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Should the Packers join the pick-play craze?

Mike McCarthy is the best strategy coach I've ever covered


Dave and Taters from Long Beach, CA

"As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden." We have strong roots.

Yes. In the garden, growth has it seasons.

Gavin from Saint Paul, MN

Do you think the Panthers will challenge the Packers to throw the ball? If so, would you still try to run into a loaded box or pass them out of it?

My fantasy is to be the coach of a team that runs into an 11-man box and plows the defense downfield as though it was wet snow. Some people would see a loaded box as an opportunity. I see it as a challenge. I am not logical when it comes to these things. It's best not to ask me these kinds of questions. For me, football is not a chess match. It's a test of will.

Michael from Neenah, WI

Vic, a sense of frustration is in your writing this week. The fear of losing from the fans is starting to get to you. I look to you to be the voice of reason, so please stand tall above the baloney. We have nine more regular season games to go.

I've developed a twitch in my left eye.

Rich from York, UK

Vic, I love your column, but I think I prefer it slightly better in the offseason. Do you know what I mean?

Yes! There will be growth in the spring!

Kyle from Cambridge, MN

Vic, you preach players, not plays, and that you have to win your one-on-ones. In most respects, I agree, but often times, from my perspective, you're so anti-scheme you forget the coach is part of the team and he has to win his one-on-one as well.

Coach McCarthy has won his one-on-one six times. He's the finest strategy head coach I have ever covered, and that includes Coach Noll, who was the worst strategy head coach I've ever covered, which is probably why he was the best head coach I've ever covered.

Sam from Fruita, CO

You have said repeatedly this is an edge game. Do you see more of an edge emerging this week?

If you're asking me if the Packers will be ready to play on Sunday, the answer is yes.

John from Big Lake, MN

Vic, can you explain to some of us less educated fans exactly what a cutback lane is?

In a zone-blocking scheme, the offensive line moves as one laterally, engaging and taking with them the members of the defensive line. The back looks for a slice of daylight in that moving wall of humanity. When he sees daylight, he sticks his foot in the ground and runs to daylight, effectively cutting back against the flow. That's why you need the big back in that kind of scheme, because he's cutting back into the teeth of the pursuit, and collisions will be forceful. Wendell Tyler was a cutback runner, but he wasn't a big guy. I remember the beating he took in Super Bowl XIV, and the sight of him bent at the waist and getting sick at the middle of the field.

Mike from Hampton, VA

Bill in Idaho had a good question and you gave him a glib answer. The Patriots are 7-0 and blowing away the competition, so us beating them last season means squat right now. His question was and is valid. With our receivers unable to beat the coverage, crossing routes, pick routes and slants are called for. It's arrogant to ignore that when what you are doing isn't working. In-game adjustments are just as important as overall game planning.

OK, let's do the long answer. The Packers run crossing routes, pick routes and slants. Ty Montgomery, for example, scored on a pick-type route on the goal line. Slants need to be kept to a minimum because throwing low-trajectory passes over the line of scrimmage and into the most congested part of the field carry with them a high incidence of interception. Aaron Rodgers' first interception at Lambeau Field since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny Kaye was the result of a low-trajectory pass that was deflected and intercepted by linebacker James Laurinaitis; it was intended for Richard Rodgers on a short pass to the right. What Peter King is describing goes beyond crossing routes, pick routes and slants. He's talking about those routes as they would pertain to heavy-congestion route trees, which are the flavor of the year in the NFL. The Chargers are masters of heavy-congestion route trees. They run a basketball-type pick play in which one receiver stops a couple of yards from the line of scrimmage, turns and puts up his hands as though the pass will be intended for him, and then another receiver runs underneath him, forcing the defender covering that receiver to veer away from the receiver. I think that particular type of pick play is a terrible violation of the spirit of the rules and should be outlawed. The Packers do a little bit of all of that kind of stuff, but they don't do nearly as much of it as the Chargers do. The Packers (6-1) are a spacing team. They like to create open spaces for their receivers to win their one-on-ones. If you like scheme offense, the Chargers (2-6) are your team. They run a pick-heavy pass offense. One of San Diego's touchdown passes – I think it was the one to Ladarius Green – was the result of a pick play that caused Micah Hyde to run into a teammate and fall down. So why doesn't every team run these heavy-congestion routes on every down? Because they work against man coverage, but not against zone. It's just a matter of time before the teams playing against these heavy-congestion teams will play zone exclusively, and heavy-congestion route trees will lose their flavor. I asked Dom Capers about the pick craze and he said the counter to it is being able to play zone and man with equal effectiveness. When a defense can do that, it can dictate to the offense. The Packers are a man-heavy defense. Wasn't that an exciting tutorial? I must thank Peter the next time I see him.

Scott from Lincoln City, OR

Vic, in the Vikings' five wins, they've beaten teams with a combined record of 9-30. Just how tough does that make them?

It makes them tough enough to be one game behind the Packers in the NFC North title race. Don't be afraid of challenges. They make football fun. The Packers are headed for big games against the Vikings. I think it's great. Everybody in this column knows how I feel about the Packers-Vikings rivalry. In my mind, it's No. 1.

Christine from Cranford, NJ

Coach wanted to start the season fast. I think it's time to start a game fast and, by that, I mean a very deep route on the first play of our first possession. Remind Carolina who the Packers and Aaron Rodgers can be. Follow it up with Eddie Lacy on play after play. Thoughts?

Bomb and pound? I love bomb and pound, except I prefer to pound first and bomb second. Pound and bomb is my kind of football. Dink and dunk makes me sad.

Robert from Vernal, UT

Vic, call me old-fashioned, but I would much rather see us running the ball 45 times in a game. I love smash-mouth football and a punishing defense. That's what I want to see.

I'll save you a place in the football wax museum.

Fabian from Munich, Germany

Vic, is it possible our offensive line is getting kind of distracted because of using the hard count too often?

I doubt it, but I'm glad the hard count mania has died down a little bit. It was making us giggle. Football isn't about giggling. It's about blocking and tackling. The team that blocks and tackles best in Carolina will win the game.

Brian from Albertville, AL

If you were the Panthers head coach, would you want "The Man" running as often and taking as many hits as he does?

That decision was made when the Panthers drafted him.

Dan from New Berlin, WI

After the humbling loss last week, how would you describe the mood around the Packers' facilities this week?

The players got back to work. There's a 24-hour rule in the NFL: Twenty-four hours after the last game, you move on to the next one. Denver is in the rearview mirror. It's all about Carolina now. With a win, all will be the right with the world. That's the way it is in the NFL.

Scott from Sydney, Australia

Vic, I agree, the rules are problematic and need to be simplified. However, the current situation exists because of cases in which one officiating crew makes a judgment call, and then later a similar play is called differently. The outrage results in rule clarification to minimize subjectivity (facilitated by replay). Eventually, we end up where we are now. If the rules are simplified, do you think people will accept that simpler rules will be called differently? Is there another solution?

The solution is deal with it. Life's tough; sports shouldn't be.

Marc from Roxbury, WI

This has been a difficult week for Wisconsin. On Wednesday, we found out the Oscar Mayer plant in Madison will be shutting down. The company is almost a hundred years old and provides employment to 1,250 Wisconsinites. Our state has already been suffering economically, and this will be an added burden, particularly in the south-central region I hail from. I am really hoping the Packers can win this next game against Carolina. Wisconsin needs some good news right now, even in something as small as a football game.

Don't ever change your perspective of football as it pertains to life. You have it right.

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