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Time to win the battle of the hitting

Good teams overcome imperfection


Marc from Kingsford, MI

Watching the Bears game last night, and after watching the Lions slap us around, it looks to me we have misjudged this Packers team. During the preseason, I thought this season will be business as usual, but now I think we're in trouble. I now think we're the third best team in our division and playoffs are going to be too tough. Your thoughts, Vic?

Don't judge. It creates expectations and expectations almost always create disappointment. I've been writing that in this column for all the years I've been doing it. There's a desire to judge and predict we don't seem to be able to discipline. We love to delude ourselves. It's almost as though we want to set ourselves up for a fall. I don' get it. The Packers' explosive passing attack in the Jets game was ineffective a week later. Which game is the accurate indicator? I don't know. Why do we need an indicator? Just watch. What else can you do?

Justin from Virginia Beach, VA

Is it safe to say this next game is a must win, even this early in the season?

It would certainly brighten everyone's spirits, and a loss would put the Packers in serious chase mode, but neither a win nor a loss is going to decide anything this Sunday. You're in this to the end, Justin. You better buckle up.

Matt from Waipahu, HI

Well, it ain't looking too good for the Packers. We win these two games and all is good, right?

A win on Sunday would cause my inbox to fall down giggling with joy. The Packers could find themselves in a tie for the division lead. If you need your spirits lifted, you could think like that. Or, could you avoid thinking and just wait for it to happen. This season is going to have a lot of twists and turns between now and December. Teams will rise and fall according to injuries and the bounce of the ball. I doubt anyone will run away and hide. Come December, nearly all of them will be bunched up like race horses at the quarter pole, and that's when the horses that have something left in their legs and a will to win begin their sprint for the finish line. Relax and enjoy the race.

Nick from Green Bay, WI

I am not freaking out like some, but why is it McCarthy is anti-screen lately? If you are not running effectively, then why not try a screen?

I'm not big on talking scheme because it becomes endless; somebody always has a better scheme. I can tell you screen passes aren't the solution to all issues. A screen pass is generally used against loaded fronts. The Packers were not facing a loaded front on Sunday. Mike McCarthy said something in his press conference yesterday that is as profound as anything I have ever heard a coach say about scheme. "Scheme is not a crutch." Bingo! That's exactly what scheme has become, a crutch for fans to explain all losses. Nobody gets physically whipped anymore, they just get out-schemed. Baloney! The Packers got whipped on Sunday and good teams look in the mirror and acknowledge to themselves they lost the physical battle, not the coaching battle. There isn't a coach in the league that wouldn't have attacked the Lions the way the Packers did. You want the truth? There's the truth. So what was the fan reaction to the Packers' game plan? They should've found a way to pass. That's baloney, too. They should've found a way to shove it down the Lions' throat. That's what a power football team does. That's what the Seahawks would've done.

Mike from West Bend, WI

After all the locker room interviews the last two days, it appears Rodgers and McCarthy are not on the same page. I don't care if they are best buds or what, but after an entire offseason and training camp, I'd expect them to be on the same page. Does adversity just bring out the worst in their relationship or their philosophical differences?

By your definition, Bradshaw and Noll weren't on the same page, Staubach and Landry weren't on the same page, and a whole lot of other championship quarterback-coach relationships weren't on the same page. I did an interview with Otto Graham and he told me he had to be held back on the sideline from punching Paul Brown. McMahon-Ditka, anybody? These are strong-willed men who want to win. They're obsessed with winning. When you sense a little riff, that's a message to you your coach and quarterback have an edge, and that's a good thing because this is an edge game. As Tom Coughlin once said to me, "I don't want these guys walking around here with smiles on their faces." Packers fans want peace and harmony. That's one of the things that's struck me about this fan base. Packers fans are winsome. They love with a smile. This game is built on a different kind of love. It's built on love with a snarl. I enjoy it.

