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Winning on the road changes the equation

Aaron Rodgers is the test for Cowboys' secondary changes


Kabir from Ponte Vedra, FL

The Rams game indicates that Dallas falters when facing third-and-long. The Packers need to apply pressure, stop long runs on first and second downs and cover the middle well. Can they do this without a disruptive player like Aaron Donald?

Third-and-long is a recipe to stop anybody. There's only one Aaron Donald, but if the Packers get Daniels back alongside Clark, they can make things difficult for Elliott.

Erick from Portland, OR

Has the time off for Daniels, Bakhtiari and Bulaga given them a chance to heal the rest of their bodies as well? Do these players come back more fresh after sitting out a few weeks, or do their injuries set them back in terms of conditioning and flow with the team?

The rest always does the body good. It can take a full game or two for "football shape" to be fully restored. For veteran players, the flow aspect is generally seamless.

Tom from Blaine, WA

I usually ignore the awards, but the Coach of the Year debacle is frustrating. When is the league going to rename it to the Coach-Who-Made-Some-Improvement-And-Is-Popular Award? It's beyond ridiculous that someone with McCarthy's resume has never won the award.

I tend to agree, but consistency never wows anyone, and that's been the hallmark of McCarthy's tenure – consistency, in many forms and facets. Because the award is for regular-season accomplishments only, I think realistically his best chance to win it was 2007. He was a second-year coach who took an 8-8 team to 13-3 and revived the career of a Hall of Fame quarterback. But the Patriots went 16-0, so what are ya gonna do?

Bob from Caserma Ederle, Italy

Mike, two words sum up why Ty Montgomery wants to play this Sunday with broken ribs: Don Majkowski.

There's no doubt that's a factor for players in these circumstances, but there's something to be said for protecting a player from himself, too.

Cory from Oregon, WI

The question about why Dallas is in the NFC East is about rivalries. I remember this from when they were doing the realignment. The NFL figured there would be a huge mutiny if there was no Dallas vs. Redskins or Dallas vs. Giants anymore.

The rivalry factor is exactly what it was all about.

Jon from Minneapolis, MN

In the past I feel like I would see one shovel pass a year in the NFL. This year, I think I've seen at least one a week. Being down a few offensive linemen and Dallas having an extremely gifted pass rusher in Lawrence, do you think the Packers try a version of a shovel pass this week to try and make Dallas' DEs respect the run and not get upfield too fast?

It's an option and generally a safe play that gives a defensive front something else to think about. The Packers often use it in red-zone or goal-line situations, but they could call it anywhere. The more interesting thing to watch is after a team runs a shovel pass, does it show the same look and same action again later, but run something else off of it?

Mark from Grand Rapids, MI

It's been said over and over that the Packers will never give up a home game to play overseas. That sounds good to me, but do teams always have a choice? What happens if nobody wants to give up a home game?

There are stipulations the league has put in place regarding teams getting new stadiums and/or wanting to host Super Bowls that can mandate taking a home game overseas. That's why I've centered the London conversation with the Packers around the LA market.

Kyle from Port Orange, FL

Which game will the Packers be wearing the retro blue jerseys?

Nov. 19 vs. Baltimore.

Brian from Neenah, WI

Has David Stearns, Brewers GM, visited the Packers and Ted Thompson? Stearns' quotes about a large part of the Brewers' success is their player growth, take the best player available in the draft regardless of position, etc., make me think draft-and-develop may not be only for the NFL.

The salary cap in the NFL gives teams that are good at draft-and-develop, and committed to it, an advantage over the long haul. The lack of a salary cap in MLB makes draft-and-develop necessary for survival for certain teams.

Chris from Sydney, WI

In light of Damarious Randall's recent benching, I have been impressed by the grace and professionalism that MM has had in handling the whole situation. I feel that coaches largely are criticized based on their offensive or defensive acumen, but how important is the way a coach handles adversity within a team to overall success?

It's immeasurably important, and McCarthy's career is full of examples that reflect his leadership acumen. I talked about 4-8 in his first season the other day. There have been numerous bouts with injury epidemics. There was the loss to a winless Buccaneers team in 2009 that dropped the Packers to 4-4, after which McCarthy led them to a 7-1 finish. There was the Fail Mary in 2012. There was 4-6 last year. He said from the beginning with Randall there would be no soap opera, and he's made sure of it, but frankly I see this incident as small potatoes compared to the adversity McCarthy has handled with aplomb in the past.

Courtney from Butte, MT

Perspective – We are 3-0 at home and 0-1 on the road. One game at a time but the next two are road games against quality teams that could define this season. We need to win one of them.

Defining the season is a tad strong for October, but you have to win on the road to be a legitimate contender in the NFL. It changes the equation. Winning only your home games won't get you very far.

Blake from Buffalo Grove, IL

What makes a Packers writer tick?

For me, it's a desire to always learn more about the game, and the recognition that I'll never know enough.

Sam from Olathe, KS

We as Packer fans used to have a bit of a sore spot for the 49ers in their wins over us and then more recently the Seahawks and their past wins over us. Do you think Cowboy fans are starting to feel the same way about us?

How could they not?

Jeff from Boulder, CO

Comment not a question. We've all liked Randall Cobb since the first time we saw him return a kickoff in his rookie year (if I recall right). Yet he slowly climbs the ladder in my all-time-favorite-players list. In my list they have to be good people. He is a warrior, fearless, unselfish, and talented beyond belief, comes through in tough games and tough times. Personality? Humble, nice, community-oriented. Climbs the rankings higher.

