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Ask Vic

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My prediction for Sunday's game

Posted Nov 29, 2012

Vikings Coach Leslie Frazier offers his thoughts on 'cover two'

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers

David from Maineville, OH

Vic, all of the questions you've been getting about how the Packers can defeat “cover two” defense seem to boil down to giving our QB enough time to throw downfield after our receivers have had enough time to get open. Sounds like the Packers need a more effective offensive line. Injuries gotta heal, players gotta develop, and gotta get help in the draft. What do you say?

I’ll say read these words from Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier, who was asked on Wednesday to talk about the merits of this incredibly amazing defensive scheme called “cover two,” that was invented in the Neanderthal early-1970s, but has come to fame four decades later. Frazier said: “It’s not a very complicated system and it’s really predicated on how well you can rush the passer. If you can rush the passer, you have a chance to make it work. If you don’t (rush the passer), it can be exploited. It’s a good fit in this age of free agency and turning over players so often in the offseason. If you pick up a guy in midseason, it’s pretty easy for him to pick that system up and incorporate him into your system with some ease.” Bud Carson invented “cover two.” He had a defensive line known as the “Steel Curtain.” See what I mean? Players, not plays.

Tou from Eau Claire, WI

Shouldn't our offense be perfect for beating “cover two”?

The best offense for beating “cover two” is an offense that can run the ball. If you can do that, you aren’t going to see “cover two” played against you. I don’t think we’re going to see the Packers play a lot of “cover two” this Sunday. If you’re saying you want to throw against “cover two” without running the ball, then I would say you’re spitting into the wind and you should go find a running back with a flat head, because it’s time to start pounding on some people.

Thomas from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

Two ways to pull a team out of “cover two:” 1.) Run up the middle well. 2.) Tight ends or flanker down the middle for successful catches. Why are we not using Finley down the middle if he is so fast and such a talent?

I think there are two possible answers: 1.) Aaron Rodgers saw that Jermichael Finley was open down the seam but decided he didn’t want to throw a touchdown pass. 2.) Finley wasn’t open. Hey, maybe the Giants safeties didn’t leave the middle of the field. Maybe they were daring the Packers to win on the outside. Isn’t that what the Colts did? Thomas, it has been my experience during my 41 years of covering the NFL that the middle of the field is the last place any defensive coordinator wants his defense to get beat. Why? Because it is the easiest place on the field to complete a pass and it allows for a lot of space for a receiver to run after the catch. Open space in the middle of the field is a formula for allowing touchdowns. Any defense bent on denying the big play, and that’s every defense I’ve ever covered, is almost always obsessed with denying deep balls over the middle.

Jon from Green Bay, WI

What is a “phone booth” situation?

Coach McCarthy was referring to two players in a compressed area, as opposed to two players in space. Teams that want to run the ball between the tackles like to play “phone booth football.” That’s not the Packers’ game.

Matt from Bremerton, WA

What do you think of the “Air Raid” style of offense Texas Tech and Mike Leach have run? Do you think it would be successful in the NFL?

I don’t think it would be successful and here’s why: College football has for a long time put its best athletes on offense. Only a few teams, the true powerhouse teams, have enough top athletes to level the field, and that’s why “Air Raid” ball doesn’t work against them. Alabama is a perfect example of what I’m saying. By the time all of that college talent has filtered down to the NFL, there are enough top athletes for both sides of the ball. In other words, every team is Alabama, in a manner of speaking. When you fill the field with top athletes on defense, and you announce to those top athletes what you’re going to do and allow them to defend one thing, you’re giving them the advantage.

Ben from Milwaukee, WI

What exactly does it take for teams to start respecting the run?

Adrian Peterson is coming here this weekend. My guess is the Vikings’ running game has the Packers’ attention. Carries, not yards, require a defense to respect the run. Carries and yards, especially if it’s a lot of carries and a lot of yards, require a defense to load up against the run. That’s more than respect, that’s fear.