Matt from Los Angeles, CA

Vic, over the past couple of years, I have become a diehard Packers fan and it's gotten to the point where I get bummed or upset when they lose because I know they can be such a great team. I am trying to learn more about football all the time so I can approach my frustrations in a more rational way. Thus, my question for you is why is establishing the run such an important thing?

I could give you all of the schematic reasons for it, but they're not why it's important to run the ball. It's important to run the ball because that's how men play the game. When you beat a team by running the ball, your victory is complete. When you can't run the ball, even if you win, you're unfulfilled. I've covered teams that ran the ball and lost, and they came away with a feeling of superiority they carried into the next game and then built on it. Schematically, Lombardi was wrong. Football is no longer first and foremost a running game. I have a feeling, however, he wasn't speaking in terms of scheme, he was speaking in terms of how the running game relates to the need to win the physical battle. In that sense, his words still ring true. Football is first and foremost a running game because it defines the force of your action. Run it!

Chris from Barron, WI

When the Packers go to Soldier Field, do they fly there or do they take a bus?

I've only covered one team that regularly bused to an away game: The Steelers bused to Cleveland. It would be the equivalent of the Packers busing to Milwaukee. When I was covering the Jaguars, we bused to Tampa once, but that was during a hurricane.

Kevin from Wausau, WI

Vic, when Davon House intercepted that deep pass, how can the refs expect him to stop his momentum after sprinting for 40 yards? Their decision changed that game.

The rules are the same for everybody. Sometimes they help you, and sometimes they hurt you. Coach Noll was fond of saying football teams have to overcome everything. They have to overcome injuries, the media, the fans, their wives, their kids, bad breaks, bad weather, bad calls, bad playing, bad coaching and even bad rules. Nothing and no one is perfect. The good teams win in spite of imperfection.

Neil from St. Andrews, UK

Vic, I wrote some weeks ago concerned about time of possession. Will we see a different approach from our quick-fire but ineffective offense?

Time of possession is a growing concern. There are two remedies: Slow down or score more points. We'll see which remedy the Packers choose.

Bob from Melbourne, Australia

Vic, ours isn't the only high-powered offense struggling at the moment. Detroit, New Orleans, New England and even Denver haven't been as productive as expected. Could it be that, far from producing an avalanche of points, the updated point of emphasis rules have made offensive coordinators concentrate more on short passes, thus eschewing big plays?

I think it's because this is September, which has become an extension of the preseason. I don't see a lot of good football right now.

Matt from Appleton, WI

The Lions' Stephen Tulloch tore his ACL during a celebration. Regardless of Sunday's outcome, are we allowed to laugh at this sort of thing, or is it always tragic when a player's season comes to an end?

It's a tragedy that celebration has become so much a part of the game that the threat of injury extends beyond the play. In my opinion, what Tulloch did is unprofessional. It's silliness and it's going to hurt his team and his career.

Scott from Irvine, CA

If McCarthy is so good, why can I anticipate virtually every play from my living room?

You can't. You think you can, but you can't.

Jason from Fairfax, VA

Vic, how do you feel about McCarthy throwing Lacy under the bus in front of the media?

He didn't throw him under the bus. He said the team needed to run the ball better and not fumble it. You want him to lie? I don't remember him even mentioning a name until he was asked a specific question. Sometimes I struggle to understand what fans want. They say they want less coachspeak and more honest evaluation and accountability. Well, that's what Coach McCarthy gave everyone after the game; so did Aaron Rodgers. They were open and honest in their evaluations, and they also pointed the finger at themselves. They told you how they feel. They let you know they were upset. What do you want?

Shalom from Austin, TX

What do we have to do to beat the Bears?

Win the one-on-ones. It always begins with that. Forget about winning the battle of the scheming. I can tell you right now what the Bears' scheme is going to be: Invite the run to protect against the pass. It's time to win the battle of the playing. Most of all, it's time to win the battle of the hitting.

Jake from Oakland, CA

"Failure has a thousand explanations. Success doesn't need one." – Alec Guinness

Too many words. Just win, baby.

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