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Letters To LeRoy Butler


Leroy - Watching the game yesterday between the Kansas City Chiefs and Packers was a thriller. However, I am wondering where the pass defense is this year. Do you have any comments on what you might think the problem is? - Michelle (Lambertville, MI)

Looking at the Chiefs game, the Packers had a few problems. Not surprisingly, two of them were due to injuries. Joe Johnson (quadriceps) left the game in the first quarter and Mike McKenzie (back spasms) missed the second half. The loss of Johnson hurt the Packers' ability to generate pressure on the quarterback, while the loss of McKenzie -- the team's best cover-corner -- hurt them in the secondary.

A lot of people have been wondering why the Packers didn't blitz as much against Kansas City as they did against Chicago. Some of that had to do with injuries, some of that had to do with who they were playing: there were times the Packers blitzed against Kansas City and the Chiefs just picked it up and protected.

Now that Johnson is out for the year, the Packers have to find a way to generate more pressure from their linebackers and even the safeties. But the defensive linemen also have to start winning more of their 1-on-1 match-ups.

LeRoy, please explain to us the benefits of the prevent defense, because every time I see it employed it allows for quick scores and lets teams back into games. What is the strategic benefit of this most frustrating defensive alignment? - Erick (Minneapolis, MN)

People complain about the prevent defense a lot, and some of it is warranted. But you'd better not be blaming the Kansas City loss on the prevent defense. The Packers never sat back. Defensively, the Packers gave up a 67-yard pass to Tony Gonzalez because of a mistake in coverage, and the winning touchdown pass came when the Packers had eight men stacked in the box.

The Chiefs' comeback also had to do with some offensive miscues. In the second half, the Packers offense went three-and-out three times and turned the ball over once, resulting in a touchdown.

All of those things contributed to the Packers' loss and none of them had to do with a prevent defense.

There was definitely a momentum swing in the game, and that can sometimes happen with a prevent defense. So that might be why you thought the Packers were in prevent.

How much does a mistake like Ahman Green's fumble or Bhawoh Jue's missed coverage affect a player following the game? Is it on their mind in future games? -- Dan (Stillwater, MN)

Plays like that won't bother Ahman Green or Bhawoh Jue down the line, or even this week. As players, they just can't let that happen.

You have to have a short memory in the NFL. Sure, it's going to eat at them probably until Wednesday, but once they get the new game plan, it's their duty to move on.

The upcoming game always gives players a chance to redeem themselves, and I'm sure both Green and Jue will be looking forward to that opportunity. But they won't be distracted by mistakes or miscues of the past.

Why didn't the Packers keep the offense wide open in the fourth quarter? They seemed to get away from the great play calling in the first three quarters. -- John (Chilton, WI)

Actually, the Packers did keep their play calling wide open. In their three second-half three-and-outs, they ran the ball a total of three times. Bubba Franks, who usually catches everything that comes to him, had a rare drop. Meanwhile, the Chiefs brought some heat and were able to get pressure on Brett Favre.

The Packers tried mixing it up to keep the Chiefs defense guessing, but Kansas City made some plays defensively. That's going to happen sometimes.

Remember, too, that the Packers had driven to the Kansas City 32-yard line when Favre's pass for Donald Driver was tipped and intercepted. If the Packers weren't playing with a 'wide open' offense, they would have just run the ball up the gut and settled for a field goal attempt.

They were trying to make things happen. If that ball falls incomplete, Ryan Longwell might have made a field goal to put the Packers up 34-21. Instead the pick made it a 3-point game.

I think that without Ahman Green, the Packers wouldn't be winning games at all. Now he is getting all of the blame for fumbling, when without him the Packers probably wouldn't have led the Chiefs at all. How do you feel about this matter? -- Tony (Norway, MI)

I feel like Ahman Green is one of the top three running backs in the league and the Packers are fortunate to have him. If I'm a coach of the Packers, I take whatever Green can give me. If he can give me 190 yards of offense and two touchdowns every game with one fumble, I'll take it every time.

Keep in mind that Green is in the running for NFL MVP right now. He's an elite player and he's been that good. True enough, he needs to hang on to the football, but he'll bounce back from this.

At some point, too, you have to give the defense some credit. That was a big hit that caused the fumble. The Packers defense needs to be making similar plays.

A lot of people, especially Green Bay fans, have been ragging on the Packers with comments such as 'they're in complete disarray,' or 'Favre's losing it,' or 'they're doing nothing that shows them a possible playoff contender!' Funny thing -- in all three losses so far this year, the Pack have not lost to their opponents by more then a touchdown. Don't you think people are exaggerating a little bit too much on this situation? -- Sean (Red Bluff)

To a degree, I think you're right. Sure, the Packers have had some disappointing plays or performances this season, but some fans are way too quick to jump ship.

I think most of the true Packers fans stay dedicated to their team. They might get frustrated, but I think they keep things in perspective.

It might be that some fans are spoiled by the Packers' success. They've been one of the NFL's winningest teams since Brett Favre came to town, and maybe they haven't appreciated along the way how tough it is to win games.

The thing fans need to remember is this: as bad as they might feel after a loss, a player feels three-times worse. As NFL players, we dedicate our lives to the game. We work all year for the chance to win.

So the next time you walk out of a stadium angry over a loss, just imagine what the players feel like.

Hi Leroy! Loved to watch you play but your columns from a player's perspective are just as great to read. Question: How do you build up the players after such a heartbreaking loss as the one to the Chiefs? Do players build on the fact that they could have, should have beaten a 5-0 team they controlled throughout most of the game, or are the blown opportunities too much to take something positive from that game? -- Thomas (Cham, Switzerland)

That's a great question. It let's me know you're in tune to the game.

In the NFL, it's all about the big picture. And in the big picture, the goal is getting to the playoffs. As hard as it was to lose to Kansas City, the Packers aren't out of the race.

If I talk to a Green or a Favre, a Jue or a Darren Sharper after the game, I remind them how heavily they're depended upon for the Packers to succeed. As such, you can't let any one play hold you back, and you can't give up.

In the NFL, no one play or player wins a game. Had Sharper intercepted that ball in overtime and returned it for a touchdown, you wouldn't have said Sharper was the reason the Packers won, because that would ignore the contributions of all the other players. Likewise, that Sharper wasn't able to make that play isn't reason enough to blame him for the loss.

Yes, every game comes down to a number of crucial plays, but in the course of an entire season, no one play means very much.

As professionals, the Packers have to remember all the good things they did, work to fix the bad, and move on.

*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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