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Thoughts on yesterday's loss


Chris from Ely, England

Vic, I'm sure your inbox has exploded again. I'm now concerned for the season, even though it's only Week 5. Looking at the losses, the 49ers are an excellent team, and we all know about the inaccurate reception, but blowing a lead of almost Ryder Cup proportions against a young, banged-up team with a rookie QB and one receiving threat is unbelievable. We only have ourselves to blame, but are the football gods trying to restore balance to the NFL universe, or have we simply been figured out?

Your analysis is on the mark. The Colts were without two of their best cornerbacks, yet, they challenged the Packers on the outside. When I first saw it early in the game, when one of the safeties came flying up to the line of scrimmage in pre-snap, I thought to myself, "If they're going to play that way, Rodgers is going to eat them alive." As the first half progressed, Rodgers did start eating the Colts alive and I thought it would continue in the second half, but then came the interception on the fourth play of the second half and nothing was the same again. The Colts are the kind of team last year's Packers buried under an avalanche of points. That's not happening this year. Why?

Paul from Burlington, WI

Wow, did we miss Raji after he went down! There was very little push up the middle from Neal/Worthy and others. Did you see any difference in how Capers called the game after B.J. went down, or is Raji that crucial to the defense?

I don't know all of the particulars, but I have a feeling the Packers got caught without a nose tackle. Ryan Pickett has a shoulder issue and Mike Daniels was inactive. The Packers didn't have a lot of big guys up and then their No. 1 big guy went down and that forced the Packers to play a lot of two-lineman nickel, and as soon as the Packers got into that look the Colts went no-huddle, kept the Packers in it and ran the ball. In the field goal drive that cut the Packers' lead to 21-13, Donald Brown carried the ball three times in the first four plays and gained 30 yards. That's when the game changed because that's when the Colts achieved a run-pass balance that kept the Packers guessing. All of a sudden, the aggressiveness that marked the defense's play in the first half was gone. There's an old saying: "You throw to score but you run to win." I think it's still true. When you run the ball, you dominate time of possession. The Colts did. Winning time of possession has always been a key ingredient in the formula for beating high-octane passing teams. Keep that offense on the bench. The Colts did.

Michael from Berlin, Germany

Vic, our offense seems to be well on its way to accomplish the same thing our defense did last year: moving from exceptional to unacceptable. Last year, it took quite some time for many fans and even you to admit the only solution to fixing our defensive problems is to bring in new talent. How many weeks do you think we still need to wait before it becomes a fair assumption that this offense needs some fresh talent, as well?

When have you ever seen me write or hear me say, "Don't bring in young talent"? It's a young man's game; football teams need a constant flow of young talent. Can this team win with what it has on offense? Absolutely. We've seen flashes of what it can still do, but we haven't seen it in large doses, and that's what needs to happen for the Packers to become the consistent winner it was last year. Something is going on. All you have to do is look at these two records: 15-1 last season, but 4-5 since that loss in Kansas City. What happened in Kansas City that changed this team? That's not a rhetorical question. That's a legitimate question to which I don't have an answer, but a nine-game sample is considerable enough to demand that the question be asked and answered.

Mikko from Helsinki, Finland

Why didn't the Packers double-team Reggie Wayne? We should have forced Luck to go to his second or third receiver and ask those less capable guys to make plays under pressure.

The media meets with the coordinators on Mondays, so yours is a question I have no doubt will be asked of Dom Capers. My guess is the answer is that the Packers did concentrate extra attention on Wayne and he beat it. I'll post my story following this afternoon's interviews.

Mike from Pickerington, OH

Vic, yesterday was the first time I've seen the Packers play in person. Unfortunately, the highlight of my day was when I realized Vic is in the building; I wonder what he's thinking of this second-half meltdown.

You really did have a bad day. If you had been following my blog during the opening drive of the second half, you would've known exactly what I was thinking: What's the rush? I understand the need to be aggressive, but I think patience can be a good thing, too. The Packers developed an identity last season for putting teams away early and coasting into the station, so to speak, but that's not realistic in this league. I think you have to condition yourself to the idea that the game is likely to be decided by how both teams play in the fourth quarter. Rallying to win is a way of life in the NFL; putting teams away early is not. The undefeated Falcons had to rally against the Panthers and Redskins to win. The Steelers went on a long, sustained, patient drive that produced a game-winning field goal that beat the Eagles as time expired yesterday. It's how the game is played and it's how the Packers beat the Saints. Be patient, be calm, make the big plays at crunch time. That's what wins.

Paul from Burlington, VT

Like most Packers fans, I was disappointed with the 2011 season after the first-round playoff loss. This year makes me appreciate the feat of going 15-1 last year. The question for you is: How do I manage to enjoy every year regardless of wins and losses?

You accept each year for what it is. This year isn't last year; I think we all know that now. Last year's team would've never lost in Seattle and Indianapolis. The challenge this year isn't to go undefeated, it's to make it into the postseason. Here's the good news: If that happens, the Packers will likely be playing their best football at the right time of the year. This team is going to entertain you. It's going to fight to make it into the postseason. My advice is to not quit on the season or fall deep into despair, just sit back and watch. Lots of excitement and wins are ahead.

