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Letters To LeRoy Butler


Why did the Packers run the ball three plays in a row with 2:53 left in the game to give Philadelphia the ball back with great field position? - Kim (Port Washington, WI)

Kim, you were one of many to ask a question like this. First of all, the Packers ran it twice in a row with Ahman Green and then passed to William Henderson on third down, but he was tackled near the line of scrimmage.

Those plays come straight from a 4-minute offense sheet, which is what the Packers go to when they have a late lead and want to control the clock while also picking up yardage. You can criticize the Packers for not executing well enough to get the first down, or you can credit the Eagles with the stop, but to complain about the Packers running the ball at that point is kind of silly.

For the game, the Packers averaged 6.5 yards a carry. Meanwhile, the passing offense had been pretty ineffective. Had the Packers thrown the ball instead of running it, not only might they have gained fewer yards, they probably would have burned less time on the clock.

If that's how the offense fizzled, wouldn't you have complained about the play-calling then?

It seems obvious that in Monday night's game, Ahman Green was the Packers' go-to player running behind a go-to offensive line.

Because of that, you might think it was 'predictable' that the Packers were going to run, and that the Eagles were ready for it. But the Eagles were ready for a run when the Packers went for it on fourth-and-1, and yet the Packers came away with a 45-yard touchdown.

My point is this: It's easy to look back in hindsight and say, 'this play didn't work, we should have done this,' but people have a tendency to give credit to the players when things go well, but rip the play-calling or the schemes when things go poorly. You just can't do that.

As a fan, you have to trust that offensive coordinator Tom Rossley knows which plays the Packers run best in that situation and he's going to call them.

No play is perfect. If Michael Jordon missed a game-winner in basketball, would you blame the coach for having him shoot?

Why did Tom Rossley not use the most potent weapon he had in Brett Favre? That kind of conservative play calling tends to lose games, doesn't it? - Kevin (Sioux Falls, SD)

I'm friends with Brett Favre and I love the guy, but right now the Packers' most potent weapon is Ahman Green. Now, you're probably going to suggest that Green's fumbles are too costly to consider him a go-to guy, but Favre had some key fumbles in the game Monday night, too.

When you look at the weather conditions, then consider Favre's broken thumb and the fact that the Packers averaged 6.5 yards a carry Monday night, there was no reason to go away from the running game.

Green is the guy the Packers need to live and die with right now. To get to the playoffs, other players have to step up and perform, but Green is the workhorse behind that dominating offensive line.

Finally, in regard to Favre, the Packers took at least four deep shots in the game Monday night and none of them resulted in a completion. If anything, I think the Packers took too many chances later in the game, rather than sticking with what was working.

Should Brett Favre sit out until his thumb heals? - Ross (Highland, CA)

Absolutely not. After the St. Louis game, when he broke the thumb, did you blame him for the loss? What about after the Minnesota game when he led the Packers to a win in the Metrodome? Did you think Doug Pederson or Craig Nall should be the starter then?

True, the wet ball was a problem for Favre against the Eagles, and his thumb probably didn't help. But Favre is smarter than he is tough, and if he thinks his thumb is going to keep the Packers from winning, he'll take himself out. Otherwise the Packers just have to hope that his good plays outweigh a few injury-related setbacks.

And, Ross, if I sound too emotional, I apologize. But I'm just as frustrated as all of you fans right now. And believe me, the players are frustrated, too!

Hey, LeRoy. I look forward to your comments every week. I keep hearing that Ahman Green's fumbling problem is going to get fixed. I understand it was wet last night but the Packers should have been ready for that. It seems the Packers losses this year have occurred because of Ahman's inability to hold on to the football. Is it ever going to get fixed? - Ben (Stevens Point, WI)

I guarantee you Ahman Green gets his fumbling under control. Why? Because he just has to.

Part of his problem is that he carries the ball in his left hand, and he's not as comfortable switching the ball to his right hand. Usually when Green's fumbles occur he's running up the right sideline with the ball exposed.

He runs that way because that's natural to him. And if not for his fumbles, Green would be considered the top running back in the league right now, even better than Priest Holmes.

Like Holmes, Green has a great stiff-arm, one of the best in football. For that reason, he can't wrap up the ball with two hands all the time or it will take away from one of the elements that make him a great player.

But going up the middle, Green needs to wrap it up whenever possible.

Monday night it seemed like his elbow pads weren't helping, but equipment manager Red Batty will enter into the equation and help Green find an option that allows him to protect his arms and the football.

At this point, the league knows about Green's history and they're aggressively trying to strip the ball away at all times. The Packers defense should be taking notes and trying to do the same thing.

Hey LeRoy, Why do you think the Packers are having so much trouble forcing turnovers this year? - Heidi (Osseo, WI)

As defensive players, we always talk about how turnovers come in bunches. And I can't explain why, but that just seems to be true.

That said, the Packers have to attack the football. When one player is making a tackle, another player needs to try and strip the ball out. That's what's caused most of Ahman Green's fumbles this season.

And when a defensive back gets his hands on the ball, he has to make the interception.

It's as simple as that. But doing it can be the hard part.

Did it seem like the defense went into a prevent or played conservative on Philly's last drive? The pressure on Donovan McNabb was working so well earlier and it seemed like they went away from that on their winning drive. - Lynerd (Osseo, WI)

Technically, the Packers weren't in a prevent defense at the end of the game. But, you're right that they did fall back into a conservative scheme.

I'm assuming that when Al Harris had to go to the bench with leg cramps that it at least somewhat affected the Packers' ability to blitz, because they wanted to have more help in the secondary. But even if you play a more conservative zone coverage, I think you always have to mix in some blitzes in that situation to keep the opposition on their heels.

Otherwise the offense can get into a rhythm, and a clicking offense is tough for any defense to stop.

Why does every team in the NFL think that you can blitz for 58 minutes then go to that very bad prevent zone for the last 2. This does not work for any team. The thought of letting them get everything short but not deep, kill the clock is an antiquated concept. Every team will kill you on this defense. Why is this defense still in a coordinator's playbook? - Brian (Milwaukee, WI)

That the prevent defense has a bad reputation is a bit unfair. For example, if the Packers lose a lead, fans blame the prevent. But if the Packers come from behind, they credit the offense, rather than pointing at the other team's prevent defense.

The fact is that the prevent is in a defensive coordinator's playbook for a reason, and most of the time it gets the job done.

Monday night the Packers weren't even in a strict prevent, but they were in a conservative zone coverage.

You can argue that the Packers should have been more aggressive, but the Packers' zone defense had nothing to do with Duce Staley running up the middle for an 11-yard gain, or catching the ball wide open for an 11-yard reception.

Those are player breakdowns. And no matter what the defensive scheme -- from prevent to an all-out blitz -- it's up to the players to keep flying to the football and playing with an aggressive attitude.

LeRoy, I'm a big fan of yours! We miss you dearly. Can we still make the playoffs after that debacle last night against Philly? Keep up the great work. - Art (Bethel, CT)

Yes, the Packers can definitely make the playoffs, but they have to start by winning on the road at Tampa Bay.

This weekend's game is a must-win, not because the Packers will be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss, but because every time the Packers lose their window of opportunity closes.

The Packers are right in the middle of the pack now. They have plenty of time to break out of it, but they're going to have to be a strong road team down the stretch, in addition to regaining their dominance at home.

*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.

Every Monday you can come to to ask LeRoy questions that he will answer along with his Tuesday column.

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

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