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Call anything; just make it work

Bengals knew Packers were depleted at running back


Lou from Vancouver, WA

Vic, where was B.J. Raji on that fourth-and-inches call?

If Raji had fumbled, the national media and a lot of Packers fans would be asking: You have a running back that rushed for 103 yards and averaged 7.9 yards per carry and with the game on the line you give the ball to your nose tackle? We need to come to balance.

Mark from Stewartville, MN

Vic, did you think the Packers had the game won when they took a 30-14 lead?

Yes. I can remember thinking to myself how impressive it was that they scored 30 unanswered points. Then, the defense allowed the Bengals to go 65 yards in four plays. That shouldn't have happened. The Bengals are not a quick-strike offense. The Packers should've been able to make the Bengals march the ball and eat clock.

Jake from Westboro, WI

Vic, I was wondering if you could offer some insight in Coach McCarthy's play call on fourth-and-one. I watched the Indy-SF game and saw a play Indy ran where the handoff was faked and Andrew Luck scampered untouched on a rollout to his left. Seems like a play like that would've been golden and would not have put an inexperienced back in a tough spot. Thoughts?

It sounds as though you're describing a naked bootleg. Yeah, you can look awfully smart with a cutesy play call such as that. The defense is wired to hit the dive man. If you run him to one side and then boot it to the other, you might catch the defense selling out for the fake. It's also possible your quarterback could get cut off at the pass in that kind of situation, because the defense is bent on penetration. You can make a case for a lot of plays, but you have to MAKE one work.

Marc from Herrin, IL

There is a lot of chatter on ESPN today that Rodgers and McCarthy are not getting along. What do you make of their relationship?

Their relationship is fine. I have no reservation in making that statement. Coaches and quarterbacks are joined at the hip, so to speak. They become one and the same, and that closeness breeds familiarity, to the point that they're comfortable with being expressive to each other. All great coach-quarterback relationships have had their tense moments. I watched Chuck Noll "undress" Terry Bradshaw on the sideline, and they won four Super Bowls. I did an interview with Otto Graham years ago and he told me of a time when he was so angry at Paul Brown that he might've gone after him on the sideline had a teammate not restrained Graham. Roger Staubach and Tom Landry had a lot of tension between them, but they respected each other and won two Super Bowls together. John Elway and Dan Reeves had their moments. Phil Simms has been openly expressive about being verbally abused by Bill Parcells. Chatter doesn't mean a thing. It's entertainment for the fans. The moment I saw that McCarthy and Rodgers had a TV moment, I knew what the fallout would be. It's best to smile while having an argument, because the TV camera sees all.

Toby from Lincoln City, OR

I am not part of the doom and gloom fans. I hardly ever question play calling and believe the coaching staff knows more than I do and I trust their intelligence. That said, why didn't we run the ball more? I noticed six men in the box many times and we continued to throw when our running game was working?

I have to believe the depleted nature of the Packers' running backs situation contributed to not only the Packers' play calling, but also to the Bengals' defensive strategy. They knew the Packers had only two healthy backs. James Starks had 14 rushing attempts in the first half. The Packers were 15-14 run in the first half. When they lost Starks to a knee injury, they were down to one healthy back in the second half, and he's a rookie who was getting his first real action. At that point, predictability was tilted toward pass, for obvious reasons. I'll tell you what doesn't work for this team: going into a game with two backs. Mike McCarthy openly expressed concern about it last week. It's a situation this team must avoid in the future.

Brian from Washington, DC

After the game this Sunday, I now know who I would like to see the Packers play in the Super Bowl. My hope is this game gives the team some perspective and that we get a rematch come February.

Do you want me to put the Bengals above or below the 49ers on the hate list?

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