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The old debate: When do you go conservative?


Jesse from Providence, RI

Over the last few years, I have noticed that in the fourth quarter inside the two-minute warning McCarthy goes ultra-conservative. He seems to abandon the balanced play-calling that got him the lead in the first place, for a one-dimensional, predictable offense. In other words, Green Bay always seems to rely on its defense to bail it out, instead of putting these teams away with a balanced attack. A long drive eats up much more clock than three straight predictable run plays.

So you must've loved that sack on second-and-9 after five straight runs had achieved two first downs and had melted the clock from 10:27 to 7:01 while protecting a 15-point lead. Hey, it was a pass and passes always work, right? You're talking to the wrong guy, Jesse, because I love pounding the ball with a lead. Get a lead and sit on it; that's my kind of football. You see it as one-dimensional; I see it as complete. It says we can run the ball and we can play defense, too, instead of having to throw it on every down. The bottom line is this: Just win, baby. The Packers did.

Patrick from Langhorne, PA

It's assumed Charles Woodson will get fined for his uppercut against the Saints. What does the NFL do with the fine money from the players? Often times they are significant amounts.

It goes to charity, so if I'm the head of a charity that knows it's going to receive NFL fine money, and I'm watching a game and a fight breaks out, I want the benches to clear.

Seth from Rochester, MN

Do you foresee the Packers trading away James Jones? I was intrigued that they only used him on what seemed like two or three plays.

Who would you have taken out of the game: Jennings? Nelson? Driver? Cobb? The day may come when the Packers will need depth at wide receiver. Players get injured and they need to be replaced.

Scott from Chicago, IL

Vic, is it just me or were we seeing the effects of less offseason work, no two-a-days and fewer padded practices on the defensive side of the ball against the Saints? A lot of missed tackles seems to me comes from a lack of hitting. Will we see this same thing across the league this weekend?

You might be clairvoyant because I think that's exactly what we saw this past weekend. The tackling was bad in nearly every game I watched. I thought the play was loose and certainly not midseason-like. When you don't hit in practice, then the games become practice. It's just that simple. By midseason, we'll see a different product. Scores will begin to even out and offenses will proceed with more caution. Coaches are smart football people. They know it's going to take time for defenses to catch up to the new rules and the new regimen.

Jon from Kingsford, MI

What would you think of getting rid of the tee for kickoffs? My opinion is that the results would be shorter kickoffs with longer returns, partially because there would be one less player downfield quickly, as the holder would not be able to start downfield until after the kick.

You're right, that would be the result, but that's not what the NFL wants. The intent of the moving the ball forward five yards for kickoffs is to eliminate a significant percentage of kickoff-returns. By doing that, the NFL believes it will eliminate a significant percentage of injuries. The kickoff rule change isn't about the game, it's about player safety. That's all it is: just reduce the number of injuries. So why not eliminate the kickoff? Because to do that would mean that the chance for somebody to return a kickoff 108 yards and create a great moment in team history would also be eliminated.

Scott from Derby, UK

Wow, what a game! As for this new direction of football, I say bring it on. If the NFL keeps churning out games like that, I think we could see a lot more overseas interest, especially in the UK. Thoughts?

My thought is that if the commissioner reads your comment, he'll think to himself, "That's the idea, Scott."

Andrew from Eau Claire, WI

Vic, could you please define when a punt is considered to have been downed by the kicking team? Does the player downing the punt have to gain possession of the ball or simply touch the ball? This question came to mind after the touchback call to start the Saints' final drive.

The play isn't blown dead until the ball is controlled by a player. The receiving team has the option of taking the ball where it was blown dead or at its point of first-touching by the kicking team. After the ball has been touched but not controlled by the kicking team, a player on the receiving team may advance the ball without risk of losing possession due to a fumble. In other words, he can run 90 yards with the ball, fumble it and lose it to the kicking team, but the ball goes back to the receiving team at the place of first-touching by the kicking team.

Brandon from Manhattan, KS

I was a little disappointed in how little the Packers ran the ball in the first quarter/half. Since the numbers show they weren't dominant in the run last year, I expected them to try to establish the run earlier than what they did. Instead, they came out playing like they did toward the end of last season, before Starks began to make his mark. Could I have your thoughts on the matter?

