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Pickett and Raji said no


Dan from Charlotte, NC

If a kickoff returner caught the ball all the way at the very back of the end zone and returned it for a touchdown, would it count as a 110-yard return?

No, it would count as a 109-yard return, and it would be an NFL record. Currently, the record is shared by Randall Cobb and Ellis Hobbs, 108 yards.

Tim from RAF Lakenheath, UK

I have read a few comments on various football websites and some people are saying Cobb's touchdown return was illegal and that a flag should have been thrown when Kuhn helped Cobb regain his balance. Is there any truth to this?

The rules that govern assisting a runner are gray and confusing. One offensive player is not permitted "to lift a runner to his feet or pull him in any direction, or use his hands or arms to encircle the body of a teammate, or push or throw his body against a teammate to aid him in an attempt to obstruct an opponent or to recover a loose ball." The rules, however, do allow an offensive player to push or shove a runner over the goal line. In other words, it's open to interpretation and in the case of Cobb and Kuhn, it must've been decided that Kuhn didn't lift, pull, encircle or do any of that other stuff you're not supposed to do that doesn't make any sense to me. I think the Packers got a break on that one.

Giovanni from Winter Springs, FL

It was a heck of a weekend. I love to see a lot of points and I love the direction the NFL is going. Love your blog, Vic. My questions are what play was more exiting to you, the Antonio Freeman catch against the Vikings or Randall Cobb's 108-yard return?

Those were exciting plays, but my tastes are different from the mainstream. For me, the two most exciting plays in the game were the third-and-one and fourth-and-one stops late in the third quarter, and the untimed down at the end of the game. The suspense that accompanies those types of short-yardage plays always makes my heart beat faster. Get the wide receivers off the field and send in the big back and all of the tight ends and let's find out which team wants it more. Those few plays decided the game last Thursday. The Packers wanted it more. The Saints have two massive, road-grading guards in Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans, but Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji said no. That's my kind of football. The Saints had to fake the run and throw over the top to make it work early in the game. In my mind, that's a sign of weakness and it's bad for a team's soul. Yes, you must be able to throw the ball in today's game to win, and you must be able to pencil-whip your opponent, too, but winning the battle of the line of scrimmage is still at the heart of the game. If you don't win up front, you'll likely lose on the scoreboard. Worse, yet, your team's esteem will decline.

Corey from Des Moines, IA

Hi, my name is Corey. I'm a huge Packers fan. I listen to the games on the radio cause I get more out of it, the reason being I'm a blind person. My question is when the Packers announcer says three receivers clustered to the left or right, does that mean a bunch formation?

Yes, it does, and Kevin Greene told me last spring that bunch formations are one of the factors in determining the strength of the offense's formation. In the old days, it was decided by where the tight end lined up. Times have changed. Bunch formations cause defensive backs to be bunched together and often those result in defensive backs picking each other off as they drop into coverage.

Terrence from Austin, TX

There is a lot of hype going on about Cam Newton right now. How do you think he will play against Dom Capers' confusing defense?

It'll obviously be his stiffest test to date, but I don't think the Panthers will make Newton responsible for reading coverages and making sophisticated play changes at the line of scrimmage. I think he's gonna run whatever play he gets, regardless of the defense or blitz Coach Capers throws at Newton. In other words, if they blitz, run. If they don't blitz, throw underneath or run. Oh, and every now and then, throw one deep for Steve Smith, or run.

Aaron from White Hall, AR

With people who are complaining about running the ball, they need to remember that a dominant team doesn't take what they're given, they take what they want.

Great teams don't take what you give them, they take what they want. It's an old-fashioned way of saying that great teams have strong identities and trademark plays and they are going to do what they do well and you will not take it away from them. The Packers of the '60s were going to run the Packers sweep. The Steelers of the '70s were going to run the traps, and the 49ers of the '80s were going to run "Sprint Right Option," and the Cowboys of the '90s were going to run the lead draw with Emmitt. Nothing could've been more predictable; now stop it. How about the Packers of this decade? The back-shoulder throw?

