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Packers need strong defensive effort

Deshaun Watson star of national title game


Owen from Tampa, FL

The national championship game was the pinnacle of over-analysis. On ESPN2, you could watch random coaches watch the game. What will they come up with next?

ESPN gave the game the Super Bowl treatment yesterday. The whole day was dedicated to hype for the game. I'll be interested to see the ratings for a game between teams from two states with a combined population of less than 10 million. That's not a formula for high TV ratings. Was ESPN able to sell the game to a national audience? The ratings will tell us.

Matt from Clarkston, MI

What game area needs the most improvement during this week's game vs. the Week-16 game?

You could point to a number of areas that need to improve, but you start with ball security. You can't turn it over and expect to beat the Cardinals.

Brian from Albertville, AL

A hard-fought, exciting championship game with no unsportsmanlike penalties and very few review delays. Can the NFL learn anything from that?

The game flowed very well, but it was too soft for my tastes. The offenses raced up and down the field. I need resistance. I don't want dirty football, but I want something closer to that game last Saturday night.

Paul from Farnborough, UK

Vic, do you expect the Packers to play at a slower tempo than in the Redskins game, to minimize the Cardinals offensive time of possession?

That's not Mike McCarthy's style of offense, but I think it's critically important to win time of possession, and a slower pace would help keep the Cardinals' offense on the bench. Hey, the Cardinals are No. 1 in the league in total offense. You want those guys on the bench.

Jeff from Peynier, France

If the Steelers-Bengals game is the product the fans want, as you say, then I don't want anything to do with it.

Do you fear the force of the wind,

The slash of the rain?

Go face them and fight them,

Be savage again.

Go hungry and cold like the wolf,

Go wade like the crane:

The palms of your hands will thicken,

The skin of your cheek will tan,

You'll grow ragged and weary and swarthy,

But you'll walk like a man!

Mike from Milwaukee, WI

Will the Packers bother much with looking at tape of the Cardinals' Week 17 performance?

I think it's more important to study that game than it is to study the Week-16 game. The Seahawks provided a how-to-do-it lesson.

Taurean from Kalamazoo, MI

I just wanted to say I love my Packers. I think they shut the critics up for one game, at least. Do you think they did, Vic?

Yes, for one game.

Shawn from Troy, NY

I think wild-card weekend was a great example of how much quarterback matchups and experience matter in the playoffs.

What if the Bengals running back doesn't fumble and the Vikings kicker doesn't miss his kick? Everybody is looking for something on which they can hang their hat, but there are no hooks, so don't wear a hat. In other words, don't try to make sense of something that defies logic. The Packers beat the Seahawks, who blew out the Cardinals, who had their way with the Packers. Nothing matters except now. Now matters. Hold onto the ball. Make the kick. That's analysis that matters.

Jon from Hurley, WI

I mentioned it after the Minnesota game; I'm going to mention it again. When the offense is slow, we lose. When the offense gets into a fast tempo and rhythm, they win. What's your opinion?

I'd rather take the slower approach for this game. I'd like to see the Packers pound it and convert third down, all the while milking the clock. That's how you play to the strength of your defense, and there's no doubt in my mind defense is the Packers' strength. I would caution against over-confidence on offense as a result of the win in Washington.

Joe from Clio, MI

Nick Saban, with five national championships, and Bill Belichick, with four Super Bowl titles, are the two most successful coaches in the last 15 years, and they have almost identical public personas: strict, business-like and humorless toward the media in general. Is this just a coincidence or is this the best approach to coaching football at the highest levels?

Winning football games has nothing to do with how you treat the media. It's all about how you coach your players, and Saban and Belichick are demanding of their players. So is Coach McCarthy. He's always raising the bar. Tom Coughlin is one of the most demanding coaches in history. He demanded Eli Manning be a championship quarterback. I don't think Manning would have been nearly as successful with a less demanding coach.

Jon from Alexandria, VA

If he was eligible, would Deshaun Watson be the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NFL draft?

Yes. He's special. He tilted the field last night. He's in a position similar to the one Jadeveon Clowney was. I don't envy Watson. Football is a difficult sport to play safely.

Billy from Hoboken, NJ

I feel like I hear even more about scheme in college football analysis. Is play-calling more important in the NCAA vs. the NFL, because the players have max three seasons experience?

If scheme is more important in college football, and it might be, the message is less is more, because college football playbooks are Dick and Jane Readers compared to NFL playbooks. The best college football offenses have a centerpiece player at quarterback, find the stress points in a defense, and then attack those stress points with a quarterback who is likely the best athlete on the field. That's what Clemson did last night. It nearly worked.

Margo from Bloomington, IL

Vic, you said you knew when the Packers went up 24-18 in the third quarter. I don't know, Vic, but I suspected we were in for something special when the defense held them to a field goal after the touchdown was reversed. Defense really set the tone, don't you think?

I know, Margo.

Steve from Austin, TX

Vic, is it any wonder tackling has become a lost art in the NFL after watching the national championship game?

The art of tackling is under siege. I just watched a movie that demonizes tackling. If a defensive player goes to the head, we're outraged, we demand he be suspended. If he goes low, we accuse him of a cheap shot. We've allowed the defender a small target to hit, and we expect him to hit that target gentlemanly and not one inch beyond the sideline or a second late. Oh, and if he uses his hands to make the tackle, instead of the crown of his helmet, he absolutely must not grab the runner by the facemask or around the collar. The simple act of tackling isn't simple anymore. As you can see, I'm still struggling with this change-the-culture thing. I acknowledge the need for it, but the degree of difficulty with which it must be achieved, and its cost, is frustrating me.

Chris from Wauwatosa, WI

The announcer states, "Capers dialed up the perfect play," rather than acknowledging the player beating his man. Does that reinforce scheme over players, or does it simply give credit to Capers for a well-coached defense loaded with talent?

Both are important. If the analyst doesn't achieve a balance between the two, he's doing his audience a disservice. If he's constantly harping on scheme, he's just showing off. That's when I mute the TV.

Zach from Meriden, CT

Do you think, after the loss to Arizona a few weeks back, the Packers can come back this weekend with that ferocity on defense we had against the Redskins?

The Packers can't win without a strong performance by its defense. Arizona is No. 1 in offense. I don't think a shootout favors the Packers. If I must hang my hat on something, the Packers defense is my hook.

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