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Packers did not beat themselves


Bob from Clinton, NY

I hope I'm wrong, but I think the Packers may have peaked too soon. What say you?

I don't know if that's the case but it can happen. It has been my experience that every team, no matter how good or bad, has hot and cold periods in its season. If you look at the 2007 Patriots' season, I think you'll see that late in the season, even though they were winning, they weren't playing as well as they were earlier in the season. They barely escaped with a win in the regular-season finale. I still believe they would've lost to the Jaguars in the Patriots' first playoff game had it not been for two dropped touchdown passes. They got by a depleted Chargers team in the AFC title game, but the awe factor was lacking in the Patriots' game. Then came the Super Bowl and that's when the Patriots played their worst game of the season, and that's exactly what you don't want to happen in the Super Bowl. You don't wanna be off your game when the playoffs begin. The Packers have a couple of games remaining to get back on their game and go into the playoffs playing their best football. That's what carried the Packers through last year's postseason. They got hot in the final two games of the regular season and they stayed that way right through the Super Bowl.

Dave from Sumter, SC

You say the Bears aren't a "Cover One" team, but just the other day they were talking about how the Bears played Denver in "Cover One" until the end of the game. Are they wrong?

I didn't see the game but it's easy to understand why a defense would play "Cover One" against the Broncos. It's a way of committing a maximum number of defenders to the line to stop the run, which is what you have to stop when you're facing a running quarterback such as Tim Tebow, and still have a safety in the deep-middle of the field to protect against the deep ball. The Bears played "Cover Two" almost exclusively against the Packers in Week 3.

Chrism from Montreal, Quebec

I don't necessarily agree with the offensive line being the major problem in the game against Kansas City. The Chiefs owned ball possession and limited our plays by grinding out the clock.

I completely agree. The time of possession disparity is what beat the Packers. The Chiefs converted 13 second downs. That means that 13 times in the game the Chiefs were able to avoid third down. There's not even an official statistic for second-down conversions, but it's something I keep my eye on because you can't get off the field on third down if you don't even get to third down. The Chiefs were winning on downs one and two and that's where their TOP advantage was built.

Nancy from Saginaw, MI

With the undefeated season talk out of the way, do you think Coach McCarthy will rest some of the starters after they clinch home-field advantage?

Should the Packers clinch home-field advantage this weekend, yes, I think Coach McCarthy will rest some of his starters in one fashion or another in the regular-season finale. I'm not saying he won't play them, because I think he wants to make sure the team is on a roll heading into the postseason, but he's got players who would benefit from an extra week of healing and I think Coach McCarthy will be sensitive to that fact.

Trevor from Oxford, MS

Does the organization leave behind any personnel when a player is hospitalized and cannot travel home with the team?

A member of the training staff stayed in Kansas City with Derek Sherrod.

Mike from Inverness, FL

What happened to the blitz? It's been abandoned along with pressure on the quarterback.

That's not true. Blitz doesn't mean sack. Sometimes the blitz doesn't get home. The Packers blitzed in the first half and didn't get home. When it doesn't get home, you worry about getting burned for the big play. That's how you stop a team from blitzing; by beating it.

Anthony from Atlanta, GA

Why do you feel we don't get any pressure on the opposing quarterback? It seems we don't get any pressure with our front four. The only time we create sacks is with Clay or Woodson, but that takes away from them being utilized in the secondary.

One of my favorite stories from my years covering football is from a Chuck Noll postgame press conference. Chuck was asked why he took a young defensive end out of the game after the first quarter. "Because he was being blocked," Noll said in his dry, glib manner. There were chuckles, but there wasn't a follow-up question because what can you ask after that kind of answer? He was being blocked. You know what I mean? You get pressure on the quarterback by getting off blocks. It starts with that.

Chuck from Madison, WI

I'm an old guy who has been watching football for years. In years past, it seems to me one or two guys would go down every game with a shot to the nether region. You rarely see guys go down with this injury now and I have no clue why.

The game is played much higher these days, so the players today have that going for them, which really is nice.

Mike from Dallas, TX

Begging your pardon, Vic, but several players, most notably Donald Driver (on two specific occasions, I recall) claimed no one could beat the Packers but themselves.

I stand corrected then. I'll tell you this: The Packers didn't beat themselves on Sunday. They didn't turn it over and they were only penalized for 35 yards. Yes, there were drops, but the coverage was very tight. Mike McCarthy said, "We were beaten." That's a fact.

Mike from Yonkers, NY

What do you make of all this talk about the Saints possibly being the new No. 1?

I think that when the regular season is over and the playoffs begin, there's no No. 1. The Packers proved that last season, the Giants proved it in 2007 and the Steelers did in 2005. That's why I love the playoffs. It's win-or-done time. No more debating. The scoreboard settles the issue.

Lee from Oklahoma City, OK

Since the TV shows only the ball and we can't watch defensive backs, what are some things to watch to see how plays develop?