It's who they are; it's their identity. The Packers are a quarterback-led team that attacks early, gets the lead and then plays to its defense in the fourth quarter by shifting into lead-protection mode. In other words, the Packers are a throw-early, run-late football team, and that is a formula for victory, if you can execute it.

Peter from Toledo, OH

After watching the games on Sunday, I have to say it seems the Packers are on a wholly different level of play. (NFC South? Yeah, whatever) Are they the team of the future? Youth-dominated, pass-oriented, cerebral. I don't want to be cocky but it really does seem as if we are going to dominate this season. Are we the pioneers in a new paradigm of play? And will we dominate until the rest of the league catches up?

You don't wanna be cocky? Peter, my advice is that you give some thought as to how difficult it is for any team to dominate this league as wholly as you're suggesting. I would also advise against drawing conclusions from the first week of the season. I don't think the overall performance in the league was anywhere near where it'll be when teams begin making their playoff pushes in the second half of the season. Frankly, I thought the Saints looked gassed on Thursday. They were making wholesale substitutions in attempt to get fresh defensive players on the field. Interestingly, I didn't see that in the Packers, which really says something about the impact of Mike McCarthy's up-tempo practices.

Patrick from Jacksonville, FL

I was thinking about Krieg and Testaverde, two quarterbacks that played for multiple teams. Who do you think is the best journeyman quarterback of all time? Do you think a pure NFL journeyman would make it to the Hall of Fame?

For how many teams would a quarterback have to play to be considered a journeyman? Three? When I think of journeyman quarterbacks, the first guy that comes to my mind is Kerry Collins. He led the Panthers to the NFC title game, the Giants to the Super Bowl and the Titans to the best record in the AFC. He's also played in New Orleans, Oakland and Indianapolis, and he's thrown for over 40,000 yards, which puts him up there in the statistical ranks of Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks.

Riley from Norfolk, VA

The Packers defeated the Saints, the Bears crushed the Falcons, the Lions beat the Bucs and the Vikings barely lost to the Chargers. That's three wins against two NFC favorites and a 10-win team from last year and a close loss to an AFC favorite. I know it's early, but is it safe to say the NFC North made a strong case this weekend for best division in the NFL?

You're right, it's early, but if you wanna crown a division the best in the league after the first weekend of the season, I would think the crown fits for the NFC North.

Will from Albuquerque, NM

Why does it seem the Packers can score at will and get a big lead, then it seems like the play-calling stalls and they play very conservative with runs? I know they are trying to run the clock out, but the defense knows what's coming and they give up on the pass, which gave them the big lead in the first place?

How did staying on the attack work for the Cowboys last night? They were on the 2-yard line. All they had to do was kick a field goal and they would've won the game, but they kept passing and they fumbled and then everything deteriorated. The problem with your perspective, in my opinion, is that people don't see the risks in staying on the attack. They only think in terms of completions, not incompletions, interceptions and fumbles. If you pass the ball on every down, then doesn't the defense know what's coming? Fans of your perspective see all passes as being successful and all runs as failing. That's not realistic. Yes, you have to pass the ball to win in today's game, but you have to also know when to pull the plug on it.

Nathan from Lubbock, TX

Am I the only person who believes the "Wildcat" went out of date the year after the Dolphins used it? Teams now game-plan for it. I honestly hope the Packers don't ever use the "Wildcat." How do you feel about this, Vic?

I think a little variety, a wrinkle or two in the offense, is a good thing. I'm not against a "Wildcat" play here or there. The problem with trick plays, however, is that your players start believing they can rely on tricks to win the game. In the Dolphins' case, they became so enamored by their own "Wildcat" that they spent a second-round pick on a guy to run it. I think even they would agree that was over the top.

Robert from Chicago, IL

I know it's trite to complain about penalties after the game, especially when your team wins, but how about those calls on the final drive, both the touchback and the pass interference? Why weren't they reviewed? You would think someone from upstairs would at least want to double check the touchback call.

Pass interference is not reviewable. The touchback ruling was inside the two-minute warning, so it was likely reviewed by the replay judge without everyone knowing it was being reviewed. They are supposed to execute their reviews without stopping the action whenever possible and this one didn't require stopping the game to review the play; Jarrett Bush's foot or feet clearly touched the goal line. By the way, Coach Capers didn't appear to have a problem with the pass-interference call, when he spoke with reporters on Friday. "Was there contact there? There might've been some contact," he said. For more from Capers, click here.

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