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Is defense building toward something big?

Merry Christmas, everyone!


Noah from Portland, OR

There was a great Brian Billick quote regarding Tom Coughlin that I'd like you to share with all of the "fire everyone" readers: "You can get a different coach, but you will not get a better coach, so why bother?"

We fire coaches – and Monday begins the firing season – to satisfy the angry mob. It's become a game of hire and fire. The same guys whose departures we're cheering are the same guys whose arrivals gave us hope. In many cases, all we're doing is reshuffling the deck; one team's junk becomes another team's treasure. So why does the same coach that failed with one team succeed with another? The answer is obvious: The players are different. Somebody has to take the blame for losing, and it's the coach, even though it's not likely his fault. Tom Coughlin was fired in Jacksonville after turning in one of the best coaching jobs I've ever witnessed. His successor said the same after watching tape of the previous year's games. The roster had been gutted; there was very little talent on it. So Coughlin was fired, which was cheered by the fans, and then he went to the Giants and won two Super Bowls.

Mike from Fairfield, CA

Vic, most of the coverage I've seen about this week's game focuses on the Packers offense. What about the Lions offense? They are a star-studded group capable of putting up points in a hurry. How does the Packers defense slow them down and limit them to fewer than 17 points, which is what I think it will take to win this game?

The Packers defense is playing at its highest level. More of that'll work. The Lions offense is a little bit of an enigma this year. It's No. 18, but it has top 10 talent. This had been a wild and overly aggressive, almost reckless offense, but Jim Caldwell has changed that identity. The wildness is gone. The Lions' 19 giveaways are in the top third of the league. That's the kind of discipline Caldwell has brought to the Lions that's made a difference.

Carl from Lexington, SC

Merry Christmas, Vic! It's the best of the best coming up this weekend. A formidable division rival, at home, with the Packers healthy and at the top of their game. Even if the worst happens, the Packers would be left with the opportunity for payback in two or three weeks. Are you looking forward to this as much as I am?

Yes, I am, but I'm not looking for payback in the postseason. I am completely focused on a Packers win that would claim the division title and a bye in the playoffs. If winning the Super Bowl is the goal, and it's the goal once a team makes it into the postseason, then this is a huge game. I'm not sure my inbox fully understands how big this game is. Maybe the holidays are a distraction.

John from Green Bay, WI

Vic, if Sunday's game comes down to the final drive, which would you feel better about, the Packers offense needing to get in the end zone against the Lions defense, or the Packers defense needing to keep the Lions offense out of the end zone?

Last season, when the 49ers got the ball needing a field goal to win, I wasn't confident of the Packers defense's ability to stop the 49ers. The defense was depleted by injury and I felt as though it was just trying to hang on. I don't get that feeling this year. I see this year's defense as building toward something big. I would have confidence in this defense's ability to stop the Lions. Be that as it may, I think you should always want the ball for the final drive. If you don't want the ball, then you probably don't have the quarterback you need to win a championship. The Packers have a championship quarterback.

Jim from Manitou Springs, CO

I can't stand all the showboating. The Bengals were just horrible about it in their matchup against the Broncos on Monday night. I was rooting for the Bengals but it became harder and harder because of the showboating. Why do coaches put up with this?

Coaches put up with it, to a limit, because it's how today's players motivate themselves.

Greg from Bellevue, WA

If you had polled Packers fans in August and said going into the last week the Packers would be 11-4 and playing at home for the division title and a first-round bye, I'll bet nine out of 10 would have said, "I'll take that."

I'm not sure about that. This fan base likes the security of blowout wins. I've never known a fan base that enjoys blowouts more than this fan base. They stay right to the end of a game that was decided at halftime, and they cheer every touchdown as though it won the Super Bowl. This fan base worries too much about losing to invite the kind of drama we have this week.

Chad from Tarpon Springs, FL

How do sports add to the beauty of life?

They satisfy our need to compete. They add excitement to a peaceful life.

William from Savannah, GA

Vic, the Patriots have secured home field advantage in the AFC. Do you play your starters just a few series or less to make sure they are rested?

I wouldn't play them at all. I think when you announce to your players that you're preparing a half-hearted game plan, they play that way, and that's not the kind of momentum you want to take into the postseason. I think you shut down as many guys as you can and prepare your team as intensely as you would for any other game. That's what I think you need to do to keep your edge.

Adam from Muskego, WI

Vic, earlier this season I asked you if you could only go to one game which would it be? Well, you called that one.

I don't know what it was, but I could feel this one coming.

Jonas from Fort Collins, CO

Why put chortling in "Ask Vic" if it has proven to be to the detriment of the team? I have a good friend who is a Lions fan and was apparently harassed by Packers fans at a sports bar last Sunday. Why must we tempt the football gods so late in the season?

OK, I won't put it in.

Ian from Green Bay, WI

Vic, I just watched Lacy's highlights on and I noticed one major thing. His best runs come when he's barreling forward at full speed. I know sometimes the defense prevents it, but it seems like if he'd become a one-cut back instead of hesitating in the backfield, he'd almost always find at least a few yards. Why doesn't he do more one-cut runs?

That hesitation is the one cut. He's reading his wall of blockers as they move laterally, and when he finds a cutback lane, he sticks his foot in the ground, cuts back behind his blockers and that's when the fun begins.

Koigi from Lynchburg, VA

Merry Christmas, Vic! I think this game will be the ultimate judge of the Packers ability to run the ball. If they can do it well, look out.

We know that from the Week 3 game. If the Lions do that six-in-the-box stuff again, the Packers must run the ball. Merry Christmas, everybody! "Ask Vic Extra!" is taking the afternoon off.

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