Presented by

Let's examine the problem on defense


Kamen from Bethel, CT

Last night's game was my kind of game. Was that your kind of game? Defensive struggle, hard running, low-scoring, down to the wire. I thought it suited your tastes very well.

Yeah, I like that kind of game. I don't need a lot of points to enjoy a game. I like a physical game that goes down to the wire and that's what that game was, but I also know we are in the minority. We know that because ESPN spent much of the night apologizing to the viewing audience for it having been such an ugly game. What a shame. Has it gotten to the point that we have to apologize when defense dominates offense? I guess it has. I didn't think it was an ugly game. In some ways, it was so bad it was good. It was refreshing to see quarterbacks struggling to complete passes, instead of moving the ball up and down the field without resistance. It was different. I like different.

Robert from Harvel, IL

Vic, I believe the problem with our pass-defense is that Capers is not having our secondary play much "Cover One" with blitz pressures underneath. Last year, our pass-defense flourished when we played that coverage while blitzing. The popular excuse in defense of our pass-defense is that opposing teams have to pass more since our offense gets a big lead to start the game; however, the weakness was shown right away in that long pass to Michael Jenkins at the start of the game at Minnesota.

Robert, when a defense's biggest problem is that it's giving up too many big plays, you don't wanna play a lot of "Cover One" because that's a high-risk scheme with a single-high safety that invites the big play. Before you can start playing those kinds of attack defenses, you have to prove you're sound in the deep third of the field; the Packers haven't done that. The pass to Michael Jenkins, by the way, was off a rollout to the left. It was designed to avoid pressure. The blitz is the cherry on top of a defense. It's not a base principle, it's the exotic thing you can do when you've mastered the base principles.

Bob from Valley Springs, SD

What did you think about the roughing-the-passer call on Clay Matthews?

I didn't like it, nor did I think the one against the Vikings a little earlier was deserving of a penalty. In each case, the rusher took precaution to avoid the quarterback's head and dip the shoulder into the quarterback's torso. What more can you ask of a 250, 300-pound man who's a step from the quarterback when he releases the ball? In the old days, each rusher would've gone for the quarterback's head and in each case a penalty would not have been called. These, of course, are not the old days. In each case, I knew a flag would be thrown, so I just stared off into space and reminded myself that this is the way it is and this is the way it will continue to be, so it doesn't do any good to complain about it or get upset about it. I've moved on to acceptance.

Tim from Albuquerque, NM

I nominate Sid Gillman as NFL coach of the year for 2011. Can you think of anyone with a greater influence on today's game?

It's been that way for 50 years. The "Gillman Tree" is one of football's strongest. All of these coaches are off the "Gillman Tree," either directly or indirectly: directly—Chuck Noll, Al Davis, Chuck Knox, Dick Vermeil, George Allen and Don Coryell; indirectly—Bill Walsh, John Madden, Tony Dungy, Mike Holmgren, George Seifert, Dennis Green, Steve Mariucci, Mike Sherman, Jon Gruden, Andy Reid, John Harbaugh, Gary Kubiak, Mike Mularkey, Brian Billick, Mike Smith, Lovie Smith, Mike Tomlin, John Fox, Mike McCarthy and a whole lot more.

Kevin from Tempe, AZ

Is there any offense that can go toe-to-toe with Aaron Rodgers and company?

The Patriots have a pretty good offense; it's No. 1 in the league. The Saints are No. 2. They just scored 62 points. They moved the ball pretty well when they were here for the opener. Maybe they'll come back to Lambeau one more time before this season is over.

Terry from Plymouth, MN

The Packers' play in the first part of the season reminds me of a housecat and a mouse. For some reason, we like to play with our food before finishing it off.

That perspective is a little too smug for my tastes. I don't like regarding opponents as food to be played with. I think you should take a look at the upcoming schedule.

Peter from Toledo, OH

Everyone says we haven't played our best football. What does that mean?

It means the Packers believe they have another level of performance in them. On defense, I would certainly agree. On offense, any step up would be imperceptible; I've never covered a better offense. Special teams have been outstanding. If the defense gets back to its 2010 ways, and if the Packers can avoid a rash of injuries, you'd have to believe this team is going to play deep into the postseason.

Dennis from Sheboygan, WI

We used to see teams run reverses on kick-returns, but I would say that has fallen out of favor in the last 10 years or so. Is the risk too great for the reward?

