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Just go hit somebody


Dan from Bowling Green, OH

So about this time last year, my dad and I were discussing why the Lions, who until this year haven't really been much to talk about, keep getting to play on Thanksgiving. We came up with the idea that the Thanksgiving game should be a king-of-the-hill style format. We let the Lions and Cowboys host the game and, if they win, they get to host it next year, and if the other team wins, they'll get to host it. You keep winning, you keep getting to host it. What do you think?

You see hosting a game on Thanksgiving as a distinction, but most franchises would see it as a penalty. Trust me, teams aren't lined up to host games on holidays, especially Thanksgiving because it's on a weekday and it's inflexible. We schedule around Christmas and New Year's, for example, but not Thanksgiving. It's a day for families and most franchise's fan bases would complain vehemently about its team hosting a game on Thanksgiving because it would be viewed as a game for which fans would pay but wouldn't use the ticket. Attendances decline on holidays; it's a fact. Football on Thanksgiving in Detroit is a tradition. There was no four o'clock game until the Cowboys, who've always been aggressive in pursuing a national following, went to the league with the idea that they would host a four o'clock game on Thanksgiving. The league said thank you. The slot was open for anybody to take. Dallas was the only one that wanted it.

Leonardo from Las Vegas, NV

What do you think was McCarthy's thought process behind throwing the ball with 5:55 left when you're up by nine points? Does he have no concern for Peggy's husband's heart?

Go back to something Offensive Coordinator Joe Philbin said last week: "We are who we are." Every so often something is said that hits me in the face like a pie, and that comment did. The Packers are a pass-first team. It is what it is. The Packers don't beat teams by running the ball, they beat teams by passing the ball. I like milking the clock and expiring the opponent's timeouts; the flip side to that, of course, is to keep scoring. Either strategy will work if you execute it. In the final analysis, the Packers executed it because they kept scoring. What you can't do is mix and match. After they threw the interception and the score went to 28-26, it would've been a tragic mistake to then take the air out of the ball and try to milk the clock, and they didn't do that. You have to commit to one strategy and execute it.

Allen from Zephyrhills, FL

Illegal blocks in the back seem to be very common on kickoff and punt-returns. Why is that?

I was watching a college game this past weekend and I saw a kid literally take a 10-yard run at a defender who had his back squarely turned to the kid, and the kid still blocked the defender squarely in the back. I thought to myself that if I was that kid's coach I would remind him that a person's front is the part that has the face attached to it, and that you should never block a person whose face you can't see. Maybe the league should put the words "back" and "front" on players' jerseys. It's really ridiculous and it's maddening to see exciting returns nullified by these inane blocks in the back.

Jared from Waukesha, WI

A couple of days ago a certain person commented on how rude you are because, according to him, you think you own the place. Are you good at brushing off haters like that guy?

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much.

Terry from Junction City, WI

The Bucs had the perfect game plan to beat the Packers: Run LeGarrette Blount to keep Aaron Rodgers off the field, and tandem that with a huge quarterback that is hard to bring down, allowing him to stay in the pocket longer so receivers could get open; play the Packers receivers mostly man, something the Packers had not seen a lot this season, thereby disrupting Packers offensive rhythm; and put pressure on Packers special teams. What are your thoughts?

I think you're missing the big one: The Bucs were able to play run on the way to the quarterback, and that is not an especially stout defensive line. We're talking about a defense that was 29th against the run and 30th in sacks per pass play heading into that game, yet, it was able to stop the run and sack Aaron Rodgers twice and force him to scramble out of the pocket several times. Teams on the Packers' remaining schedule are gonna wanna see the tape of that game. I'm not buying the significance of the man-to-man coverage thing. I think that's a formula for disaster because I think the Packers' receivers will destroy man-to-man coverage. I think the Bucs won up front and I think what allowed them to do that was being able to penetrate the gaps and disrupt, with a minimum of fear for being gashed by the run. I'm gonna watch that one, especially this Thursday.

Josh from Kunming, China

Vic, I love your column, however, I'm a bit irritated that you have never answered a single one of my questions that has asked for your opinion. What gives? Did I do something wrong?

Absolutely not, it's just that I had answered several questions from Kunming and I wanted to give fans from other towns a chance.

Matt from Rothschild, WI

Earlier in the year, when Nick Collins was injured but hadn't been put on the IR list, yet, you said it was because the Packers didn't know how they would need to use the spot. There are other teams in the league that have done this as well this season. Can a team not carry 53?

There's no rule that says you must carry 53 players on your active roster. If I remember correctly, the 1996 Ravens weren't able to carry a full roster because it would've put them over the salary cap.

Gary from Sycamore, IL

I'm a transplanted Packers fan born and raised in Milwaukee. The Packers offense has been able to score enough points so far to make up for a lackluster defense. We need a stronger pass-rush to take the pressure off a secondary that gives up far too many 10-plus-yard pass plays. What is your thought to restore a championship-caliber defense?

