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Packers have to win the one-on-ones


Chet from New Egypt, NJ

Whatever type of defensive scheme we are using just doesn't seem to be working. Receivers are too wide open and we can't stop the run. What, if anything, can be done about it at this late stage of the season?

It's not about scheme, Chet. Please, trust me on that. Coach Capers emptied his bag on the Chiefs yesterday. In the first half, he used some aggressive single-high safety blitz stuff, and it got burned. On one particular play, a third-and-long, the blitz came hard from Kyle Orton's left side, which was a signal to a veteran quarterback that he had man-to-man coverage on that side of the field, which he did. Orton promptly delivered a strike to an open receiver on the sideline. He made the catch for a first down. Why didn't the play work for the Packers? Because they lost the man-to-man battle in coverage and the blitz didn't get home. You gotta win one of the two. Coach Capers stuck with the single-high stuff a little longer – clearly, he had a pressure game plan for this game – but then the Chiefs started to screen against that scheme and that caught blitzing linebackers out of position and resulted in big plays, such as the one that carried to down near the goal line. In the second half, the Packers played mostly "Cover Two," which is a double-high safety defense that is heavy in pass-defenders and light in run-defenders. It invites the run and the Chiefs accepted the invitation; the Chiefs ran for 81 yards and a 4.5 yards-per-carry average in the second half. Players, not plays. Coach Capers isn't gonna get pencil-whipped. The Packers need to win the one-on-one battles on defense.

Sandy from Sheboygan Falls, WI

Yesterday's surprise loss made me realize even more how special that winning run was. The offensive line will need complete revamping in the next few weeks. How can they do that?

We don't know that the offensive line is in need of complete revamping. The knee injury Bryan Bulaga sustained on Sunday is the key to what will have to be done on the offensive line. Bulaga left the field with an even-looking gait. I'm hopeful he just tweaked his knee and he'll be back in the lineup soon. If that happens, then everything will be back to normal. Josh Sitton returned to action at right guard on Sunday. That's a positive. Let's wait to see what the word is on Bulaga. Chad Clifton is another player of interest. Where is he in his recovery? Can he replace Derek Sherrod? When we get answers on Bulaga and Clifton, we'll know what has to be done.

Lou from Vancouver, WA

I was worried about what could happen if an out-of-sync offense showed up on a day the defense shed yardage and couldn't come up with the big play. Not to second guess the play-calling, but it seems like the running game was never employed and when it was, it was successful. Do you think there was a good reason it seemed like Grant lined up as a receiver more often than he lined up in the backfield?

What you're describing would be a complete identity shift. What you're suggesting is exactly who and what the Packers are not. All season, this has been an offense that moves the ball furiously through the air and uses the run to catch its breath. It has been a defense that allows yardage but takes the ball away. Yesterday, the Packers struggled to move the ball through the air and didn't take the ball away, and that's a bad combination. That's a double whammy and the Packers will not win that way. Grant ran well – 5.5 yards per carry – but when the ball is in his hands and not in Aaron Rodgers', the opponent is happy. We're 14 games into the season and the Packers are who they are. Don't expect a makeover. Expect them to fix their problems and return to their identity. It's what has to happen for the Packers to win in the postseason.

Darrell from Austin, TX

I used to be one of those fanatics that would live or die with the Packers. When they won, I was on cloud nine; when they lost, I was bitter the rest of the week. Your words, "I like to watch," have changed me for the better.

That's good, because there's no reason for any Packers fan to allow this loss to ruin their Christmas week. The Packers WILL win home-field advantage for the playoffs, which means they will only need to win two games at Lambeau Field to make it to the Super Bowl. If that's not a Christmas present, I don't know what is.

John from Valley View, PA

I really have to laugh at everyone who is making such a big deal over one loss. I mean, yes, there now is a blueprint on how to beat the Packers, but how many teams have the defensive talent to do so?

