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Aaron Rodgers being unfairly criticized

Fourth-and-inches play was a drama of human confrontation


Zaedon from Oak Harbor, OH

The Packers have an abundance of young talent. As such, there are going to be growing pains. The mistakes will get cleaned up, the rookies will become veterans and the coaches will zero in on their best situational plays. No, the sky is not falling in Green Bay, the sun has not set on the season and the Packers will not retreat. For even in the darkest of times we can be sure the stars will still hang in the sky, the sun will rise in the morning and the Packers will fight to accomplish a seemingly impossible feat.

That's lovely.

Cheesehead from Vero Beach, FL

Defer the opening kickoff! We lost the game before it started.

OK, back to reality.

Rob from Boulder, CO

Rodgers' record fell to 3-19 in games when the Packers trailed by 1-8 points in the fourth quarter and had at least one possession. Why can't this team win in the fourth quarter? They certainly have the talent. Can you really say it's the players and not play callers?

The Packers lost in San Francisco after Aaron Rodgers rallied the Packers to a 28-24 lead, which would've qualified as a fourth-quarter comeback if the defense had held that lead, because all of the plays that were called were bad? Do you really believe that, or does it just make you feel better to blame defeat on the plays that were called? Assigning blame is cathartic following a painful loss, and coaches are easy targets. Why can't they win in the fourth quarter? Well, they won in the fourth quarter in Detroit last season because Rodgers rallied the Packers and threw a game-winning touchdown pass to Randall Cobb. They lost in the fourth quarter in Minnesota after Rodgers had tied the game with a touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson because they couldn't stop Adrian Peterson. They lost in the fourth quarter in Seattle because the officials were incompetent. They rallied in the fourth quarter to beat New Orleans because Rodgers rallied the Packers to victory by throwing a game-winning touchdown pass to Nelson. They lost in the fourth quarter in Indianapolis because the defense couldn't hold a lead Rodgers had given them on a touchdown pass to James Jones. I think Rodgers' record is being unfairly misrepresented by media critics that aren't telling the whole story, and I'm disappointed to see Packers fans participate in this senseless harangue.

Chris from Lund, Sweden

Vic, I'm curious about your take on the release of Jeremy Ross. To me he never looked like a good return man, but I'm still surprised he was cut with such short notice. How do you see the Packers going about business now? Do you see them signing a receiver from the practice squad?

Everybody loved him when he had that big return against Tennessee last season. My inbox was full of letters from fans that wanted Ross to permanently relieve Randall Cobb of his return duties, so Cobb wouldn't get hurt. Yesterday, my inbox was full of letters of a different sentiment. I see Cobb going back to returning kicks and the Packers replacing Ross on the roster with a player at a position the team believes it needs to fortify. They've got some injuries to consider. I would expect running back to be a position of consideration. The bottom of the roster is always fluid.


RB Johnathan Franklin

Matt from Murfreesboro, TN

Vic, the Packers didn't have a 100-yard rusher for 40-plus games prior to Week 2. They have now had a 100-yard rusher in each of the last two games. Do you see this as becoming the norm for this team since most defenses put seven in the box and use two deep safeties?

The Packers were gouging the Bengals with the run. They averaged 6.1 yards per carry. If they had converted that fourth-and-one, we'd be singing the praises of the Packers' running game. That's the shame of what happened. The running game was on the doorstep of a greater presence on this team, and then disaster struck. What the Packers have done in the run game the last two weeks, however, won't go unnoticed. The Lions will see it and they'll have to scheme to stop it, and that should help open the field for the passing game. The Bengals didn't respect the run. They said go ahead and run it; it's the lesser of two evils. It almost beat them. It should've beaten them.

Ben from Cudahy, WI

What do you think of McCarthy's aggressive play calling? My dad hates it, but I love it.

It's great when it works and maddening when it doesn't. When Tom Crabtree scored on that fourth-and-26, fake-field goal play against Chicago, fans were giddy. When Aaron Rodgers threw that interception with the score 30-21 on Sunday and the Packers just outside the red zone, fans were second-guessing the call. What we must remember is that more often than not, Coach McCarthy's aggressive play calling has met with success, not failure. Based on how this team is built, I think it's logical to be aggressive. As the defense and the running game establish a greater presence on this team, I think it would be logical to dial back that aggressiveness. In my opinion, the Packers are in a period of transition.

Corey from Whitehall, PA

Rodgers is getting hit a lot. It's been a common theme the past few years. So why doesn't Ted Thompson address a top-tier lineman in the earlier rounds of the draft?

He drafted tackles in the first round of the 2010 and 2011 drafts. In the 2012 draft, he could've gone with Mitchell Schwartz or Cordy Glenn, who were selected nine and 13 picks later respectively, but the Packers picked Nick Perry and I didn't get any complaints about the pick because everyone agreed the Packers needed a pass rusher and Perry fit at the pick. In the 2013 draft, the next offensive tackle to come off the board following the Packers' pick was 16 picks later. Obviously, he didn't fit where the Packers were picking. Moving up in the first round is costly, and moving out of the first round is difficult. I like what the Packers have at left tackle. I think David Bakhtiari was a steal in the fourth round and I think the pass protection Aaron Rodgers is getting is more than adequate. It's Rodgers' fearlessness that's the problem. He's not a throw-it-away quarterback. I don't hear any complaints when he extends plays and makes a big play.

