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Letters To LeRoy Butler


In the Seahawks game the TV commentators kept mentioning that if the Seahawks didn't drop those eight passes the game would have been different. What about the passes the Packers dropped: 1) Antonio Freeman for a first down; 2) David Martin jumping before the ball arrived so that the ball sailed over his head, forcing a punt instead of big gain into the red zone; 3) Ahman Green in overtime -- ball in hands -- and Packers end up punting. These catches could have made a big difference in Packer scores as well, but the announcers forget about that. Why? - Dorothy (Gwinn, MI)

First of all, you have to remember that TV announcers might know a lot about football, but they don't know everything. What they say isn't always fact, it's just their opinion or the way they see things unfold.

Having said that, there's no question that the Seahawks failed to take advantage of some of their opportunities. But the Packers didn't take advantage of all of theirs either. There were the dropped balls you mentioned on the offensive side and some near interceptions on the defensive side.

The thing of it is, that's football. The game is based on inches. Almost always, the team that makes the fewest mistakes wins the game. The Packers' win against Seattle wasn't any less impressive because Koren Robinson dropped what would have been a touchdown pass.

Forget about what Seattle didn't do and what the Packers didn't do. Both teams made plays that could have won the game. The Packers just made more of them (And if you want to know how tough it is to catch passes when it's that cold outside, try playing catch with a bowling ball.).

On TV I heard Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck say the Seahawks were going to go score after they won the coin toss to start overtime. We used to call that 'waking the beast.' It sounded like everyone at Lambeau heard it. Did that do anything to fire up the Packers? - Chuck (Albuquerque, NW)

I think the Packers were fired up already. Hasselbeck's comments might have been loud and clear on TV, and many fans in the stands seemed to have heard them, but I don't think most of the players on the sideline did.

The Packers' playoff lives were on the line. They were focusing in on what they had to do and were tuning the rest of it out. You learn to do that as a player.

Our fans took it personally, and probably should have, but if you know Matt Hasselbeck then you know he was just having fun and being the confident guy he is.

Seattle had nothing to lose and he was trying to fire up his troops. That's fine in my book.

Happy New Year, LeRoy! Great victory for the Pack against Seattle! However, the victory cannot mask the poor play call near the end of regulation that almost cost them the game. Instead of trying to pick up a very important first down the Packers ran a conservative running play to Ahman Green that went nowhere. This put Ryan Longwell into the difficult position of kicking a 47-yard field goal under adverse conditions. The kick was right on line, but came up a few yards short. Please comment on why the play calling seems to focus on not losing rather than winning the game. Thank You! - Al (Downers Grove, IL)

I said in my column that I would have liked to have seen a pass in that situation, but it's easy to say that now. It doesn't mean a pass would have worked or that the run couldn't have.

The thing you have to remember is that at that point of the game it was a chess match. The Packers were trying to come up with a play that would give them enough yards to win the game. It's not like Tom Rossley didn't want to pick up 5 yards for Longwell.

In his Monday press conference, Coach Sherman said that the Packers went to a play that's actually been successful for them in similar situations this year. In that sense, they were just playing the numbers and it's hard to argue with that.

Also, had the Packers thrown an incomplete pass, they wouldn't have gotten any yardage, so it's not like an interception was the only risk to throwing in that situation.

Rossley and Sherman call plays they think will work. If they're executed correctly, they usually do.

What's ridiculous is to suggest that Rossley ran the ball because he wasn't trying to win but was just 'trying not to lose.' Why wouldn't he want to win? As a coach, his career is all about trying to win.

And don't say that the Packers didn't take chances! Twice in the fourth quarter Sherman decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 when a conservative coach would have taken a field goal or punted. But the Packers were aggressive.

One final note on the Green run at the end of regulation: the play that set it up was a 27-yard pass to Javon Walker across the middle. If the Packers were playing conservative, they would have never made that throw.

In the game versus Seattle, the Packers started running the ball well towards the end of regulation. Then, in overtime, the Packers ditched the run. What's up with that? I worry about the play calling being too conservative. - Mark (Verona, WI)

To answer your claim that the play calling was too conservative, just look at my previous answer.

I only include this question because some fans think that the Packers ran too much against the Seahawks. Other fans think they passed too much.

Didn't they win the game? What more could you want?

