What's the most underrated aspect of this game?

Packers.com senior writer Mike Spofford took reader questions in his weekly chat.


Hi everybody. Thanks for logging on. Plenty to talk about I'm sure. Fire away.

Comment From Tony C

Camera lens parallax or not, when Crosby's game winner was in flight, it was veering left, a dreadful OT looming. It was the "breath of God" that steered it back to the right a touch, just inside the left upright ....

I never saw the TV view of Crosby's kick until Monday, when my son told me about it. Had no idea how dramatic the ball flight was. On the 56-yarder before that, the crowd in our end zone to the right of the corner press box erupted briefly as if to cheer a miss and then got silent. It was strange, but that's how I knew that one was going in.

Comment From Dave

Do you keep throwing the ball against Atlanta, or utilize the run more to eat clock and limit the Falcons chances?

You do whatever works to score points. I know Atlanta can score with anybody, but you don't suddenly change who you are after 8 straight wins. Do what it takes.

Comment From Guest

Where is Rodger's regular season streak of no interceptions at? That will still continue in week 1 next year!

Yes, it will. 245 I believe is the number.

Comment From Trace

Why does it seem like our defense can never just make that final stop of the game? I know our offense is better than the D, but good lord.

In some games, it's obvious the offenses are better than the defenses. That was the case in Dallas and it will be the case again this week. You don't think Cowboys fans are asking the same question? All Dallas wanted was the ball in OT, and their defense couldn't get it for them.

Comment From Bill UpHereStill

I know their careers started very differently, but do you see Hyde evolving into Woodson or does he lack the speed to be that great in time?

Hyde has played tremendous football down the stretch here, but let's not get carried away. Woodson is a first-ballot HOFer who won a Heisman as a two-way player in college. Hyde is absolutely maximizing his God-given ability with smarts, film study and guts, and really helping the Packers' defense right now.

Comment From Nathan

Back in 2012 when everyone was calling for Crosby's head, how did Mike McCarthy know Crosby still had this kind of performance in him?

Because he had one rough year after several years as a top kicker with a really powerful leg. They made him earn his job back and he did, and he's now repaying the faith they showed with the new contract last offseason.

Comment From Dean

Mike, Two bottom 1/3 defenses, Two MVP QB's. Looks like offense rules the day. What do you think, first to 40 wins?

Maybe. All depends on how many big plays the offenses make, or if they methodically move down the field and chew up clock. That first quarter of Atlanta-Seattle last Saturday didn't even feature two full possessions.

Comment From Drew M.

In his press conference, Rodgers mentioned that Montgomery made some really smart football plays that might have been hard to notice on TV. Do you notice what Rodgers might have been talking about?

I tried to see on the film, but it was hard to know exactly. He bounced a couple of runs outside to make something out of nothing, and he broke free underneath at the last-second to catch a short third-down pass to move the chains. Those were a couple of little things I noticed.

Comment From Tyler

Are you concerned with Adams ankle injury? He was a completely different player last year when he had the ankle injury. Also what is wrong with Damarious? The guy is having real problems covering anyone.

We'll just have to see with Adams and the ankle. I would guess he might not practice fully this week. I wonder if the foot injury that landed Randall on the injury report on Saturday was a factor in his play in Dallas.

Comment From Tom

How do you see the Packers slowing down those Falcon receivers? Do you stop the pass to make them 1 dimensional or focus on the run game to do so?

The secondary will have another set of tough matchups on its hands. The Packers need to win up front on D. Atlanta's O-line is good, but not as good as Dallas'. Win there and try to make Ryan's job more difficult.

Comment From Chris

Though the stat line doesn't show it, I thought the Packers slowed Ezekiel Elliott enough and that was the key to the game. You aren't going to shut a runner like that down, but if you can sprinkle in a couple of 0-2 yard runs, you might force the team into a 3rd and long. Would a similar game plan work against the Falcons?

