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Defense can be the game-changer


Mark from Seattle, WA

Do they have enough information on Tebow to know he's "The Man"? It would be a huge decision because it involves huge risk. What Tebow is running is basically the "Wildcat" with a pass option. What if defenses stop it as they did the "Wildcat"? Hey, Vic, the question mark goes inside the quotation marks, not outside.

Mike Spofford is our "AP Stylebook" expert and I turned to Mike to provide an explanation for you. Here it is: If what is in the quotation marks is not itself a question, the question mark has to go outside. The example in the "AP Stylebook" is: Who wrote "Gone with the Wind"?

Anthony from Minneapolis, MN

How big of an impact do you think Reggie McKenzie will make within the Raiders organization? It seems McKenzie's philosophy could not be any more contradictory to that of the late Al Davis. I find it very intriguing that the Raiders, a team that has bled most of its draft picks away, will become a draft-and-develop team.

Al loved reclamation projects, and generally making draft picks and acquisitions that were against the grain of convention. Players such as Ted Hendricks, Jim Plunkett and John Matuszak immediately come to mind. Those days would appear to be over.

Thomas from Pensacola, FL

Wade Phillips took over a bad defense in Houston and they are doing great in one year. Tom Coughlin is considered a defense guru, as well. What is missing? Is it the players, coach, training?

I'm not sure I fully understand your question, but I'll tell you this, Coach Coughlin is not a guru for defense; he's offense all the way. Tom's involvement with the defense has always been to get a coordinator good enough to allow him to concentrate on offense. Tom once told me that all he wants is to have the ball last with a chance to win the game. That's the mindset of a true offensive guy. Until I came to Green Bay, Tom had the best pass-offense scheme I had ever covered. That's one of the reasons I see a lot of Coughlin in Mike McCarthy, because they're in a tie for the best pass-offense scheme I've ever covered. As for Phillips, he took over a defense that had been stockpiling talent for a lot of years. The Texans' last three first-round picks have been on defense. This year's haul of talent includes J.J. Watt and Brooks Reed, and in 2009 the Texans added Connor Barwin in the second round. Phillips' acumen for defense was able to put the Texans over the top. It always starts with players, not plays. Look at any defense or offense that all of a sudden broke through to the top of the rankings, and you'll see a recent accumulation of talent on that side of the ball.

Adam from Fargo, ND

The Packers spend a fairly large majority of their defensive snaps in "nickel." I understand that this is a necessity in today's pass-happy game but I am sick of seeing opposing running backs get five or six yards against our two-man defensive line before there is even a defender there to try to make a tackle. Why can't we have the best of both worlds and employ a 3-3-5 "nickel" formation instead of a 2-4-5, and get another big man down in the trenches while still keeping five defensive backs on the field?

Coach Capers answered that question earlier in the season. He said that playing "nickel" with two down linemen gives the Packers more speed on the field. Think about that answer. What does it say? It tells me the Packers need speed on defense. NFL coaches are experts in their field. Their schemes send messages. They tell us what the strengths and the weaknesses of a team are.

David from Rochester, MN

I get the feeling that you think the Packers are going to lose?

No, you're getting the feeling that YOU'RE afraid the Packers are going to lose. What you're getting from me is the acknowledgement that the Giants are going to be a very difficult opponent to defeat. In my opinion, this is THE game of the postseason. If the Packers get by this one, I think they'll go all the way. If you read yesterday's "Ask Vic," you should've gotten the feeling that I think playing this game at Lambeau Field gives the Packers a big advantage.

Ben Wauwatosa, WI

Vic, if you could take any defensive player in the NFL and put him on the Packers, who would you take?

Darrelle Revis would be my first choice; Jason Pierre-Paul would be my second. Pass-defenders and pass-rushers are the premium players on defense, and I consider Revis and Pierre-Paul to be the best young players at their specific crafts.

Ty from Roanoke, VA

Vic, what does the Packers injury report look like this week? Any glaring injuries?

The Packers are nearly at 100 percent health going into this game.

Chris from New Canaan, CT

I think our defense is underestimated. After a season of giving up a lot of yardage per game, we are due for a big defensive game against the Giants. Not certain, of course, but the surprise on Sunday could very well be a Packers defense that "shows up" and is the key difference in the game. Your thoughts?

If that was to happen, it would be a game-changer. All will be forgiven if it happens now.

Jeff from Albuquerque, NM

When Coach McCarthy first arrived, he seemed to play a bit more "Marty Ball" than most of us liked (coasting with a lead). What sparked the change so that he opened it up more and started going for the kill?

A coach does what his talent allows him to do. The emergence of Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley and Jordy Nelson deepened the playbook and the coaches' confidence in his players to execute it. It's that simple. Players first, then plays.

