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It's about finding their identity


Hal from Mechanicsville, VA

What is your opinion of Alex Green? Do you think he can be that feature back the Packers are desperately looking for?

He has the power and burst to be a feature back. He can be a consistent thousand-yard rusher in this league, and I love what he brings to the screen game. Green is a runaway train in the open field. Let's not forget that he's only a year removed from an ACL, which is considered to be a two-year recovery. The big thing for Green, however, is proving to his coach that he can hang onto the ball. He didn't do that in the preseason and I think it's resulted in some reluctance to make him "The Man." I think he's going to get a chance to be "The Man" now, and I think the biggest part of stepping into that role is about holding onto the football.

Paul from Burlington, WI

Vic, it seems some running backs need several touches during a game to get into the zone, getting better as the game wears on. I think the by-committee approach doesn't allow any of the backs to really get those touches. On the other hand, our three remaining backs each have a different set of skills that would be great to use during the course of a game. With Benson out, do you see the Packers going with a by-committee approach, or will McCarthy pick a back and feed him the ball?

Feature back is a role that has to be earned. Yes, it helps to be the guy who gets the bulk of the carries. He gets a feel for defenders as the game goes on. He identifies the square-shoulders tacklers from the side-tacklers and adjusts his style accordingly; you juke one and drop the pads on the other. That's why you have to commit to the running game, if you really want it to work. In time, one of the Packers' backs might earn the right to be the team's feature back, but I think you're going to see some committee approach initially.

Chris from Mayville, WI

It seems A-Rod's pass accuracy is a little inconsistent. He throws some beautiful passes and then misses badly. The reason I think they haven't connected on the long ball is Aaron is not putting the ball where it needs to be.

There was an example of that on Sunday, but Aaron Rodgers is not the problem with this offense. Would you like to play without him? I didn't think so. He's the eighth-ranked passer in the league with a 97.0 passer rating. That's playing poorly? I'll take that every year and win a couple of Super Bowls with it. My inbox is full of reasons for the Packers' woes. What I'm not seeing is what I consider to be the real reason they lost in Indianapolis: They didn't get off the jam on the outside. I'll use one play as an example: third-and-14 at the Colts' 42-yard line late in the third quarter. It was the play immediately preceding Mason Crosby's miss from 52. The Colts were all rolled up. There were no deep safeties, just a couple of guys about five yards off the ball. This was a major green light. This was the kind of coverage look you don't expect to get in third and real long, yet, Rodgers ended up having to squeeze a pass into a very tight window to James Jones for a mere 8-yard gain. I looked at the rest of the field and I didn't see a receiver any deeper than that. Rodgers was running out of time to throw; he had no choice but to go somewhere with the ball. The only name among the Colts' cornerbacks I recognized is Josh Gordy, and that's only because he was cut from each of the last two teams I've covered.

Paul from Farnborough, UK

Vic, I noticed that Coach McCarthy mentioned the team has to get back to basics to turn things around. Could you let me know what these so-called basics are and why? If they are so basic, why aren't these things already engrained into the players' mentality? Surely, the basics are a given and it's the platform above that that needs addressing.

Apparently, they weren't engrained in the minds of the players on the best football team I ever covered, because nearly every year during a little slump, Chuck Noll would announce it was time to get back to basics. In fact, I've even considered that Coach McCarthy has taken his lead from that. A lot of fans want football to be chess. They want the players to be little more than pieces of ivory to be moved about a board, but that's not how it is and I've been preaching that fact for a long time, and without much success. Football is a game of human confrontation. Each team is running the same plays against schemes that are in every team's playbook. It's the team that performs the best that wins the game. Blocking and tackling are age-old basics, but the most basic of fundamentals is winning the one-on-one, which is accomplished not only with talent, but with application of proper technique. That's what Coach McCarthy is referring to.

Tom from Evansville, WI

Is there a reason everyone I talk to is always complaining about our scheme?

I think it's because blaming the scheme is easy to do. For example, everybody loves the slant pass. The feeling is that every time a play other than a slant pass was attempted and it failed, a slant pass should've been thrown. The same thing goes for roll-outs by quarterbacks on the goal line. Fans love roll-outs because it gives the quarterback two options as the play is developing. What fans don't consider about those two plays is that the slant pass is thrown into the most congested part of the field and will result in interception if it is used too often, and a roll-out cuts the field in half and drags all of the receivers and all of the defenders to that side of the field, effectively creating congestion where there shouldn't be any. What I urge fans to do is to think in terms of the whole game; one play massages another.