Keeping Elliott to a long run of 22 was a big factor in the game. He got his yards, but they weren't in huge chunks. Atlanta's RBs are good players, and they have a pretty balanced offense overall. If you're going to give help on the receivers deep, you have to be able to stop the run with a six-man box up front.

Comment From Clint

What's the word on Rollins and other injuries...Nelson should rest till the superbowl if they get there but what about the oyher guys?

We got no updates from McCarthy on Monday. He said Nelson and Rollins have been doing all the weight-room workouts, but he wasn't guaranteeing anybody would be on the practice field tomorrow. We'll be watching closely regarding those two plus Adams, Bakhtiari, Burnett, etc.

Comment From Noah

I thought the defense played excellent football. They made several stops early and held arguably the best offense in football in check for the first half. Can we give Capers some credit with what he's working with in the secondary?

The Packers have done their best to hold it together. Losing Burnett in Dallas was huge. Brice stepped in and played pretty well. Hawkins played more than he has all season, I think, and was OK, too. You want Burnett back for this game, though. He's a veteran back there who has so much more experience against offenses like this, and in these types of games.

Comment From Timmy D.

Did you crack at least a little bit in the press box for that game winning field goal? I almost fainted several times, felt like I just played 3 hours of football, and slept like a baby after that game. How do you keep those emotions in???

I sit next to Mark Murphy in the press box, with several other football front-office folks further to my right. They let their emotions out and I just did my best to take a deep breath and get the bulletin story finished before heading downstairs for the press conferences. It's part of the deal.

Comment From AJ

Hi, Mike. In the earlier Falcons game, the Packers doubled Julio Jones a lot and as I recall Randall and Rollins were out as well. That allows a lot of other Falcons receivers to get single coverage, unless we zone. Do you think Gunter gets more help this week than he seemed to get with Dez?

If the Packers can slow down Freeman and Coleman in the run game without the safeties close to the LOS, the CBs will get more help.

Comment From Curt from NorCal

Who's going to be the answer for covering Sanu? I'm not too worried about a hobbled Jones. Randall was getting toasted in man coverage.

Gabriel is the guy who might be the toughest matchup other than Jones.

Comment From Tom

How much did this team miss Cook during that losing streak?

Isn't it obvious? It's a different offense with him on the field.

Comment From ROLO

Player on falcons defense to watch?

This game has Clinton-Dix written all over it.

Comment From Matt

Jake Schum had a great game in Dallas. Just wanted to throw some respect at the punter.

He crushed that one for a touchback. I think it was 66 yards, and that's still a 46 net. You take that anytime. His biggest contribution was as Crosby's holder, though. Everything was smooth as silk.

Comment From Guest

Did Aaron really draw the play up himself on the moment, and what does it say that Aaron did that, including and beyond the obvious.

McCarthy talked on Monday about Rodgers having a "menu" of calls -- protections, route concepts, etc. -- to choose from in 2-minute situations. So it was improvised, but not exactly drawn up in the dirt, so to speak.

Comment From AD

For a potential Super Bowl Matchup, who do you favor? For me, the Pats suit better, cause their best receiver would line up against our best corner. (Edelmam vs. Hyde) And their defense is much worse than the stats suggest. Only played bad offenses.

You're really going to ask that question? Just beat the Falcons.

Comment From Making Sens of Things

Is Atlanta or Dallas the tougher team defensively? Everyone's talking about how improved Atlanta is, but that doesn't tell us anything about relative merit.

Atlanta's defense is much tougher than it was in the first meeting. Their stats on D since their late bye week have been impressive. That said, Rodgers has done what he's wanted against every tough defense he's faced during this stretch.

Comment From Mike

How many of the refs from the Packer-Dallas game do you think will get promoted for the remaining games? Lots of missed holding calls both ways or just letting them play?

It's one thing to let 'em play, it's another to let obvious stuff go, like when a jersey has been yanked off the shoulder pad. I thought it was important for Adams to settle down and not let the officiating get to him, and I think he did that. I know there's a lot of controversy over the call on the 2-point play in KC, but when you look at that, I don't know how as a ref you don't throw a flag. He had to call it.

