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It's real simple: Can the Packers win up front?

Suspense builds for Packers' playoff game in San Francisco on Saturday night


Joe from Bloomington, IN

Vic, how do you stop the read option?

Set the edges and fill the gaps. That's the primary way to do it. Different coaches use different schemes. One coach was celebrated for a scheme that brought a rusher up the field on each side and pinched from the outside in. Most coaches will assign the responsibility for the back to one defender and the responsibility for the quarterback to another defender. In a 3-4, the more double-teams your down three can eat, the easier it's going to be for your linebackers to scrape to the ball. Here's what's important: If everybody up front wins, there's nothing to read.

Greg from Bellevue, WA

The Packers web site lists over 215 employees working for the organization. The number surprised me. It's quite an enterprise. Based on your experiences, is the Packers organization structured about the same way as other NFL franchises?

For the most part, an employee of one franchise can walk into the offices of another franchise, take the place of the person that does the same task, and go to work. Yes, most franchises have a similar structure. The Packers are different from most in that they have a huge on-site pro shop that is open year-round, much as any retail outlet is. It's not your typical souvenir shop and it employs a lot of people.

Koigi from Lynchburg, VA

Vic, I think this may be an interesting subplot to this game: Mason Crosby struggled but Mike McCarthy stayed with him and he seems to have worked out his issues. On the other hand, Jim Harbaugh went from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick and brought in another kicker to compete with David Akers, who has struggled.

Different strokes for different folks. Both ways will work and both ways will fail. The way that works today, however, will be the one fans will say is the way to do it. Just win, baby.

Fabian from Schwandorf, Germany

Vic, in Germany, we are free to choose our words, too. Why aren't we as great as you?

Has it always been that way? It has been in America. In fact, we've gone to war to win that freedom for other countries. It's why you are able to ask me this question today.

Gabby from Norfolk, VA

When I was younger, I liked defenders that fly to the ball. Now I prefer defenders with gap integrity. Have I matured?

I like defenders that fly to the ball in their assigned gaps. Don't mature too much.

Mike from Altona, Manitoba

One challenge per game; use it until you're wrong.

How about one challenge per game, right or wrong? No, I still don't like the challenge system. Get rid of it.

Tudor from Saint Augustine, FL

Are you serious? The Texans uniforms over New England's, Denver's and Baltimore's? Ridiculous.

The Patriots look like NASCAR drivers, the Broncos look like the Austrian bobsled team, and the Ravens are dressed for Halloween. Give me a good, old-fashioned "Battle Red Day" any day. This isn't a good uniforms postseason. A lot of the good uniforms are out.

Rene from La Habra, CA

What if San Francisco had an elite QB like an Aaron Rodgers or a Tom Brady? Would there even be a need for playoffs or would they just give them the Lombardi Trophy?

Whoa! How do you know that Colin Kaepernick isn't the next Aaron Rodgers? Kaepernick is a good-looking player. Of all the quarterbacks in his draft class, I thought he had the most upside, but I also thought he represented the most risk. His coach at Nevada, Chris Ault, invented the pistol set, which could be the backfield formation of the future. It fits Kaepernick perfectly and he was trained in it by the master. I think we should reserve judgment on Kaepernick until after Saturday's game is played, and beyond that, too.

Larry from Milwaukee, WI

I think I can guess why you like the brutally honest nature of football. You seem to be a straightforward guy. Much of life is not, which means people who don't seek out the truth can kid themselves. In football, you can tell yourself you were good enough to win, but only the scoreboard matters.

I have a writer friend with whom I have covered the NFL for a lot of years. Every year, in the moments just before kickoff for the season opener, he would boldly announce, "The (Baloney Stuff) stops now." That's why I love football. It's a scoreboard business. You are what your record says you are. It's a brutally honest sport that paints harsh distinctions between winning and losing. As Chuck Noll said, "When you win, you're great, and when you lose, you stink." I like it that way.

Bryan from Ambler, PA

"Now we're in the postseason and I see the exact same defense as in the preseason and last year." Last year's defense was ranked dead last in yards/game allowed and 19th in points/game, yet, we quietly rose to 11th in both yards allowed and points allowed. Why can't some people see the good?

