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Is So'oto that extra rusher?


Dave from Richmond, MO

I wasn't able to watch the Packers-Bears game on television, so I had to listen to the national radio broadcast. In the first half, the commentators described the Packer defensive linemen as "playing too high." I've never heard this term. What does this refer to?

They were talking about pad level. It is a fundamental of both blocking and defeating blocks that the guy whose pad level is lowest wins. You don't beat blocks by standing up and playing patty-cake. You defeat blocks by taking them on with your shoulders and then using your hips and legs to dig in and hold the point of attack. The Packers were not holding the point of attack against the Bears and when that happens, it usually means a team's pad level is too high. Football always begins with fundamentals. Before you call plays, you have to be able to execute plays. Coach Capers emptied his bag on the Bears, but nothing stopped the Bears' running game until Aaron Rodgers and the offense forced them out of it. My guess is the words "pad level" will be spoken in analysis of the tape of this game.

Brian from Cherokee, IA

What in the world was going on with calling the play that had Rodgers taking the snap and looping around behind the tackle? I saw it twice in the game. What is the rationale for such a call? At best he will get 3-4 yards and at worst he takes a pop from Urlacher. Please enlighten.

I think they were busted plays. The back probably went the wrong way.

Matthew from Omaha, NE

Offensively, the Packers made it look easy vs. the Bears, just like the vast majority of the year. So, again, what happened against the Chiefs?

Two main ingredients in the Chiefs' win over the Packers were present in the Packers' win over the Bears: Success running the ball and big time of possession advantage. Don't dismiss those two facts just because the scoreboard said the game was lopsided. The scoreboard will lie to you just as stats will lie to you. Everything needs to be considered and analyzed before a comprehensive evaluation of the game can be achieved. The Bears ran the ball and kept Rodgers off the field by dominating time of possession. What the Bears didn't do that the Chiefs did is hold their coverage and rush the passer. That's the difference in the two games. The success the Chiefs and Bears had on the ground is of major concern. That's playoff football and I guarantee that Coach Capers is deeply concerned about the rushing yardage allowed in the last two games.

Brian from Oshkosh, WI

Any chance Vic So'oto is going to get more playing time in passing situations? He seemed to be playing with the most energy on the defensive line and got some much-needed pressure on the QB.

I think he might get more playing time in all situations. In fact, I think he's a candidate to get major playing time against Detroit and a hard look at how he might be utilized in the future. As I wrote in my story on Friday, the Packers need to find one more rusher, to help take some of the heat off Clay Matthews. Maybe So'oto is that guy.

Harry from Rochester, NY

Do you believe Aaron Rodgers answered all the critics about the league MVP award with his performance on Sunday?

I don't think it was about answering his critics because I don't think he has any critics; I think it was about halting Drew Brees' momentum. I think Rodgers did that. I said on our pregame radio segment that this was a big game for Rodgers because it was the only game of the day and "everybody" would be watching. Five touchdown passes will usually win votes. If he's not the league MVP, then we really need to either stop presenting these awards or stop paying attention to them. I'll promise if you will.

Blake from Garden Grove, CA

Can you please tell your readers what is the most important defensive statistic?

The easy answer is points allowed because at the end of the day, it's all about points, but I have another answer for you: The most important defensive stat is the one that explains why a defense has succeeded or failed. When you're 14-1, I think it can be said that your defense must be doing something right. The Packers defense is in the top half of the league in points allowed, despite being at the bottom in yards allowed. So what has allowed the Packers defense to overcome one to achieve the other? Takeaways; the Packers' most important defensive statistic is its 34 takeaways, which ranks second in the league to the 49ers' 36. More specifically, the Packers' league-leading 29 interceptions is its most important defensive statistic.

Robert from Shantytown, WI

Some quarterbacks have a strong arm and some don't. Why can't a weak-armed quarterback just lift weights or throw lead footballs around to get a better arm? Is there a different meaning that I am missing?

The ability to throw a ball forcefully isn't determined by the strength of the arm, it's determined by a person's ability to roll their shoulder. In other words, the strength is in the joint, not the arm, and the kind of joint strength that allows for someone to throw a ball forcefully is inherent; you either have it or you don't. The same can be said for foot speed. A person's ability to run is determined by their ability to roll or turn over their hip. You can add a little speed by strengthening your legs, but real speed is in the strength and flexibility of the joint. There's an old saying in baseball: You'll know a major league arm when you hear it. A lot of times, guys with major league arms have arms that look like spaghetti, but they can really roll that shoulder.