Comment From AJ

The Falcons RBs in the first game were Ward and Freeman; now it will be Freeman and Coleman. How would characterize the change in the Falcons' running game because of the change in the RBs, if any?

Coleman was injured and didn't play in the first game, but Coleman and Freeman have been their dynamic duo most of the year. They're very much the same player. They just always have a fresh, explosive guy in there.

Comment From Scott LC

Mike, do you see the Falcons as just as tough an opponent as the Cowboys were?

More so. I felt before the playoffs started the NFC rep in the Super Bowl would be the Packers or Falcons. Didn't know if they'd be facing each other for the conference title, but if the Cowboys had won Sunday, I'd be picking the Falcons to beat them.

Comment From Lee

Why didn't Dallas try to take a shot at downfield instead of spike the ball?

A lot of questions about the clock management by the Cowboys with the spike to stop the clock, which is what basically allowed Rodgers to have enough time to win the game. But at the time, they still were in position with enough time to score a TD to win. That's what they were playing for. I don't fault the strategy. They just didn't finish the drive.

Comment From Dheeraj

Can Packers led by No. 12 can dominate the falcons right from the start like they did in Dallas?

No one would complain about a 21-3 start again, would they? It was great to see the Packers do that, after starting a bit slower against Detroit and NYG the previous two games.

Comment From Patrick

Hi Mike, I feel that T.J Lang is playing a greater leadership role this year. Can we say that the packers managed to manage the departure of Sitton. Taylor does the job. What do you think?

The departure of Sitton became the biggest non-story story of the season, you know what I mean?

Comment From Scott LC

It looked like Burnett's injury was the result of Gunter's knee hitting him. What's the official injury wordage?

I'd call it a Charlie Horse, but they just told us in the press box it was a thigh/quad or something like that.

Comment From James

Is the fair catch free kick rule still around? I was surprised Dallas didn't attempt it at the end of the first half. Sure it would have been a 70 yarder but with no rush why not?

I wondered about that too, and then wondered if the defense gets a chance to return it if it falls short and stays in the field of play. That might be why they declined to try, but I'm not sure of the specific rule.

Comment From Nathan

Rushing against Rodgers is dangerous, and covering against him is all but impossible unless you have an elite corner. Which do you think the Falcons will try?

The Cowboys tried to cover early, and got burned. They brought a lot more pressure with blitzes and such starting late second quarter and had a lot more success, but he can burn the blitz with the best of them, too. It's always tougher to pick up those in pass protection on the road, when the defense has that half-second jump on the ball.

Comment From AJ

The Packers held the Falcons RBs to 81 yards on 17 rushes in their regular season game. Did they do it with 6 "in the box"?

For the most part, yes, but Coleman wasn't playing.

Comment From Guest

Are the falcons for real? Nobody seems to trust them because of their past record.

This is the game they've been waiting for to get over the hump. Four years ago they led the 49ers at home in the NFC title game 17-0 and blew it. Matt Ryan will be trying to erase that on Sunday.

Comment From Gary

Not to focus on the singular miscue in a stellar offensive performance, but do you know what happened on the interception?

It looked to me like Rodgers threw it a tad too far inside. Or he thought Adams was going to curl his route more inside when he got leverage on the corner. Amazing streak to go 300-plus passes without a pick, as much as the Packers throw the ball.

Comment From Dave

I know every season is different but watching the cowboys it's hard to imagine them not being back next year, a little wiser for the experience

Oh, that team will be back. They get to pay two superstars in Dak and Zeke practically nothing the next two years and build around them. As Rodgers said after the game, they're just getting started.

Comment From Curt from NorCal

Good point about Atlanta's O-line not being as good as Dallas. I see Perry having a field day.

Matthews missed the first game in Atlanta. He's been a bit quiet since the Minnesota game, so I look for him to rise to the occasion. Perry having four sacks now with that club on his hand is impressive.

