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I'm feelin' the buzz for Bears week


Andy from New York, NY

Vic, love your column. Glad to have you as a member of the Packers family. Why isn't James Starks in the starting lineup? After a nine-carry, 85-yard performance in which two nice runs set up play-action TD passes to Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson respectively, it would seem Starks and the running game should be utilized more often to establish control over the tempo of the game. Why not run early to enhance the effectiveness of the passing game?

First of all, I'm big on throw early, run late. I like that kind of football. I don't know why people think that makes me a Woody Hayes devote, because I clearly support being aggressive early for the purpose of getting out to a lead and taking the opponent out of its game plan. That's what the Packers did to the Saints by getting out to a big lead and I'll betcha the Panthers took the Packers out of their game plan, at least a little bit, by going up 13-0 early. I also believe firmly in the principles of controlling the line of scrimmage and the attitude of the physical part of the game by running the ball. Real estate is location, location, location, and I believe play-calling is balance, balance, balance, and that's why I think we're going to see more of Starks as time goes on. When you average 9.4 yards a carry, you're gonna get the ball more often.

Eric from Sylvania, OH

A running game people respect makes our great quarterback that much better.

It did on Sunday. Eight runs for 27 yards and 17 passes produced just 99 yards passing in the first half. Thirteen runs for 97 yards and 13 passes helped produce 209 yards passing in the second half. The 49-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings in the third quarter followed a 14-yard run by Starks and the 84-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson late in the game followed a 12-yard run by Starks.

Jim from Des Peres, MO

Concerning the end of the Panthers game: Wouldn't it have been better for Nelson to have knelt down at the 1-yard line rather than score?

OK, let's say the Panthers call timeout after the play; the clock was at 2:14 and they have two timeouts remaining. Knee on first down, timeout at 2:10. Knee on second down, timeout at 2:06. Knee on third down, clock stops at two-minute warning. The Packers kick a field goal and the Panthers are down by 10 points with about 1:57 to play and no timeouts remaining, as opposed to being down 30-16 with 2:14 to play and all three timeouts remaining. I'll take 30-16.

Ron from London, Ontario

With Nick Collins going down, Darren Sharper is out there. What are your thoughts on bringing him in? I think he would be a perfect fit.

You're right, he's out there and we'll soon find out what Ted Thompson's answer to your question is. Tuesday is player-moves day around the league. If it's going to happen this week, this is the day it would likely happen. My thoughts are that at least half of the questions in my inbox today are about Sharper, but I'm not getting the obvious one, the one I got repeatedly during the offseason: Will the Packers move Charles Woodson to safety? I was expecting to get a ton of those.

Cody from Griswold, IA

Do you think there will ever be a time in the NFL where a 300- or 400-yard game will just be an average game for a quarterback?

I don't know about 400-yard games, but 300-yard games are close to becoming the norm and 400-yarders don't make us gasp as they once did. Early in my years covering the NFL, 200-yard games were rare. That all changed with the rules changes of 1978, which produced an explosion of yardage. As defenses caught up to the rules, the yardage totals began to level and then decline. The major point of emphasis of the chuck rule in 2004 sent those levels soaring again and the new player-safety measures have sent them even higher. Yes, yardage totals are going to continue to climb, and that's going to make it even more difficult for us to equate the great players of the past to the great players of today.

Mary from Casper, WY

What is the difference between a "New Age" quarterback and John Elway or Brett Favre when they first became starters?

Elway and Favre used their mobility as an outlet, "New Age" quarterbacks use their mobility as a primary function of what they do. Did you see the option play Cam Newton ran on Sunday? Did you see his spread-option runs? Those weren't functions of Elway's and Favre's games. "New Age" quarterbacks run and pass. Elway and Favre ran when they couldn't pass.

Scott from Wausau, WI

With the rules favoring the passing game so much, doesn't the game seem to be moving toward the CFL style of play?

Yes, it does give that appearance, especially when I see kick-returners coming out with the ball from eight yards deep in the end zone.