LeRoy from Madison, WI

Can you media types stop talking about going conservative? It's also a political philosophy, you know. I don't hear anyone say when there's a boneheaded play, like a fumble or an interception, "Oops! Looks like the running back or quarterback was too liberal with the ball." There's a new invention called a thesaurus. Maybe you all and fans, too, can look up a different word.

You have taken political correctness to a higher level of consciousness.

Peter from Grinnell, IA

What do you make of the NFC North's success this weekend? Even the lowly Vikings gave the Super Bowl contender Chargers a run for their money.

Here's what I make of it: It's going to be tougher than ever to win this division. That's a good thing? I sense pride for the division's strength, but does everyone understand that this isn't college football and you don't have to fight to keep your automatic BCS berth and there's no trophy or other such distinction for having the best division in the league. The champion of the strongest division in the league gets the same thing the champion of the weakest division in the league gets: a home playoff game. Ask the Seahawks and the Saints.

Pete from Fort Wayne, IN

When you said a team punting the ball touches a ball but doesn't control it, the receiving team can pick it up and run without the possibility of a fumble. Have you ever seen the play? If you have, what game and when?

I didn't know about the rule until I saw it employed in a college game I was covering 28 years ago. It was a Pitt-West Virginia game and a player named Tom Flynn, who was later drafted by and played for the Packers, came flying up trying to scoop a punt that had been touched by a West Virginia player but not controlled. I thought to myself, "What is that guy doing?" He knew what he was doing. He would've caught West Virginia flat-footed had he made the scoop. I thought he had fumbled when he missed the scoop, and so did the West Virginia players that began cheering their recovery, but the ball went back to the place of first touching and the ball belonged to Pitt. Since then, I've only seen a player or two try the same thing. I don't know why more guys don't try it.

Al from Arcadia, CA

Here we go again. Anytime someone suggests continuing with a successful balanced offensive attack, you accuse them of wanting to throw on every down or play Madden football. What part of the run-run-run, conservative, play-not-to-lose, three-and-out, give-the-ball-back-with-momentum don't you understand? By being so predictable, the Packers rarely put an opponent away but, instead, let them back in the game and they end up fighting for their life at the end. I guess you must love suspense more than comfortable victories.

LeRoy is going to be very angry at you, Al.

Casey from Green Bay, WI

Per your previous responses, you seem to approve of the passing early for a lead and running late to close out the win approach. While I understand that you will argue that it's working, we've still put our defense in a hard position in many, many games. We should be thankful that they've come up with the big plays we've needed. So my question is, why wouldn't we continue to use the approach that gave us the lead in the first place? In my mind, there's something wrong with changing your plan when it's working.

How about seven wins in a row? You wanna change that?

Paul from Spencerville, IN

Why is it the slightest flinch on the offensive line is called for false start, but many times I'll see linemen look around and point and make much bigger movements and not get called?

Pointing and other such play-adjustment gestures are not considered to be an act that simulates a play. Moving out of a three-point stance IS considered to be an act that simulates a play. In today's game, in which home teams are permitted to encourage crowd noise for the purpose of acquiring a competitive advantage, you have to at least give offenses the ability to communicate with their hands, because it's become nearly impossible to communicate with their voices. In the old days, when it got too loud for the offense to hear the quarterback's cadence, the referee stopped the game until the crowd quieted down. Those days are gone. When you change one rule, you invariably change others.

Tom from Fairborn, OH

You pass to score, you run to win.

That's the old saying. It was a way of saying the team that rushed for the most yards usually won the game. I wonder if that's still true.

Randall from Hugo, OK

With the health problems and shorter life expectancy of retired players, do you think the NFL and the players association are doing enough to care for retired guys? Do you think that if young guys knew the long-term health problems, they'd do anything differently?

When you are given the talent to be able to play in the NFL, you are blessed. Later in life, however, it can become a curse. Football is a punishing game; it takes its toll. That's why the commissioner and the players association are so intent on player safety. They want to eliminate the unnecessary violence. Previously, our game had always regarded any form of violence within the rules of the game to be necessary, because punishing your opponent was viewed as a key to victory. That's what the commissioner meant when he told a breakfast audience at Lambeau Field last Thursday, "We changed the way we approach the game." More is being done to help retired players. I applaud any and all efforts in that direction. For more from the commissioner, click here.

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