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Ten has traditionally been a magic number


Joe from Minneapolis, MN

Vic, I brought up quarterback greats Aaron Rodgers and Joe Montana in the same sentence, and my friend quickly stopped me and said, "Don't compare anyone to J-Money (Joe Montana)." I wasn't old enough to really see Montana and was reluctant to compare stats, but Montana's stats are not all that impressive. Are the stats lying? What is so special and sacred about Montana that other quarterbacks not be mentioned in the same breath?

Not all that impressive. Please, someone from above, come down and help calm me before I begin to answer this question. Joe, let me say this about Montana: He was really, really, really good. He won four Super Bowls and three Super Bowl MVPs and his passes allowed Jerry Rice to win a Super Bowl MVP. I consider those stats to be special and sacred. He "invented" the passing game of the post-1978-rules-changes era, just as Johnny Unitas invented the passing game of the post-single-wing era, which is to say the passing game of the modern era. I suggest you spend less time looking at the stats and more time reading accounts of Montana's career, which included a courageous comeback from major back surgery.

Ari from Las Vegas, NV

I was watching the Bears and Lions game and I think it's somewhat disappointing when players get into fights during the game or let the heat of the moment overtake them. I like to see competitive games and love plays with good tackles, but not fights. I was wondering what your thoughts are on fights during games?

The evil little man inside me that I spend much of my energy trying to control, likes fighting. It's not something I'm proud to admit.

Anthony from Minneapolis, MN

Dick LeBeau and Dom Capers have a long history together and are considered to be innovators of the 3-4 defense by running the zone blitz. I believe you were covering the Steelers during their "Blitzburgh" days in the early '90s. I know they both currently run similar defensive schemes, but do they have similar coaching styles? The only difference I notice is that Dom likes to be in the coaches' booth, whereas Dick likes to be on the sidelines with the players. Why is that?

Some coaches want to be down on the sideline, where they can look their players in the eye, get a feel for their energy and confidence, or lack of either, and communicate with them in a manner that will reassure them or challenge them. Other coaches prefer to be alone with their thoughts, so they might focus sharply on the chess match between them and their counterpart. If I was a coordinator, I think I would prefer to be upstairs, alone with my thoughts.

Wayne from Gainesboro, TN

This one will surely be tough: I have a friend who has asked me several times if the team has a dietician (or anyone) who oversees their food preparation when on the road. Please help me answer this question.

Not tough at all: Yes. The training staff attends to the menu.

Steve from Evansville, IN

What's the story with the guy in the bright orange gloves on the sidelines?

He's the television commercial man. I think he was involved in an industrial accident in a previous job.

Richard from Gaithersburg, MD

I know you're a serious guy and serious about football, so I accept your answer regarding trying to be funny in your column. Still, I would make an observation which is that you do have a very dry wit and a measurable appreciation for the absurd, at times, which does spice up the column nicely, in my opinion. How plead you?

You're right, I'm very serious about football. I used to think it was just a game, but a couple of years ago a reader set me straight. He took great exception to my allowance for something less than perfect execution of the game plan. He explained to me that it was every fan's right to demand FULL CONSISTENCY. His tutorial caused me to experience an epiphany. Who needs the drama of human confrontation, the pain of its failures and the joys of its successes, when you can achieve FULL CONSISTENCY? It's so much more fulfilling. It makes you feel so superior, invulnerable. I think it can be said of the Packers that last night they achieved FULL CONSISTENCY.

Darin from Terre Haute, IN

Last week, during the San Diego game, Brian Billick brought up how Aaron Rodgers does such a good job of looking through his progressions, "touchdown to checkdown." Again, this week, the commentators made a big deal about Rodgers and his progressions. Is "touchdown to checkdown" really how Rodgers' progressions are set up on pass plays?

I like that verbiage. I had never previously heard it put that way but I think it's a very good description of a quarterback's progression. First, he looks for the big play; lastly, he checks the ball down to a back or tight end to move onto the next play to avoid a negative-yardage result. Billick's nickname was "Compu Coach" when he was the coach of the Ravens. He was so named for his computer-like approach to the game and his technical explanations of the game's processes. For those that have a fascination for the technical side of the game, he's an outstanding TV analyst.

