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The spell has been broken

Posted Nov 30, 2012

The full focus of attention is on the Packers' need to stop Adrian Peterson and beat the Minnesota Vikings

Grant from Richmond, VA

How will Greg Jennings tilt the coverage and safety play against the Vikings secondary and open up guys like James Jones?

Tilt is a good word. That’s what great players do; they tilt the field by forcing their opponents to focus their attention on them. Al Davis is the first football person I ever heard use the word tilt to describe a player. He was speaking of Joe Namath, who was coming out of Alabama at the time, when he said Namath tilts the field. Jennings has long been that kind of player, which is the kind of player that makes other players better because the focus of attention on Jennings is so sharp that it causes the focus on everyone else to dull a bit. The last time Jennings was fully healthy, the Packers were 13-0. Then he missed the Kansas City game and most of the games after that, and since then the Packers are 9-6. Coincidence? I hope we get a chance to answer that question.

Ed from Bloomington, IL

Vic, let's talk about Christmas instead of “cover two.” Since your wife got the outdoor lights on the house, are you going to buy her new storage totes for the decorations?

She taught me everything I know about exterior illumination. She already has the totes. I’ve got another idea. While I was covering the Arizona game, the drain in the basement backed up and she had to borrow one of those vacuum cleaners that suck up water. She said to me that we need to get one of those, to have for emergencies. I got the hint.

Jamie from London, Ontario

If the zone-blocking scheme to run to daylight and finding a back that suits that has not worked, why not try a man-blocking scheme to grade the road for a straight-ahead back?

It’s tough to re-tool in the middle of the season. You need a running back with a flat head to do what you’re suggesting. The Packers don’t have one of those.

Scott from Lincoln City, OR

With all the injuries to and struggles with our offensive line, why don't we have any offensive linemen on the practice squad?

They’ve got two young linemen on the practice squad – tackle Andrew Datko and guard Joe Gibbs – and a couple of rookie linemen – Don “Country Roads” Barclay and Greg “The Ivy Leaguer” Van Roten – on the roster. The Packers fully understand the jars-on-the-shelves concept as it pertains to developing a stable of young offensive linemen. They are pieces of gold that must be polished and protected. Those young linemen are in the polishing stages.

James from Albuquerque, NM

What do you think about incorporating the draw play to offset the pass rush?

It’s a great idea. If a defense is going to focus on rushing the passer, then at least make it play run on the way to the quarterback.

Jon from Tempe, AZ

Now with Cedric Benson receiving surgery, can the Packers designate someone else?

No, you can only designate one player for return from injured reserve, and Benson was that player for the Packers.

John from Green Bay, WI

I have heard many football gurus proclaim: “Give defensive coordinators a year’s worth of film and they'll stop you.” What attributes allow a phenom to have continued success in spite of time to scheme?

If a player has all-encompassing talent, if he is truly elite, you’re not going to stop him. You can scheme to stop a quarterback that can’t make all of the throws by forcing him to attempt the throws he can’t make, but what about the guy that doesn’t have a weakness? It’s all about balance. It’s about a player’s and an offense’s ability to balance the field with the scope of their talents. Defensive coordinators are looking for weaknesses. If you don’t have any, they can’t scheme, only teach.

Matt from Bossier City, LA

I was thinking about last week’s loss to the Giants when I had an epiphany. Every team has losses like this and it’s not the end of the world. All I can do is sit back and watch. I think I'll do that in my brand new pair of khakis.

I think I was over that game at halftime. I had seen that movie before and I know how it ends. Some teams just don’t match up well against other teams. So here’s how you get past them in the playoffs: Avoid them. Look, they don’t give the Super Bowl trophy to the best team in football, they give it to the team that won the biggest game in football. They are often not the same. By the time I was done writing my stories on Sunday night and there was still time left in the flight to turn my thoughts in other directions, I immediately began thinking about this week’s game. How are they going to stop Adrian Peterson? That was the first thought that came to my mind. Don’t go to sleep on this game, folks. The Vikings are a muscle football team, and those are the teams that are dangerous in December. As far as I’m concerned, the division title is on the line this Sunday.

Joe from St. Paul, MN

What happened to Green Bay’s no-huddle offense? Doesn't it typically wear out a defense and possibly slow down the rush a bit? Is McCarthy saving this for the end of the season/playoffs so that teams don't game plan for it as much?

The purpose of the no-huddle is to trap a defense in keeping its personnel on the field. The offense sees matchups it wants to exploit and when it gets those matchups on the field, it goes no-huddle so the defense can’t substitute. When did the Giants substitute? That was about as vanilla a defensive game plan as I’ve ever seen. That was right out of the 1970s. They put their starting 11 on the field and left them there. I didn’t see any matchups that favored the Packers. How do you create mismatches when it’s seven covering three or four all night? What if you go three-and-out in no-huddle? Your defense is right back out on the field without any rest. The no-huddle isn’t the answer to everything. It has a purpose. I didn’t see any gain in using it against the Giants.

