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Mike McCarthy was the star of the win

Posted Dec 10, 2012

The Packers answered the Lions' dare; the Bears will demand the same

Brian from Oakville, Ontario

How did Barclay do last night? From what I can remember, he didn't have a hold and I don't remember much pressure from the right side. Plus, whenever we ran it that way, there seemed to be some pretty big holes.

To evaluate line play, you have to go through the tape of the game play by play, and you have to know what each man’s assignment is and how it fit into the total scheme. I’m not going to attempt to grade Don Barclay’s play from what I saw of the live action. I focused on him a few times and I saw he was getting some chipping help in pass-protection, which is to be expected. What I can say is the offensive line as a whole played some of its best football of the season in the second half of last night’s game. I think it’s also important to note that Evan Dietrich-Smith blew open that hole for DuJuan Harris on the game-winning, 14-yard touchdown run. I love a guard that can pull.

Jordan from Miami, FL

I think one of the more important words that could be used to describe a Super Bowl-bound team's style of play is opportunistic. The game last night made me feel really good because, all of a sudden, our defense became exactly that. The Packers aren't often associated with fumble recovery touchdowns, and Shields' pick came at just the right time. I think fate is starting to smile on us. I say get your favorite khakis and warm socks, Vic, this might be the start of a nice long run.

I was asked in Friday’s column what the ingredients are for becoming a hot team late in the season. One of the ingredients I cited is a shrinking injury report. Following last night’s game, the Packers announced that there were no new injuries.

Erik from Norway, MI

I like the seeding just the way it is now, with us having the third. I want to see the Packers head into the postseason hot and I feel like a bye would be a momentum killer. It seems like this team is thriving off finding success the hard way, where in 2011 I feel like it came a little too easy for us. What say you?

The Packers were a one-trick pony last season: They had a great passing game, but little else. This year’s team isn’t throwing it as well as it did last year, for a reason we’ve detailed, but it has a better defense that’s on the steady rise, it has killer special teams, and now it’s starting to run the ball effectively, and that might open up the passing lanes so that the Packers’ passing game might again be explosive. I’m OK with the third seed. The No. 2 seed is better, but I’m OK with No. 3. I don’t want No. 1.

Tyler from Murray, KY

It seems like in the past the offense has consistently used quick slants throughout the game to move the ball efficiently and pick up first downs, but now I rarely see them using quick slants in the passing game. Is there a reason for this?

The reason should be obvious: The Packers don’t think they’d work. Slants work against defenses whose linebackers have vacated the area. They work, for example, to the side of the field of a blitzing linebacker. Against defenses that are rushing four and dropping seven, the tendency would be for a linebacker to be sitting underneath a slant route. You throw against that, you stand a good chance of being intercepted. The Lions’ game plan, as it appeared to me, was to sit in the middle of the field and force the Packers to play outside the field numbers. It was a good plan. It limits a quarterback to the area of the field that requires the strongest, most accurate throws. If the Packers continue to run the ball effectively, they’ll force defenses to begin crowding the line of scrimmage, and that might open the middle of the field for the passing game.

Jeremy from Bowling Green, KY

Vic, what did you make of Harris, and also his first run of the game? Did it grab your attention like it did me when he trucked the defender?

He’s a run-out-of-his-shoes kind of back. Harris makes up his mind where he’s going and then he goes there. He’s not the kind of back a defense would expect in a zone-blocking scheme because Harris does not appear to be a patient cutback runner. He’s hit-and-go kind of runner and I think he offers an intriguing change of pace for a running game that, in my opinion, has lacked explosiveness.

Koigi from Lynchburg, VA

Interesting win. What do you think?

I think the Packers answered the Lions’ dare: They beat them with the run. The Bears are going to make the Packers do the same thing. Can the Packers do it again?

Tadd from Salt Lake City, UT

Vic, in the Cowboys and Bengals game, Reggie Nelson made a beautiful (and legal) hit on Dez Bryant, and they threw a flag. Peter King tweeted: “The NFL has to address this bastardization of the sport.” What say you?

As we change the culture, we need to make sure we don’t kill the culture. It’s a tough game for tough guys. If that changes, we’re soccer.

Andy from Waupaca, WI

I watched the game at a local establishment and I was amazed at how hard I had to bite my tongue. So many people were calling for McCarthy’s head, bad-mouthing Capers and the 3-4, and anybody else whenever we had a negative play. I want to thank you for your column, opening my eyes, and having the “just watch” mentality.

Let’s take a look at a couple of questions that came to my inbox during the first quarter of last night’s game.

Paul from De Pere, WI

This does not look like a team building momentum for the playoff drive. This looks like a team staving off the inevitable. Is there any reason to believe we can become contenders again with the return of some of the walking wounded?

Yes.

Mike from Marshalltown, IA

When are they going to get rid of Dom Capers and the 3-4 defense?

Not this week.

Loaf from Superior, WI

Vic, what do you think has been the key to our surging running game? It seems like when Barclay came in, things changed?

With all due respect to Don Barclay’s contribution, I think we’re missing the real star of the show: Mike McCarthy. An effective running game begins with a commitment to it. I was stunned to see the Packers go heavy with Greg Van Roten as an extra blocker during the all-runs touchdown drive when the score was tied in the fourth quarter. That just isn’t Packers football. What a gutsy adjustment in strategy McCarthy made last night.

Jason from Summerville, SC

What are the biggest factors that determine the MVP?

Stats.

Peter from Corrales, NM

I just about hit the roof when Stafford blocked Zombo on that reverse. When the quarterback turns into a blocker, why not just tee off on him?

I would be a bad official because I would tend to express an attitude in my work. For example, if I was working a game in which one of the teams used their quarterback as a blocker, my tolerance for late hits on the quarterback would increase.

David from Seattle, WA

Despite living in Seattle, I have been a Packers fan my entire life. Vic, are the Seahawks dominant, lucky or was it just Arizona being that bad?

Don’t know, don’t care. We’ll see them soon.

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