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Running backs are becoming more than just check-down options

Jordy Nelson's comeback was one for the ages


Jerry from Wilmington, NC

Was there ever any doubt Jordy would win Comeback Player of the Year? I know the votes were tallied before the playoffs, but his grit to play with broken ribs is further evidence that the correct player was chosen, don't you think?

There probably wasn't much doubt, but I don't think anyone was counting their chickens before they hatched. Cameron Wake and Le'Veon Bell had fine bounce-back seasons, but Nelson made coming back from a torn ACL look a lot easier than it really is. He was arguably the NFL's most dangerous red-zone threat, and he grew stronger and stronger each week. His comeback was one for the ages.

Dale from Oaktown, IN

Wow, did we just not witness the best Super Bowl to date? After the game, when Brady was on his knees, it made me think of this Lombardi quote. "I firmly believe that any man's finest hours – his greatest fulfillment of all he holds dear – is that moment when he has worked his heart out in good cause, and lies exhausted on the field of battle – Victorious!"

That was the most captivating Super Bowl I can recall. A true tale of two halves that ended with the first overtime in Super Bowl history.

Rick from Sherman Oaks, CA

It seems the people who want to change the overtime rules because the current system "prohibits" one team from getting the ball are forgetting the team on defense is on the field, too. I know it's an offense-oriented league, but come on. They make it sound like the reason one team never got the ball is the fault of the rules, not that the team's defense didn't make a stop.

*I side with Vic and Spoff on this one. I think the current version of overtime is the best of all available options. We can't play the game all night. If you want to win the game, get a stop. Force a field goal or punt. *

David from Groton, CT

Roger Goodell said at his press conference during Super Bowl week that the NFL will be looking at several potential rule changes to speed up games. Among them are reducing the number of commercial breaks, allowing officials to review plays on Surface tablets and a time limit between an extra point and the ensuing kickoff. Three very good ideas.

And another reason you won't be seeing any overhauls to overtime.

Rob from Eau Claire, WI

Brady almost threw an INT at the end trying to be the hero. The next play they gave the ball to James White and won the game. Brady may be the GOAT but White was the MVP. This may have started with Super Bowl I, but enough is enough. Reward the guy that played out of his mind from start to finish. Brady was a great QB that didn't have a great game start to finish. White is an average RB that couldn't be stopped.

White is better than average. He isn't the featured back he was at Wisconsin, but he's developed into a dangerous pass-catching running back. Those type of players are growing increasingly popular in today's NFL. Just look at how dynamic Ty Montgomery became in that role for the Packers this year. Running backs are becoming more than just check-down options. White has 100 receptions for nearly 1,000 yards over the last two seasons. While I didn't anticipate him taking over the game like he did Sunday, it wasn't completely out of leftfield, either. He's been producing in that capacity for the last two years.

Alex from Velva, ND

Wes, isn't the key to draft-and-develop teams to make the playoffs every years to have those extra couple weeks of practice? Compared to the teams that rarely make the playoffs?

Definitely. It's invaluable experience for a team that ended the season with 15 rookies on its 53-man roster. You can't synthesize playoff preparation. It's something you gain when the opportunity presents itself.

Jordan from San Jose, CA

Other than Super Bowl titles and playoff wins, what makes Tom Brady considered one of the best ever? I just don't see it because he doesn't seem to make throws that other average quarterbacks can't make.

The playoffs are where truly great players cement their legacies, but Brady has plenty of regular-season achievements, as well. He's a two-time MVP, 12-time Pro Bowler, four-time All-Pro and a former AP Comeback Player of the Year. He's been making those routine throws you talk about for the last 15 years. That's a fairly good run.

Joe from Bloomington, IN

The Patriots defense should have gotten the MVP award. They gave up 21 points, gifted Brady seven points, and pitched a shutout against the NFL's best offense when the opposing defense couldn't even muster a stop. Meanwhile, Brady threw a pick-six.

It took everyone to pull out that comeback, but give credit to Matt Patricia and the Patriots' defense for holding their ground in the fourth quarter after giving up the 39-yard completion to Devonta Freeman and then the 27-yard pass to Julio Jones. It's incredible New England gave up two explosive plays on that series and the Falcons still had to punt the ball.

Bill from Chino Hills, CA

How impressive is the Patriots' level of success for a long period of time, considering very few Hall of Famers other than Belichick and Brady?

Considering the parity in today's NFL, I'd say New England's run over the last 10-15 years has to be one of the most impressive reigns in the history of professional American sports. It's not easy to win one Super Bowl and the Patriots have now won five spanned across two decades.

JC from Madison, WI

With all the talk of the Packers always picking near the bottom of the draft, isn't there something to be said that we are never paying a rookie a top 10 contract for four years? Meanwhile, some teams could have as many as four on the team eating up a lot of cap room.

You're correct in thinking players taken in the latter half of the first round don't command the same salary as top-10 picks, but the rookie wage scale in the most recent CBA makes top picks more manageable for a team's salary cap to absorb than six years ago.

Nate from Minneapolis, MN

In the last 16 years, only one MVP has won the Super Bowl in the same season. I'm not superstitious, but winning the MVP seems to be more of a curse than a blessing for the rest of the organization.

It's pretty coincidental that the last eight NFL MVPs who have reached the Super Bowl have come up on the losing end. I don't know what more I can add.

Declan from Saint Louis, MO

Just going to hang this out there. Let SB LI be a reminder as to why MM put an emphasis on time of possession. Can any D sustain 90 plays of Tom Brady and 40 minutes of chase? I mean, seriously. Let it also be a reminder to us all that regardless of who your QB is, if the run game ain't broke, don't abandon it, please. It will literally be another 50 years or more before we see that kind of collapse on the greatest stage pitting the league's two best teams against one another. I feel for those guys, I really do, and the only true cure is a Lombardi Trophy. May God help save us all from such a moment.

