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Play-calling? This isn't the right place for you

Don't go to sleep on the Bears, either


Micky from Kiel, Germany

Vic, you wrote the Vikings have the unmistakable look of an AFC North team. What exactly do you mean, and what about the Bears? Most important, what are the Packers looking like entering December?

AFC North teams are about defense, running the ball and being physical. They beat you up and then find creative ways to win at crunch time. They lack for style points, but not for grit. The Bears are beginning to acquire that look, which doesn't surprise me, since John Fox is an advocate of that kind of football. If the Bears win on Sunday, they'll come to Green Bay 5-5, a hot team and playing for a wild-card berth. Much about the Packers' future will be determined this Sunday. I absolutely love this time of year.

John from Laguna Hills, CA

Vic, we know Green Bay has some of the league's slowest receivers. Why isn't Clements running plays that cater to their strength?

What's the Packers' strength? I thought it was the combination of a precision passing game led by Aaron Rodgers and a power running game led by Eddie Lacy, but the passing game is struggling and Lacy was inactive. When both return to their previous levels of efficiency, Tom Clements can call anything he wants and it'll work. Blaming the play-calling is an excuse all fans for all teams use when their favorite team isn't winning and they don't want to accept the fact the fix might be more difficult than firing one man.

Nathaniel from New Orleans, LA

Why haven't the Packers beefed up the wide receiver position, since none of the receivers can get open?

They believe they can get open and will get open. Belief is at the heart of success. If you don't have belief, you have hopelessness. Plus, who would you sign? Dane Sanzenbacher is still available.

Nathanael from Prague, Czech Republic

Vic, I was at a soccer game here in Prague, the top team in the league, undefeated, vs. a team in fifth place out of 16. In the second half, the best team was down one goal and not playing well, and then fans got very upset and started throwing fireworks onto the field. I'm not kidding. Firefighters ran on with buckets to put them out.

There's a fine line that divides the field from the grandstands, and that line must never be blurred. NFL fans are respectful of that line; soccer fans aren't. I'd rather hear booing than see throwing.

Sam from Waite Park, MN

Do you think it would be a smart idea for the Packers to work out WR Jarrett Boykin?

I'm sure he's high on the Packers' list of street receivers, but Boykin was never known as a speed receiver and my inbox wants a speed receiver. Find me one. Go out back to the veteran wide receiver tree and find me a speed receiver. Hey, it is what it is, and the Packers have to win with what they have. If you can't run past defenders, then you have to find other ways to get open. You need to be more precision-like. That's the Packers' challenge as I see it right now.

Robert from Madison, WI

Vic, I was at the Notre Dame/Wake Forest game last weekend and really enjoyed the amazing November weather at Notre Dame Stadium. They are ranked in the top four of the CFP poll, and if the season ended right now would play Clemson for a trip to the title game. Do you see a championship-caliber team in South Bend this year? I think they have what it takes this year.

So do I, and a Notre Dame re-match with Clemson is my dream game of the 2015 college football season. I want to see Clemson throw those bubble screens against Notre Dame a second time. That play is singlehandedly ruining the quarterback position. How good do you have to be to complete a bubble screen pass? Johnny Football and Tim Tebow won Heisman Trophies throwing those dinky passes. If I could change one rule in football, it would be the college football rule that allows offensive players to block out ahead of a pass.

Matt from Madison, WI

You said you don't think play-calling is at the root of the Packers' problems. What is at the root of their problems?

One more time: The Packers need a big-play wide receiver to emerge. When that happens, the offense will improve dramatically. When that happens and Eddie Lacy returns to the lineup and begins running over defenders again, the offense will be back to full capacity and ready to make a championship run.

Dan from Westmont, IL

Vic, why do things get so over-analyzed?

It's because Madden and all of the TV analysts have turned football into a thinking man's game. Nothing could be further from the truth. Football is still a king-of-the-hill game.

Lance from Chicago, IL

What happens when the casual fan stops having fun?

You become baseball in the 1970s.