Can it happen? Yeah, but it would have to be a one-time shot; the reverse can't be the staple it once was because coverage teams are too disciplined and well-coached these days for reverses to be effective. First of all, a growing number of teams directionally kick, which means they pin the return man against the sideline; you need the ball kicked between the numbers to get the spacing you need to make a reverse work. Secondly, you need coverage guys getting out of their lanes and chasing the ball, and you'd get some of that in the old days when teams didn't even have special teams coaches, but not nowadays. Today's special teams coaches aren't going to allow opponents to go backside on their coverage teams. If you're gonna do that, you better do it with a throwback pass because reversing the ball takes too long. For the first nearly 20 years that I covered the NFL, special teams were an afterthought. Ten minutes were dedicated to special teams at the end of practice. Now, 25-30 percent of practice is spent on special teams. Teams literally have special teams coaching staffs and special teams practice fields. It's high-tech stuff.

Angelo from Willemstad, Curacao

What I have noticed is that somehow this season our defense tends to get better after halftime. This is especially true in third quarters, where the defense has allowed only 10 points. Do you believe this trend signals that our defense is better at adapting after they had time to discuss and adjust during halftime, and not so good at initial preparation?

It could mean something else. It could mean Packers opponents spent a lot of time in the offseason "drilling deeper than ever before," as Falcons Coach Mike Smith said. Remember, the Packers are the Super Bowl champion. They've got a target on their back. Everybody has something a little special in store for the Packers. The Packers make every opponent's heart beat a little faster.

Nick from Conneaut, OH

Sunday, in your blog, you stated that you hated the horn in Minnesota because it brings back bad memories. Hit us with it?

It was 1998, the year the Vikings went 15-1; Randy Moss was a rookie. I was covering a late-season game in the Metrodome on a Sunday night when the Jaguars were without Mark Brunell and had to start a rookie quarterback named Jon Quinn. I was also struggling with a neck problem for which I would have surgery as soon as the season ended. The final score that night was 50-10; the pain down my arm was exceeded only by the annoying sound of that horn. My night, however, was just beginning. The flight home couldn't land in Jacksonville because of fog, so we flew on to Orlando and a three-hour bus ride. I remember the bus pulling into the stadium parking lot in Jacksonville as the sun was coming up, walking off the bus and into my office to begin the work day. I could still hear the horn. The whole miserable night came back to me like a flashback the first time I heard that horn on Sunday.

John from Jacksonville, FL

This past weekend, Case Keenum set the NCAA record for total offense. Does he have a future in the NFL?

I think he's a good player, but the stigma of Houston quarterbacks will probably hurt him in the draft, just as the Jeff Tedford thing hurt Aaron Rodgers, and could cause some team to get lucky and have Keenum fall to it just as the Packers got lucky and had Rodgers fall to them. When Keenum's name is mentioned, you're going to also hear the names David Klingler and Andre Ware. It's very unfair and illogical, and you'd think Rodgers' success would cancel that kind of illogic, but it won't.

Corey from Lake Charles, LA

I was just wondering what current NFL uniforms are your favorite, and which are your favorites from the past? Nothing looks better than a sharp uniform.

I always thought the Rams uniform was a knockout. Why would they change those beautiful bright blue and yellow colors to the dull versions they're wearing now? I don't get it. Of the uniforms today, I like the heritage versions. I like a uniform I recognize and which brings back memories. I can look at the Packers uniform and imagine Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, etc. That's a good thing. Another old uniform I like is the Patriots' with the little man snapping the ball on the side of the helmet. That red jersey was dynamite. Why did they abandon that uniform? I don't get it.

Nick from Water Mill, NY

What, aside from personnel changes in the offseason, is so different about our approach to pass-defense? I'm sure Coach Capers hasn't changed his teaching technique, but to go from No. 5 to No. 27? Your thoughts, please.

OK, let's look at it. The first thing I did was check play-count. Last year, the Packers averaged 60 offensive plays a game; this year they are averaging 60 offensive plays a game, so it's not as though we can blame this on the offense for increasing the play-count of games. Time of possession this year is 36 seconds greater than last year, so that should be an aid to the defense. Third-down efficiency? Bingo! That's a major problem area. The Packers are not getting off the field on third down. Last year, the Packers were ninth in the league in third-down defense; this year they are 26th. Every time you don't get off the field on third down, add three or four more plays to your day; that's not a formula for rankings success. So, the question is why are the Packers struggling on third down? The answer is probably a combination of not holding the coverage long enough and not getting to the quarterback soon enough. Again, why? Well, losing Nick Collins didn't help, Tramon Williams has been bothered by a shoulder injury that has to have cost him some effectiveness in jamming receivers, Morgan Burnett is playing with a broken hand that's protected by a cast that effectively makes him a one-hand player, and Matthews has been nursing a quad injury that has forced him to miss a lot of practice time. I also think not having Mike Neal has hurt the cause. I hold out hope that Matthews, Neal, Williams and Burnett return to 100 percent. If and when that happens, the situation could change very quickly.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.