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Only third time 5-0 in 40 years


George from Mineral Point, WI

While everything is pretty rosy, I still have reservations about the special teams. Do you feel the same and, if so, is it coaching or players?

I don't feel the same way at all. I think the Packers' special teams are strong. Before the season began, Special Teams Coordinator Shawn Slocum talked of the next level for Mason Crosby including a higher percentage of walk-off type kicks, which is another way of saying pressure kicks. Crosby has gone to that next level. Mike McCarthy showed a lot of respect for Crosby's game in Atlanta when he allowed Crosby to attempt and convert that 56-yard field goal. That was at a sensitive point in that game. If Crosby had missed, the Falcons would've gotten great field position and momentum could've easily switched sidelines. Other than for the season-opener, the coverage teams have been solid and they feature rookies that are getting better every week. Randall Cobb, of course, has emerged as one of the top return men in the game. Other than for the season-opener, what's not to like? I think that's an especially fair question to ask this week, coming off an especially strong special teams performance in Atlanta.

Tom from Indianapolis, IN

I wonder if everyone clamoring for an aggressive fourth-quarter passing attack noticed the Packers rushing the ball at the end of the game, picking up first downs and running the clock down.

I noticed it and I liked it. That's how big-boy teams play. They take the air out of the ball. They let their opponent know the game is over.

Larry from New Richmond, WI

In the Atlanta game, a touchdown put us up by one point. Give us some of your opinions and the chart about going for the two-point conversion.

I had the chart but it got lost in the move. Frankly, I've never liked the chart because it doesn't take into account the personnel or style of play of your opponent. What I'd like is a chart on the success of the chart. In other words, if the chart says when leading by one, go for two, I'd like to know how many times teams that led by one and went for two and didn't convert ended up getting tied by an opponent that then scored a touchdown and tied the game with a two-point conversion. Two "chart" examples always come to mind. The first one involved the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII, which the Panthers would've likely won had John Fox not obeyed the chart and gone for two, which then caused him to fall into what I refer to as the "two-point death spiral." You keep going for two to make up for the two you didn't get. The other example is from a game between Jacksonville and Baltimore in 1996. Ted Marchibroda had a sizeable lead when he went for two because the chart said to do it. The Ravens failed to convert, which didn't seem like a big deal at the time, but the Jaguars rallied and that two-point miss allowed the Jaguars to tie with a two-pointer and send the game into overtime. They won the game and it was the difference between 9-7 and 8-8 and a playoff berth the Jaguars rode to the AFC title game. If I was a coach, I don't think I'd use the chart. My rule would be to use the two-point try in obvious late-game situations, but not to increase leads. That's just my opinion; it's not based on factual information, which is why we need a chart on the chart.

Trent from Greenville, SC

I love your point/counterpoint articles. I find them fun, especially when one of you gets a counterpoint you don't really agree with. I was wondering if you could get the fans involved. I think it would be fun for you to pick a subject and people could send in point or counterpoint and you select and post the best arguments from both sides.

That's what we want you to do at the bottom of the story, in the comments section. That's the whole purpose of doing point/counterpoint. It's often the case that I don't agree with the position I have to defend, but the challenge is to build a defense that will present the opposite view accurately, so as to provide information that will help the reader decide on what his position on the issue is. The comments section is the real point/counterpoint story, and I love to read the fan comments because it gives me an appreciation for what the fan thinks on the issue. Mike and I are just foils; the readers are the stars of the show.

Ryan from Las Vegas, NV

What was the last 5-0 team you covered?

The last time I covered a team that got out to a 5-0 start was in 1998. I was covering the Jaguars and they were 5-0 after a Monday night win over Miami; the Jaguars then lost the next two games but they made it to the divisional round of the playoffs. The only other time I covered a team that started 5-0 was in 1978, when the Steelers ran their record to 7-0 before losing. They went on to win Super Bowl XIII. Three times in 40 years would tend to indicate that 5-0 is pretty special. Thanks for asking the question. Researching it took me down memory lane.

Rene from La Habra, CA

I don't care if the Packers go 16-0. I do care that they win the division, get a first-round bye in the playoffs and have homefield advantage. So my question is, can these Packers handle playing in the frozen tundra?

I think what you're asking is, can a team that lives by the pass play that way in harsh conditions? The answer is yes, because the Packers have a quarterback with the arm strength it takes to cut an icy wind or throw a wet, heavy ball. Cold-weather teams have staunch defenses, strong running games and quarterbacks with big arms. The Packers clearly have two of those ingredients and I think the running game is underrated and, by late in the season, will be a legitimate weapon in the Packers offense. There's no doubt in my mind that this is a pass-the-ball team that can win in the cold.

Jeremy from Bowling Green, KY

Wrap your mind around this, Vic: Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Cam Newton and Tony Romo are all on pace to break Dan Marino's single-season passing yards record. Is that not proof the league has been watered down on the defensive side of the ball? How many of these quarterbacks do you think have a realistic shot of breaking that record this year?

It sounds as though all of them have a shot. What it says is that the league has successfully tilted the field to allow for that kind of success in the passing game. In the 40 years I've covered the NFL, it has never been easier to throw the football. I would also submit that it has never been more necessary to throw the football. You can't win with the run anymore. Balance between run and pass is still important, but the days of being able to win with fewer than 20-25 pass attempts are over; it's a fluke when it happens.