W.S. from Hereford, AZ

Vic, I think the problem with this team is fairly simple. I think many of the players believed all the preseason hype about how great this team was going to be and forgot that they actually have to show up each Sunday and prove it. Your thoughts?

One of my favorite coaches, a legendary high school coach, liked to say, "They got tired of winning." Has that happened? Did winning become too easy to achieve? Did the Packers lose touch with how difficult it is to win a football game, and what an accomplishment it is to just make it into the postseason? Victory must be exhilarating. A team must thirst for it. The pursuit of victory must dominate the lives of the team's players. If all of that exists on this team, and I believe it does, the Packers will return to their winning ways and get on a roll at the most important time of the year, the division-games time of the season. We have no choice but to wait for it.

Alex from Memphis, TN

Are my eyes seeing things or has Sam Shields been involved in some pretty bad pass interference plays the last few games that should have been called in the favor of the Packers but haven't?

The PI yesterday is the kind of call that has become the identity of today's game. Defense has been legislated into unfairness. Defenders aren't even allowed to chase the ball now, if chasing the ball means crossing the path of the receiver. It's as though defenders are required to play with a yield mentality. That's wrong. What bothers me the most is that I honestly believe the official was baited into that call by a crowd that moaned and groaned every time a pass was contested by a defensive player and the result was an incompletion.

Matthew from Bison, SD

Vic, great teams should beat the teams they're expected to beat. What's going on?

You're absolutely right about the records of great teams against teams they're expected to beat. When I covered the Steelers during their Super Bowl run in the '70s, they were 50-1-1 against teams they were favored to beat. My guess is that if you did a similar study of the Packers of the '60s, you'd get a similar result.

Jay from San Diego, CA

Vic, I wish your columns were longer. I find myself whisking through them and wishing for more.

Today's column is one I wish was shorter. Plowing through my inbox was painful for me this morning. I could feel the hurt, anger, frustration, exasperation, despair, almost a sense of betrayal. I've got people telling me they're done, and others asking me to tell them it'll be all right. I got people angry at me because I didn't tell them this was going to happen. Here's the best I can tell you: We got through Seattle week, and if we can get through that, we can get through anything. That game made us stronger. Apparently, we're going to need the strength.

Andrew from Wentzville, MO

A lot of people are knocking our defense. I keep trying to tell people this is a young group. Yes, they could have played better in a few areas yesterday, but the offense's inability to do anything in the second half didn't help. The defense was barely off the field.

I was delighted by how the defense played in the first half. It was flying around and whacking people. That's how you play defense. I thought it had the Colts playing scared. Then came the interception and everything changed. As I've said, when the Colts started running the ball in the third quarter, they were able to dictate the tempo and the strategy of the game. It bothers me that the defense didn't respond after the Packers took a 27-22 lead, but something was lost early in the second half that the defense couldn't get back.

Jacob from Appleton, WI

Do you believe a team's record indicates how talented their team is? I know my answer, but I was curious about yours.

At the end of the season? Yes, I do. Five games into it? No, I don't. I covered a team that started 1-4 and then won nine in a row, five of which were shutouts.

Dan from Seattle, WA

You accurately pointed out last week how being multidimensional on offense and forcing respect for the run are crucial. In yesterday's game, after Benson went out, it seemed our offense reverted to what we saw in the first half of the Seattle game, even though Green came off the bench and seemed to do a very respectable job at running back. Your thoughts, or am I simply restating the obvious?

You're stating the obvious, but I think there's a tendency to ignore the obvious. This team needs to run the ball. That's exactly what it needed to do in the second half yesterday. It needed to run the ball, halt the Colts' momentum and regain control of the game. Nothing deflates a team faster or more thoroughly than having the ball pushed down its throat.

Nathan from Fort Bragg, NC

Do you think all these schemes Dom Capers is using are actually confusing the defensive players? I mean, it's hard enough transitioning to the NFL, let alone learning numerous complex defensive schemes.

Yeah, but you have to play them because you can't put one look out there down after down and be successful. It's a chess game and the guy on the other sideline is as good at it as you are. You have to match him move for move. The key is getting your players to execute your moves.

Morgan from Windsor, CO

The Packers were 3-3 after Week 6 in 2010. Trying to stay positive because it's just football, right?


Jesse from Providence, RI

On Nick Perry's flagged sack on Andrew Luck that would have caused a fumble, what was he supposed to do?

When I saw the replay, I dropped my head in despair. I thought to myself, "What have they done to my game?" Perry executed a textbook sack of Luck. Perry's head was up and it struck Luck on the target, which is the upper body. The only reason their heads bumped is because the force of Perry's blow cause Luck's head to snap downward. Luck's head struck Perry's, not the other way around.

Brent from Saint Paul, MN

The Packers are the only team in the league this season that has zero points on their opening drives.

That's a big deal. Again, why? I don't know, but it's imperative that an answer is forthcoming.

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