In last Sunday's playoff game, Seattle had a first-and-goal with under 2 minutes to play. If they score it's tied. If they don't, it's over. Why would the Packers not want to call timeout and preserve the clock for a possible game-winning drive and score (in the case of Seattle tying the score)? - Glenn (Milwaukee, WI)

Glenn, I can see the way you're thinking, but I think Sherman played this situation perfectly.

I know that many of you feel that Seattle wasn't under any pressure in terms of the clock because they were so close to the end zone, but as a former defensive player the last thing I want is to give the opposing offense extra time to breathe.

If the Packers call timeout, it just gives Mike Holmgren and the Seahawks more time to set up a play. Remember, if not for the questionable pass interference call on Nick Barnett, the Seahawks would have been facing fourth-and-goal at the 6-yard line, needing a touchdown.

Until the Seahawks score, you have to assume that your defense can stop them. Otherwise you're making it easier on the other team.

Also remember that even though Ryan Longwell came up short on his 47-yard field goal attempt, the Packers had plenty of time to move into scoring position on the last drive of regulation.

If they had burned a timeout when Seattle had the ball, then the Packers have to think twice about throwing over the middle to Javon Walker, as they did for a 27-yard gain, and maybe they don't move into Seattle territory.

But by conserving timeouts, the Walker gain allowed the Packers to spike the ball and have a timeout in reserve to set up for the game-winning field goal.

Ryan Longwell wanted to get 5 yards closer, and the Packers attempted to do so with a run out of shotgun by Ahman Green.

You can debate whether that was the right play to call, but had the Packers picked up the 5 yards they were looking for, Longwell's field goal probably wins it.

The point is, in the Packers' final drive of regulation, time wasn't an issue, and the situation wouldn't have improved by burning timeouts when Seattle had the ball.

Although the Thriller blitz on the last play of the game worked to the Pack's favor, how risky is it to call such a play at that point in the game? If Al Harris missed the pick would the wide receiver be gone, or would someone be left to catch him a few yards down field? -- Troy (Warsaw, IN)

In that situation, if Al Harris reads the play wrong or if Matt Hasselbeck somehow gets the ball past him, Alex Banister is gone for the game-winning touchdown. No question about it.

That's the risk of making the Thriller call, where everyone rushes the quarterback to leave single-coverage. And that's why you'll see that call made at most two times a game.

It's a risky call, but if you play it right it's like an Ace in the hole. In this case, it worked out.

It was a great call by defensive coordinator Ed Donatell to bring the house, and it was a great decision by Al Harris to jump the route.

LeRoy, I'm all for celebrations and players having fun, but shouldn't Al Harris wait to wag the finger until he reached the end zone? - Nathan (Grafton, WI)

First of all, let's point out that Al Harris raised his finger in the air and not the ball -- even though many newspapers and websites said otherwise.

Second: let's just remember what Harris said after the game: "The guy behind me isn't going to catch me. He's behind me. (And) Michael Vick is home, so I knew that Hasselbeck wasn't going to catch me."

Third: he ran hard. It wasn't like he slowed down and started dancing.

Fourth: he made it, didn't he?

Why are Mike Sherman and staff overlooked in sound bites on national media? His coaching job to me is in the hierarchy of this league. A running team with Brett Favre as quarterback and everyone on the same page is pure NFL top shelf. - Glenn (Saratoga Springs, NY)

Just like I think a lot of the Packers players were overlooked for the Pro Bowl, a lot of the coaches are overlooked by the media, too. A bunch of the guys on that staff could be head coaches.

Part of it is that the Packers play in a small market. Another part of it is that the Packers coaches don't go seeking attention like some of their colleagues around the league.

But the main thing is that that Packers haven't won the big one. Once the Packers win a Super Bowl or even start making it to a few NFC Championship games, the attention will come whether they want it or not.

I apologize if this is a catch-up question, but I know a lot about the Packers. I was asked what the number 3 on the helmet means. I couldn't answer and checked the website to no avail. Would you let me know? - Brian (Port Saint Lucie, FL)

The decal honors Hall of Fame halfback Tony Canadeo, who died Nov. 29. Canadeo is one of only four players to have his number retired by the Packers. Click here for more information.

*LeRoy Butler played 12 seasons for the Green Bay Packers, helping them to two Super Bowls and earning NFL All-Decade Honors for the 1990s, before retiring in July 2002. This season Butler is providing exclusive analysis to with a breakdown of the upcoming game on Saturdays and a column and Q&A session on Tuesdays.

Butler's autobiography, 'The LeRoy Butler Story ... From Wheelchair to the Lambeau Leap,' is available on his website,*

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