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The coach wanted to run the ball

Eddie Lacy, offensive line respond to challenge


Lance from Williston, ND

They got the running game going. What do we want to see next?

I want to see more of it. As I've written and said several times this season, the run fixes everything. It makes defenses focus on stopping it, which opens the passing lanes. It should help convert third down, and despite the Packers' short-yardage problems yesterday, I believe the run was responsible for a 50 percent third-down conversion rate. It dominates time of possession, which limits your opponent's scoring opportunities and keeps your defense fresh. Most of all, the run is a play-caller's best friend because it opens the whole playbook to him. We've spent the last two-plus months chasing the passing game. We should've been chasing the running game. I think that's what Coach McCarthy wanted to achieve yesterday. He wanted to run the ball, and I think he felt as though the team needed the head coach's commitment to it for the team to commit fully to it.

Braxton from West Salem, WI

Vic, you kept us patient not to presume an identity for this team until your friend arrives. You described this team's identity starting to take shape as true grit. I am dying to hear your description of this team's identity after that great performance. Could you please paint us a picture, in your words?

One game doesn't make an identity. What's left of the season will do that. To this point in the season, the identity of this team is that of a team pursuing an identity. Maybe its identity will be that of a team transitioning from an explosive passing attack to a team that runs the ball and plays defense. Aren't you getting that sense? I am. We'll see what happens in Oakland, in Arizona and at home against Minnesota. Those three games will tell the tale. This is the time of the year that defines how history records teams.

Matt from Appleton, WI

My wife, who is not a football fan, was sitting on the couch knitting during the game and couldn't help but notice Eddie Lacy and remark: "He's fun to watch." I couldn't agree more.

Big backs are beautiful. I loved watching Jerome Bettis run. Pete Johnson was one of my favorite big backs and Lacy reminds me of Johnson. Big backs run with power and glide. You feel their force, but it's a kind of effortless force. You know the pile will go forward as the play comes to an end; there will always be an extra yard at the end of the run. This is the big-back time of the year, and the Packers have one. I know Jack Del Rio. When he sees the tape of yesterday's game, the first thought that'll come to his mind is: We have to stop him.

Alexander from Tucson, AZ

Do/can reporters drink beer in the press box?

I don't see it and haven't seen it in a long time, but when I began covering the NFL, it was common. The Steelers had a keg in a room adjacent to the press box. Smoking in the press box was also common in those days. Times have changed, and much about the game has changed, but one thing about the game hasn't changed: You throw to score; you run to win.

Corey from Whitehall, PA

If we fix the short-yardage and third-down conversions, do you think the offense will creep back into the great/elite rankings?

Why is it important to creep back into the great/elite category? Just win the game. Converting short-yardage third downs will certainly help win the game. Beyond that, I don't much care what anybody thinks about this team or where it's ranked. Just win, baby. Whatever it takes. Those are slogans I embrace, and I'm beginning to feel their magic creep into this team's soul.

Dominic from Altoona, PA

Do you have any old holiday traditions or events from Pittsburgh?

We stole outdoor Christmas lights. It was a tradition in my hometown. We didn't talk good, so we had to be good with our hands, if yinz know what I mean.

Ezra from Brisbane, Australia

A big deal was made of Mike taking over the play-calling. Do you think it really had an impact in the game, or was it a reaction to appease the fans and media?

It wasn't to appease the fans and media. I suspect Coach McCarthy felt his offense needed to go to a higher level of performance, and it wasn't getting there quickly enough, as time was beginning to run out on the season. He took bold action. It was something he didn't want to do but felt a need to do. In my opinion, the downside risk was distinct. I worried about the message to the players, and I think Aaron Rodgers supported that concern with his postgame comments. Players, not plays, isn't a process, it's a philosophy, and it must be sacrosanct. Why? Because plays depend on players, and players must never depend on plays. Coach McCarthy is the boldest coach I have ever covered. He has overpowering belief in himself and his ability to lead a football team. He also has an ability to impose his will on his football team. I am overjoyed about the prospects for what remains of this season.

Dan from Phoenix, AZ

I'm confused. If it's about players, not plays, then why did the Packers change play-callers? McCarthy called plays on Sunday. It shouldn't matter who called plays before Sunday, if it's about players, not plays. Did the players execute better under McCarthy's play-calling? Really? Help!

Really? Help? OK, yes, the Packers executed better with Coach McCarthy calling the plays. They were handed a run-the-ball game plan and they pounded out 230 yards rushing. Did you see anything magical about those first four play calls? Lacy over right tackle for 5, Lacy around left end for 6, Lacy over right tackle for 3, Lacy over right guard for 4. You see any genius in those play-calls? I didn't see a head coach calling plays, I saw a head coach challenging his star running back to perform as one, and challenging his offensive line to help him do it. The genius was in the commitment to the run. Maybe it needed to come from the head coach. I don't know. A larger sample is required before I can draw any conclusions.

John from Riverside, CA

I don't know to what extent this issue has been fleshed out already, but after doing a bit of research concerning seeding and Super Bowl winners from the past 15 years, I came across some interesting results. For example, eight of the last 15 Super Bowls have been won by teams that have played in the wild-card round. Only 11 out of 30 teams from 2000-2015 have played in the wild-card round, but eight of those 11 won, meaning 19 teams of those 30 had first-round byes. There have been 15 No. 1 seeds featured in the past 15 Super Bowls, but only four have won … only one No.1 seed has beaten a team of a lower seed in eight tries in the past 15 Super Bowls. Your thoughts?

I'm sorry to cut you off, coach, but I'm not smart enough to digest all of that statistical information, but I am smart enough to tell you what it all means: Get hot at playoff time.

Matthew from Las Vegas, NV

Vic, how about those Navy helmets?

I'm not crazy about the connection between football and war, but it's a special game between two academies that exist to teach their students how to wage war in defense of our country, so I'm OK with it. It was a great game. It proved you don't need great athletes for a game to be entertaining. I love tight-formation football. The scheme and execution of it were beautiful to watch.

Pascal from Bussigny, Switzerland

Vic, after the game, you asked Aaron Rodgers a question about the change in play-calling, and Rodgers, in substance, answered it was players, not plays. Did you ask the question due to inbox pressure, and did you get the answer you expected?

Pressure from my inbox? Really? I asked the question because Coach McCarthy's decision to re-assume the play-calling duties was the storyline of this game and the quarterback's opinion is germane to the subject. I did not get the answer I expected. I expected Rodgers to be diplomatic. I applaud his honesty. I've covered this team for five years, and covering Rodgers has defined those years. He's a great quarterback who has a lot to say.

Tom from West Bend, WI

I think average fans give themselves way too much credit as to football knowledge. I guess I'm below average because I realize how ignorant I am.

I don't even know what a catch is, and I've been doing this for 44 years. I don't think the league knows what a catch is.

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