Comment From Dean

Mike I read where Prescott had a perfect passer rating when the Packers blitzed. Do you think Capers shelves the blitz Sunday?

He called the perfect blitz in Atlanta on that last-minute drive the first time, and Ryan made a bad hot throw to his left that Gunter almost picked off. You don't shelve it entirely, you use it judiciously.

Comment From Erik M

How loud is the Georgia dome vs AT&T, MN, SEA?

It's louder for us because it's an open-air press box. The loudest place I've covered a game is the Superdome in New Orleans, and the old Metrodome was second. I expect this will be the loudest the Georgia Dome has ever been.

Comment From tom

If Richard Sherman had a severe MCL strain, why was he not on the injury report?

Good question. If players are not full participants in practice, it's supposed to be reported. I'm curious if there will be some repercussions from the league on this one.

Comment From Lori

What was it like on the plane ride home from Dallas? A huge fan base turned out at the airport. Was the team surprised?

I figured some folks would be there. I give them credit. We were supposed to get back about 60-90 minutes earlier but weather delayed us. They stuck it out. As for the plane, I don't sit in the same area as the players, but I did hear more music than usual coming from back there.

Comment From Tyler

I remember Tramon William's pick 6 to close out the half in 2010 divisional playoffs. Gotta think we need another huge turnover this game.

Tramon also had a pick in the end zone earlier in the first half of that game. A couple turnovers would go a long way, yeah.

Comment From Kai

How is Bakhtiari and do you think Vic Beasley will be a big problem for the Oline?

Beasley is a tough customer, no doubt. We'll see how Bakhtiari's knee is, but coming back to play the rest of Sunday's game and show no ill effects says a lot about that guy. He's a stud LT.

Comment From Steven R

I'm concerned about our DBs coverage in this upcoming game. Any comments at all on what you'd like to see them do different?

The Falcons are going to make their plays. They're in this game for a reason, just like the Packers are. You just have to make whatever plays are there to be made on defense. As an example, Brice has to pick off that deep ball from Prescott to the end zone. Hyde got the turnover on that drive later, but that miss by Brice could have been huge. It's not an easy play, but it has to be made, because those chances against good QBs don't come around every drive.

Comment From Bo Jackson

This Packer team is a metaphor for life this year. They have stayed positive when it seemed all was lost. There is a message about perserverance learned from this season and I hope it has a fitting ending.

Me, too. I hope the fans have learned something about perseverance as well.

Comment From Ryan

Last season there were many complaints about the receivers lack of separation. This season, Rodgers seems to be hitting them more frequently. Are the receivers getting better separation, is Rodgers "throwing them open" with better throws, or a combination?

It's everything. The timing is better, the rhythm is there, the footwork is better. I focused on footwork in my WYMM this week, which is up on the site if you want to check it out.

Comment From Connor

Will Kenny Clark be an important player in this game? He's been looking pretty good.

Clark is coming on strong of late, and that's a good sign. The more quality big guys you can rotate up front, the better, especially when you've been playing so long without a break like the Packers have.

Comment From Nick

When it comes down to it, what's the most underrated aspect of this weekend's game that we should watch out for?

Atlanta's running game.

Comment From Paul

Were you distracted by that hulking video board?

I'd been there twice before, so I was over it. When I went down on the field before the game, though, you can't help but just stare at it for a few seconds

Comment From SconieTony

The Packers got to wear green in Dallas last Sunday. Wasn't that pleasant. Who says they can't wear green and Atlanta, or is it too early for Christmas colors?

Home team chooses jersey color. Dallas wears white at home the vast majority of the time. The Falcons will be wearing red or black jerseys this Sunday, I expect.

Comment From Scott LC

Mike, what would you say was the most important play before the game was tied up? I'd say it was Hyde's interception.

Yeah that, and then Heath's INT of Rodgers that answered it.

Comment From Julie

Just want to say thank you to you and Wes for all the hard work you do on the live chats, blogs, and Packers Unscripted. They are all great.