Not many teams have the blend of rush and cover to make that scheme work. The way to beat press coverage is to hit it deep, but your quarterback has to have time to let the routes develop and Rodgers didn't have time to do that. Romeo Crennel won the Chiefs' head coaching job on Sunday, and he knows he's taking over a good-looking roster of players that can win with the quarterbacks they have. The Chiefs are a sleeping giant. That near upset of the Steelers a few weeks ago, when the Chiefs defense stoned the Steelers, was regarded as a fluke. Now we know it wasn't. Hey, we all missed it, and that includes me. I didn't see this coming.

Grant from Aurora, CO

Do you think the loss to the Chiefs will set the Packers back or send them forward?

It'll send them forward because Mike McCarthy and his staff won't dismiss this as a bad day or a fluke. McCarthy and his coaches have no doubt already hit the tape of this game hard, looking for information that can fix what was broken. Things happen for a reason and it's almost always because one team outplayed the other, not because it was a trap game. The Packers lost the game and the question that has to be answered is: Why? Answering that question is what will make the Packers a better team. It's what will send them forward. Teams grow as a result of defeat. Maybe the Packers needed to grow. Maybe they had gotten a little stale. That'll change now. I think we're gonna see a lot of freshness on Christmas night.

Al from Arcadia, CA

Rodgers' performance stats have declined pretty dramatically over the past three games. Do you think the colder weather is the reason?

First of all, it wasn't cold. It was 50 degrees at kickoff with a wind chill of 46. Secondly, I think you're using stats irresponsibly. His stats against the Giants and Raiders were fine, except for the second half against the Raiders, which was long after the issue was decided. Rodgers' stats against the Chiefs are not fine, so let's just deal with that game; I think it's misleading to say he's on a three-game slide. Yesterday's game needs to be evaluated separately from the previous two, mostly because the Chiefs played the Packers very differently than the Giants or Raiders. The Giants played a lot of "Cover Two;" the Chiefs were heavy with "Cover One." The Raiders were ineffective at anything they tried and that game was so uncompetitive that I don't think it's worthy of analysis. Get ready for "Cover One" because that's going to be the formula for stopping the Packers. The Bears aren't a "Cover One" team but the Lions can play it and so can the 49ers.

Mark from Seattle, WA

Thanks for your words regarding just enjoying the game of football and not letting a bad game and a loss ruin the viewing. Those words were in the back of my mind all day. We did not look good, but we are 13-1 and the glass is certainly half full, not half empty.

The glass is full, Mark. When you're 13-1 and one win away from home-field advantage, which would allow that the Packers not have to play anywhere but at Lambeau Field until the Super Bowl, you're glass is overflowing. There isn't a team in the league that wouldn't trade places with the Packers right now.

Michael from Bountiful, UT

It's been so long since we lost, I forgot how much it hurts.

When I was a young reporter, I was always intrigued by how little Chuck Noll had to say to his team following a loss. He'd tell them we have some work to do and we'll start on it tomorrow; see you in the morning. I would think to myself, that's all he has to say? No analysis, no words of encouragement? In time, I came to understand Noll's lack of words. They fix nothing. Actions are the fix. Don't absorb the players' hurt; let them feel it and let them be accountable for it. We all suffer losses in our lives, and we wrestle with them. It is in those hours of "wrestling" that we come to understand why we failed and we commit to not letting it happen again. It's called introspection, it's necessary and nobody can do it for us. A little hurt will do this team good.

Mike from Dallas, TX

The Packers are a great team but do you think this loss ends the ridiculous no-one-can-beat-us-but-ourselves talk?

The players weren't doing that. That was fan talk and the fans that were doing it got a little carried away. That kind of talk is over now. A lot of things ended yesterday and they are things that will help us all get a better feel for what's ahead and how to enjoy it and endure it.

Deb from Sheridan, WY

Why did Rodgers get sacked three times?