George from Hutchinson, MN

There are 11 games left. In order to get to that 10-6 record, which is the plateau of success it usually takes to achieve a playoff spot, the Packers will need to go 8-3 the rest of the way. They need to start a decent winning streak soon or even an undefeated December might not matter in playoff terms.

It's too early in the season for magic numbers. What's imperative now is for this team to find out who and what it is. It needs to develop an identity and pattern for winning because when it hits November and the division-games part of the schedule, the Packers will need to be on a roll. I'm not thinking wild card. I'm thinking division title. The Packers already have one division win in the bag, and the other five games are ahead of them. Win those games. I think that's going to be the challenge standing between the Packers and the playoffs.

Peter from Eagan, MN

In your opinion, why hasn't Randall Cobb been used more in the offense? Do you expect to see him used more and in what way?

He's been used plenty. He's the team's second-leading receiver, one catch behind Jordy Nelson. Frankly, I'd like to see Cobb used more as Greg Jennings and less as Darren Sproles, because the Packers don't need to replace Sproles, they need to replace Jennings.

Mark from Ottawa, Ontario

The Packers' run-pass balance gets out of whack in the first half against Seattle, the offense sputters and Rodgers gets sacked. They run the ball more in the second half and put some points on the board. They run the ball a lot in the first half against the Colts and go up by a huge margin. Then the balance moves sharply to the pass in the second half and they slow down again. Obviously it's not as simple as I'm making it out to be. What's the complication we're missing here?

Cedric Benson got hurt. That's the complication you're missing. He had become "The Man" in the backfield. It was clear to see the Packers were leaning on him more and more. They lost their running back.

Robert from Harvel, IL

Vic, everyone knows this is a passing league. People say all the time that defensive players are at a disadvantage because they practically cannot touch the receivers outside of five yards. I still do not understand why bump-and-run coverage is not being used more to take away throwing lanes and disrupt timing.

It was used on Sunday, and very effectively, I might add. In my opinion, you better have help over the top if you're going to use it on the outside because if one of your guys whiffs, it's touchdown time, unless there's a safety to help. The Colts didn't play a lot of cover two. They were jamming on the outside and daring the Packers to win those human confrontations.

Matt from Melbourne, Australia

Yesterday, I read Michael Lombardi's piece about how the Packers need to adapt on offense as the Patriots have this season, emphasizing the shift to the no-huddle run offense Chip Kelly uses in Oregon, when defenses keep their pass personnel on the field.

It's what the Colts did after B.J. Raji went out, the Packers got a little light in the pants up front and went to the two-lineman nickel. It's also something the Packers had started doing with Benson, as he established himself as a fixture in the offense. Mike McCarthy knows what he's doing. He doesn't need a TV analyst's advice. What Coach McCarthy knows and the TV analyst doesn't know is the specific state of the Packers' personnel. The coach knows where the bumps and bruises are, and what each player's strengths and weaknesses are. The coach observed his personnel all week in practice; the TV analyst watched the game.

Guy from Foley, MN

Vic, how much, if at all, has the loss of Joe Philbin affected the offense?

With all due respect to Joe, who's doing a great job in Miami, he was there in Kansas City last season when this all started.

Paul from Burlington, VT

I just read "Tuesdays with McCarthy." He seems to have been born and bred to coach the Packers. He gives me confidence the Packers will be contenders as long as he is at the helm. Your thoughts?

I'm glad he does that for you, because you're reading the situation correctly and reacting rationally. The Packers are going through a little thing right now. All teams go through these things. I've never known a coach good enough to avoid them, but I've never known a good coach who couldn't correct them.

Paul from De Pere, WI

I expect us to win against Houston because that's the kind of game this team gets ready for. Am I crazy? We play our best football against strong opponents.

I expect the stern challenge the Texans present this week to help focus this team on finding out who and what it is.

Frans from Edgewood, WA

Is there currently a team in the league that uses the 3-4 defense successfully?

Four of the top five defenses in the league use the 3-4.

Charles from Statham, GA

Each year each team develops its identity. In your opinion, who or how does that identity develop?

Identity is what you find yourself capable of doing when your opponent challenges what it believes you can't do.

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