Charles from Farmington, MN

Vic, honestly, the way the Packers are playing now and the price of the tickets to see a Green Bay game, don't you think the fans have a little right to be upset and be mad the Packers couldn't even score a few touchdowns to beat Detroit, of all teams?

OK, you're forgiven. Hey, if you're going to boo and expect the target of your boos to have thick skin, shouldn't you have thick skin, too?

Evan from Casa Grande, AZ

Vic, I'm beginning to understand why you occasionally give short answers and don't answer the readers' questions at all. I really want to believe you're letting the questions write the story of your column, rather than the answers. Clever. My question is, how do the Packers need to approach handling Teddy Bridgewater? Do we keep him in the pocket and dare him to throw?

You are absolutely right.

Ross from Aurora, CO

Vic, approaching this Minnesota game, which aspect of our game do you see as most critical to secure a win, getting the offense in sync, a strong run defense to limit Adrian Peterson and forcing the pass, or improved special teams play to limit their return game and improve our punting consistency for better field position?

Well, if you stop Peterson but don't score any points, that won't work, and if you score a lot of points but don't stop Peterson, that might not work, and if you stop Peterson and don't score any points, but allow Cordarelle Patterson to return a kickoff for a touchdown, that probably won't work either. I'll go with stopping Peterson and taking my chances with the other two.

Pete from Ft. Wayne, IN

Do you think McCarthy screwed up by using timeouts when Detroit had the ball before the half? He got greedy and should have run out the clock with a 3-0 lead.

I want you to think on this and figure out why Coach McCarthy stayed aggressive late in the first half.

Dylan from Green Bay, WI

Vic, I read a piece today that compared something Josh Sitton said to what McCarthy said. Coach said the players need to trust the plan in his press conference. A couple of hours later on the radio, Sitton said the offense is too predictable. Do you make anything of this?

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. In my opinion, predictability becomes a compliment when it works. The greatest teams in history were the most predictable. The "Packers sweep" was predictable. Everyone knew it was coming but nobody could stop it. Imagine telling Lombardi, "Coach, we shouldn't run the sweep because the other guys know it's coming." How about the Packers' stretch play? It was pretty predictable last season. Everybody knew it was coming but Eddie Lacy kept cutting behind his blockers and running through defenders. Everybody knew the 49ers were going to run "sprint right option," and it's the play they ran on the most important play in franchise history, and it produced "The Catch." How about the Patriots? Everybody knows they're going to run Gronkowski down the seam, but nobody has been able to stop it. Look, I'm not into the predictability, play-calling thing. If that's your favorite whine, then have a glass on me, but I don't like the way it tastes. You can keep coming here and trying to change me, but my tastes will never change. To me, football is a game of power and will. If you're a play-caller kind of fan, you probably need to find another column. This isn't the right column for you.

Charlie from Milwaukee, WI

I went to the game. Booed because I had seen enough of stupid play-calls and incompetent offense.

Blame it on Milwaukee.

Kristy from Rhinelander, WI

What conditions do you love the most to have football played in?

It depends on where I'm covering the game. Late in the season at Lambeau Field, I want snow. When I think of covering games in Jacksonville, I think of looking beyond the south end zone and seeing the sun bounce off the St. Johns River. When I think of Three Rivers Stadium, I think of a gray, 40-degree day and two teams locked in a bull ring for three hours. When I think of Gillette Stadium, I hear fans singing "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow." Every stadium elicits a different memory, its own special picture my eyes captured for perpetuity. Old Cleveland Stadium is white caps on Lake Erie. The Astrodome is the sound of pom-poms swishing to the strains of that silly song on that November day in 1978. Every stadium is another picture, and I have them in my mind's photo album to warm me for all the days the rest of my life. I hate snow, but not when I'm in the press box at Lambeau Field, and a part of me will always be in the press box at Lambeau Field.

Juan from Montreal, Canada

Playoff teams from last year: Detroit, Dallas, Baltimore at 2-7; Seattle, Indianapolis 4-5. The Packers are two games ahead in the wild-card race. They win in Minnesota and they're back in control of the division. Things aren't so bad.

He who is first shall draft last, and he who is last shall draft first. Just don't be 8-8; it stays 8-8.

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