Ken from De Pere, WI

What do you think about the Alex Smith situation? I think it is screwed up! Couldn’t the 49ers have started Smith once he was healthy? If he continued to do well, then great. If not, then they could have just put in Kaepernick. This way it would not seem like Smith lost his job because he got a concussion.

Wait a minute, I’ll get my violin. Hey, this is an edge game. Jim Harbaugh has done a masterful job of creating the edge a team needs to make a late-season run. He has a passing game that’s ranked 27th, and that’s up from where it’s spent most of the season. What’s the risk? The 49ers are all about running the ball and playing defense. They’re a nasty-attitude team. They don’t beat you with details, they beat you with blunt force trauma. Happiness is not an ingredient for success on blunt force trauma teams. Those kinds of teams play best when they’re angry.

Jon from Lewisburg, PA

Are you having fun this year? I am.

I’m having a great time. I love ebb and flow. Last year was mostly flow, not much ebb. I like ebb.

Chuck from Clermont, FL

I read you daily and I’m a huge Packers fan. When is the trade deadline and any possibility of getting another lineman?

The trade deadline has passed and that makes it doubly difficult for a team near the top of the standings to find help because now all players, even the ones that have accrued enough seasons to be unrestricted free agents, are subject to the waiver wire when they’re cut. Jason Babin is the perfect example. Had he been waived prior to the trade deadline, he would’ve been free to sign with any team in the league. Because he was cut after the trade deadline, he was subject to the waiver wire and the Jaguars claimed him. Trust me. Help is not on the way. This is the way it is and this is the way it will continue to be. The tryout time of the year has long since passed. This is the time of the year to win the game.

Jason from Dayton, OH

Vic, maybe the Packers just are not as good as the hype? The truth is the pure defense.

I don’t know what the truth is. That’s what we’re going to find out and that’s the entertainment in all of this, which is to say the pursuit of the truth. I like to watch. It doesn’t unnerve me in the least. It captivates me.

Duke from Johnson Creek, WI

Vic, you stated Adrian Peterson was the only player you knew that came back a better player after a major injury. Do you remember Rocky Bleier?

I sure do and you got me on that one.

Todd from Chaska, MN

How do you stop the Vikings running attack without Matthews?

It starts with gap integrity. They’re called fits, which is to say the individual gap assignments of the front seven to “fit” the defensive scheme so that all of the gaps are manned by defenders. If you don’t do that, you have no chance because Peterson will find the unmanned gap and crease you. Even when you’ve filled all of the gaps, you worry that he’s going to either run over a defender or make him miss. So, the next step in stopping Peterson is tackling him. The third step is getting a lead and forcing the Vikings to throw.

Dan from Pittsburgh, PA

Vic, please stop answering questions about “cover two.” I'm about to lose my mind.

I’m so glad you feel that way. My inbox was about 70 percent “cover two” this week. Every day was like “Groundhog Day.” I’d come to work, open my inbox and that Sonny and Cher song would start playing. I said to myself, “OK, you want cover two, I’ll give you cover two.” I think you just broke the spell.

Jason from Austin, TX

Vic, I once heard a quote from someone saying “good teams don't lose two games in a row.” Do you agree with that statement?

Don’t listen to that guy anymore. The Giants lost four in a row last year. The 2010 Packers lost two in a row. The 1965 and ’67 Packers lost two in a row. All of those teams won league titles and they all have something else in common: They didn’t lose in the postseason. It’s all about the playoffs. First, you have to get there.

Mark from Milwaukee, WI

I find it interesting that you say you aren’t qualified to evaluate the level of play. So why exactly are you the main writer for an NFL site? If you aren’t qualified to evaluate the game after 60 years of covering the game, maybe it’s time to move on.

Where have you been? I’ve missed you. Hey, that 60 years thing is a good shot. What I meant about not being qualified to evaluate what happened on a particular play is that I don’t think anybody is qualified to do that without knowing exactly what transpired schematically during that play. For example, we might see a blocking scheme that makes it appear a particular player was at fault for a sack, but we don’t know what adjustments were made. Maybe the center called to the guard, “I got Mike.” The only people truly qualified to evaluate or analyze what happened schematically on a particular play are those that know the specifics of the scheme used, by both teams, and they seldom divulge that information. What I am qualified to report is whether or not the play succeeded or failed. Enjoy the game, Mark, and don’t forget to join us on Sunday for our “Live Chat.” It’ll begin at 10 a.m. CST.

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