Playoff Week: Chat Q & A : Packers Insider

Playoff Week: Chat Q & A

January 1, 2013 by  
Filed under News

Compiled by Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider.com senior editor

~Midweek Chat with Packers.com Mike Spofford:

Mike Spofford:
Hello and Happy New Year everybody. Thanks for logging on today. I’ll start in a few minutes, so you can begin sending in questions now if you’d like.

Comment From Curley
What is the injury situation for both teams?

Mike Spofford:
I would expect the Packers to get Cobb back. We’ll have to see on Woodson, but I’m guessing he’s playing (I know I said that last week and was wrong). The big injury question for the Vikings is Winfield. When he left the game Sunday, Rodgers torched that secondary. There wasn’t any definitive update on Winfield yesterday.

Comment From Mike
Don Barclay didn’t have a good game last week, giving up sacks to Brian Robison and Everson Griffen. How much a difference can one week make, given the Packers will be back at home?

Mike Spofford:
The Vikings’ pass rush is always better at home with the crowd noise and fast track. That said, the Packers can’t count on home field to block Jared Allen, Everson Griffen and Brian Robison. It’s going to be an interesting chess match, because the Packers were really moving the ball by spreading them out, but that leaves little help for the O-line and it led to some sacks. There’s give and take there. 

Jared Allen has gotten to Aaron Rodgers many times. The LT Marshall Newhouse has to play well or Allen can derail the Packers Super Bowl train in a hurry, as the Giants pass rush did last year.

Comment From Mary Anne
Happy New Year Mike. I am thrilled we are in the playoffs, however, I just don’t see the spark that we had with the 2010 Packers that took us to the Super Bowl. How can we put that flame back and solidify the team to be those Super Bowl Champs again?

Mike Spofford:
Coming off a loss is never easy, but there was plenty of spark in that Packers team on Sunday. They just came up a bit short. If the offense had gotten the ball one more time, they were going to win. The third-and-11 play doomed them. That was the chance to win the game and they didn’t do it. They just can’t let a big chance like that slip away on Saturday.

Comment From jordan
Woodson is a good tackler. Do you think if he is active and plays that he will have a big impact in the game after such a long layoff? Also, a collarbone seems to be the point of impact for a tackle . Still, I gotta believe that his veteran experience will only help. After all, he essentially played outside linebacker against the Texans when they shut down Foster.

Mike Spofford:
All valid points, for sure. They’ve been giving that collarbone as much time as possible to heal and strengthen. I don’t know how much the long layoff would affect Woodson. He’ll have fresh legs, but with the fundamentals be a little lacking? Hard to say. Any lack of fundamentals against Peterson and you don’t bring him down.

Comment From Bob
Aaron Rodgers posted some great QB Ratings in domes like last week in Minnesota and this season in Houston and St. Louis. The rating at home is a bit lower, but do you think Rodgers can repeat his performance from last Sunday now at Lambeau?

Mike Spofford:
That’ll be a tough task in 20-degree weather outside. I don’t think we’ll see another shootout on Sunday. It’s going to be a different kind of game. I’m not sure Rodgers will throw for 365 and 4 TDs again, but the question is whether Ponder will throw 3 TD with no INT again. The Packers have to make it tough on him, like they did here at Lambeau on Dec. 2.

Comment From Anthony
What is Dom Capers working on to contain Adrian Peterson. The drive for the game winning field goal displayed a very soft defense that was either tired or just not interested.

Mike Spofford:
The third and 11 defense with eight men in zone coverage just wasn’t executed well. The really unfortunate thing is before Peterson broke the 26-yard run on his last carry, the Packers had held him to 14 yards on his last seven rushes. They were doing fine, then he busted through a goal-line formation and got another big one. I’m not sure what else Capers can do, but it’s also on GB’s offense to not let Peterson get 13 carries in the first quarter. He got warmed up and was wearing GB’s defense down from the start.

