay fan all away from the Caribbean.

Win in the trenches. I think it's as simple as that. Elliott is one of the best young running backs to break into the NFL over the last decade. He's going to get his yards, but it's so critical that you don't allow him to break a 4- or 5-yard gain into a 40- or 50-yard big play. That's where he does his most damage. Make him earn his yards and try to limit Prescott's play-action opportunities. It won't be easy, but it's what's necessary.

Austin from Schuylerville, NY

Everyone is praising LaDarius Gunter for having a good game against OBJ, which I agree with, but clearly there were times in man coverage where he got beat and was bailed out by some drops. However, I like the matchup against Dez a little better because of their similar frames and builds. Odell was a speed guy where Dez is more strength, where I see Gunter's 6-2, 200 matching up a little better.

*Perfection is a tricky thing to master. Even Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerbacks don't execute 100 percent on every play and not every receiver is going to catch the ball. That's life. What impressed me with Gunter is how he hung in there with Beckham for four quarters. He disrupted his timing and didn't allow him to get into a rhythm with Eli Manning. The same rules apply with Bryant. I think it'll be an exciting matchup to see how Bryant's strength matches up against Gunter's physicality. *

Mike from Saint George, UT

What are the odds we'll see a Janis end-around this weekend?

I'd say better than they were on Wednesday. Janis didn't practice Wednesday due to a quad injury, but he was back on the field Thursday. I don't know whether everyone's favorite end-around will make an appearance Sunday, but Janis sure was lights-out on special teams last week.

Matt from Hartford, WI

There are three defensive linemen I can think of who are real difference-makers without having the height associated with leverage: Mike Daniels (6-0), Aaron Donald (6-0), and Elvis Dumervil (5-11). What makes these guys different that they play at a high level in spite of what God lacked giving them?

It might be the outside perception that their height is a hindrance, but I guarantee all three of those guys will tell you it's to their advantage. You need to play with strength and leverage if you're not the tallest player on the field, and Daniels and Donald are masters when it comes to that. Their quick-twitch and power stresses interior linemen's knee-bend and balance. Daniels also is magnificent at shedding linemen.

Chris from Horicon, WI

I would just like to ask people to get over this Aikman thing. He is a good analyst and definitely not the worst option by a long shot. I understand that he beat us up pretty bad as a Cowboy, but that was how long ago. Go Pack Go.

As someone who's performed play-by-play in my previous career, I have an immense respect for the men and women who handle those duties at football's highest level. Their jobs are not easy. I can assure you they have no rooting interest. They're just trying to do as good a job as humanly possible.

Richard from Madison, WI

Hypothetical question. Cobb's in the end zone, waiting for the Hail Mary to come down, and a Giant defender interferes with him. Time is expired. What happens next?

The ball is placed on the 1-yard line and the Packers can run another play with no time on the clock. If you recall, the face-mask penalty in Detroit is what allowed Rodgers to throw the Hail Mary against the Lions with no time on the clock.

Grady from Grand Island, NE

I have seen a few things about Trevor Davis. If Nelson doesn't play do you believe Davis will have any impact on the game? Haven't heard much of him the whole second half of the season.

If you're the Packers, it's a good problem to have. I think Davis definitely is in the conversation, but there are only so many spots available with the amount of options the offense has at receiver and tight end. Even if Nelson doesn't play, the Packers still have Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, Jeff Janis, Jared Cook and Richard Rodgers. That's also not to mention how Ty Montgomery can still line up at receiver at a moment's notice.

Jerry from Wilmington, NC

What do you make of Tom Coughlin going back to the Jaguars?

I love it. It's great to see Coughlin back in Jacksonville. I hope it works out for that organization. I haven't changed my stance from the beginning of the season. I still say they're close.

Erik from St Louis, MO

The Packers practiced Thursday afternoon inside the Don Hutson Center for the divisional playoff matchup with the Dallas Cowboys. Photos by Evan Siegle,

I see a lot of tweets about players getting signed to a "reserves/futures" deal? What does this mean?

*Once the regular season ends, NFL teams are allowed to start building their 90-man offseason roster. So you'll see non-playoff teams sign most of their practice squad to "future" contracts for the 2017 season in addition to a few other street free agents. Any NFL team can start signing free agents for next season. In fact, the Packers signed QB Ryan Williams to a reserve contract on Jan. 5 last year despite still being in the playoffs. *

Freddie from West Valley City, UT

Who are you most concerned about: Dak, Zeke, or Dez?


Tom from Minneapolis, MN

To return or defer, that is the question!?

I'm big on deferring to the second half.

Mike from McKinney, TX

Not a question, just want to say looking forward to seeing you Saturday night at Gilley's! It will be warmer than the 2013 Packers Everywhere party down here...I will be the one with the cheesehead on!

We look forward to seeing you, Mike. It's been great to be a part of the pep rallies this year. Lacey Frederick and all of the individuals involved with Packers fan engagement do a phenomenal job of creating such a vibrant, lively atmosphere. If you haven't been a part of one, you need to make sure you change that this postseason or in 2017.

Peder from Rockford, MI

Insiders, regarding all the superstition posts yesterday, they are all wet. It is I who controls the Packers destiny. For each home game I place my box of Frozen Tundra (from the field that was removed for the 1996 NFC Championship Game) on the coffee table. Then the cheesehead known as The Chee sits on top, carefully pointed across Lake Michigan toward Lambeau. For away games The Chee sits by itself appropriately without Tundra still pointed toward Lambeau. I always laugh that the players think they actually win those games! Love the Insider Inbox! Go Pack!

So you're the one the Packers and Inbox should be thanking! Keep on keeping on, Peder.

Steve from Saint Paul, MN

More a comment than a question, but I'd like to salute Mike for overriding the completely overplayed suggestion of "Don't Stop Believing" as the song of this Packers season with "Rise Above" by Black Flag. Way better song. I assume that's what he meant anyway.

Googles Black Flag

Connor from Ann Arbor, MI

As an avid follower of this column, I am petitioning to make the Insider Inbox Hall of Fame a real, physical webpage.

We'll be sure to jot that down for our offseason R&D.

Ben from Scranton, PA

A little stitious, Wes? Really? You are the WORST thing about the football business. I hate, so much, about the things, that you choose to be. (PS – I love how you manage to sneak in subtle references without detracting from the column, keep it up!)

Why are you the way that you are? Honestly. Every time I try to do something fun or exciting, you make it not that way. (I'm surprised it took me this long to get rolling with Office references, by the way).

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