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Letters To LeRoy Butler


LeRoy, the Packers have a better road record than home record. What is wrong with them at Lambeau? Do they still believe that the other team will fold just because they are playing at the most hallowed field in the league, or are the Packers just that inconsistent? - Matt (River Falls, WI)

It is interesting that the Packers have struggled at home this year, but I don't think it's because they expect teams to lay down for them at Lambeau Field. Remember that two of the Packers' losses, against quality opponents in the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles, were games in which the Packers gave up leads in the fourth quarter.

That said, I'm sure the Packers have been extra motivated on the road recently. Their last two road games against the Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers came in must-win situations. And try as they might, it's hard to replicate that 'me against the world' attitude when the stakes aren't as high.

But, as I've said all season, I don't think the Packers' losses have been related to a lack of desire. It's been about turnovers: having too many on offense and not creating enough on defense.

For whatever reason, the Packers have had the worst of their turnover problems at home this season. But I'm sure they'll get that turned around, starting this weekend against San Francisco.

Believe me, re-establishing dominance at Lambeau Field will be a focal point for the rest of the season.

I have really enjoyed your column! I am a Tampa Bay Packer Backer and really enjoyed this week's game. My question: Was there a different defensive strategy this week? Or was the defense simply executing better? - Anne (Tampa, FL)

It was really a combination of both. The Packers did have some special things that they wanted to do against Tampa -- areas of Tampa's offense that they wanted to attack -- but for the most part they just executed better.

Take the defensive line, which put more pressure on Brad Johnson than on any other quarterback they've faced this year. The Packers didn't achieve that pressure by doing anything flashy, they just won more of their 1-on-1 battles.

I think the Packers took the Bucs game personally. Maybe that was part of the difference. But overall I think the defense is starting to find itself and really improve.

For all the times we've been hard on those guys when they haven't made plays, give all the credit to the players this week!

Hey, Mr. Butler, I have one question: Where's Bubba Franks?! It seems he rarely gets his number called anymore. - Mike (Elmwood Park, NJ)

Mike, I'm glad you asked this question because it speaks to something I mentioned in today's column.

Bubba Franks may not be getting his number called a lot, but that doesn't mean he isn't playing great football.

In the previous two seasons Franks was a big target for the Packers in red zone situations. This season the running game has been so dominant that the Packers haven't called his number as much, but they haven't forgotten about him.

Over the course of an NFL season, a lot of guys get chances to be heroes, and Franks will have his moment soon enough.

In the meantime, he should be praised for his hard work as a blocker and for the fact that he shows up every week ready to play hard. If Franks was a selfish player, he'd be pretty upset right now. But like the guys in the receiving corps, Franks is all about doing what's best for the team. Right now that means being more of a blocker than a pass-catcher.

Why do you think this team has been so inconsistent this year? Right now it looks like they could win four in a row if they show up every Sunday, but will they? What are the reasons for the team's inconsistency? - Josh (Eagle River, WI)

Not to beat a dead horse, but the Packers' problems with consistency are identical to their problems at home: turnovers.

Every team in the NFL knows that when you finish ahead in the turnover ratio, you often finish ahead in the game, too.

In each of the Packers' losses this year they've given the ball up too much on offense and not taken it away enough on defense. How well the Packers play down the stretch will be determined on that takeaway margin.

LeRoy, you're the man! Great win for the Packers down here in Sunny South Florida! Maybe it was just my perception, but the play calling didn't seem to be as conservative as usual, and some big plays were the cause of good play calls, especially on third-and-9 from their 3-yard line and on fourth-and-1. Do you think the coaching staff will be less conservative after yesterday or will those plays not affect their decisions in the future? Thanks. GO PACK - Chad (Coconut Creek, FL)

Chad, it's always interesting to see the way wins and losses shape the way fans look at the game.

When the Packers lost to the Philadelphia Eagles, a lot of fans complained that the play-calling was too conservative. Now a lot of people, including you, are suggesting that it was less conservative against Tampa Bay.

Well, if you look at it, the play-calling was pretty much the same in both games.

