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Matthews is getting a lot of attention


Ryan from London, England

When they say the quarterback is "looking at the pictures," can you explain what that means and what it shows?

They're pre-snap photos taken from the team's video booth and sent down to the sideline so the quarterback can look at the defensive formations and verify that what he thought he saw in the way of a coverage or blitz look was, in fact, what he saw. That's all it is. My sons were training camp ballboys, which is one of the toughest jobs on the face of the earth, and worked the visitors' locker room on game days, and one of them was a pictures runner. He learned how difficult it can be to get from the press box to the field, and that those pictures better be down on the sideline by the time the quarterback wants them.

John from Green Bay, WI

In Sunday's win against Chicago, Starks looked pretty hesitant at the line, especially after he tried to bust outside or into a hole a couple of times and got stuffed. From your perspective, was it more about play-calling; Grant's calls simply worked better based on design or did Starks just have a rough game?

The Packers employ a "run to daylight" style of running game. What that means is that there isn't a strictly designated hole to hit; the back runs to an area and then looks for daylight. We've talked about that and how it pertains to the Packers' zone-blocking scheme. It is not a power-football approach. It's not for pounders, it's for cutback runners. The key ingredient is seeing daylight and then hitting it quickly. On Sunday in Chicago, Ryan Grant saw daylight and hit it quickly. James Starks, from my perspective, didn't see daylight as readily. It's typical of cutback runners to have big days and bad days. Pounders tend to be four, four, four guys. Cutback runners break it big sometimes, and then get caught in their own tracks on other occasions. Sometimes they just don't see or feel the running lanes as well as they do on other days. That's why you go with the hot hand. Starks was hot in Carolina, Grant was hot in Chicago. Everybody wants a proclamation at running back. Why? What's wrong with it the way it is?

Corey from Richland, WA

It's a good thing Mr. Bulaga only has a knee bruise. It also bodes well that, unlike last year, most injuries the Packers are now incurring are just bruises. Why the sudden and overt gamesmanship from Coach McCarthy and others (Pats, Colts, etc.) with respect to injuries? I thought the league required more information within injury reports.

The league requires that the area of injury be identified and the player's potential for participation in the next game listed as out, doubtful, questionable or probable. That's all. Why would any coach provide more information than required? Didn't DeAngelo Hall explain why coaches restrict the information they provide?

Jeff from Cottage Grove, MN

Couldn't be happier that we are 3-0, yet, at the same time, I find myself being frustrated as I watch these games. There are just too many three-and-outs for my taste, especially at the end of games, and I still don't like getting field goals instead of touchdowns when we all know the talent we have on offense. Vic, it seems like you have very few concerns, but I can't help but disagree with you. If we can't keep drives going or we settle for field goals, we are going to continue to allow teams to stay in games when we have the capacity to put the game out of reach. I'm also concerned that we don't have consistent pressure on the opponents' quarterback throughout the game. The Packers have had sacks, but they are coming in spurts. Consistent pressure would reduce the number of passing yards against us. I mean, what was up this week with all the pre-snap penalties? Am I just spoiled because of the level of play the Packers had reached in the playoffs last year? Despite being 3-0, it seems like the team is underperforming and that's been frustrating as I watch the games. I believe this team is special and I want to see that week in and week out, but so far we are only seeing glimpses. I believe this team has the potential for a run of championships and I'm just rooting for these things to get fixed.  Am I the only one seeing these things?

How could someone from a town with such a peaceful name as Cottage Grove be consumed by anxiety? The leaves are starting to fall, the air is crisp and the sun is warm. Take a walk. Breathe in the fresh air and think how much better 3-0 is than 0-3.

John from Brookfield, WI

With the emphasis on taller receivers today, why are defensive backs usually shorter? I am really sick of seeing our defensive backs losing out on jump balls.

How many tall people do you know that can backpedal faster than most people can run forward and change directions in the bat of an eye? I've only known one, Mel Blount. There's a 6-3 cornerback in Miami, Sean Smith. Maybe he'll be the next Mel Blount, but it's a very short line of tall cornerbacks behind Blount.

Noble from Madison, WI

In the Packers-Bears game I noticed two drives in which our running game was essentially stuffed around the 10-yard line. Do you think it was a bad idea to continue the run on a condensed field? Did the Bears just have our red-zone running on lock, or should we have just let Rodgers do what he did when we eventually hit third down and hit Finley?