I couldn't agree more.

Jason from San Jose, CA

Now that we are a few games in, do you see teams playing defense against us any differently due to the acquisition of Bennett? His stat line might not tell the entire story of his impact and just having him on the field could possibly be giving our other receivers better matchups.

I think we have to wait until the offensive line is back to full strength to gauge it. I don't think we've truly seen the matchup game the Packers can play with their double-tight-end sets because the offensive tackle situation has been in such constant flux.

Scott from Lincoln City, OR

Rodgers is on pace to be sacked 60 times this season. What was the Packers' W-L record for the three seasons he's been sacked the most to date?

11-5 in 2009, 11-5 in 2012, and 10-6 in 2015, but I think the sack "pace" means little as a projection given the injuries up front.

Ben from De Pere, WI

Here is a stat: According to Pro Football Focus, the Packers have only lost 13 of 73 games when leading after the first quarter. Can you speak on how important it is to play with a lead? I know in baseball, playing with a lead lets the pitcher take a couple shots he normally wouldn't and puts pressure on the opposing team to score.

In football, it's about not just leading, but also not falling too far behind. If you're always ahead, or never too far down, you can stick to your game plan for four quarters, and the game plan is what has been repped in practice the most, so theoretically the chances for successful execution are higher. I still think the most remarkable stat about the 2010 Super Bowl team is it never fell behind by more than seven points through all 20 games.

Matt from Hartford, WI

Throughout the year, the grounds crew has a unique challenge of keeping Lambeau Field in pristine condition despite the upper Midwest weather patterns. Has the field been re-sodded since the switch to the hybrid turf system?

No, but the field is going to be replaced this upcoming offseason. Mark Murphy announced that in a recent Murphy Takes Five on our website.

Mike from Fort Benning, GA

Hey Insiders, can you tell us what Aaron Rodgers' stats look like on drives where the defense gets a turnover and gives the ball to him? He seems to always make the other team pay when his defense gives him that helping hand.

It's a trait of McCarthy's best teams. There are reams of stats I could give you, but if you just look at the two teams in the last three years that advanced to the NFC title game, the production off turnovers is huge. Last year, Rodgers scored following an opposing turnover 60 percent of the time (15 of 25) with nine TDs and six FGs for a total of 81 points. In 2014, it was 61 percent (14 of 23, not including four turnovers returned for TDs by the defense) with 12 TDs and two FGs for 90 points.

Sam from Eau Claire, WI

"Waiting is the hardest part." I appreciate the reference to Tom Petty, Wes. Speaking of waiting, how is Vince Biegel doing? Keep up the good work guys.

Wes said ever since I mentioned "The Waiting" in Wednesday's Inbox, he's had the song stuck in his head, and so have I. Not that I mind. It's one of my all-time favorites. I'm just careful not to sing the "chase a couple women around" lyric out loud. We've had no update on Biegel. He will be eligible to practice for the first time after the Vikings game, so stay tuned.

Al from Arvada, CO

You said McCray has a fascinating story. What's his story? Would love to hear it!

Lucas from Stevens Point, WI

Ian from Albuquerque asked if letting Hyde go was a mistake. While he might be having a great year himself (kudos, proud of our homegrown player succeeding elsewhere), Josh Jones was recently ranked as the No. 14 rookie thus far. He's younger and therefore has arguably more upside.

For less money. You can't pay everybody.

Jonnie from Detroit, MI

Mike, when I saw the hit by Trevathan, my first instinct was to say it was a dirty hit. Jon Gruden calling it a "heck of a play" is laughable at best, and downright idiocy at worst.

Some have a hard time changing their culture. It's why meaningful change doesn't happen overnight.

Cris from Sachse, TX

Hey Spoff, I just bought my wife and me tickets for the Packers-Cowboys game. She is a diehard Cowboys fan. My first Packers game was the playoff win in Dallas. What is different about this Dallas team compared to the one we beat last fall?

The biggest difference is three of the Cowboys' top five players in the secondary from last January, cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr plus safety Barry Church, have been replaced by Anthony Brown, Nolan Carroll and Jeff Heath (who came off the bench to play extensively in the playoff game). Rodgers is the test for Dallas fans to judge whether the Cowboys have upgraded.

Eric from St. Louis, MO

How has Detroit's defense gone from one of the worst last year to one of the best this year?

Turnovers. The Lions are tied for first in the league with 11, which is a big reason they rank 15th in yards allowed but tied for fourth in points allowed.

Derrick from Randolph, NJ

Care to comment from a reporter's perspective on Cam's latest remarks?

They frustrate me, not as a reporter, but as a human. This whole story frustrates me because if those fighting their own battles of inequality aren't going to respect others who have fought or are still fighting theirs, we're really lost.

Craig from Castle Pines, CO

Where do you see the Packers needing to improve the most in the second quarter of the season? I think the run game, with a hopefully healthy Ty and O-line, needs to produce more to maintain balance.

As I continue to say, I believe the running game will come around when the offensive line returns to full health. The run defense late in games concerns me, especially going into this week with Zeke, because Atlanta's Freeman and Cincinnati's Mixon were doing damage down the stretch in Weeks 2-3.

Jake from Greenville, NC

Since we've continued talking about the team's "identity" this year, how fun would it be if this year becomes the story of the team that just kept getting better? If all these guys with 2-4 week injuries take care not to return before they're ready, we're 3-1 with A LOT of help on the way.

I like that idea.

Will from Rochester, MN

Any chance there could be Cheesehead toppers in the stands for the next Lego highlight?

I like that idea, too.

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