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Lions look good; showdown of 1-1 teams?

Punter should be fined for blow to the foot


Bruce from Washburn, WI

Vic, good call on Detroit.

The Lions have a tough one in Carolina this week, and then they host the Packers. I'd enjoy an early-season, NFC North showdown of 1-1 teams.

David from Vienna, Austria

Vic, a lot of comments suggest Dom Capers should do his job from the sideline. Where are most NFL defensive coordinators during games, and where would you be as a defensive coordinator and why?

Most of the coordinators I've covered have spent the game in the coaches' booth. They like being alone with their thoughts, instead of being on the sideline where distractions are many. I have a best friend who's an NFL coordinator and I once looked through the glass and smiled at him from the adjoining booth, and he gave me a dirty look, as if to say, "You know better than to do that." The guys in the coaches' booth tend to be intense thinkers. The coordinators that have been on the sideline are the type that like to feel the action. I regard it as a personal choice. I'd be in the coaches' booth. I like being close to the food and men's room.

Mike from Granite City, IL

Vic, did you see the Saints give up 400 yards to the Falcons offense? It's a good thing they spent all that money bringing in Byrd to help their defense, isn't it?

When you play racehorse offense, you force your defense to play the same style of football. That's not my kind of football. I think you have to know when to turn it on and when to turn it off. I would prefer to play it close to the vest and help my defense dictate the rhythm of the game, until crunch time. That's when I would turn it on. It's difficult to put teams away early in this league. Plus, I think your team needs to learn how to win at crunch time. I think it actually hurts teams to get into the habit of putting opponents away early because that's not how you win big games. You win in the postseason by knowing how to win at crunch time. Understand, of course, I am a defensive minded guy. I prefer 20-17 to 30-27. I like crunch time. In my opinion, that's when you find out what you are.

John from Hutchinson, MN

Everyone always talks about establishing a run game to open up the pass game. What about doing it the other way?

You can do it the other way, but the best reason for establishing the run to open up the pass is that, in the process, you're establishing your play-action game. I don't think you can establish your play-action game as effectively if you pass to open the run.

Josh from Seattle, WA

What if Antonio Brown was just trying to show the punter the cool logo on the bottom of his foot?

What if the punter hadn't acted as though he was protecting himself from a radiation storm? If that guy is going to continue being the Browns' punter, then he's got to run off the field immediately after punting the ball. This issue goes beyond intent or punishment. Those two teams are bitter rivals and one of them has been stepping on the other one's face for a long time. They did it again.

Tyler from Lincoln, NE

Vic, this issue with Ray Rice is just awful. The initial two-game suspension had the nation furious. How could spousal abuse be a less punishable crime than a drug offense, which did not seem to result in any injury to anyone? Now, with the new video, things are worse. Sources are saying the commissioner was aware of this new video before he issued the two-game suspension. Even if he wasn't, I must confess I'm extremely disappointed in the man who represents the most popular sport in our country. I value your opinion, Vic. I would appreciate your view on this matter.

It was botched. I'm sure of that. The other stuff? I don't know.

Jeff from Sandy, UT

Did you see Philip Rivers get scared of the pass rush and make a bad throw on that last third down?

I did not see that because I was in bed asleep. With about four minutes to play in the Giants-Lions game, I decided sleep was more important than what remained of one of the most massive football weekends of my life – it actually began last Wednesday with the longest flight in the history of the world. For a brief moment last night, I considered the possibility Mark Cuban was right.

Paul from Green Bay, WI

Vic, obviously, if you are a draft and develop team, you need to hit on your draft picks.

I'm going to stop you right there because nothing more needs to be said. You have achieved absolute truth. Here's the problem: The league's reverse-order draft system is intended to penalize winning teams by forcing them to draft less talented players. There's more: The salary cap concept is intended to control spending, which means it will punish teams that overspend. So, if you're a winning team, you have to draft from a weakened pool, and you have to be conservative in how you spend in free agency to make up for what you can't find in the draft. It's a system for creating parity no winning team has successfully avoided. The Patriots have been the best at avoiding it – hey, they have Tom Brady – but they haven't won a Super Bowl since the 2004 season. Think about it.

Rand from Watsonville, CA

Vic, if the bottom-tier teams are lacking in fundamental skills, and practice time is limited by the bargaining agreement, it makes sense to me to modify the contract and allow the weaker teams more time to work on the basic skills and increase parity. Maybe a sliding scale based on the previous season's win-loss records.

That's not going to happen but, if you wait long enough, the bottom-tier teams will draft high enough long enough to become top-tier teams.

Adam from Fargo, ND

I'm a big believer in all of our coaches, however, one thing that's been bugging me that goes back to last season is we seem to over-scheme. I agree with making subtle adjustments depending on our opponent, but we don't seem to try and dictate the games, rather play the games the other teams want us to. Thoughts?

