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Good teams are defined by a play

Defense’s improvement has been dramatic


Matt from Arlington, VA

Vic, will there be a Packers Everywhere Rally in D.C.?

There will be a pep rally, and the location will be announced soon.

Darren from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Has any other team you've covered exchanged its predicted strength on one side of the ball to the other from the preseason to the postseason like this one?

It happens. In this case, the switch is the result of injury. The loss of Jordy Nelson hurt the offense. Everyone said it would and they were right. I think the rise of the Packers defense also should've been expected. The Packers have spent a lot of picks on that side of the ball. Improvement is all about the development of young players. It's been steady and it's really begun showing itself late in the season. At one point in November, the Packers defense was No. 23 overall, No. 28 against the run and No. 23 against the pass. At season's end, they are No. 15 overall, No. 21 against the run and No. 6 against the pass. That is a dramatic improvement. Yes, I've covered teams that switched identities from one side of the ball to the other. That's exactly what the Steelers of the '70s did. They won their first two Super Bowls with defense, and the last two with offense. To know how it happened, all you have to do is look at their drafts. The defense was built early, with Joe Greene, Jack Ham and Mel Blount picks. Lynn Swann, John Stallworth and Mike Webster came later, and their primes coincided with Terry Bradshaw's prime and one more thing, the rules changes of 1978. Teams don't stay the same. They evolve. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and defense became a squeaky wheel for the Packers in 2011, when the offense was setting records. I expect offense to become the squeaky wheel in next spring's draft.

Joe from San Francisco, CA

McCarthy said today the change with him back at play-caller isn't really about the plays called, it's about the game-planning process during the week. Do you have any insight into what changed with Clements, and what changed again when McCarthy retook the reins?

I do not, and there's no sense in asking for specifics because Coach McCarthy, no doubt, considers that proprietary information and is likely unwilling to share it with the rest of the league. This is one of the reasons I don't like writing about scheme and play-calling. You can't get answers on it, so everything is speculation. All we know for sure is there was something in the change that pertained to the process and Coach McCarthy didn't like it. It had nothing to do with the plays, and I tried to get that message across right from the beginning. The same plays are being called. They're the same plays that set records for offense in 2011. They're the same plays with which Matt Flynn set single-game records in that 2011 finale against the Lions. Football fans have gone play-calling crazy. We need to put this subject to rest. Everybody applauded the change three weeks ago, and now they're complaining about the play-calling again.

Ginger from Superior, WI

Vic, after the kickoff return, Crosby caused Patterson to fumble. I was in awe on how Patterson was laughing and joking on the sidelines and Crosby was also giddy, being congratulated by everyone on the sidelines. No. 1, Crosby blew it by kicking to Patterson, which allowed him to almost take it to the house, and Patterson almost cost his team the game. Do new-age players not take the game seriously anymore?

Where was Mason Crosby supposed to kick the ball, out of bounds? It's not summer anymore. I saw Cordarrelle Patterson's reaction on the sideline. I saw him going from teammate to teammate, trying to lighten the mood. He was suffering inside. He was seeking absolution. Don't be fooled by what you see on the outside. These guys' jobs are at stake every week. When they goof, they lose sleep.

Nate from Rockford, IL

Is run, run, short pass, punt predictable? Seems like they can't do anything until they're in desperation mode.

Was the Packers sweep predictable? How about the Cowboys' lead draw with Emmitt, the 49ers sprint right option, the Steelers' inside trap? Do what you do best. The good teams are defined by a play. This Packers team is still looking for that play.

George from Smyrna, GA

Vic, I thought the fumble by Aaron Rodgers was a bad call. Shouldn't that have been ruled an incomplete pass?

I thought it was the right call.

Erick from Charlottesville, VA

I bought a ticket for Sunday's game. It will be the first time I have seen a live football game above the high school level. Do you have any advice?

You're going to witness a great spectacle, and you'll be part of that spectacle. Soak it all in, especially the emotions you feel. Get to know the people seated around you. Feel their emotions, too. Let the colors soak into your memory. Feel the drum beat of "Hail to the Redskins." It's been a long time since I've covered a game at FedEx Field and heard that song. Mark Murphy sits next to me. I'm anxious to see his reaction to the song. Going to a football game is such a wonderful and joyous occasion. You'll never forget what you see and feel on Sunday.

Max from Neenah, WI

Vic, do you think the fact the Packers and Redskins are unfamiliar with each other is an advantage, disadvantage or neither here nor there? I think it's big. I think it's a huge opportunity for one coaching staff to get an edge on the other. Coach McCarthy's staff stayed into the night on Monday. I'm sure Coach Gruden's staff did the same. There is much to learn. Coaches are manic about making sure they haven't missed something.

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