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These Packers are grounded in reality

Seahawks still have a chance to win No. 2 seed for NFC playoffs


Derek from South Point, OH

What's the main story from yesterday's game that the score and stats alone don't tell me?

I think the storyline from yesterday's game is the Packers' focus. With the NFC North title already clinched, they played with a strong sense of purpose against a team that offered very little resistance. All year, I kept reading from fans that the Packers play down to their opponent. They didn't do that yesterday, did they?

Jesse from Sun Prairie, WI

Last year, the defense was 32nd in yards and 19th in points. Heading into the final week, we're now 10th in yards and seventh in points. It makes me feel a lot better that the Packers are back to their defensive ways.

When you use your first six draft picks to select defensive players, you should improve on that side of the ball, and the Packers have. It's always about players, not plays.

Dustin from Billings, MT

Vic, with the Packers at 11-4, the 49ers at 10-4-1 and the Seahawks at 10-5, no one has mentioned the Seahawks potentially getting the No. 2 spot. Is that not possible for them?

The Packers and 49ers would each have to lose and the Seahawks would have to win. Should that occur, the Seahawks would be the No. 2 seed, the Packers would be No. 3 and the Packers would go to Seattle in the divisional round of the playoffs if they won their wild-card round game.

Kenny from Champaign, IL

I don't know if you saw this during the Packers-Titans game, but somebody ran onto the field and got decked by security. How do you feel about drunken fans that do what that guy did?

They give drunks a bad name.

John from Port Edwards, WI

You called it, so what's next?

Win in Minnesota and clinch the two seed, and then wait to find out who the Packers' opponent will be in the divisional round of the playoffs. It'll be the highest-seeded survivor.

Greg from Westerville, OH

Vic, despite his youth, Randall Cobb is one very savvy young player. I had no idea what he was doing when he fielded that kickoff return with one foot out of bounds. Obviously, he knew about a very obscure NFL rule regarding kickoff receptions and fumbles: "If any part of a player's body is out of bounds when he makes contact with the football, the ball is considered out of bounds as well." Kudos should also go to the coaching staff for coaching up the kick returners to even be aware of such a rule.

In 41 years of covering the NFL, I have never seen that happen in a game. I was completely unaware of the rule and I'm glad to have witnessed it; I'll never forget the rule now. Yes, Randall Cobb is a heads-up football player, but I think Special Teams Coordinator Shawn Slocum gets the major attaboy for this one, because what Cobb did was the result of being coached to do just that. I've never known a player to read the rulebook. They leave that for the coaches to do and to coach their players on what applies to the players' specific roles. That play yesterday is another example of the kind of quality coaching staff Mike McCarthy has assembled.

Jon from McHenry, IL

With so much talk that teams must be able to run the ball to open up the passing game, why don't teams pass the ball to open up the running game?

That's exactly what teams that want to run the ball do, and Minnesota is one of those teams. Adrian Peterson is always playing against a loaded box, and if Christian Ponder can back one of those defenders out of the box and drop him into coverage, it makes Peterson's job one-defender easier.

Caleb from Wasilla, AK

I've heard a few times over the past few years where people will say that a certain running back is a good fit for Green Bay's zone-blocking scheme. Obviously, the best of the best will flourish in any system, but what makes one back a better fit than another for a zone-blocking scheme?

Cutback runners are good fits in a zone-blocking scheme because that walling-up type of scheme rewards the runner who can see the cutback lanes, stick his foot in the ground and run to daylight. Ryan Grant did exactly that on his 18-yard run around left end in the first quarter on Sunday. He waited for his blocking to form, he saw daylight and he exploded into it. DuJuan is more of a hit-it-and-go kind of back, but I saw evidence later in the game of Harris letting his blocking form and then accelerating into a hole or lane. Pounders aren't good fits in zone-blocking schemes. Jerome Bettis, for example, fit better in a road-grading or mashing kind of blocking scheme.

Paul from De Pere, WI

Vic how would you compare our roster now to the start of the season?

The rookies aren't rookies anymore. After 15 games, they're closing in on their second season in the league.

Rod from Racine, WI

Am I crazy for loving the fact that the last game of the season means the most: first-round bye for the Packers. Way better than last year, when we sort of coasted into the playoffs and played like that against the Giants. You agree?

The thing that bothered me last season is that I think the undefeated season became the goal. I genuinely believe the quest to be undefeated became a distraction. I also think the way the Packers were playing wasn't the "right way," to use Aaron Rodgers' words. I love those words. Late in the season, playing the right way is every bit as important and maybe even more important than winning. Nothing about this team has a coasting kind of feel to it. It has been challenged every step of the way this season. Here's another thing I like about this season: I haven't gotten any questions about whether or not this Packers team is the greatest team of all time. I got that question over and over last year and it was a major turn off. I think we all got a little too full of ourselves last season. That's not the case this year. I think we're all going into the postseason this year grounded in reality.

Paul from Roseville, CA

How do coaches motivate teams to keep their focus?

One of my favorite coaches quotes is from Bill Walsh. He said: "At some point in the season, the coach has to turn the team over to the team." Coaches can't use the same words over and over and expect them to not lose their edge. Eventually, players get tired of hearing the same pep talks. What works late in the season is a team's investment in itself. The more of itself it has invested in the season, the greater its personal motivation to win and not squander that investment. Teams that lose in the playoffs are consumed with the regret of knowing they'll have to go back through OTAs and training camp and 16 regular-season games again to get back to where they were before they lost. All of that represents their investment. That's why the loss to the Giants hurt so much last season; the Packers were so deeply invested in the 2011 season and that caused the loss to be so great. So there's a point in the season when the pursuit becomes the motivation because within the pursuit is all of the effort a team invested to get to where it is.

Shawn from Eau Claire, WI

Vic, I've been reading "Ask Vic" for a while now and I can't seem to remember one time where you actually answered someone's question completely without going on some vaguely related tangent. I was just wondering, do you even read the questions, or are you completely illiterate and just kind of make stuff up as you go?

I'm not sure what the answers are to your questions, but it's Christmas Eve and there's a nip in the air, and everybody seems to be happy that the Packers are playing well and have a chance to be the No. 2 seed for the playoffs. Tis the season to be merry. Give it a try, Shawn. Merry Christmas, everybody.

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