The first thing I do prior to the snap of the ball is look for the safeties. How many are back there. That tells me what coverage the defense is in and that usually tells me what the coverage intent is. Then I'll look at the front and the linebackers; in the case of the Chiefs on Sunday, it was to find where Tamba Hali was positioned. At that point, I look right down the line of scrimmage to see who comes off hardest in the event of a running play. If it's a pass-play, I go right to the quarterback to see if he's setting up in the pocket, using play-action, moving the pocket, etc. Before he throws the ball, I'll take a quick look at the secondary to see the route tree, and then back to the quarterback for the release of the ball. When the play is over, I'll watch the replay to confirm or refute what my eyes saw of the play when it was live.

Cory from Camp Buehring, Kuwait

With Sherrod out for the year, do you think the Packers will look for a veteran offensive lineman or do you think they will bring in someone from the practice squad?

In my opinion, the first thing that needs to be done is to determine Chad Clifton's status. Is he ready to resume playing?

Ryan from Cottage Grove, WI

Do you think our coaches have schemes/plays they absolutely want to keep secret and will not use until it is the playoffs?

Schemes and plays? Probably not, but given a couple of weeks to prepare for the first playoff game, I have no doubt new formation wrinkles and shifting will be added to old plays to dress them up and make them look new. You can change the look of a play by changing the personnel, the formation and adding or subtracting motion or shifting. "Less volume, more creativity." It's a sign on Coach McCarthy's conference room wall. I love what it conveys.

John from Austin, TX

Are socks in the back of the drawer like jars on the shelf?

You're, obviously, a long-time "Ask Vic" reader. "Jars on the shelf" is a term I've used for a long time to describe the stockpiling and developing of talent, especially as it pertains to offensive linemen. I think it's of critical importance to have an endless flow of young offensive linemen, because injuries are becoming increasingly common on the offensive line and if you get caught off-guard and don't have a guy ready to step in, it can devastate your team. "Jars on the shelf" especially pertains to low-round picks, undrafted or street guys. T.J. Lang was a "jar on the shelf." He spent his first two seasons as a part-time and special teams player, and this year he's blossomed into a starter and a player of immense value. He moved to tackle on Sunday when Bryan Bulaga was injured. Evan Dietrich-Smith is a "jar on the shelf." He came to the Packers as an undrafted player in 2009. He was back and forth with the Packers last season and this year he's developed into a valuable swing man. Just like socks in the back of the drawer, you can never have enough young linemen ready to go.

Sean from Menominee, MI

It was a disappointing loss, but I sensed there might have been some complacency with the team, the attitude that what they were doing was going to always work, which wasn't the case. Hopefully, this will rattle their cage and get them playing tougher heading into the postseason.

I don't know what it was, but I think we would all agree that those weren't the Packers we were accustomed to seeing through the first 13 games of the season. "Probably didn't do a good enough job getting the team ready," Mike McCarthy said on Monday. That's coachspeak code for the edge wasn't there.

Trent from Olathe, KS

Watching Sunday's game in a Kansas City area bar was pretty painful, but the one thing I've not seen talked about much was how many passes our receiving corps dropped.

Passing teams can't drop passes. It's just that simple. The drops have become contagious in recent weeks and it has to stop.

Molly from Hagerstown, MD

Could you explain the offensive pass-interference penalties on Jordy Nelson in Sunday's game?

The first one was on the press box side of the field, I had a clear look at it and there was no doubt in my mind when the flag flew that it was going to be on Nelson. I saw him "swim" or swat his guy away as Nelson broke to the sideline. The next one was on the other side of the field and I didn't have a good look at it until I saw the replay. I thought it was a very weak call but I understood why the call was made: The official was making sure Nelson understood that any such "swim" or swat would be flagged. Officials are being encouraged to flag the least little bit of contact by a defender on a receiver, and I have detected that a few officials wanna make sure it's called both ways. I've seen more offensive pass-interference penalties this year than I've ever seen; I haven't seen many, but more than I can remember.

Mike from Hayward, WI

Don't you think it is just way too much to ask of pass-coverage to win the one-on-ones without having any pressure put on the quarterback?


Rick from Queen Creek, AZ

Please explain what you mean when you use the words "Cover One."

"One" is defined by a single-high safety, "Two" is defined by two deep-middle safeties, and "Three" is defined by three defenders across the back. Then, of course, there's "Cover Zero," which is nobody back deep, pass-defenders in man-to-man and everybody else go get the quarterback.

Alan from Wausau, WI

I would rather have a great defense than a great offense. A great defense creates a short field, changes field position, can score points on its own and can make it possible to win by only scoring 14 points. Your thoughts?

In the 1970s, you'd be right, but in today's game what you're describing would be the exception, not the rule. To win in this league today, you gotta score points to win championships. The last two Super Bowl champions each scored 31 points and it wouldn't surprise me if this year's Super Bowl game sees both teams hit the 40-point mark. I don't think defense will win the Super Bowl this year.

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