Andrew from Altoona, WI

We all know the Packers are 5-0 but we still have our problems and some of them are very obvious. I was just wondering, what do you think some of the bigger problems are the Packers have to face and overcome right now, and are there any problems the Packers are facing that aren't exactly known by the public very much? Thanks.

Having trouble finding problems, huh? That's a problem.

Alex from Normal, IL

The Packers are playing a 0-4 team on Sunday. While the Rams haven't shown many signs of life this season, I am a believer in the "any given Sunday" rule. Should there be any concern that some members of the team are already counting this week as a win?

No. That's not a problem.

Ryan from Whitewater, WI

Vic, your crystal ball prowess is showing itself. Your constant insistence that fans relax on moving Nick Collins to injured reserve in the interest of signing someone for a different position due to lack of depth was right on the money, but I'd like to request that you use these powers for good.

Ryan, there was nothing crystal ball about it. It was just common sense. They didn't need a safety and they hadn't clearly identified the position at which they would have need, but Bryan Bulaga's injury was making the offensive line a strong candidate. Ted Thompson had this move ready to go, but why make it until you have to do it?

Wayne from Dubuque, IA

Do you think a young, talented Super Bowl-winning team like the 2010 Packers could rack up a string of championships if they can keep all of their players and coaches together for a bunch of years?

That's the plan, but it's not likely they'll be able to keep all of their coaches, or even players for that matter. They'll keep their core players together, but the way today's game is structured, you have to be willing to lose guys or your cap will get bulky. Mike McCarthy has guys on his coaching staff who are poised to become coordinators and head coaches somewhere else. That's just the way it works. Once upon a time, McCarthy was an assistant coach poised to become a head coach somewhere else.

Alex from New York, NY

Why would a team elect to punt directionally vs. booming away?

It's about maintaining leverage, which is a word special teams coaches use to describe controlling the return man. You want to have the return man contained in a small space. You do that most effectively by pinning him against the sideline. When you kick it down the middle, as the Packers did to Darren Sproles in the opener, NFL return men have the skills to make you pay. Special teams coordinators have nightmares about allowing big plays. They'll take a middle of the road net punting average and no touchdowns over a league-leading gross average and having allowed a touchdown any day because teams that lose the battle of special teams usually lose the game. I saw a stat a few years ago on the losing percentage of teams that allow a return for a touchdown or a punt to be blocked and it was nearly certain that you were going to lose the game if you allowed either to happen and didn't do the same to your opponent.

Hans from Front Royal, VA

I was viewing some old Packers game photos from the 1960s and noticed in all the crowd shots that there wasn't very much green and gold in the crowd at Lambeau Field. At what point did it become vogue for full-grown adults to wear cheeseheads and replica jerseys?

I can remember starting to see fans wearing authentic or replica jerseys in the late '70s. Since then, the trend has exploded to the point that fans wouldn't think of going to a game without wearing some article of clothing that supports the team of their choice. When I was a kid, that stuff didn't exist. I can't imagine the joy we would've felt if we had found an authentic game jersey of our favorite player under the tree on Christmas morning. No chance. I remember being a kid and stenciling Bobby Layne's number on a sweatshirt and feeling as though it was the coolest thing in the world. I would've loved growing up in this era.

Chris from De Pere, WI

What is the difference between guard and tackle in respect to the player? Is there a different technique used or is it easy for a player to switch back and forth between the positions?

Guards and tackles are becoming increasingly interchangeable, except for the left tackle; he has to have a special pass-blocking skill to play that position. In the old days, right tackle was the premier position because football was first and foremost a running game and most teams were right-handed and the right tackle was the line's most powerful run-blocker. Forrest Gregg was a right tackle; today, he'd be a left tackle. In the old days, size and movement differentiated the tackle and guard positions. Guards were smaller and more mobile; they had to be compact enough not to get in the way and mobile enough to pull out in front of the play. Tackles were big, strong drive-blocking types. They created the seal. Today's zone-blocking and road-grading schemes have homogenized the positions. You still want your left guard to be mobile enough to pull out in front of a play, but pulling and trapping aren't nearly as big a part of the blocking schemes today as they were in the old days.

Julie from Hortonville, WI

My co-workers and I are wondering how many NFL teams have never won a Super Bowl.

Bills, Texans, Bengals, Browns, Jaguars, Chargers, Titans, Falcons, Cardinals, Lions, Panthers, Eagles, Seahawks, Vikings.

Adrian from Odessa, TX

What do the numbers and letters on the back of officials mean?

The numbers are just to identify them on the roster of officials. The letters identify their positions: Referee, Umpire, Head Linesman, Line Judge, Field Judge, Side Judge, Back Judge.

Jesse from Fargo, ND

Throughout Rodgers' career, it has been very evident that he is great at spreading the ball around. How are the receivers, mainly Donald Driver, handling the lack of individual attention they are receiving? Will this lead to a possible early retirement for him?

You might wanna take a rain check on that question this week, Art, I mean, Jesse.

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