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Packers had a masterful game plan


Hans from Front Royal, VA

Vic, early in the game, I was surprised the Texans were trying to run to the edges so much, instead of up the middle, especially with Raji's absence. Were the Packers showing something that invited this type of attack?

No, that's the stretch play I featured in my Friday story that quoted Defensive Line Coach Mike Trgovac and Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers on the need to stop Arian Foster on that particular play. They talked especially about the need to remain disciplined in the gaps because loss of gap control would provide Foster with the cutback lane he wants to hit. The Texans' offense is built on that stretch play. They want to get you going sideways, and then use play-action to hit passes over the middle. They love that drag route to tight end Owen Daniels. The Packers stopped the stretch play and that was one of two keys to victory. The other, of course, was winning on the outside on offense.

Dan from Waupun, WI

Good morning, Vic. Rodgers made it sound like he could play as good as he wanted to when he wanted to. Was this team just not trying before? Is the NFL getting like wrestling? I know both are just entertainers. Will we see more complete games? Very nice win.

Come on, Dan, it's a win. It's a chance to feel good for a week. Does the misery have to continue? Last week wasn't fun. Let's have some fun this week.

Justin from Tampa, FL

We have finally seen a complete game from the Packers. How can we make sure we stay on track with this and continue to have complete games?

You can't. You can't make sure of anything. All you can do is prepare to play your best. One of the mistakes fans make is they're looking for guarantees that don't exist, and that frustrates them. Accept the fact that there are no guarantees.

Tom from Fairborn, OH

Hope the price we have to pay injury-wise is not too high. We were dropping like flies out there.

I fear the Packers paid a stiff price in this win. D.J. Smith and Brandon Saine appear to have sustained significant knee injuries. Smith was really starting to come on. He's going to be difficult to replace. It won't make Coach Capers' job easier.

Nick from Water Mill, NY

You and Mike were spot on with your final thoughts. Any final final thoughts?

This was a strategic masterpiece of coaching by Mike McCarthy and his staff. McCarthy challenged his wide receivers to beat the coverage, to gash the coverage, as McCarthy said, and that's exactly what the Packers' wide receivers did. McCarthy and Offensive Coordinator Tom Clements devised a game plan that would challenge the wide receivers to win their one-on-ones, and the wide receivers answered the challenge. The Texans opened in press coverage all over the field. Shortly after Jordy Nelson opened the scoring with a 41-yard touchdown catch, Texans cornerback Jonathan Joseph was already dropping off at the line of scrimmage and softening his coverage dramatically. The result? Just as McCarthy predicted, space opened for Packers receivers and they ran free in the Texans secondary without much threat of getting whacked after a catch. Meanwhile, Capers did what no other defensive coordinator had done to the Texans. He put together a game plan that stopped the stretch play and forced the Texans to be what they're not, which is to say a team that had to live by the pass. The best part of the two strategies is they worked in concert with each other. Of course, players made them work by executing the design.

Paul from Burlington, WI

"McCarthy credited Rodgers for keeping the offense in clean plays at the line of scrimmage with the run calls." What does McCarthy mean by a "clean play?"

A clean play is one that can be executed as planned against the defensive look that's presented. For example, six in the box is an invitation to run the ball.

James from Carlsbad, CA

As much as I enjoy watching the Packers games every week, I must say that reading this column the day after is almost as enjoyable. The fans go from panic to pure bliss in record time. I find it hysterical at how quickly everybody wants to abandon ship because the team had a bad game or, in the case of the Indy game, a bad half.

My inbox makes Sybil look dull.

Greg from Danbury, CO

This is the Packers football that has been missing. What's different? What changed?

The big play returned; that's the difference. Instead of having to take what the defense gave them, the Packers took what they wanted. They imposed their will.

Josh from Kunming, China

You told us all to relax. Is that because you saw this win coming?

No, I did not see this win coming. I told you to relax because worry is a waste of time spent on feeling bad. Worry is paralyzing. A team can't play its best football consumed by worry, and fans can't fully enjoy the season by spending it in angst.

Adam from Superior, WI

I'm starting to think our offensive line is coming together. Is our offensive line deserving of the credit for our improved and effective running game?

I saw holes, big holes, in the Texans' defensive line last night. I think Alex Green will see them in film study today and he'll think to himself that he left some yards on the field. Green's biggest achievements last night were ball security and endurance. He proved he can hold onto the ball and his knee is strong enough for him to be the Packers' featured ball carrier. The Packers offensive line was fantastic. I saw Josh Sitton push J.J. Watt across two gaps. Watt got two sacks and that'll advance his campaign for defensive player of the year, but Aaron Rodgers stepped into one and an adjustment caused Watt to come free for the other one. I didn't see him being chipped a whole lot. I won't say that definitively because I couldn't focus on him the whole game, but when I did focus on him, it appeared he was being blocked by one man, not two.

Tim from Duluth, MN

With the way the offense performed last night, what can we expect to see in the upcoming weeks?

Softer coverage schemes. I suspect the Rams will play a lot more cover two than the Texans did.

Daniel from Los Angeles, CA

Rodgers through six games in 2011: 17 TDs/3 INTs. Through six games in 2012: 16 TDs/4 INTs. Maybe he'll be all right after all.

Aaron Rodgers was never the problem. He is almost always the solution.

Nikhil from Highland Park, IL

Well, Vic, the emotional roller coaster is over for me. At some point during the awesome win over the Texans, I finally realized there's no credible way to predict what's going to happen on any given Sunday and I have no control over the outcome of the game. Was this win a turning point for the Packers? Who knows? But it was for me. It's time to stop worrying.

I think it is a turning point for the Packers because that kind of offensive explosion will cause fear in every defensive coordinator the Packers will face. More than anything else, defensive coordinators fear the big play. They'll do anything to avoid it. The Packers are going to begin finding more open spaces in their opponents' secondaries, as a result of last night's win.

Chris from Emmitsburg, MD

Do you think the team turned a corner last night? Or is this an aberration and the sloppy Packers are the reality?

What I think isn't important. Aaron Rodgers said he believes the Packers turned a corner or experienced a turning point in their season last night. I don't think he would've said something that bold if he didn't believe it.

Chris from Del Rio, TX

So much good to bring up, but you have to give the receivers a ton of credit. They were making a lot of tough catches.

I think they were the real story last night. I think the receivers were the catalyst to this victory.

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