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'And never breathe a word about your loss'


Wade from Chili, WI

It seems to me like we need more speed in the secondary. With Charles Woodson getting older, combined with the fact that Nick Collins might not return, do you see the Packers possibly switching Woodson to safety?

He wouldn't be the first future Hall of Famer to move from cornerback to safety late in his career. Ronnie Lott and Rod Woodson did it and it extended their careers and their effectiveness. To make that move, a player has to have ball instincts, the ability to catch the ball and tackle. Charles Woodson has all of those skills, as did Lott and Rod Woodson. I could provide a long list of cornerbacks that moved to safety late in their careers. The first player I covered to have made that move is a guy named J.T. Thomas. Frankly, it's the natural progression for an older player who still has too much football left in him to shut it down.

Holger from Guayaquil, Ecuador

So what made our defense slower this year?

It got a little older and the competition got a little younger. Football is a young man's game. A team requires a constant flow of young speed onto its roster, but that's a nearly impossible task in today's structure because there aren't enough draft picks nor are training camp rosters large enough to address all of a team's needs. In the old days, there were 17 rounds of the draft and roster sizes for training camp were unlimited, yet, roster sizes for the regular season were much smaller and there were only 26 teams and there were a lot more Division I-type college football programs in existence, all of which meant the pool of talent and the degree of competition was much stronger than it is today. A GM could always go to one of the HBCU schools and find speed, but now those programs have been dealt a harsh blow by Prop 48 rules. Building and sustaining a roster is much more difficult these days; every team finds itself having to camouflage its weaknesses because every team has them. That's why today's game is all about matchups.

Paul from De Pere, WI

In your estimation, was this team good enough to win the Super Bowl? Were the Giants simply a bad matchup for us, were they the better team, or was it a bad day?

Yes, this team was good enough to win the Super Bowl and, yes, I believe the Giants were a bad matchup. I said that after the Packers beat the Giants in December. I believed the home-field advantage would be the difference in this game, but I never wavered from the belief that the Giants matched up well against the Packers. It's real simple: To beat the Packers, you had to stop their passing game, and the team that could commit the most defenders to the passing lanes had the best chance of doing that. The Giants had the front four to allow seven defenders to drop into coverage.

Matt from Annapolis, MD

What proportion of your mail since Sunday has been about hating football, firing coaches, etc.?

About half of my e-mail wants to fire everybody and the other half is expressing appreciation for a great season and pledging support for the future.

Gavin from Omaha, NE

So you've never believed a team has come out flat?

I never said that. Yeah, I think it happens on occasion, but not on this occasion. Teams don't come out flat in the playoffs. I think what fans sense as coming out flat often means that one team has won the opening plays of the game and the fans sense the energy that accompanies that early burst of success. The Giants got that early burst with the 19-yard completion to Mario Manningham on the third play of the game. That burst continued to the Packers 13-yard line, from where the Giants took a 3-0 lead. Randall Cobb then fumbled the kickoff, and I think the tense moments before replay reversed the ruling were a bit deflating for everybody. Is it being flat or is it about appearing flat because of the circumstances of the game? That's long been a chicken-or-the-egg debate and you can believe whatever you wish, but there's no doubt in my mind that the Packers were ready to play. Golf is a mental game. Football is a physical game and the Giants won the physical battle.

Mike from Boston, MA

Vic, you said good franchises know how to lose. Lombardi once said that once you learn to lose, it becomes a habit. Do you disagree?

I think you know what I'm trying to convey and I think you're trying to turn my language against me, so I'll clarify: Good franchises don't lose their dignity in defeat. When did you see Lombardi whine and cry about a loss? When did you ever see him blame a loss on being rusty or point his finger in assigning blame? Lombardi always stood tall in defeat, even on that Thanksgiving Day in Detroit in 1962, when Lombardi's quarterback was sacked 11 times. Everybody loses, but not everybody loses with dignity. Lombardi did and so did McCarthy. In his postgame press conference, and again yesterday in his season-ending review, he made no excuses; he pointed the finger at himself. That's what I mean by knowing how to lose, and you better know how to do it because it's the one thing in this league that's guaranteed: You will lose.

Randy from Trophy Club, TX

We have three Pro Bowlers in the last two years and a first-round draft pick in the offensive line. Why can't we protect the QB better? Might it relate to lack of respect for our running game?

I can't help but remember something I observed in the game against Tampa: The Bucs were stopping the run on the way to the quarterback. I think that became something defenses were able to do against the Packers. Yeah, a stronger running game would help quiet the rush.

Carla from Berlin, WI

I am a mom who has not watched football very much, but after marrying a person from Wisconsin, I love the Packers now. I just looked on my husband's "favorites" on the computer and wanted some helpful reasoning for what happened, because I am a bit disappointed, too, about the loss, but as I read over these opinions of what guys are saying, I am realizing that guys can be just as catty as women. Wow! This is eye-opening for me to see how men can say things that attack each other for just doing their job and doing it well. I'm glad you have this column.