Thank you very much. Kind of you to say. It's been an incredibly busy year but I'm not complaining.

Comment From Lori

One of my favorite parts of the replay of the Rodgers to Cook pass just before the field goal is the shot of Rodgers in the background watching Cook catch the pass. Rodgers is up on his toes willing Cook to stay in bounds and hold on to the ball.

Lots of folks talking about this. I was also stunned, upon closer look, how Cook never looks down but manages to stop his feet in exactly the right spot.

Comment From BrettGB

What was up with the severe weather near AT&T Stadium after the game?

There were tornadoes and torrential rains in the area. I was sitting on the bus working on my game recap story, and when I finished, I looked out the window and saw the bowels of the stadium flooding. We hadn't moved. It was a strange situation, but it all worked out OK. I hope the fans stayed safe.

Comment From John

Honestly, what do you think happens if Dallas game goes to OT ?? Road teams have it tough in OT ....

Would have all depended on who won the coin toss. Given the Packers' last two OT playoff games the last two years, Rodgers never even got the ball, I didn't want to see OT.

Comment From Steve

I am 57 and feel like a kid. How do I put all this aside and get some work done this week?

Sorry, can't help you there. Early retirement?

Comment From Scott LC

"Coming from back there"? You get to fly first class?

No, the coaches and execs are in first class. Most of the other non-players are in the foremost section of coach.

Comment From Steven R

Much talk about Matt Ryan getting the MVP. I feel Rodgers has less to work with and therefor is more valuable to his team. Thoughts?

Ryan is going to get the MVP, I think, for his 117 passer rating in the regular season. I don't have a problem with that. He's had a phenomenal year, and they've had their share of injuries, too. But Sunday matters way more than that award, obviously, and both QBs know it.

Comment From Jordan

Mike, for all the flak our defense gets, I thought they had a solid showing on Sunday. All you need is one or two big plays. I think whoever gets those one or two big defensive plays wins the game this Sunday. What are your thoughts?

You need to make those few plays per game that change things. Thomas' coverage on Witten in the end zone to force a FG, Hyde's sack, deflected pass deep middle, and INT, Perry's batted pass. That's what you have to do to give Rodgers a chance to score enough points.

OK, my hour is almost up. Tons of questions today, thanks for that, but sorry if I didn't get to one of yours. I'll take a few more.

Comment From Daniel

The Cook catch and so many big plays make the highlights fun to watch over and over. However, one of most impressive athletic plays was Rodgers' ability to hold onto the ball with one hand after that blindside hit.

Totally agree, and just his ability to get up from that hit and keep his composure for the rest of the drive said something, too.

Comment From Lori

Is it true that Rodgers and Cook had done that last play during practice and Cook was slightly out of bounds, causing team members to bug him about that all week? Perhaps that was why he was so conscious of his foot placement.

I don't think it was that exact play, but Wes wrote about the guys talking about a play in practice that involved sideline footwork last week. I also remember a game a few weeks ago when Cook seemed oblivious to where the sideline was and never even tried to get his second foot down. Then he pulls that off on Sunday. Go figure.

Comment From Dave

Have you been to the stadium where the Super Bowl will be?

Yes, the Packers played in Houston in 2012 and Rodgers threw, I believe, six TD passes.

Comment From Erik M

Some would say the torrential rains were actually Cowboy tears

Good one, but that Cowboys team will get theirs soon enough. They're not going anywhere.

Comment From Troy

Has Wes ever squeezed "indubitably" into a real, live conversation?


Comment From Steven R

Let's all say prayers for Mason Crosbys sister in law...

Yes, please do.

Comment From Victor

Just glad our guys remembered what to do (tackle) after an interception is thrown!

That was a really good tackle by Montgomery, too.

Comment From Don H

.... Force be with us .... Beat ATL ....

We'll call that the last word for today. Thanks everyone. Enjoy the rest of your week. Take care, Mike

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