Tom from West Bend, WI

Like many fans, I watch every play of every game and read about the team all week. However, I still don't feel qualified to evaluate the level of play of many of the players.

Neither do I, Tom. I hate all of this “cover two” baloney. It’s mind-numbing, but the fans are manic about that kind of stuff, thanks to Madden and the army of ex-players the TV networks have unleashed on us, so I feel compelled to provide some answers. Thanks for waking me up; I’m not qualified. You know what I want, Tom. I want to see some Neanderball. I want to see two teams pound at each other. I know that game. I think we’re all qualified to evaluate that kind of football. When you see one of those kinds of games, you don’t have questions when it’s over. You know what you saw.

John from Port Edwards, WI

How did Adrian Peterson come back so quick and at a high level? Are his ligaments better?

Yes, his ligaments are better. So are his muscles and his bones. Everything attached to his spine is better than everything attached to the spines of the majority of the other players in the league. When I look at what Peterson does with a football in his hand, against men that are bigger than my car, I think to myself that the only physical comparison between Peterson and me is that we both walk upright. The running back coming in here this weekend is a special human being. He’s the only player I have ever known to have suffered a major injury and become a better player.

Mike from Fairfield, CA

Last year, our offense dictated the terms of the game, took what they wanted, not what was given. Is the answer to playing that way again just better blocking? Can it be that easy?

You’re right, the Packers did take what they wanted last year, and also in the postseason the previous year, then something happened late last season: Teams began loading up against what the Packers wanted to do and began forcing them to do something else. Do you know why great teams are able to take what they want? Because great teams have balance, and balance forbids defenses from loading up against one particular thing. The Packers of the ’60s could take what they wanted with the Packers sweep because if a defense loaded up against it, you got Starr to Dale and Dowler. The Steelers of the ’70s could take what they wanted with the inside trap because if you loaded up against it, you got Bradshaw to Swann and Stallworth. The Cowboys of the early ’90s could take what they wanted with the lead draw because if you loaded up against it, you got Aikman to Irvin and Harper. When the Packers force their opponents to respect the run, they’ll be able to take what they want.

Josh from Fargo, ND

In North Dakota, the Packers’ biggest rival is the Vikings, but out of the entire NFL, who in your opinion is our biggest rival?

It’s the Bears. That’ll never change, but I can’t help but think the Giants are on the rise.

Andy from Stevens Point, WI

Vic, have you ever heard of a team intentionally losing a game to take a lower seed in the playoffs, in order to get a more favorable matchup?

No team intentionally loses, but teams have rested key players for the final game of the season, knowing it might impact playoffs seedings for other teams. I think we saw that in 2009 when the Colts benched Peyton Manning late in a game they were leading, even though they were undefeated. It resulted in a loss that spoiled their bid for an undefeated season, but it manipulated the playoff seedings so the Colts were able to make it to the Super Bowl by playing at home against two wild-card teams. I didn’t like that.

Mark from Stewartville, MN

Vic, do you have a prediction on how the Packers will play against the Vikings?

I think the defensive players will be wearing more pads, and I don’t think emotion will be any kind of a problem. On offense, I think the line is going to be prepared to play the best football of its life, and I think Aaron Rodgers is going to do his best to get his mojo back with Greg Jennings and get the passing game back into high gear.

Koigi from Lynchburg, VA

Vic, maybe you just need to be clearer. We have won seven games this year, so it is not “cover two” that is the issue. The issue is the teams that can get pressure with four and drop seven. You have been saying that since last year. You need to be able to run the ball and force your opponent to get that eighth man up in the box. Then you can throw the ball.

The Indianapolis game is a microcosm of this season. In the first half, the Packers ran the ball, mixed run with pass, Rodgers wasn’t sacked and the Packers led at halftime, 21-3. In the second half, with Cedric Benson lost to injury, the Packers abandoned the run, didn’t mix run with pass, Rodgers was sacked five times and the Packers were outscored 27-6. I can’t make it any clearer than that.

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