Don't you love us?

Lewk from Davenport, IA

I've seen a few people say Capers has a history of starting strong and then trailing off after a couple of years. Is that true?

It wasn't true in Pittsburgh and I'll tell you why: The Steelers drafted for defense. They surrounded Coach Capers with young talent: Rod Woodson, Carnell Lake, Darren Perry, Greg Lloyd, Levon Kirkland, Chad Brown, Deon Figures, Joel Steed, Brentson Bucker and Kevin Greene, who was in the prime of his career when he was added in free agency. When Coach Capers arrived in Pittsburgh, he took over a young defense that continued to add young speed to its ranks in the three years he was there, and he took that defense from a bend-but-don't-break bunch in his first season as defensive coordinator, to the "Blitzburgh" defense that was No. 2 in yards allowed and No. 1 in sacks in his third and final year with the team. Trailed off? Hardly. He then went to Carolina as head coach, where the focus was on adding young players on offense and building the defense around older free agents. Right away, Coach Capers built a "killer" defense with older players such as Greene and Lamar Lathon. In year two, Carolina led the league in sacks, but that's not something you're going to sustain when you're building your defense with older players. Again, I will write it: It's about players, not plays. In Pittsburgh, Capers had a young core of talent that allowed him and his successor, Dick LeBeau, to sustain excellence for a long period of time.

Aaron from Mahomet, IL

I love "Ask Vic." Do people actually think they are hurting you or your feelings by being disrespectful in their comments to you?

They're hurting and they wanna take it out on someone, and that's OK with me because this is a column for expression and I try to present a cross-section that is representative of the e-mail I receive from fans. It provides a snapshot of ourselves collectively. It stimulates thought about that snapshot and promotes self-examination. We learn from it. I learn from it. We all belong to the fraternity of football. It's what we have in common: We love football. This column is our fraternity house, and I like that.

Gregg from Colorado Springs, CO

Three days of processing Sunday's loss and I still can't get past one thing: all the drops. What about equipment? Gloves?

I don't think the drops can be blamed on cold hands. I think it was all of those defenders in the passing lanes. Seven guys make it very crowded back there. All of a sudden, receivers have difficulty finding open spaces. All of a sudden, they have concern for more than just catching the ball. They know there's likely to be somebody near to them when the ball reaches them, and that can cause receivers to take their eye off the ball. Always think in terms of the human confrontation.

Hans from Front Royal, VA

You mentioned once that when a game starts you look to the lines to see which team is controlling the action. In your game blog you wrote that you were worried after the first drive of the game. At what point, exactly, did you sense that it was not the Packers' night?

The pass that sailed wide for Greg Jennings at the 5-yard line on the first drive of the game was an early harbinger. The Hail Mary was a major red flag; I think it's safe to say the percentages don't favor teams that allow Hail Mary passes to be completed. I think the final blow for me was the failure to score a touchdown in the third quarter, when the defense forced two three-and-outs and limited the Giants to six plays. That was the Packers' chance to get back into the game. When it didn't happen there, I had a pretty good feeling that this might not end well.

Greg from Mathews, VA

I was looking through the different names of folks who had tagged themselves in the 360 FanCam from last Sunday's game, and I didn't see yours anywhere. Are you planning a "Where's Vic?" feature? Love your columns and your insight into the game and its players and coaches.

First of all, Greg, allow me to compliment you for having correctly placed the question mark inside the quotation mark. As for FanCam, I think it is one of the coolest inventions in football history. I can't imagine what my reaction would've been when I was a kid if I could've found myself in FanCam. I found Mike Spofford, but I was absent from my position next to him when the FanCam shot was taken, so I must've been getting a pretzel or something. The first thing I'm gonna do next season is tag myself on FanCam so everybody knows where I am when they wave to me on those really cold days.

Sean from Thornton, IL

We hear about Tom Brady being God's gift to quarterbacks all year, every year. I personally think he's a little overrated. How do you feel about Brady?

If he wins the Super Bowl this year, I will move him to No. 1 on my all-time quarterbacks list.

Zach from Woodstock, IL

As Vince Lombardi once said, "The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall."

"If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings,

And never breathe a word about your loss."—Rudyard Kipling

I think that "never breathe" part is what's most important.

Alyssa from Heron Lake, MN

Vic, what is the average amount of time it takes to get over such a tough loss? My boyfriend hasn't stopped walking around like he just got his heart broken. What do I have to do to help him get over this?

I'm sorry, Alyssa, but I'm not allowed to give that kind of advice.

Frank from Atlanta, GA

I think Mark from Seattle made a valid point about rushing only three vs. five blockers. I didn't track the stats, but it seemed that with a little pressure Eli was not near as dangerous. This minimal rush and dropping back into coverage has made everyone we faced look like Unitas. What am I missing?

I probably didn't express myself clearly, so please permit me a second chance: It's better to not get pressure with three than it is to not get pressure with five.

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