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Here's the verdict on Aikman and Buck

Game against Bengals should prepare Packers for Baltimore


Michael from Milwaukee, WI

What did you think of Troy Aikman's and Joe Buck's call of the game on Sunday?

I watched the tape of it yesterday and found nothing in it that so much as hinted at bias for or against either team. In the old days, you could sense a little favoritism in an interconference game for the visiting team, which represented the conference of the televising network. I didn't even sense that. I found their call to be by the book and right down the middle. I prefer a little more edge, which is why I like Cris Collinsworth. Buck and Aikman were very solid, but tame.

Jason from Summerville, SC

In your opinion, who is to blame when a team goes years without making the playoffs or even without having a winning record?

Ownership is ultimately responsible for the direction of the team. Ownership sets the course and picks the men who will call the shots. Picking those men represent the most important decisions a franchise makes.

Paul from Farnborough, UK

Vic, there seemed to be quite a few tipped balls at the line of scrimmage on some of Rodgers' throws. Was it just good penetration and getting hands in the air by the defense, or were the throws coming out a bit too low?

There can be a lot of reasons for tipped balls. An offensive lineman's job on a particular play might have been to cut his man, to create a lane for a short, low-trajectory throw. If he misses the cut, the quarterback is staring at a 6-5 defensive end that can dunk. It's also possible the Bengals did a good job of staying in their rush lanes. Speed rushers often take a wide rush, and that can create a lot of vision to that side of the field for the quarterback. Staying in the lanes might not produce a sack, but it tightens the passing lanes and makes it difficult for the quarterback to step up in the pocket. The Bengals were disciplined in their pass rush.

Bryan from Madison, WI

Vic, given the recent trend towards pass-centered offenses, is it still necessary for teams to defend the run well in order to be a legit championship contender? Certainly, run defense cannot be overlooked, but isn't it more important to try and slow down the guy who can throw for 350 yards rather than focusing on the guy who could rush for 100?

I'm a product of the run-the-ball, stop-the-run era and belief dies hard, but mine has been fading in recent years as I witness the evolution of football from a game of block and tackle to a game of pitch and catch. Yes, I think it's more important now to deny 350 yards passing than it is to deny 100 yards rushing. I think Dom Capers' theory that the team with the higher passer rating will usually win the game is valid. In the old days, the opposite was often true. One team would run the ball down the other team's throat, hold a big lead going into the fourth quarter, which would allow the other team's quarterback to pad his stats against prevent defense and win the passer rating battle. In the old days, the whole idea of stopping the run was to force a team to throw, at which point the rushers teed off on the quarterback. Nowadays, teams are passing on first down and rushers are teeing off on every down. I still favor balance because it can force a defense to get that eighth defender up to the line of scrimmage, and I think a strong running game toughens a team and prepares it for hard-edged games late in the season, but it would be foolish of me to deny the ever-increasing importance of the passing game.

Frederick from Middleton, WI

This game was filled with ups and downs. One thing I noticed was the physicality of the game. Is it wrong to be impressed that players on both sides looked battered and bruised by the end of the game?

There were two styles of play in that game. The Packers were able to impose their disciplined style of play in the second and third quarters; the Bengals made it an AFC North kind of game in the first and fourth quarters. AFC North games have a street-fight quality to them. They tend to deteriorate order and create chaos. They'll take a penalty to create that chaos. The Packers got a good taste for how it'll be in Baltimore on Oct. 13.

Bill from Champaign, IL

Vic, why on fourth-and-one did we stack everyone tight and then give it to the smallest guy? Why not spread it out and then give it to him?

In that situation, coaches fear penetration. The intent of bunching everybody up is to deny penetration and create a wall of blockers that move the line of scrimmage. The problem is the Packers have had difficulty moving the line of scrimmage in those short-yardage situations. I favor your strategy for a zone-blocking offense, but you must accept the risk of penetration.

Landon from Coeur d'Alene, ID

Right now, the Packers are only converting 36 percent of their third downs. Why are they not finding more success and what is McCarthy trying to do to mitigate that issue?