John from Mission Viejo, CA

Suppose Green Bay and San Francisco at the end of the season have identical records and have the same conference records. They tie for the best NFC record. What is the next tiebreaker for homefield advantage?

1. Head to head. 2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference. 3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games. 4. Strength of victory. 5. Strength of schedule. 6. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed. 7. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed. 8. Best net points in conference games. 9. Best net points in all games. 10. Best net touchdowns in all games. 11. Coin toss.

Hans from Front Royal, VA

After such a complete game from Rodgers, the defense and special teams, let me guess, your inbox is full of angst over the lack of a running game?

No, my inbox on Tuesday is pretty much an "I told you so, they should've blitzed more" kind of day.

Paul from De Pere, WI

Based on our performance on MNF, is the defense back or are the Vikings just a mediocre offensive team?

I think that's the definitive question from last night's game and we'll get our answer over the next few weeks.

Matthew from Murfreesboro, TN

Do you think Rodgers can take his game to an even higher level? Is it possible?

No, I don't think it's possible to play better than he's playing right now. The next level for a quarterback playing at his level is to sustain that level, which he has through nine games.

Justin from Green Bay, WI

What are the magic numbers to clinch a division and clinch homefield advantage?

I don't think the league is going to start providing that kind of information this early in the season, but 10 is a kind of magic number. Ten wins will usually get a team into the playoffs and that would mean this week's game against Tampa Bay possesses a theoretical win-and-in quality; at least it does in my mind. The Packers, of course, are hunting bigger game than a wild-card playoff berth, but it sure says something about the kind of season the Packers have had that they can theoretically clinch a playoff spot before Thanksgiving.

John from Leeburg, FL

I remember years ago, when the quarterback went under center and the offensive line got set, they could not move. In today's game, they're set, they stand up, they set again, then the ball is snapped. Has the NFL changed the rules to allow this?

The rule hasn't changed. I think you're confusing squatting with putting a hand on the ground. A lineman isn't deemed to be set until he puts a hand on the ground. Once he does that, he can't move, but until he does that, he can move.

Hermes from Richmond, CA

We've been hearing a lot fans worry about the Packers' play on defense recently. I haven't worried one bit, considering we have great talent on defense and Dom Capers on our side. It seems like we got our stride back on that side of the ball, especially by Clay Matthews, against the Vikings. What did you think of the defense's performance?

I thought the defense played faster. I thought it looked more determined and played with greater energy and resolve. I don't think it was the scheme. I just think the players in that scheme turned their intensity up a notch. Defense has to be played with desperation. Last night, I sensed some.

John from Green Bay, WI

I got sick of seeing Jared Allen roping the calf. He's good, there's no denying that, but you're losing the game, your team goals are up in smoke. Is there a way of sending a message to a guy or to the team?

You mean like a little chin music, or go late on the quarterback. Those days are over. This is the celebration generation. This is the Sportscenter era and players see expression as part of the presentation of the game. You're right about Allen. He's a terrific football player and he can play on my team any day. I got a kick out of something he did early in the game. It was when Aaron Rodgers fumbled the ball and fell on it. Allen got up off the ground, appeared to take a quick look around and then dashed to Rodgers and touched him down. That was a free sack for Allen and his eyes lit up when he saw it. Don't ever let these guys fool you into thinking they don't play for the stats. Sacks are money for Allen.

Tyler from Pierre, SD

Great call on the number of yards allowed.

I only missed it by 13 yards, huh? I'm kind of proud of that. Thanks for noticing.

Nolan from Kennewick, WA

What do you hear in the press box? The Packers announcers? Or do you get to hear the Monday Night Football crew's analysis of the game?

We hear a press box announcer that provides us with the official information, which will go into the official play-by-play, that we need to do our reports. We'll hear, for example, "Starks, three yards." That's all I need; just the facts, ma'am.

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