It depends on what week it is. When you win, you're great, and when you lose ... That guy just got his weeks confused.

Cody from Elgin, IA

A quote from the "Ask Vic" column the Monday after the first 49ers game: "The Giants and 49ers won up front, and the combined message from those games is the Packers are going to have to play and win at that kind of game against the Giants and 49ers to be successful in the postseason." I think it still stands true.

It doesn't apply to the Giants anymore, but it absolutely applies to the 49ers and I don't think any genius was required in making that remark. The 49ers made it crystal clear in the season opener. They showed us all what the Packers needed to do to be a Super Bowl contender this season. The question is: Have the Packers done it? Have they become the physically powerful team up front that they must be to beat the 49ers? We'll find out on Saturday. I guess you could say the Baloney Stuff stops then.

M.J. from Stevens Point, WI

Is it true all young quarterbacks lose a big game before they win one?

It's true for Bart Starr, but it's not true for Johnny Unitas. It's true for John Elway, but it's not true for Terry Bradshaw. It's true for Peyton Manning, but it's not true for Tom Brady or Joe Montana. I think what you're saying should be applied figuratively, broadly. For example, Unitas might've won in the 1958 title game, but maybe he first had to lose by being cut and reclaiming his career on a sandlot. Bradshaw won his first big game, the "Immaculate Reception," but maybe he first had to lose by struggling through the first two seasons of his career. Brady and Montana each won in the first Super Bowls in which they played, but maybe they each had to first lose by being drafted later than they expected. A little humility never hurt anyone.

Nick from Toronto, Ontario

To what do you attribute the success of rookie quarterbacks the last few seasons? Are they entering the NFL more prepared than in years past, or has the game simply transformed them in a way to help them succeed more quickly?

It's an easier game to play for quarterbacks now. They not only don't have to call their own plays, they now have a coach talking to them in their helmet. I think they're getting more intense preparation when they join the NFL, by coaching staffs that have more coaches on it and a more streamlined approach to helping a rookie quarterback be successful right away, but they're not coming to the NFL more prepared than the quarterbacks of the Elway and Marino generation, for example. College football now is limited to 20 hours of instruction a week; it's really hurting these kids as they come into the NFL. The big difference is the rules. They've changed so dramatically from the bump-and-run days that it's difficult not to find an open receiver. If the coaches can get a rookie quarterback to be able to look at just two receivers in the time he has to throw, he'll likely find one of them open. That's the key: Keep it simple for a rookie quarterback. Simplicity will allow for success in today's game. It didn't allow for success in the old days. The coverages were too tight, the drops were too deep and offensive linemen weren't allowed to use their hands to block.

Andy from Appleton, WI

Vic, I found your thoughts on how to stop Kaepernick interesting. I would've thought the best way to stop a running quarterback would be the same as any other QB: Put him on his backside early and often. I like to see an opposing quarterback afraid of the defense to the point where he's running away and back instead of forward, as opposed to one who has time to try making his throws, even if he doesn't throw particularly well.

You might be right, but I don't share your opinion. In my opinion, to blitz Colin Kaepernick is to fall into his trap. When you blitz him, he'll run away from you, and that becomes a big problem because now there are more defenders behind him than there are in front of him. If I hooked him up to a lie detector and asked him what he's more comfortable doing, running or throwing, my guess is he'd melt the machine if he said he was more comfortable passing than running. That's why I say make him be a passer. Let him sit back there all night. He won't do it. He'll get happy feet and run, and now you've got more defenders in front of him than behind him. I saw this strategy used with repeated success against Vince Young.

Robert from Maplewood, MN

I know you don't make win/loss predictions, but after reading "Ask Vic" for the last two seasons, I think I can tell by your tenor which way you think the game is going to go. Your warnings about the Giants last year were spot on. So far, your comments have me feeling comfortable but nervous for this week's game.

You're reading me perfectly. I believe this is a game the Packers can win, but I acknowledge that the 49ers have the muscle to dominate the line of scrimmage as they did in the season opener. Which will it be? I don't know, and that's fine with me because it builds the suspense for Saturday night. Last year, I think I knew.

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