Mike McCarthy addressed that issue early in the offseason. He said he wanted less scheme and more creative use of personnel. I like that philosophy because I've long been a believer in scheming personnel, not scheming schemes. Well, the Packers got caught in substitution problems in the first half of last Thursday's game. In my opinion, that's likely the result of doing something for the first time in a game, and that's the result of not doing in the preseason what you're going to do in the regular season because you want to hide it. In a sense, that made last Thursday's game a preseason game, and I think that's somewhat of a leaguewide issue. Teams ran out of gas in Week 1 because their players weren't accustomed to playing a whole game. The Patriots were shut out in the second half in Miami. The Steelers blew a 27-3 lead and had to score on their final drive of the game to win. The Panthers nearly blew a 17-0 lead. I think the lack of playing time for frontline players in the preseason has effectively made September an extension of the preseason. The Seahawks play it straight on defense; they win the one-on-ones, and that's the best scheme of all. How many teams can play that scheme? You might only need two fingers to count them.

Jeff from Las Vegas, NM

I've been in the process of a personal revitalization, and that just became my new war cry: Help is not on the way.

You like that, huh? OK, here's another one for you. I call it "Ketchman's Law," and it goes like this: "If you want it, you can't have it. The moment you don't want it, it's yours." I don't know why that is, it just is. The key is never want.

Mark from Minneapolis, MN

Vic, you have always struck me as a quirky, honest East Coast guy. Quite an interesting juxtaposition from my original Central Wisconsin roots, as you might imagine. My question for you is: Do you really think the NFL did not know the infamous Ray Rice elevator video existed?

I believe what people tell me, but sometimes I grit my teeth as I'm listening.

Ross from Ankeny, IA

When will you be writing your memoirs? You deliver the truth as you see it through your eyes and make no apologies. Keep giving people the truth and keep allowing me to continue to enjoy the game for what it is, theater.

You want the truth? OK, here's the truth. On Sept. 4, the Seahawks were a better football team than the Packers, and no change in scheme, game plan or preparation was going to change that. The Packers now have four months to close the gap between themselves and the Seahawks, or any other team in the league that might be of the Seahawks' quality. September isn't the deciding month. December and January are. That's when you must be the better football team or your season will end. As it stands right now, the season is just beginning. That's the truth.

Jim from Sedalia, MO

How do you think the Packers will fare after their loss?

I think we're going to see the Packers play with a chip on their shoulder this Sunday. I think we're going to see this team give their best effort in every way. Late Sunday afternoon, we'll have a much better idea of the Packers' position and place in the NFL.

Raymond from San Antonio, TX

Vic, I know it's going to be one nutty week, especially with people hollering that Antonio Brown intentionally kicked the punter, much like they cried Tomlin intentionally stepped on the field to interfere with the return, ignoring the obviously startled look on his face. Brown tried to hurdle (the punter) and was pushing his landing leg down in anticipation of clearing the tackler so he could keep going. He's guilty of not seeing his blockers had cleared the rest of the way. What logic is there he would intentionally try to injure the player at the minimum risk of costing the team a penalty?

Mike Tomlin unintentionally interfering with the return was one of those times when I gritted my teeth. I believe Brown was attempting to hurdle the punter, who I suspect Brown believed would go low to try to make the tackle, instead of cowering and falling backward. Hey, at that point Brown had to step on something. You just don't expect it to be a tackler's face. How about a head-to-foot contact penalty on the punter? He needs to be fined for hitting a defenseless foot with his face.

Nathan from Denver, CO

Did the Seahawks become a dominant defense by simply being better than other teams at identifying and drafting natural tacklers?

They identified naturally good tacklers. Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Bobby Wagner are three examples.

Kane from Akron, OH

Vic, as a member of the media, do you sometimes feel responsible for perpetuating the fans' incessant need for answers? The plethora of football coverage on a daily basis where "experts" give their opinions is almost becoming more important than the game itself. I think the media is breeding a culture of angry, demanding fans that would prefer approval from the "experts" rather than actually watching football. I understand your job is to write about football, but I'm wondering if you sometimes think you (and really I mean the media in general) are doing more harm than good for the fans.

Coach, I go to work, I write stories, I ask questions at press conferences, I write more stories, I go home, get the mail, pay bills, make myself a brandy old-fashioned with a cherry and an umbrella in it, watch TV until I fall asleep in the chair, and then I go upstairs, brush my teeth, take my cholesterol pill and go to bed. At 5:30 in the morning, I wake up and do it all again. When I've done it enough times, I get a paycheck. At no time during any of that do I stop and think about my impact on the emotional stability of fans. Yinze gotta take care of yourselves.

Grant from Richmond, VA

Vic, my perpetually pessimistic father has just predicted our beloved Packers would finish third in the division behind Detroit and Minnesota. Any words of advice for him?

That's not a prediction, that's an expression of fear. My inbox is full of that expression.

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