It was the perfect storm for Atlanta. I'm sure the Falcons' defense wasn't complaining about its workload when Robert Alford was returning the pick-six, but it was just the beginning. I can't recall another game in which one team doubled-up the other in offensive plays (93-46). They also did the same thing with time of possession (40:31-23:27). I don't care how well-conditioned a defense is. That's a long night.

Scott from Dallas, TX

If players have to wait five years after they're done playing to become HOF eligible, what about coaches? Also, shouldn't owners have to no longer own the team to be eligible?

It's the same for coaches. They have to be retired for five years before they become eligible. Jerry Jones falls into a different category because he was nominated for enshrinement as a "contributor."

Rhonda from Italy, TX

If we are looking at deserving HOF... can we talk about Jerry Kramer? I mean, really?

I was just responding to a question about LeRoy Butler, but Kramer certainly falls in that category, too. The Kramer situation has been debated practically as long as there's been a Hall of Fame. I'll leave the rest up to Cliff. He's way more educated than I on the subject.

Bret from Mililani, HI

Does Kenny Easley getting in boost the chances for LeRoy Butler somewhere down the line?

That's the first thing that came to mind for me. Safeties are starting to get more respect from every generation.

Dean from Eden Valley, MN

Why does it seem that the good teams never suffer due to injuries? Is it a coaching scheme or next-player-up mentality? To me the Patriots play both very well.

You have to tailor your system to the players you have available. It's also up to the Chris Hogans and Martellus Bennetts of the world to step up when you lose a Rob Gronkowski. At the same time, New England was one of the healthiest teams in the NFL this year. The Pats finished the year with only three players on IR.

Dave from Germantown, TN

Mike, thanks for the article on Gunter, Randall and Rollins. But what about the other corners on the roster? Can we expect any help from Hawkins, Waters, Dorleant or Goodson (injured reserve)? Do any of the safeties have the requisite speed or coverage skills to earn a starting corner role?

This is an important offseason for the four cornerbacks you mention, but especially Goodson and Dorleant who are coming off season-ending knee injuries. Waters will get the chance to participate in his first offseason program as a cornerback, while Hawkins possesses top-level speed and significant upside. I don't see any of the safeties moving to boundary cornerback, so the Packers need all of that young talent to take a big step this summer.

Jason from Denver, WI

Our secondary had some rough games down the stretch, but the situation looks very similar to the wide receivers last year. Lost our starter for the year and second and third guys were injury-ridden the entire season. Do you think the secondary can turn it around as efficiently as our receivers did this year?

The average age of the cornerbacks the Packers finished the season with is 24.3 years old, so I don't see why not. Every one of those guys has their best years ahead of them.

Daniel from Copenhagen, Denmark

Morten Andersen was also on both the all-decade team of the 1980s and 1990s which I suppose was also a great part of the equation of his induction. I concur this means it is inevitable that Vinatieri gets admitted. However, I find more interesting that it might open the door for other specialists such as Devin Hester, Larry Izzo and Steve Tasker.

The induction of Ray Guy three years ago opened the door to more specialists getting into the Hall of Fame. I'd imagine Andersen's inclusion likely will lead to a greater influx of kickers in the coming years, as well. I think Hester is probably the guy who will spur more conversation about returners. In my book, he's worthy of the Hall of Fame. He changed the game.

Bill from Bloomfield Hills, MI

Think about it, the Belichick/Brady dynasty went 10 years between championships, Lombardi wasn't even in GB for 10 years.

Lombardi is still in a league of his own. What Belichick and Brady have accomplished is remarkable, but Lombardi and his staff built one of the most dominant dynasties professional football has ever witnessed out of the ashes of a 1-10-1 team in 1958.

Eddie from Jollyville, TX

The Super Bowl commentators noted that Brady now is the QB with the most SB wins ever but didn't mention that he is only TIED with Bart Starr for NFL championships. Why do so many people seem to think that NFL history began with SB I?

The same reason we always talk about who is the greatest at this or that immediately after an individual or team wins a championship. Society often lacks the ability to remember what happened 50 minutes ago, let alone 50 years. Us humans can be very excitable.

Gary from Benevides, Brazil

I can understand being aggressive on offense, but do you think poor clock management cost Atlanta the win? They were up by 16 and snapping the ball on offense with 15 seconds left on the play clock.

I don't think anyone is denying that mistakes were made.

Michael from Milwaukee, WI

Hi guys, how many letters will you get from Packer fans who will ask, beg and plead for GB to get Justin Gilbert?

I've already had at least a dozen comments/requests/commands since Spoff's Tuesday column was posted.

Jared from Boardman, OR

Only an opinion, but we are putting too many people into the HOF. By celebrating so many we are devaluing the few, truly greats. I remember Kurt Warner being good, but not for long. I agree that Rodgers' lack of production in the early season disqualified him for an MVP. Is that same principle ignored at the HOF level by accepting Warner?

I was on the fence with Warner – he had only six full NFL seasons as a starter. You have to consider he won a Super Bowl with the Rams and then took the Cardinals to another. He left a mark on the game with a career that was truly one-of-a-kind. I get it.

Dale from Owatonna, MN

How do you drop back 60 times and your offensive line never gets a holding call?

Very carefully.

Cindy from Los Angeles, CA

Hi Insiders, you should get an intern to create a searchable/browsable Insider Inbox database. It would be a great reference and there's a ton of knowledge that's currently hard to dig through with the site's search function.

Sounds like a job for our intern (and occasional golfer) Justin Rose.

Tim from Woodbury, MN

Predictions for Super Bowl LII?

It's in Minnesota, right? Interesting…

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