Comment From Toussaint
I think the Packers performance against AP basically showed the mindset I was hearing from them in their interviews. They kept saying that one person couldn’t take him down or slow him down and that numbers were needed, etc. I saw that it seemed like players really believed they couldn’t take him down when they had him one on one in the holes. I think a change in mindset of feeling like they have to be capable of taking him down one on one would pay dividends. The other issue I saw is that there were, at most times, just gaping holes for him to run through. What did you see?

Mike Spofford:
I saw holes early, then later on I saw the Packers defending a play well, but then not being able to corral him and get him down. He would reverse field and go where the play wasn’t supposed to go and get big yards. It is not easy for one guy to bring him down, but if there’s one guy there, he has to at least slow him down so Peterson can’t crank up the speed and power to break into the open.

Comment From Paul Daniels
Back in 1993, Barry Sanders ran for 188 yards when the Lions beat the Packers in Detroit late in the season. The Packers got another chance when they faced the Lions again in the first round of the playoffs, and they held the HOF RB to -1 yard rushing. I’m not expecting a result like that, but is there a chance the Packers could go against every trend they’ve shown and actually bottle up Adrian Peterson this week?

Mike Spofford:
I like that line of thinking.

Comment From Aaron
Which team do we need to be worried about 49ers or the Falcons if we win against the Vikings Saturday?

Mike Spofford:
If the Packers win they will travel to San Francisco.

Comment From Peter T
What should the Packers do with Tramon Williams. As Vic would say, he lacks the courage to play the game. Should Capers hide him, substitute for him, or bench him. Against the Vikings, we need someone who is willing to tackle no matter who is running the ball

Mike Spofford:
A lot of questions about Tramon Williams. It was not his finest game, no doubt. If I know Williams, he’s a prideful pro and I think we’ll see a different player on Saturday night.

Comment From benjamin
How can the packers beat a team within less than a week when they gave up so many rushing yards the past week to AP and might AP be playing with more drive since the packers stopped AP from getting the record? Also can the crowd become a factor with regard to ponder, he threw the ball really well in the last game?

Mike Spofford:
Third downs are always different on the road for quarterbacks. Ponder was really good on third down on Sunday, but he didn’t have 70,000 people screaming at him either.

Comment From Kevin W
Hey Mike, it always seems like the packers get on a roll after a loss. like they realize nothing is gauranteed and put together an even better proformance. is it possible at all that the loss last week, could be a strange blessing in disguese, to get the packers a boost throughout the playoffs?

Mike Spofford:
Wow, no spell-check there Kevin?
I would never call it a blessing in disguise, not when a first-round bye was at stake, but do you know the last time Rodgers lost two games in a row? It was Weeks 5-6 of 2010.

Comment From Ryan
What do you think about the Lovie Smith firing? It’s hard to believe a 10-6 coach that was in the NFC championship game just two years ago is gone. I even heard Hester might walk away because he is so upset.

Mike Spofford:
The new GM in Chicago obviously thinks it’s time for a change. Since going to the Super Bowl, the Bears have missed the playoffs five of the last six years. Yes, they went 10-6 this year, but that was after a 7-1 start. They’re only the second team since this playoff format was instituted to miss the playoffs after starting 7-1. So I get the move. That said, Lovie Smith won’t be out of work for long, I don’t think.

Comment From Matthew
Mike, how much of an impact would it be if the CB Winfield for the Vikings wouldn’t be able to play in the game this weekend? Would it make it significantly easier for Rodgers to get bigger plays in that slot?

Mike Spofford:
Winfield’s absence changed last Sunday’s game. Rodgers attacked his replacement, Marcus Sherels, with impunity. The Vikings might go with another option there if Winfield can’t play.

Comment From JIm
Dont you think that Peterson no matter what will do his thing & if Ponder doesn’t then GB wins. He was the difference last week. The Packers also had a problem with the crowd noise & could not challenge because they had no time outs left.on a completed pass that was definitely incomplete which led to a long FG. Neither the crowd noise or long FGs will come into play.

Mike Spofford:
Ponder was the difference. For those of you with us during the live game chat, I kept asking when Ponder was going to make a mistake and he never did. The non-challenge you’re referring to was his only mistake, when Burnett blew him up on a blitz and the ball just hung up in the air. The Packers couldn’t challenge the Vikes’ deflected catch, and it actually led to a TD. It was a huge play in the game.