Michael from Bountiful, UT

London Fletcher is leading the league in tackles with 163; have tackles ever been this high?

Tackles is not an official stat and I put very little stock in tackle totals. I think the Bucs might still be giving Hardy Nickerson credit for tackles he made 15 years ago. Assistant coaches are the guys that award tackles and assists. They do it while they watch tape of games, and they tend to have their own standards. Hey, what position coach doesn't want his players to excel?

Adam from Milwaukee, WI

Many people think the 49ers are a great threat to the Packers in the playoffs. I see them as the one team we can generate a pass-rush against, as they allow a lot of sacks. I don't see their offense being good enough to hang with the Packers.

I see the 49ers as a team that can beat the Packers. I see all playoff teams as teams that can beat the Packers, and I think it's healthy to have that respect for your opponent, as opposed to going into a game thinking you've got the win in the bag. The 49ers have the secondary to play aggressive, man-to-man coverage, and they have the pass-rush to make it happen. They also have a running game that can dominate time of possession. Frankly, I can make a case for every team the Packers might face in the playoffs: The Giants have the pass-rush, the Falcons have the running game, the Lions have the secondary, the Saints have the offense. Let's not try to delude ourselves into believing the path to the Super Bowl is going to be a breeze. The Packers are going to have to win two big games against two tough teams. The good news is the Packers will have 70,000 fans cheering them every step of the way.

Peder from Sturgeon Bay, WI

Should the Packers rest against the Lions or let them play and keep their mojo going?

I'm not worried about their mojo. I think they're back on track and I think they'll take that into the playoffs, regardless of what happens this Sunday against Detroit. I think this team needs to rest some people and do whatever it takes to go into the playoffs as healthy as possible. That's my opinion.

Packmandan from Pineville, LA

Could you discuss the who, what and whens of the finality of playoff rosters.

The rosters of the teams not in the playoffs are frozen. Teams in the playoffs get four free-agent signings, beginning on the Wednesday immediately following the conclusion of the regular season, and through the Super Bowl. Those four free-agent signings can be executed at the rate of two per week, not to exceed four overall. Players signed from a team's own practice squad don't count against that free-agent signings cap.

Harry from Rochester, NY

Troy Aikman said the center position is the hardest position to play on the offensive line. Are there any centers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

Mel Hein, George Trafton, Bulldog Turner, Alex Wojciehowicz, Chuck Bednarik, Frank Gatski, Jim Langer, Jim Otto, Jim Ringo, Dwight Stephenson and Mike Webster.

Chris from Apple Valley, MN

Once you said the No. 1 receiver for a team has to do with body mass. Why is this?

Fans tend to think of No. 1 receivers in terms of catches, but coaches think in terms of a receiver's ability to fulfill the responsibilities of an X receiver because that's a team's No. 1 receiver. In other words, No. 1 receiver isn't an achievement, it's a designation. A one has to be big enough and strong enough to play on the line of scrimmage and defeat the jam; that's what an X or split end does. That receiver also has to have the speed to get deep, because that's what a true one does. A true No. 1 receiver is big enough to defeat jams and fast enough to get deep; he's a big, strong, fast guy. Wes Welker is the NFL's leading receiver, but he is not a one.

Justin from Appleton, WI

On Saturday, in the Giants vs. Jets game, the Giants got a safety and when the Jets went to kick off, they tried an onside kick that was more like an onside punt. Is that kick just like a regular kickoff in the sense that the Jets don't have to wait for the Giants to touch the ball in order to recover it, or is it more like a punt and the Jets have to wait for the Giants to touch the ball in order to recover it?

I didn't see it and I'm not sure of the circumstances to which you are referring, but I can tell you this: If you're talking about a pooch-type free kick, the receiving team may signal for a fair catch and the kicking team must allow the man fielding the kick an opportunity to catch the ball.

David from Cable, WI

Why do the talking heads not understand the Packers' success is built not on talent, but on preparation?

Whoa! Don't ever think talent isn't the foundation of a team's success. It starts with talent, then comes development and preparation. The Packers don't have a magic wand. This team doesn't win because it's so much smarter than everybody else. This team wins because Ted Thompson found talent Mike McCarthy could develop. Without talent, the best coaches in the world can't win.

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