Paul Imig’s Jan. 15 Packers mailbag
It’s time for this week’s NFC championship game edition of Packers Mailbag . . .
What must the Packers do to win in Seattle? Will both the offensive and defensive lines of the Packers have to perform exceptionally well to get a victory in Seattle? — brody, Cottage Grove
What is most likely going to be the deciding factor this week, for the Packers, going up against the Seahawks? — Jacob Pickus, Jacksonville Florida
A: Well, there’s not a more difficult venue or a more difficult opponent for the Packers to be matching up with, that’s for sure. The Seahawks have lost twice at home in the past three seasons. That’s a 25-2 record (playoffs included) since 2012. If that doesn’t elicit a "wow," I don’t know what will.
Green Bay will likely have to play a near-flawless game to win. Seattle is a 7.5-point favorite for a reason. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
Aaron Rodgers needs to be at an MVP level, which is far from an easy feat anytime against the league’s top-ranked defense, much less when he’s dealing with the left calf injury. The Packers need Eddie Lacy to be very productive to take pressure off of Rodgers, which, again, is a difficult thing to accomplish when facing the NFL’s best defense. And Green Bay’s defense probably needs to hold Seattle to less than 20 points.
Of course winning the turnover battle and stopping the run are key, but that’s universally true almost every week. A Packers win would be an upset, and everyone saw how much the Seahawks dominated this matchup in Week 1. So, in every area of the game, the mistakes will need to be few and far between for Green Bay to win.
Should Aaron Rodgers bring back his R-E-L-A-X statement to the team this week? Some people expect them to lose to Seattle, wouldn’t it be better for them to go into Seattle with a relaxed attitude? The pressure is on Seattle. or do they need to try and match Seattle’s intense attitude? — Rylee, Eau Claire
A: "R-E-L-A-X" was spontaneous by Rodgers, so bringing it back isn’t really an option. Plus, I think if you told Mike Daniels that the Packers should relax, he might not react too favorably. For those who may not be fully aware, Daniels can be quite the intense individual on the field.
The identities of these two teams are different. The Seahawks have some world-class trash-talkers on defense, and they thrive on that type of attitude. Granted, there’s non-headline-driving Russell Wilson and media darling (sarcasm font) Marshawn Lynch, but that defense talks an "A" game and backs it up.
I’m not sure who the pressure is on more. Seattle is the heavy favorite, so naturally one could say there’s more on the Seahawks’ shoulders. But they just won a Super Bowl last year. Rodgers and the Packers didn’t even get to the NFC championship game in the three seasons after their Super Bowl win, and that’s with an MVP quarterback running the show. To get this close and miss again would be a setback for Green Bay’s franchise, as Rodgers would then be 32 years old — at youngest — before possibly getting to another Super Bowl. There’s pressure to win while Rodgers is in his prime years.
What has changed for the Packers since they last played Seattle? Will they challenge Richard Sherman this time? What type of game plan must they have to beat Seattle? — Gene, Fall Creek
A: A lot has changed, but that’s true for both teams. Focusing on the Packers side of it, Jarrett Boykin went from No. 3 receiver to almost entirely out of the game plan. Corey Linsley went from starting his first game as a rookie with almost no starter-reps practice time to being so good that he garnered an All-Pro vote. Davante Adams emerged, Richard Rodgers improved and the offense found the right mix for Eddie Lacy.
As far as challenging Richard Sherman, it’s simple for Rodgers. If the receiver being guarded by Sherman is open, Rodgers will throw it in that direction. If Sherman has the receiver covered well, Rodgers won’t throw it. This is not the game for Rodgers to try to prove any sort of point. He’ll go through his progressions and pass to whoever’s open, regardless of Sherman’s presence. Though, with Sherman, it more often than not means the receiver he’s defending is not open.
What will Mike McCarthy do to protect Aaron Rodgers from Seattle’s pass rush? They are far better than Dallas’ front line. Will they have to keep Kuhn or a TE in the backfield to block? Will they use more screen passes to Lacy to stop the blitzes? — Fuzzy, Altoona
A: It will be interesting to find out the answer to that question, because yes, Seattle is certainly a much better defense than Dallas. The Seahawks can get pressure with four-man rushes, too, which means not only could Rodgers see the pocket collapsing, but he could be looking for receivers with seven defenders in coverage.