Comment From Brent
It seems Crosby IS BACK! Do you agree?

Mike Spofford:
Yes. Those were two pressure kicks on Sunday and he nailed them both. Now, it’s just a matter of what the weather/wind will bring outdoors on Saturday night.

Comment From Larry
Do you still think Rodgers is still holding onto the ball too long? It appears to me this is the case at times.

Mike Spofford:
Yes, he did at times, but I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again — Rodgers makes a ton of plays when he holds the ball and is able to find someone breaking open late in the play. Sometimes nobody is going to break free and he’s going to get sacked. You have to take the good with the bad.

Comment From Carrie
I think we need to blitz more against Ponder. I know we did some, but we need to rattle him more!

Mike Spofford:
Perhaps playing at home, where noise can affect a QB’s ability to audible and change plays or protection schemes, will lead to more blitz calls. You have to be careful, though. If they catch you in a blitz from one side with a handoff to Peterson going to the other side, watch out.

Comment From NM Packer
Will Harris be starting RB this week?

Mike Spofford:
I don’t know if he’ll actually take the first snap on offense, but I would expect him to get the bulk of the work again, like last week. He really had a good game.

Comment From Jay
It didn’t seem like Grant was used on Sunday at all. I don’t understand MM’s line of thinking with the running backs.

Mike Spofford:
Grant got two early carries for two yards. When Harris went into the game, the offense got a spark and the ground game was getting something. He just went with the hot hand, as he has always said he will.

Comment From Jared
Do we know Starks status for Sat?

Mike Spofford:
No, we don’t. McCarthy said yesterday he was hoping Starks could get back on the practice field this week. That would seem to indicate he’s a longshot to play, even if he does practice, because he’s been out a full month now and hasn’t practiced that whole time. But if he starts to practice and the Packers advance, he could be worked in at some point.

Comment From Mary
What is the #1 key to the game on Sat night? Tackling? Better pass rush?

Mike Spofford:
Better tackling, and get the lead. Falling behind 13-0 out of the gate in that building was not the recipe for victory. I know Peterson had 210 at Lambeau when the Packers jumped out to a 10-0 lead on Dec. 2, but it’s still the better formula to get ahead and try to limit how much the Vikes can rely on him.

Comment From Dan
I really think Finley has stepped up his game the past four weeks. What have you seen? 

TE Jermichael Finley and Rodgers have started to click again recently. With decent OL protection, it seems Rodgers has his pick of who's going to have the big day among Packer receivers.

Mike Spofford:
Totally agree. He’s catching the ball more cleanly, getting yards after the catch, and helping his fellow receivers with blocks. He’s been a big part of the offense lately.

Comment From Farah
Jennings looked great back in the slot. With Cobb back, is it just automatic that Jennings would move back outside?

Mike Spofford:
Good question. It will probably depend on how the Vikings match up their corners and the Packers will try to get the matchups they like best.

Comment From Derin
Cobb’s replacement for kick returs seemed to do very well. Why not keep things the same on Saturday night and keep Cobb healthy?

Mike Spofford:
A lot of questions about Jeremy Ross, and for good reason. He had a great game. I think if the Packers feel they’ll need to limit Cobb at all coming off the ankle/knee injury, they’ll keep Ross on returns so Cobb can take as many snaps on offense as they need/want him to. If Cobb can handle all his regular duties, I’m honestly not sure what they’ll do, but it’s nice to have another option.

Comment From Dave
I predict us Hosting RGIII and the Redskins for the Championship game, How far fetched is that thought?

Mike Spofford:
I have an uncle in DC who would love to come out here and go to the game with his brother if that indeed happens. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Comment From NM Packer
You mention the 3rd and 11 completion on the Vikings wining drive. So frustrating to have the receiver surrounded by 3 defenders and none of them in position to make a play on the ball. I know Capers can’t make the plays, but shouldn’t a coach be responsible for demanding execution from the players he chose to have on the field?