For example: In the fourth quarter against the Eagles, the Packers went for it on fourth-and-1 and got a touchdown from Ahman Green. Against the Bucs, Najeh Davenport made it on fourth-and-1 and Green eventually scored the game-winning touchdown.

Likewise, at the end of the Eagles game, the offense tried to protect the lead and work time off the clock by relying on their dominant running game. They ran the ball twice and passed on third down, but never made a first down.

Against the Bucs, the Packers were put in almost the same exact situation. This time they ran the ball six straight times (no passes!) against a tough defensive line and were able to pick up two first downs and take almost three full minutes off the clock.

As those examples show, the play-calling for the Packers has been fairly consistent all season. Most of the time it has worked: the Packers lead the NFL in rushing and are ranked sixth in total yards and points per game. Some of the time it hasn't.

That's football.

LeRoy, I was listening to a Packers post-game show and the callers were complaining about not utilizing the receivers and tight ends more. I say, why not go with what is working and that being the running game? What are your thoughts? Great column! I love reading it every week. - Christine (DeForest, WI)

Christine, you're absolutely right!

The Packers lead the league in rushing. They're sixth in total offense. And there really hasn't been a point all season where they've been stopped by an opposing defense.

The only time the Packers have been stopped is when they've stopped themselves by failing to execute or by turning the ball over.

Brett Favre is a great quarterback, but the fact remains that the running game has been better than the passing game this year. Especially considering Favre's injury, why should the Packers go away from that?

Too often these days, teams get caught up in trying to make lots of changes in the game plan from week to week. The Packers have found an offensive rhythm that's very effective. They can still execute even better than they are now, but there's no reason to make drastic changes.

I think a lot of Packers fans love Favre and want to see him put up big numbers. But even with the three-time MVP at quarterback, the Packers have won more games with dominant running performances than dominant passing performances. That's just the way football works.

What Favre wants more than anything is to win. By pounding the run and protecting the football, the Packers will do that.

Just be thankful that when the Packers do need to pass, Favre and the receivers can make plays. Look at Javon Walker against Minnesota and Robert Ferguson against Tampa Bay as two great examples of that.

After seeing Brett Favre's performance and how he can't seem to hold on to the football due to his broken thumb, I think in would be right to put in Doug Pederson, don't you think so LeRoy? - Tony (Detroit)

Tony, your last name must be Pederson.

The reason Brett Favre couldn't hold on to the ball against Philadelphia was because the football was so wet. Otherwise he's been just fine.

There's no question that Favre's broken thumb makes throwing harder for him, but I'll ask you this one simple question that should clear this thing up: If you were an opposing team, would you rather face a healthy Doug Pederson or an injured Brett Favre?

Pederson is a capable backup, but if I'm on the opposing defense, I'd rather face anyone but Favre. Even injured, he's one of the best playmakers in the league.

It seems that since the Packers signed Grady Jackson, their defense has started to click. Most noticeably his first game (a stinking loss, but they played a great game) against the Eagles but then a big-time win at Tampa. How big of an impact player is Grady? Or is the Pack defense just starting to hit their groove? - James (Oklahoma City, OK)

I do think that the Packers defense is starting to hit its groove, but there's no question that Grady Jackson is a big help for the D-line.

Jackson is an impact player, and I'm sure he's going to play with a lot of passion and heart as he tries to show the New Orleans Saints that they shouldn't have released him.

Jackson could have signed with the Packers before the 2002 season, and then he wouldn't be a newcomer. But this year he's added some speed and power on the inside, while also giving Gilbert Brown some much-needed breathers.

Another key player has been Larry Smith, who came to the Packers a few weeks before Jackson.

He's been able to boost the Packers' pass rush with his great push. He's a strong player who, like Jackson, is worthy of drawing a double-team. As those guys continue to get more comfortable, the D-line should only get better down the stretch.

And when you're watching the D-line, remember that even if they're not making tackles, they're either forcing the quarterback to throw earlier than he wants to, or they're knocking the offensive line around so linebackers like Nick Barnett can make tackles to stop the run.

*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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