B.T. from Ripon, WI

Vic, concerning Franklin's fumble on fourth-and-inches, I would have gone for it, too. You get that first down, you win the game because you're killing another two minutes off the clock.

I have no problem with the play call; just make it work. It was one play to win the game. Coach McCarthy was expressing belief in his offense's ability to make that play. You can't always think your way to victory. Sometimes you have to line up and knock the other team off the ball. I hope Coach McCarthy gives his offense more opportunities in the future to do what it didn't do on Sunday.

Randy from Medicine Hat, Alberta

Given the hot start by the Bears, do you think the only chance the Packers have for a playoff spot is via wild card?

No, I don't. In my old-school football world, the season doesn't begin until Thanksgiving. Everything between now and then is meant to separate the contenders from the non-contenders. The Packers will be a contender. Then we'll find out what they've got under the hood.

Robert from Madison, WI

Vic, the 49ers have been absolutely destroyed the last two weeks by the Seahawks/Colts, and Kaepernick has looked pedestrian at best in both games. Can you please help me make sense of this? I'm scratching my head here.

My opinion hasn't changed. The elimination of two-a-days and the reluctance of teams to use the preseason to prepare themselves fully for the start of the season is the reason the standings are upside down, in many cases. You think you're good so you rest your people in August, instead of subjecting them to the possibility of being injured. You think you're bad and need work so you use the preseason to get better. It's almost an advantage to be bad.


B.J. Raji scored a rushing TD vs. Tampa Bay in 2011.

Giuseppe from Schaumburg, IL

Vic, where was B.J. Raji on that fourth-and-inches call? I believe the questioner's intent is that Raji would have been the blocking fullback, not the ball carrier.

All right, here's a new answer: A coach told me years ago that the problem with using big guys like Raji as a lead blocker in short yardage is that defenses will use their size against the ball carrier. In a fourth-and-inches type of play, the defense would try to cut Raji, leaving another 300-pound obstacle for the ball carrier to overcome. I think the coach's exact words were, "They'll cut him and he'll get stuck in the hole." The Packers had enough man power up front to get that first down. They had a hat for every Bengals hat. Win at the point of attack. That's what it was all about.

Tucker from Blanco, TX

I watched Peyton Manning's interview after the Monday night game. The reporter commented on how he won the chess match all game long with audibles, to which Peyton replied, "The chess match means nothing if players don't execute it." I thought you'd be happy to hear that.

Schemes are very important. You need to give your players a winning scheme, but X's and O's don't move, only players do. That's the whole foundation of the players, not plays philosophy. That's all it is. I'm not attempting to downplay the importance of schemes, I'm just attempting to increase everyone's sensitivity to the human confrontation that makes schemes succeed or fail. I get the sense from a lot of fans that they believe you can think your way to victory, and I think those people are missing something beautiful, which is to say the drama of human confrontation. It was on display in Cincinnati on that fourth-and-inches play. You have to win the one-on-ones.

Steve from St. Charles, MO

When was the last time the Packers had a return man who was feared enough by the opponents to kick away from?

They have one.

Robert from Omaha, NE

Vic, I understand the frustration/anger/dismay we are all feeling, but I can't help but believe Sunday was an anomaly. A very good team played a very poor game. In your years of covering football, what game sticks out in your mind as the worst-played game by the best team?

I covered a game in Cincinnati when a team on its way to its fourth Super Bowl title in six seasons fumbled nine times and lost to a Bengals team that would finish 4-12. It happens.

Brian from Yakima, WA

Do you think Mason Crosby's prior struggles contributed to the Packers decision to go for it on fourth-and-inches?

I don't think that was it at all. Coach McCarthy is an attack-style coach. He saw an opportunity to close it out.

Matthew from Lawrenceville, NJ

When a player like Jeremy Ross is cut during the season, how is he notified? Is there an in-person meeting? Or does he learn through his agent?

A member of the personnel department will go to the player and tell him the head coach wants to see him. It's code and it prepares the player for what he's going to hear. I've talked to players through the years about what it's like to hear those words. My favorite story is of a journeyman wide receiver named Johnnie Dirden, who kept his dorm room dark and positioned himself on the bed so he could look out the crack in the door and see who was knocking. Some have told me they couldn't sleep at night because they knew it was coming. Some have told me that when they heard the words, they got an empty feeling inside. Some have told me they felt a sense of relief that it was finally over. Jeremy Ross had to know what was coming. Returning kicks is all about gaining your coach's confidence that you can be trusted to secure the ball. Ross will surface somewhere else. He has too much talent for that not to happen.

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