Matt from Alden, NY

I understand your opinion on playoff overtime rules since Pittsburgh still never touched the ball. I like the college system, but I think the ball being placed at the 25 is too short and teams almost automatically get some kind of score. How about moving it to the 50-yard line to start and each team gets at least one possession?

I don't like the college system because other than for field goals, special teams are not part of the game. Kickoffs, punts and returns are eliminated from the game in the college system, and I think that's a travesty. The college system isn't real football, it's a controlled scrimmage. Plus, I hate the idea that a 10-10 tie might end in a 70-69 result, a score that isn't indicative at all of the game. The solution is so simple: Keep playing overtime periods until one team has more points than the other team when a period ends. Why has the NFL made this so difficult? Better yet, why do we want it to be so difficult?

Dan from Waupun, WI

In your video, you could see a crown to the field. What is the difference in inches from the side to the center? Are all fields alike?

NFL fields have approximately a one percent crown. The intent is to facilitate drainage but not aid performance. For example, a field with a high crown aids the running game. In the wishbone days, college teams that ran the wishbone had huge crowns to their fields. By the time the back got the pitch from the quarterback, he was running at full speed and downhill on defenders. Flat fields are good for passing the ball. When the Seahawks were forced to play their games at the University of Washington, visiting quarterbacks were not accustomed to Husky Stadium's high crown and it caused sideline passes to sail over the heads of receivers.

Kurt from Manhattan, IL

Greg Jennings has referenced the 2007 NFC Championship game and has insinuated that the Packers who were there still have a bitter taste in their mouths and this game is a bit special in terms of added motivation to get revenge. Do you feel this one is personal for the Packers?

Whatever it takes. If Jennings needs to play the revenge card to get up for this one, then play it. Some players prefer to live strictly in the present. They don't want the baggage of emotion. They want to focus solely and sharply on the execution of their roles. Being a fan is only about emotions. Fans don't have to study a playbook. For them, a football game is solely about the expression of and the satisfaction of their emotions.

Bob from Perth, Australia

The Packers are 32nd against the pass but lead the league in interceptions. Coach Capers has described this as a bend-but-don't-break defense. How does this defensive philosophy come about?

If I could convince fans of one thing, it would be this: You don't decide what you'll be, you accept who you are and react accordingly. This is not a pressure defense. It doesn't get to the quarterback quickly enough nor does it have the coverage skills to play a lot of "Cover One" and "Cover Zero" schemes that are associated with aggressive, pressure defense. The Steelers thought they could play "Cover Zero" against the Broncos, even though that's not the Steelers' base personality, and they found out they couldn't. The Packers are a "Cover Two," "Cover Three" type of team, which are the coverages a bend-but-don't-break defense plays. Why are they playing those coverages? Because their personnel dictate that they play them. The fly in the ointment for the Packers is that those coverages are meant to deny big plays and they haven't. Too often this season the Packers have bent AND broken. If they can eliminate big plays by the opponent and continue to force turnovers, this defense can play championship-caliber football. The strength of the Packers defense is that its defenders have outstanding ball skills. Charles Woodson, Clay Matthews, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Desmond Bishop, Charlie Peprah and Morgan Burnett can play the ball in the air and catch it, too. The way to accentuate those skills is to flood the passing lanes with those players' hands. It's a strategy that has produced a lot of interceptions. Deny big plays. Do that and everything will be fine.

Will from Mifflintown, PA

Vic, it's been said the Chiefs used a lot of "Cover One" to shut down Green Bay's offense. What can Green Bay do Sunday if the Giants begin to use the same type of coverages KC did?

I doubt that Perry Fewell would do that. I've known Perry since his days with the Jaguars and he's always been a "Cover Two" kind of guy, and the Giants played a lot of double-high safety in the first meeting against the Packers. The Giants are 29th in the league against the pass; the Chiefs are No. 6. Teams that are 29th in the league usually don't play a lot of risky defenses, which is what "Cover One" is. My guess is that Aaron Rodgers' eyes would bulge if he saw the Giants in single-high safety on Sunday. Plus, Fewell doesn't have to take risks in the secondary because he has the pass-rush to get home. The Giants win with the rush, not the coverage. They have the pass-rushers to play it straight and still get home.

Jake from Appleton, WI

I've always wondered what it's like in the press box during the game. Is there any cheering, cursing, yelling? Any emotions at all? Or is everyone pretty quiet and calm?

It's a war up there. Emotions run high, especially if the hot dogs are late or there aren't enough of them. The writers for one team will taunt the writers for the other team following a touchdown, and often they'll have to be separated. I try to stay out of it because I'm older and I've had some health problems, and a lot of the young reporters today spend time at the gym, and I suspect that some of them even take supplements. It's a good thing the press box glass is tinted. It's not a pretty sight.

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