James from Greensboro, NC

Can we bounce back and fix our pass-defense now without Nick Collins?

Look at it this way: The Packers have a lot of talent in their defensive backfield, and they also have the best defensive coordinator in the game to utilize that talent. Yes, I expect the pass-defense to get fixed.

Stephen from New York, NY

It seems as if defense has no bearing on whether you win or lose anymore, it all comes down to which offense messes up the least.

I think that is generally an accurate statement at this point in the season, but I also think that will change as the year goes on, defense begins to catch up to offense and the weather starts to get cold. Late-season football is usually about defense.

Chris from Wyoming, OH

You are now witnessing "Bears week" for the first time while covering the Packers. What kind of differences, if any, have you noticed? Maybe I should wait till later in the week to ask you this.

Yeah, an NFL week really doesn't begin until Wednesday; that's when practices begin. What I can tell you is that I feel a kind of "buzz" inside myself for this game. This is one of the reasons I'm here. I wanna experience a Bears-Packers game. I wanna add it to my memory bank. I've heard forever about what a great rivalry this is; now I'll find out.

Chad from River Forest, IL

You say people don't hate the Packers? Spend some time in the Chicagoland area like I have as a Packers fan and you'll hear people prove you wrong every day.

That's different; that's a rival. I was referring to the kind of venom you hear being spewed by people who have no reason to dislike a team other than they feel a need to dislike something. How many people hate the "America's Team" thing? How many people hate the Steelers because they play a physical brand of football? How many people hate the Raiders' sinister image? In all of the years I've covered this league, I can't remember hearing anyone say they hate the Packers because they hate cheese, or Packers fans are obnoxious, or they're a dirty team, or whatever. The Packers are everybody's feel-good team from that little town where it always snows. That's the perception.

Eli from Boston, MA

I never seem to hear about the man behind the explosive offense. Can you tell us a little about Joe Philbin?

He's exactly what you want in an offensive coordinator: calm, calculating and measured. He's up in the press box surveying the defense, finding the places to attack and providing instant analysis to Mike McCarthy. Most importantly, he's a teacher. I'm not big on coaches that yell. I don't think that gets anything accomplished except for providing entertainment. I observed Joe in training camp. He didn't yell, he taught. That's what a good coach does.

William from Jacksonville, FL

Do you want a "New Age" guy or Tom Brady, Unitas, Montana, Marino, etc.?

I wanna guy that stays in the pocket because, philosophically, that's where the protection is supposed to be and you don't want your quarterback subjecting himself to contact. Mobility is becoming increasingly more important, but I wanna a guy who knows how to use it discreetly. If I was the Panthers, I would worry about Newton's penchant for running. I think he needs to do less of it.

Denny from Tampa, FL

On this new artificial surface, what is the material that comes up when a receiver slides his feet to stay in bounds?

It's ground-up tires; they're little black, rubber pellets that are spread onto the field to fill in the gaps in the blades of grass and to provide a cushion for players when they land on the turf. It works. It's a much better artificial surface than the old Astro-Turf fields that were the equivalent of playing on concrete. One of the big problems with those fields was the fear of staph infection spreading in the locker room as the result of players having open wounds on their elbows from falling on the Astro-Turf. Everything about the new turf is better, but those rubber pellets make the field stink like a pile of old tires, especially on a sunny, hot day. Even worse, they get in your shoes. When I would come off the field from covering a practice, I would have to empty out my shoes. They'd get stuck in the tread, too. One day my wife said to me, "What are all of these little black things all over the floor?" I said, "I don't know."

Andrew from Las Vegas, NV

If a fan purchases a Packers jersey from the Packers Pro Shop (in store or online), does the Packers organization yield more profit than if the jersey was purchased from another retail chain or website? I am looking to help keep the money in our team's pocket as much as possible, because I am all for expanding and renovating Lambeau.

Yes, merchandise bought directly from the Packers yields a greater margin of profit for the Packers.

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