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The secret to defending against a running quarterback

Two great uniforms to face each other in San Francisco on Saturday night


Benjamin from Saint Marys, GA

You never win a game unless you beat the guy in front of you. The score on the board doesn't mean a thing. That's for the fans. You've got to win the war with the man in front of you. You've got to get your man.

You have achieved total consciousness. Only the most football-savvy fans understand the game within the game. To fully realize and celebrate victory, you must win your game, too. Football is a team game and it is a personal game. If you lose the personal game too often, you won't be around to enjoy the team's victories.

Dillon from Pensacola, FL

Will Aaron Rodgers get good enough protection against the 49ers? How many sacks will the Packers' defense put on Colin Kaepernick?

The answer to the first question could decide the outcome of the game. The answer to the second question is unimportant because against a quarterback such as Kaepernick, sacking him isn't important.

Scott from Richmond, VA

Vic, I love your coverage of the Packers. I'm a 41-year Packers fan and in all these years I can't remember another time when the green and gold deactivated a veteran such as they did with Donald Driver in the wild-card game. Please enlighten us as to the rationale behind such a hurtful decision.

I think we all understand the rationale; it doesn't need to be discussed. Football can be a cold and brutally honest game. I've always questioned why I am so attracted to those qualities.

Herb from Palm Desert, CA

Every college bowl season I am reminded of my all-time favorite announcer, Lindsey Nelson. Every year the Cotton Bowl seemed to be a blowout, yet, he made it the most exciting game on New Year's Day. Do you have any memories of Nelson or an all-time favorite announcer?

My memories of Lindsey Nelson are of the Notre Dame highlights show he broadcast on Sunday mornings after a game. When I think of Nelson, I hear the words, "We move to further action." We had so little in the way of sports to watch on TV that the Notre Dame football highlights show on Sunday morning was can't-miss TV.

Bo from Ames, IA

I always thought DuJuan Harris reminded me of you, Vic, going from Pittsburgh to Jacksonville and now to Green Bay.

I love this guy.

Kevin from Machesney Park, IL

When Oregon scored an unlikely one-point safety in the Fiesta Bowl, it got me to wondering if that scoring play is also valid in the NFL. Why is it so rare and why does it still live in the rules?

It's called a "try safety" and it's been in the rulebook for as long as I can remember. If a foul by the defense results in a safety, the offense is awarded one point. Here's an example: "During a try, the holder fumbles and a defensive player kicks, bats or muffs the loose ball on his 2-yard line and it goes out of bounds behind the goal line." The offense is awarded one point. I've never seen it happen in the NFL. I saw it happen in college football a few years ago – I think it was in a game involving Texas A&M – and it happened recently in a college bowl game.

Bobby from New York, NY

Vic, what qualities are needed to be a great sports writer?

I think all great sports writers possess two fundamental qualities: 1.) The ability to see deep into the game they're watching or event they're covering. 2.) The ability to frame an account of what they've seen in such a manner as to enhance the readers' enjoyment, or give the readers a feel for the game or event they might otherwise have missed.

Mark from Stewartville, MN

Vic, what do you think about the McCarthy vs. Harbaugh coaching matchup for this Saturday's game? Would you give the edge to one over the other?

These are top coaches that are comfortable in their own skin in big games. I see a common thread between the two: They use schemes as diversions to what they really want to do. Jim Harbaugh camouflages his intent to jam the ball down your throat by confusing his opponents' thought processes with exotic formations. Mike McCarthy does the same thing by spreading the opponent out and beating him with simple execution of pass and catch.

Aaron from West Allis, WI

In the preseason, I saw a terrible defense, just like the year before. You attacked me, because that's what you're good at, kindly saying, nothing is as it seems. Now we're in the postseason and I see the exact same defense as in the preseason and last year, one which cannot stop a fly. I have no question, just reminding you of a time when you wanted to attack a stranger because you're all knowing. My advice to you is pay closer attention to the preseason. You may learn something.


Gene from North Fort Myers, FL

You recently commented that running quarterbacks rarely last long in the NFL. What about Fran Tarkenton?

Tarkenton was more of a scrambler than a runner. He ran to buy time to throw. Kaepernick and RG3 are quarterbacks that run to gain yards. That means they've got to drop their pads on defenders and that's a confrontation even running backs lose from time to time.

Chris from Providence, RI

This is a very intriguing matchup. Besides Rodgers, what aspect of the Packers gives this team an edge over the 49ers?

In today's game, if you've got an edge at quarterback, that can be enough. The 49ers have significant higher rankings than the Packers in rush offense, rush defense, pass defense and overall defense, but the advantage the Packers hold in pass offense could decide the game in their favor. That's how important the quarterback is in today's game. If you have "The Man," you have more than half the battle won.

Paul from Salt Lake City, UT

What are the chances that the Packers use the franchise tag on Jennings this offseason?

The franchise tag for a wide receiver is awfully pricey. It's projected to be about $10.4 million. I don't see that as an alternative.

Dazby from Brisbane, Australia

Vic, what do you think is the best strategy of ensuring Kaepernick has a poor game?

Make him be a passer; he wants to be a runner. One of the best defensive coordinators I've ever covered is Atlanta Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith, who had a fantastic record against run-around quarterbacks, especially against Vince Young when every other team was struggling to cope with Young's scrambling/running ability. Mike's philosophy was to make Young be a passer. Don't rush him. Let him sit in the pocket, because that's where you want him, in the pocket. I would approach Kaepernick the same way.

Erick from Santander, Spain

How is Frank Gore different from Adrian Peterson?

Peterson bounces better than any back I've ever seen. Gore is a true pounder. He doesn't bounce, he pounds.

Steve from Saint Charles, MO

Why use or repeat illegal hit terms like smash-mouth? I love and respect the physicality of football and intense play, but shouldn't we adjust our language to the rules? You sports reporters should do this soon.

This is America. We are free to choose our words. That's why this is the greatest nation in the world.

Brandon from Califon, NJ

How do you rank the team uniforms on the remaining eight playoff teams?

Saturday's game in Candlestick is a great uniforms game. The best uniform left in the AFC is the Texans'. The other three all have an Arena League quality to them. I like the Atlanta uniform with the red helmet. Seattle's uniform is growing on me, but they'll probably change it next season; I think they have that Oregon thing going on there.

Lou from Cresskill, NJ

I really liked Rodgers' comments when he said the regular season is about the paycheck, while the playoffs are about establishing a legacy. I believe he gets it now. I took this as Rodgers acknowledging that it's better to go 10-6 and win a Super Bowl, like they did a few years ago, than to finish 15-1 and lose in your first playoff game. Do you read anything into his comments at all?

He gets it. He knows it's not about stats, it's about championships.

Jake from Menomonie, WI

We all understand that often the best team in the NFL doesn't win the Super Bowl. I'd like to hear any alternative schemes you may have in mind that would be more successful at getting the best team the title.

I don't have any alternative schemes, and it doesn't bother me if the best team doesn't win the Super Bowl. What I want to know is which team and which quarterback is the best at crunch time. If a team can't get it done at crunch time, then it's absolutely not the best team in the NFL. The playoffs are for winners. Now we find out who the best team is among the winners.

Kevin from Plainview, TX

Your thoughts on defending Alex Smith vs. defending Colin Kaepernick.

You know where Smith is. He's in the pocket where he belongs, which means defending against him is a matter of winning the one-on-ones. Kaepernick is all over the place, and that kind of unpredictability can cause problems for a defense, but it can also cause problems for an offense. Discipline and execution are often compromised by improvisation.

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