Mike Spofford:
You can count on that play being dissected in the film room this week, and if one individual was specifically at fault, that individual will know. The Vikings had three receivers to the left and the Packers had five defenders on that side of the field. With 5-on-3, it should have been a much tighter throw to gain 25 yards, and Jenkins was wide open. I don’t know X’s and O’s well enough to say, but somebody had to blow his assignment, and everyone in the film room will know.

Comment From mark
I think a week of tape review for Aaron will make the difference in this game. He will light up the Vikings this weekend!

Mike Spofford:
He lit them up last weekend. The Vikings have as many defensive adjustments to make as the Packers do. The Vikings just got the ball last on Sunday.

Comment From Twila
Aaron Rodgers led the league in QB rating (108.0), threw 39 TD’s against only 8 interceptions. Peyton Manning was not up to that standard in any of those categories. So why is Manning in the running for the MVP while Rodgers isn’t being discussed much?

Mike Spofford:
Because the Broncos improved by five wins (8 to 13) while the Packers declined by four (15 to 11)? Fair or not, it could be as simple as that.

Comment From Lawrence
What is Worthy’s status?

Mike Spofford:
That knee injury didn’t look good. We haven’t been given an official update, but I think it’s safe to say his season is over. The question, with an injury like that so late in the year, is how soon can he be ready for next season? Only time will answer that.

Comment From Rod
Will Cobb make a difference and why?

Mike Spofford:
He’ll give the Packers another big-play threat the Vikings will have to account for when GB spreads them out. If the offensive line handles all its one-on-one matchups, Rodgers will be picking his spots. But blocking Minnesota’s pass rush one-on-one all game is no easy task.

Comment From Ben from DC
Mike, have you ever done any analysis of how many comments you guys get per minute on your live chats during the games? I’m assuming it’s just the two of you winnowing down the comments and deciding what to publish due to press box restrictions, it must be hard to do all that and track the game simultaneously, but you do a great job, even in the worst press-box in the league.

Mike Spofford:
Thanks Ben. I’ve never done the mathematical analysis, but the comments come fast and furious. When I’m on the keyboard, I usually try to take a comment or two during commercials, but when the game is going, I’m just trying to keep people updated. All the comments are good, though. Even if they don’t get published, sometimes they spark a thought that I’ll use. But yeah, it’s pretty rapid fire.

Comment From Peter T
How bad is Jordy’s knee and Matthews back? Matthews said he landed on AP and his whole body went numb/hurt. I know the injury report comes out later but any insight on what is going on with two of our stars?

Mike Spofford:
Lot of questions on these two. As of yesterday, there wasn’t much concern about Matthews or Nelson. Both came back in the game and played after their injuries. I would expect both to maybe be limited in practice this week, especially on a short week, but it would have to be something serious to keep either out of this game.

Comment From will
How about Raji last game? That man came to play!!!

Mike Spofford:
Yes, he did, but I could have done without the finger wagging or whatever he was doing when he made a stop in the backfield and the score was 10-0 or 13-0, or whatever it was. It wasn’t cool, in my opinion. They need Raji to play like that again, though.

Comment From Lynn
What team in the NFC playoffs are not a good matchup for the packers?

Mike Spofford:
When a guy has rushed for 409 in two games against the Packers in the last month, I’m going to say the team they face this week might be their toughest matchup in the playoffs. Taking nothing away from the Niners, Falcons, Seahawks, etc., but I mean that.

Comment From Merle
The Fox TV guys picked out Casey Hayward as the person to blame for that 3rd and 11 play. But is it possible he was doing his job staying in the flat like that? If he weren’t there Ponder could have easily scrambled to that side for 15 yards.

Mike Spofford:
That’s why I don’t get into the blame game too much because I don’t know every individual player’s assignment in a given coverage, and neither do the Fox guys. Yes, it looked like Hayward should have gotten deeper because when Jenkins ran by him there was no other receiver in his area, but the scramble point you bring up is a valid one.

Comment From Rocketto, Italy
Mike, both in 2011 and this year the team have some problems at tackling, emblematic Blount TD against Buccaneers last season for example, for what reason? Mental attitude, greater emphasis on other aspect of defense, reduced tackling in practices, some starters injuries or what?