The Packers rank in the middle of the league for third-down offense. It's not as though it's a raging problem. Let's not forget that this offense has scored 96 points, which is second in the league to Denver. The Packers were eighth in the league in third-down offense last year. I don't see third-down conversions as a problem. Had they moved the line of scrimmage and gotten that first down on fourth-and-inches, we'd all be celebrating the rebirth of the Packers' running game and you wouldn't be asking me about the Packers' third-down conversion ranking. Are we looking too deep? Just get the first down or, at the least, don't fumble the ball and allow the Bengals to run with it for a touchdown. Failure on one play is causing fan frustration to spill over into every aspect of the team, including scrutiny of the one player every other team in the league would love to have.


CB Sam Shields

Dajuan from Rialto, CA

Sam Shields played great defending A.J. Green last week. He's proven to be able to be a No. 1 corner. Do you think the Packers will use him to shut down the opponent's best WR for the rest of the season?

That's the sense I get.

Ken from Honolulu, HI

Vic, I'm sure you have read the book "How to Lie with Statistics." Your Rodgers fourth-quarter passing statistics are exactly that. He may have the best statistics in the fourth quarter, but what about crunch time with 2-3 minutes left and the Packers behind by four points? What is his passer rating then? Surely, you must have statistics on that as those would be more relevant. Are you kind of prevented from saying anything negative about Rodgers because the Packers are your employer?

Wow, you're very angry. In Hawaii? I haven't read that book – sounds like a must read – and I'm sorry, but I don't have passer rating stats for trailing by four points with 2-3 minutes to play. I do have, however, what I think is a pretty good feel for the game, and I consider Aaron Rodgers to be one of the two best quarterbacks I've ever covered. The other one won four Super Bowls and if you used his postseason performances to represent one season of his career, it would be the best season of his career. Terry Bradshaw's name is seldom mentioned with Dan Marino's and Peyton Manning's, but he was a tremendous talent and clutch performer, and I consider Rodgers to be every bit Bradshaw's equal. Bradshaw did things that made me shake my head, and so does Rodgers. I am stunned that the media has decided to question his worth, and I am shocked that fans are allowing one poor performance to dull their appreciation for a quarterback the quality of which they might never see again. By the way, I have to throw this in as an aside. When I looked up Bradshaw's postseason record, I happened to notice an all-time ranking by fans. Bradshaw was ranked 265th, right behind Dave Brown. First I laughed, then I got sad.

Jim from Naugatuck, CT

Vic, why are teams only allowed to have 46 players active for any given game? Since all 53 players on the roster are under contract and getting paid, I can't understand the reasoning for this. I really like your column. Keep up the good work.

The owners and players agreed to that formula in the CBA. That's all it is. Each side has a negotiating interest in roster size. One of the things owners fear about big rosters is an increase in specialization. Players running on and off the field for every down can create a fan identity problem. All of a sudden, you don't know who's in the game. Plus, if you increase the active number to 53, coaches will use them all and that means more injuries and more players on injured reserve and more injury settlements, etc. It's a money issue.

Toussaint from Milwaukee, WI

McCarthy said he has restructured the whole training to avoid injuries. I wonder if he's incorporated yoga. That would do well for the players' flexibility, especially in the hamstrings.

There isn't anything that any team in the league does to avoid hamstring injuries that every team in the league hasn't done or isn't doing. Hamstrings aren't new to the human body. Some players suffer chronically from them. Chronic hamstring problems effectively ended Lynn Swann's career; the same with Louis Lipps. One year, the first-round pick came to camp and promptly pulled his hamstring in the opening-camp 40-yard time trials. He missed the whole camp. That was over 30 years ago. This isn't new. Teams have been attacking this issue for all of the years I've been covering the NFL. It got so bad at one point that players began wearing pantyhose under their uniforms. I'm serious. The Packers didn't invent hamstring injuries.

James from Wausau, WI

Bill and Tom both got fired and went on to both be great coaches, but don't you think it's the players that make coaches look good?

Sure it's players that make coaches look good, and that's why it's nonsensical to fire a good coach when he has bad players.

Trent from Orlando, FL

"Don't draft players who get hamstring injuries"? Seriously? So don't draft Clay Matthews?

That was serious sarcasm, Trent.

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