I'm not big on play-calling. I know that's not popular with fans in this day and age of Madden and heightened awareness of play-calling, but if the Packers had attempted passes that failed, you'd probably be asking me why they didn't run the ball. I acknowledge that in some instances play-calls can be curious, but I think the play-calling to which you are referring was sensible and failed only because the execution of it was defeated by the Bears. Sometimes the other guy wins. It's not a game of chess pieces. It's a game of human confrontation. That's why I love football.

Allen from Zephyrhills, FL

What actually designates a player as a starter? Is it being on the field for the first play or first series? Or is it the player that is scheduled to play the majority of snaps at his position?

It's being on the field for the first play of the game. If it's the only play in the game in which you played, you're still designated a "starter" for that game. Sometimes coaches will start a game in a two-tight end set, which means a reserve tight end gets credit for a start. I know an offensive tackle that got into a little offseason trouble in college. His punishment for his senior season was that he would sit out the first play of every game, which means that even though he was the team's best tackle, an eventual second-round draft pick, he didn't get credit for a start his whole senior season. Stats will lie to you if you don't find out the real truth behind them. The term "starter" is way overused and overrated.

Daniel from Whittier, CA

Although I'm happy with the win (what Packer fan isn't?) and how well Newhouse did in replacing Bulaga, I was extremely disappointed at seeing how many penalties the Packers committed. You don't think this is going to be a continuous trend, do you?

The Packers are 18th in the league in penalties. That's too high and I have no doubt that ranking will improve.

Paul from Spencerville, IN

Once the Union Army defeated the Confederates at Gettysburg, why did they start running the ball instead of continuing to pass, which is what got them the lead in the Civil War in the first place?

Just win, baby.

Kyanna from Oklahoma City, OK

When do you think Clay Matthews will finally get a sack or two? By this time last year he had six. Do you think his recent injuries have slowed him down a little bit? I'm a bit worried.

When you have the kind of season Matthews had last year, every team on your schedule schemes to stop you. That's what you're seeing. He's getting a lot of attention. He's got tackles and tight ends double-teaming him, backs chipping him, backs occupying him in pass-coverage. What it's doing is it's freeing up other players to make plays, especially against the run. Stats will lie to you if you don't dig deeper for the truth.

Glenn from San Antonio, TX

The area about 5-10 yards behind the defensive line seems to be wide open and a lot of the big plays against the Packers are passes to that area, which then leads to yards after the catch. Why is this area open so often? Is someone playing out of position on those bigger plays?

So what do you wanna do, blitz or cover? If you blitz, you run the risk of having the ball dumped to the area the linebackers have vacated. If you don't blitz, you won't get pressure on the quarterback. You can't be in both places at the same time. The tonic for this problem is disguising your blitzes and coverages. Sometimes the other guy wins.

Leonard from Jacksonville, NC

What is so special about the "Tampa Two" defense? Isn't that defense just the "Cover Two?"

There's almost no difference. Tony Dungy, the inventor of the "Tampa Two," has said there's very little difference. Dungy played for Bud Carson, the father of the "Cover Two," when Dungy was a safety with the Steelers in the 1970's. That's when and where Dungy connected with the "Cover Two." As the Bucs' head coach, Dungy used Carson's "Cover Two" but added one little wrinkle: He dropped the middle linebacker deep into the coverage on passing downs, which provided a kind of "Cover Three" look in addition to the two-deep safeties look that defines "Cover Two." Dungy has said, however, that when Carson got Jack Lambert as a second-round pick in 1974, he began dropping the middle linebacker just as Dungy did in Tampa. As evidence of that, the next time you see a clip of Super Bowl XIV, notice how far down the field Lambert was when he made the game-clinching interception. We're in a day and age in which we love to create and flaunt football terminology. The bottom line, however, is that the "Tampa Two" is "Cover Two."

Hans from Front Royal, VA

All football fans can remember games from years past when good teams come out flat against inferior teams and lose, especially with a big game looming ahead. Do you see this week's Denver matchup as a so-called trap game?


Scott from Sunburst, MT

Do practice-squad players get to travel with the team?

The teams I've covered haven't taken practice-squad guys on the road with them, unless one of them was being signed to the active roster on the day of the flight or it's a guy who has a game-day function. Graham Harrell traveled to Chicago; he charted plays along the sideline. Road trips are business trips. You take the people who have business to conduct. Chuck Noll would not take any player that wasn't going to play. Jack Del Rio would include team-leader type players that were injured and wouldn't play. There's no hard and fast rule, but I feel safe in saying that, for the most part, practice-squad players don't travel with their teams.

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