Mike Spofford:
I think the Packers have tackled much better overall this season than last. It hasn’t been close. Tackling Peterson has been a completely different issue, however.

Comment From Rob
Mike what do you think the mood will be like saturday night?

Mike Spofford:
Intense.

Comment From TM
I learned the other day that Rodgers is the highest rated QB OF ALL TIME in a lot of categories. He obviously set records last year for the highest passer rating in a season & has the highest passer rating in the post season. He also has the highest career passer rating of an QB ever (he’s the only one with over 100). The thing that really stood out was his touchdown to interception ratio. No other QB has even a 3.0 ratio throughout their career- Aaron has a 3.71. I know stats don’t tell everything but that is impressive.

Mike Spofford:
Yes, it is, and it’s why the Packers have a chance to win against anybody they play. Peterson is the one player who has been able to minimize the difference between the two QBs in a game this season. He may be the only single player in the league capable of doing that.

Comment From NIck
What’s the environment like in the club seats in the southern box during a playoff game? Serious or energetic?

Mike Spofford:
Couldn’t tell you. I’ve only sat in the press box. But the indoor club seats don’t have the same rules as the press box, so I doubt it’s a bunch of people sitting on their hands, if that’s what you’re asking.

Comment From Dirk
Are they going to bring in another DL with Worthy out? And if so, could that player be ready in time for Saturday, or are they going to be short on the defensive line?

Mike Spofford:
Jordan Miller was signed from the practice squad recently. He’ll be the sixth guy after Pickett, Raji, Neal, Wilson and Daniels.

Comment From Nick D
Mike, if we end up winning this game, would we play again next Saturday or Sunday in San Fran? or has the NFL not decided that yet?

Mike Spofford:
Saturday night in San Fran.

Comment From billfromcville
Is Vic looking forward to Seattle’s elimination in the playoffs?

Mike Spofford:
I’m sure Vic is hoping for a Packers win Saturday and next Saturday in SF, and for Seattle wins in DC and Atlanta, to send the Seahawks to Lambeau for the NFC title game.

Comment From Peter T
I noticed that the Vikings had other injuries in Sunday’s game besides Winfield. Lodholt, Sullivan, Simpson, and Harrison Smith looked like they sustained more than a glancing blow. Smith in specifically looked like he took a big hit on his shoulder when he tackled D. Harris. Any news on the above?

Mike Spofford:
Nothing yet, but we’ll keep an eye on the injury report as the week progresses. This is the playoffs, though. Guys will play in games like this at times when they might rest in the regular season.

Comment From Debbie
What was up with the Packers punt and kick coverage units last week? They’ve been good most of the year but they weren’t great on Sunday.

Mike Spofford:
I agree, that has to be a concern. The Vikings got good field position from their return game way too often on Sunday. I’m sure Shawn Slocum will shore it up. Those units have been solid all year, but they can’t afford a repeat of last week.

Comment From Lonnie
The third and eleven play and no quarterback pressure. Why don’t we see more pressure, especially on Ponder who is still struggling.

Mike Spofford:
Ponder wasn’t struggling Sunday. Dropping eight in coverage was a hedge against Ponder scrambling for the first down. If you blitz him, he could take off. Everything has its trade-offs. The Packers just didn’t execute it right.

Comment From Char
Will the team be practicing outdoors all week to get ready for the cold night game?

Mike Spofford:
They generally do their individual drills inside and then go outside for the team (11-on-11) portions of practice. They may have a few of their drills outside this week, too.

Comment From Tom
Aaron Rodgers is the only starting qb in the nfc that has won a playoff game. Its a qb driven league. Packers have to be pretty confident.

Mike Spofford:
We’ll let Tom have the last word for today. The Packers are confident. I believe that. They know what it will take to beat the Vikings and will expect to get the job done. Thanks for joining me on the holiday everybody. Talk to you again next week. –Mike

Comment From Tara
I know the NFL limits the number of padded practices during the regular season. How does that work in the postseason?

Mike Spofford:
One more because I hadn’t addressed this — teams can practice in pads once per week during the postseason. That includes the teams that get the byes.

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