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Five ways to avoid a late-game heart attack


Patrick from Mesa, AZ

Christian Ponder on ESPN Radio in MN talked about playing at Lambeau Monday night. He said "It'll be fine. The crowd will be into it. It'll be an electrifying atmosphere. But the crowd's not playing. They're not playing on the field and once the game gets underway, you kind of zone that stuff out." Is the Packers crowd noise not that much of an issue or is Ponder blowing smoke?

It sounds as though he's challenging Packers fans to be loud.

David from Bangor, ME

You said "I think we have to remind ourselves, however, that only one thing matters: winning the Super Bowl." But then why would a team statistically out of the playoffs even bother showing up to a game? Pride matters. Beating a rival matters. Winning your conference matters. Winning the division matters. Winning the Super Bowl completes the season but it's not the only thing that matters, just the ultimate goal.

Putting a good performance on tape for the rest of the league to see matters because professional football is a job and if you put too many bad performances on tape for the rest of the league to see, you won't have a job anywhere. It's professional football; it's about the money.

Roy from Elkhorn, WI

Referring to your question about head coaches that call plays and don't call plays, have you noticed a trend that your "leader of men" coaches that call plays for either side of the ball get more respect from players than the coaches that don't call plays, and that in turn makes them better leaders of men?

I have seen no evidence of that. I don't remember Vince Lombardi burying his head in a play-call sheet. In fact, for the most important play in Packers history, Lombardi allowed his quarterback to make the call. That's what leaders of men do. They express faith in the men they lead, and those men respond accountably. Who got more respect than Lombardi?

Michael from Boise, ID

Have you covered a better team than this year's Packers, or a more focused coaching staff?

First of all, let's wait until the end of the season to answer this question; we're only at the halfway point of this season. Secondly, answering a question such as this, and I won't answer a question fraudulently just to make readers happy, isn't something I want to do because I have a fondness for all of the great teams I've covered. I covered a 1999 Jaguars team that was 14-2 and, in my opinion, should've won the Super Bowl, but it came apart in the second half of the AFC title game. I covered four Super Bowl champions in Pittsburgh, but the 1976 team, which didn't win the Super Bowl, might be the best team I've ever covered. Its defense scored five shutouts and allowed just 28 points in the final nine games of the season. What I will say about this Packers team is this: I've never covered a team that moves the ball the way this team does. That's good enough for now. Re-ask your question when the season is over. I won't dodge it.

Peggy from Bloomer, WI

Can you pass along a message to our defense that might encourage them to play up to their potential and prevent more mistakes? My husband has heart disease and near the end of the game vs. the Chargers he had to calm himself down because his heart was pounding so hard. Maybe if they knew a fan's health was being affected it would prevent more nail-biters.

This is a tough one, Peggy, because the thing you're trying to prevent is the thing the league is trying to promote, which is to say down-to-the-wire excitement. I think we have to find some ways for your husband to deal with his Packers passion. Here are some suggestions: 1.) When the other team gets the ball, go for a walk. 2.) Don't watch the fourth quarter of games. 3.) Mute the volume, which usually has a calming effect on me. 4.) Develop a series of conditioned responses to negative circumstances, such as, "Oh, well," or "It's just one loss, they'll win next week," or "at least I have my wife near my side." 5.) Ask the doctor for pills.

Keith from St. Louis Park, MN

The NFC North has three teams potentially in the playoffs. Has any division ever had three teams make the postseason?

It's been done. Just off the top of my head, in 2007 the NFC East put the Giants, Cowboys and Redskins into the playoffs.

Alex from Long Beach, CA

In light of Charles Woodson's comments about going 16-0, do you believe the talk of going undefeated is a distraction to a team? Would the Packers benefit from a loss just to end that talk? Would the 2007 Patriots have benefited from a loss in the regular season?

Yes, I do think it can become a distraction, especially if it causes people to consider the benefits of losing. When you start considering the benefits of losing, you've already lost.

Edmundo from Mexico City, Mexico

The reason we're so worried is very simple: When you win like the Packers win, it's not only about winning, it's about how you do it. What do you think about that?

I think I don't like that. I'm not into style points. Just win, baby, because winning has to be good enough. When it's not good enough, you've lost focus and you've lost respect for your opponent.

Dale from Eau Claire, WI

How difficult is it for a running back coach to become the wide receivers coach?

Apparently it's not that difficult, at least not for a good football coach. I think we can cross that worry off our things-to-worry-about list.

Bryce from Iron Mountain, MI

You mentioned how you enjoy watching games alone in peace. I also enjoy doing this. Does that make me an introvert?

No, it makes you someone who wants to study the game and appreciate it fully. That's not to say that everyone should be that way. Some people wanna treat a football game as a party and I think that's healthy. It's all in what you want from a football game.

Emily from Newbury Park, CA

What team left on the schedule do you think will be the Packers' biggest challenge? I know that every team offers a unique challenge but, overall, who will be the toughest opponent left to face?

I don't feel comfortable putting my finger on any one team because I think it's a tough closing schedule and I see several tough games. What I will say is that I think that game in New York against the Giants is beginning to develop a high profile. That game caught my eye when the schedule came out and it appears TV is setting it up to be one of the season's feature attractions.

Dave from Goodman, WI

After the Super Bowl is over and we are crowned champs again, wanna go ice-fishing?

Yeah, I think I wanna do that.

Mark from Seattle, WA

Man, Vic, if I ever make it back home for a game anytime soon, I'll be sure to send some sushi and flowers up to your warm press box and then wave at you. Maybe you should be covering the Dolphins or a dome team.

Whoa! You live in the sushi capital of the world, the nation's premier tie-the-arms-of-a-sweater-around-your-neck destination.

Steve from Larsen, WI

Mike McCarthy is a great coach with maybe only one flaw. He doesn't know how to pronounce Green Bay. Since this is a word he understandably uses often, he should be made aware that local people pronounce it either green BAY, or at most with equal accents on both words, but never ever GREEN bay, as he pronounces it. Is this a Pittsburgh thing? Are you also guilty?

It must be a PITTSburgh thing because I'm guilty of it. The Pittsburgh accent is, at the least, annoying; at the worst, it's not understandable. My wife is from South Carolina and the best thing we have going for us is neither of us knows what the other is saying.

Jason from Racine, WI

Lately I have heard some of the football analysts on various channels talking about potential coach of the year. I haven't heard Coach McCarthy mentioned at all. What are they typically looking for when they are making their predictions?

They're looking for a guy that's coaching a team they didn't think could win but is winning. In other words, the coach of the year is often the coach of a team that was inaccurately forecast to lose. I'll say this: If there was a midseason coach of the year award and Mike McCarthy didn't win it, then it should be taken out back, doused with gasoline and set on fire.

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