Rodgers found out on just his third pass of the game (his touchdown pass to Andrew Quarless) against the Cowboys just how much his left calf injury would affect him on the field. He’ll likely find out again in Seattle early on whether he can push it more than he did a week earlier, or whether he’ll perhaps have to dial back his mobility even more.
Thanks for taking my question. I feel that the seahawks offense is all based on the run game with lynch and wilson. If they can contain those two guys we have an excellant shot. The wide recievers are not the same as last year or the first game of this year. If we hold limit them, then our offence does not have to be so explosive. your thoughts? — lou g, verona, nj
A: That is one big "if," Lou. Seattle led the NFL in rushing . . . by a lot. The Seahawks had 408 more rushing yards than the second-best rushing offense, which was Dallas.
Lynch was the league’s fourth leading rusher with 1,306 yards. He had the same yards per attempt (4.7) as DeMarco Murray. Lynch also had the same number of rushing touchdowns (13) as Murray.
But what makes Lynch even more dangerous is that he’s working with Russell Wilson. This is a quarterback who was 16th in the NFL in rushing yards. Wilson ran for 849 yards, had a 7.2 per-carry average and finished the regular season with six rushing touchdowns. That means Wilson had more rushing yards than more than half of NFL teams’ leading running backs.
Yes, Seattle doesn’t have Golden Tate or Percy Harvin anymore, and those two can be difference-makers. But if the Packers can’t stop Lynch or Wilson on the ground, it probably won’t matter much that the Seahawks’ receivers aren’t all that great.
Will the NFL look at changing the rule that made Bryant’s catch not a catch? It’s not really clear why the ground can’t cause a fumble, but it can make a catch incomplete. What’s the difference? — Katie, Hudson
A: The league should look at changing the rule. Whether they will, we’ll all wait to see. I know the rule worked out well for the Packers, so Green Bay’s fans are happy it went their way. But that’s a catch, isn’t it? If NFL fans had never heard about nor had the "Calvin Johnson Rule" explained to them before watching that play, they’d all say the ball was caught by Bryant, right? The rule was applied correctly by the officials. Based on the rule, it was not a catch. But it’s not a good rule.
I heard on the news this morning that volunteers in Green Bay paid out of their pocket $10 each for the opportunity to shovel out the Green Bay stadium. Is this true? Thank you. — James McEntire, Camden, New York
A: I read this question several times and I’m still not sure if it’s meant to be funny or if it’s genuine. Either way, it’s an amazing question. The Packers actually paid fans $10 per hour to shovel out Lambeau Field. The fans made money by participating. Though now I wonder how many people would show up if they had to pay money to help shovel snow out of Lambeau Field. Sounds like a fun social experiment for the team to try next year.
Seriously, does anyone get more crippling penalties on a per snap basis than Brad Jones? Can you really afford to have him on the field this coming weekend? And what is the chance he’s on the roster next season. Please say zero! — Hoosier Pack Fan, Indiana
A: One reporter asked Dom Capers that very question this week: Can the defense afford to keep putting Brad Jones on the field?
Capers responded, "We just have to clean up the penalties. What you don’t want to do is, you get to this point, you don’t want to help the offense. So we’ve got to make sure we make good decisions there. The stats, when you look at the scoring stats, when you have penalties in a drive, their chances of putting points on the board go way up."
So, I guess take that answer for what it’s worth.
And while Jones is under contract for next season, no, I don’t expect him on the team when the 2015 season begins.
I can’t help but think Cobb in backfield is setting up a WR option pass from him . . . what do you think? — Steve Hurley via Twitter
A: Under normal circumstances, my response would be something like, "If you’re going to throw the ball, do you really want to take it out of the hands of Aaron Rodgers? Does an offense really need trick plays when Rodgers can turn normal plays into big gains?" Because Rodgers is hurting, maybe it becomes a possibility. Plus, the Patriots have Tom Brady at quarterback, yet they pulled out the trick play and had Julian Edelman throw a touchdown pass. So it’s possible, but I won’t believe it until I see it.
Paul, Thanks for your mailbag this year, it’s been really fun and informative. Go Pack Go — Walter, Beloit
A: No problem at all. Thanks for reading every week.
** And with that, we wrap up this week’s Mailbag. Thanks for all the questions. Enjoy the game Sunday, and we’ll wait to see what next week brings. Will it be Super Bowl preparation, or will Packers players be on vacation? **
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