Hit somebody. It's always been my experience that good defense is triggered by physical play. I think too much energy is being spent on worrying about the design and how to get Clay Matthews to the quarterback. Instead of worrying about how to do it, just go hit somebody. There's something about defenses that hit. Their blood runs hotter, they run faster, they play more fearlessly, more aggressively, more confidently. It all starts with hitting. I firm believer in that.

Josh from York, PA

Hi, I've been seeing this celebration in the NFL and college for a while now and players usually do it after they sacked the quarterback. The celebration looks as if the player is using a spoon or something and eating. What exactly are they doing?

I think they want food. I think they're sending a message to their mothers to send food.

Zach from Woodstock, IL

A writer on an NFL website said the key to the Packers' success will be keeping Rodgers protected, which I agree with. How do you think the Packers will attempt to protect him from Detroit's front four, especially if our offensive line does not play their best?

It starts up front on Thursday. If the Packers don't get Ndamukong Suh blocked, it'll be a long day. The second part of the equation is getting the ball out quickly, which means getting the ball to the primary receiver more often than not.

Hil from Rochester, MN

Near the end of the first half, there was an incompletion to Finley. Finley was injured on the play and the Packers ended up being charged a timeout because of it. Since the clock was stopped anyway due to the incompletion, why did the Packers get penalized the timeout? It probably cost GB the opportunity for a FG attempt.

They had to call timeout to attend to Finley, who was down along the Packers' sideline. In the old days, and I'm serious about this, the medical staff would've just dragged him a few feet off the field and onto the Packers sideline, which would've avoided having to use a timeout. This is a different game today. We don't drag people anymore. Dragging Finley off the field would've resulted in public outrage and a TV expose on the inhumane treatment of professional athletes.

Doug from New Richmond, WI

Are the chain gang guys hired and controlled by the team or the league?

Support personnel, which is to say the chain gang crew, ballboys and visiting team clubhouse attendants are provided by and paid by the home team.

Karie from Coon Valley, WI

Aaron referred to the Packers getting away with one when Raji rushed for a touchdown. Should Raji's run really have been a penalty? What dictates reporting as an eligible receiver?

He was required to inform the referee prior to the play his intent to line up in an eligible-receiver position. He forgot to do it and the Packers got away with one. I haven't gotten one complaint from Packers fans about that officiating error, which resulted in a touchdown for the Packers. Let's not forget that when it goes the other way.

Bennett from Atlanta, GA

Vic, you've noted how the current state of media technology has provided some real positives for journalists but also has provided new mediums for irresponsible and knee-jerk reporting. I would like your opinion on ESPN's coverage of the Syracuse basketball allegations. I know it's not football-related, but it seems to be a good time to bring up the topic, considering Jason Whitlock has called for Mark Schwartz's firing for unethical journalism. I don't know much about Jason Whitlock, so I'd like to hear from an established vet like yourself.

When I heard the story last Friday night, I figured ESPN had it nailed down. I'm waiting to see the nails.

Larry from New Richmond, WI

Your response concerning hurdling made me wonder: Walter Payton, Marcus Allen and others were famous for diving over the pile. Has the NFL tried to reduce this move?

Sam "The Bam" Cunningham is the greatest over-the-top touchdown-maker I've ever seen. If I was a coach or scout, I'd be looking for a guy that can do what Cunningham did. Short-yardage and goal-line plays are becoming more difficult to convert all the time. Look, it's football, you will get hurt. It's not if, it's when. We have to stop reacting to every injury. I don't remember Cunningham hurting his neck.

Chris from Blue Mountain, MS

As you know, the Packers have a pretty tough schedule to close out the season, with at least five of those games against legitimate playoff contenders. By contrast, for example, the 49ers appear to have an easier schedule, with only two tough games remaining on their schedule.

I don't think the degree of difficulty is the issue, the issue is that the 49ers' two tough games, and I assume you're referring to Baltimore and Pittsburgh, are against AFC teams, whereas the Packers have to play the Lions twice and the Giants and Bears, and all of those are NFC games. In other words, the 49ers' games against Baltimore and Pittsburgh won't factor into the homefield tiebreakers, but the Packers' games against the Lions, Giants and Bears will, and that's why, in my opinion, the Packers need to stay ahead of the 49ers record-wise.

Alan from Jackpot, NV

Let's talk 1962. Do you feel a little retribution is in order for Lombardi and Starr, or have too many years passed for this to be a story?

I think it's a great story. I think this game has a storyline I'll never forget and I'm really enjoying this week and I have no doubt I'm gonna love this game. I am, however, one of the old-timers that can remember that game from 1962. For young fans and players, the '62 game means little or nothing and the shadow of that game will matter not to what transpires on the field on Thursday, but it's gonna matter to the old-timers that'll be watching it. This one is for them, and I don't think it's about payback, I think it's about reliving wonderful memories. I loved writing the story I wrote yesterday about Joe Schmidt's, Roger Brown's and Gail Cogdill's memories of the '62 game, and I did an interview with Jerry Kramer yesterday for a story that will appear later today and I will forever cherish the chance to have talked to Kramer about that game in '62. I hope you'll enjoy the story.

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