It was four times and three of those sacks were by Tamba Hali, who also had two quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and a tackle for a loss, not to mention breaking Derek Sherrod's leg. Hali was the name on the Chiefs' roster I had circled for this game. He was everything I feared. This has become a little bit of a trend against the Packers. The premier pass-rushers, Jared Allen, Von Miller, Jason Pierre-Paul and Hali, have been hard on the Packers. That's something that has to change.

Harry from Rochester, NY

I don't agree with Coach McCarthy going for the onside kick when you have three timeouts and the two-minute warning. Kick the ball down the field, hope for a turnover or a stop. You agree?

No, I don't agree. This isn't Madden and those aren't blips on a screen. This is real football played by real people and those people were gassed, which was the result of a catastrophic time-of-possession disparity. Following the onside kick, the Chiefs got the ball with 2:03 to play, but the Packers never got it back. The Chiefs pounded out two first downs and only needed two downs to do it each time. Coach McCarthy did the right thing.

Jared from La Crosse, WI

The Packers have really shown they are explosive on offense during their hurry-up mode. Why don't they just do hurry-up mode every possession?

I was expecting more no-huddle in the second half but, looking back on it, it would've been very risky to go no-huddle. It might've only served to worsen the time-of-possession problem and send a tired defense back onto the field with even less time to recover. Winning TOP is a time-honored formula for beating explosive passing teams, but it's a difficult strategy to execute because the execution of it must be flawless; you can't turn the ball over and the Chiefs didn't. The first tipping point in the game was when the Packers took a 7-6 lead. The next tipping point was the Chiefs' response to losing the lead, which is to say a 61-yard field goal drive that began at the Chiefs' 11-yard line. That's when the Packers needed their defense to pitch a three-and-out. The game was for the taking at that point and the Chiefs took it.

Rick from Mercersburg, PA

What do you believe to be the biggest reason we are unable to get any pressure on opposing quarterbacks?

The Packers are not winning the one-on-ones.

Josh from Menasha, WI

Why didn't Coach McCarthy throw the red flag?

He didn't wanna go fishing. It's the hole in the system. In the press box, I kept looking at the monitor waiting for enough replay information to form an opinion on the play, but the replays just didn't come. I saw a lovely shot of Gene Steratore explaining the call, but I only saw one replay. The coaches in the Packers' booth see the same feed and my guess is they didn't have enough information to tell Coach McCarthy to challenge. I don't like the challenge system. I never have. I like the college system better. If we're gonna do it, then let's do it right. I don't think coaches should bear the responsibility for officiating the game.

Joe from Spooner, WI

Do the Packers have a chance to get home-field advantage in the playoffs if the 49ers beat the Steelers?

All the Packers have to do is win one more game, regardless of what the 49ers do.

Chadd from Antigo, WI

I'm sure everyone has their reasons for why we lost, but I have the real answer: I woke up late and forgot to put on my lucky game-day boxers. It's all my fault.

No, I think it's my fault. The low tire pressure gauge in my car had been on since last December. Don't ask me how I know that, I just know that. In the move, I just ignored the light and kept driving the car. Well, on Saturday, before leaving for Kansas City, I took my car in for an oil change and they also put air in my tires which, or course, made the tire pressure light go off. I think the tire pressure light is why the Packers lost. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I'm not gonna take any chances. I'm gonna let some air out of those tires.

Koigi from Lynchburg, VA

I am not upset we lost but how we lost. Anyway, I know your inbox has never been as full, so all I want to know is if you have any questions for us.

Yes, I have a question: If the Packers beat the Bears and clinch home-field advantage, will this loss be forgotten and everybody will be happy? If the answer to that question is yes, then don't despair, just wait six days. A long time ago, a wise man told me happiness is not a constant. When you're happy, enjoy it. When you're sad, be patient and wait for happiness to return.

Hans from Front Royal, VA

Vic, does the game plan the Chiefs succeeded with actually help the Packers the rest of the way, in that they now know they must devise a way to beat what the Chiefs threw at them?

I think that's exactly what yesterday's game will have done. As a result of what happened yesterday, the Packers know exactly what they have to do and how they have to do it. I wrote about that in my editorial.

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