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Watch for winning- it's all that matters

December will reveal Packers' true identity


Rob from Boulder, CO

Packers fans weren't always afraid of losing. Back in the '70s and '80s, losing was a regular occurrence. Then Brett Favre came along and we started winning. When he left, Aaron Rodgers came along and we kept on winning. Maybe we're just spoiled?

Blame it on winning? Makes sense. Maybe we forgot how to lose.

Phil from Cimarron, KS

It's finally here! December football has arrived! Vic, what are you looking for now that the season has finally begun?

I'm looking for the real Packers. December will reveal their true identity.

Kerri from Chicago, IL

Vic, I'm hoping you can help me understand the contradictory message I'm hearing from Coach McCarthy and the players. In almost the same breath, they are saying the solution lies in the preparation, and they had some of the best practices of the entire season in the last few weeks. If they are already prepping at a high level and it hasn't been working, why are they still hoping preparation will fix the problem? Am I missing something?

That's interesting logic: Preparation is causing defeat, therefore, lack of preparation will result in victory. I'm just teasing, Kerri. I know what you want. You want big change! I've got bad news for you. I don't think it's going to happen. I think the Packers are going to continue to pursue victory with preparation.

Joshua from Lake Geneva, WI

Statistically speaking, the Lions are not playing better the last three weeks than the previous few weeks. So how have they turned it all around?

Statistically, they are playing better, and I think it shows most dramatically on defense. In the last three games, they've allowed 16, 13 and 14 points. They had a breakout game on offense in the most recent game, and the combination of improvement on both sides of the ball make the Lions a very dangerous team right now. Defense, in my opinion, has triggered the improvement. Prior to the bye week, the Lions allowed 30.6 points per game. Since the bye week, the Lions have held opponents to 14.3 points per game. How have they turned it around? Glover Quin said: "We took a hard look at who we are and what we were doing. We went back to the drawing board. We had to get everyone on board and everyone bought in. We always knew we were talented, we just weren't playing very well. These last few weeks, we've been executing better defensively and we've been stopping the run." I encourage everyone to read all of the stories on, not just this column. We try to provide a full week of coverage that will prepare the reader to watch the game, just as Coach McCarthy prepares his team to play the game.

Dominic from Nanchong, China

Vic, last season, a lot of experts said the Packers had the best wide receiver corps. It seems this year Green Bay has one of the worst. How did this happen?

It's a receiving corps in a state of flux. We have to give young receivers time to emerge. If they don't emerge, I think we know what will happen. This team has suffered some major losses to its receiving corps over the past few years, going back to Jermichael Finley's neck injury. Yes, it's a game of replacement, but it's difficult to replace star-quality players when you lose them in a short period of time and you're picking at the bottom of the draft. There was an explosion of complaints in my inbox when the Packers drafted Ty Montgomery. "Why are they picking a wide receiver, Vic? We don't need a wide receiver; we need an inside linebacker." Remember that? As it turned out, Montgomery would address a desperate need, and then the Packers lost him to injury. I think we need to order our thoughts more calmly. Let's start with this: Sometimes you lose.

Craig from Vancouver, WA

What are opponents seeing that makes them dare the Packers to pass? McCarthy always talks about self-scout. If opponents can see it and McCarthy can see it, then why is it so hard to correct?

Your question saddens me. I don't know how to answer it to your satisfaction. It's my hope you will find the true meaning of the game, which is each team's and each player's unique struggle to overcome their shortcomings. Football is a human game. It's not Madden.

Kim from Austin, TX

Vic, what will you be watching for in Thursday's game?

I'll be watching for winning or losing. That's all that matters now. The time for evaluating talent has passed. So has the time for unscouted looks. Only one issue remains to be decided: Can you win? It's a wonderful time of the year.

Brad from Mounds View, MN

Vic, I don't have as much of a problem with our scheme, but I think the play-calling has been suspect on several occasions. It's obvious who isn't calling the plays, in my opinion. I think it's time to open up the playbook and generate some excitement for the players. If you have some gadget plays, now is the time.

I don't like tricks. The free play stuff that had everyone giggling with glee back in October didn't sit right with me. I'm a line up and play guy. Cute can become a contagion. I prefer curt to cute.

Brandon from Austin, TX

Vic, everybody is saying the Patriots aren't favorites anymore because Gronkowski went down. Watching our offense, we never really see the biggest sparks from the tight end position, but now it seems they aren't even on the field. Are we running fewer formations with them or sending them out on routes less? I don't think Richard Rodgers has progressed as fast as Coach McCarthy was hoping. Do you think having a bit of a playmaker at tight end would be the piece we need?

The Packers need a big-play receiver to emerge. Every team needs a playmaker in the passing game. It doesn't matter if he's a wide receiver or a tight end. I don't think losing Gronk is going to make the Patriots a better team. If any quarterback can find a way to work around losing his star receiver, Tom Brady can, but this bears watching. It might give us an appreciation for the losses to injury the Packers have endured.

Patrick from St. Paul, MN

Coach McCarthy stated the five fundamentals of Packers football are the ability to tackle, block, take care of the football, make big plays and pursue and finish each play. What are the Ketchman fundamentals of playing football?

I've never ordered them, but I'll take a shot at it: Run the ball, stop the run and get it done at crunch time. I guess I only have three.

Caleb from Eau Claire, WI

Vic, is there a man on the Packers offensive or defensive line you see consistently winning his one-on-ones?

I think both lines have been solid in recent weeks. Mike Daniels and Josh Sitton are the anchors to each.

David from Santee, CA

Hearing a lot about things to get fixed and fundamentals, but little about two huge areas that need improvement: third-down conversions and touchdowns in the red zone. Your thoughts?

Where have you been? Third-down-conversion problems have been a topic of concern going back to the Denver game. Coach McCarthy has talked about it weekly. The Packers are No. 22 in the league in third-down efficiency, and that's up from No. 27 a few weeks ago. The Packers' red-zone efficiency is actually quite good – No. 13 in the league – especially when you consider how problematic third down has been. This offense has to convert third down at a higher rate for it to improve significantly.

Chris from Newnan, GA

What is the real story on Mike McCarthy right now? I don't want the obvious answer – he's focusing on the fundamentals. What is Mike McCarthy the man feeling, seeing, thinking right now?

He's seeing a pass offense that needs to be fixed. I have to believe it's an especially difficult experience for Coach McCarthy because pass offense is his baby. This is his playbook, his plays and, whether you want to believe it or not, his play calls. Do you honestly think Coach Clements is overruling Coach McCarthy on the headset? "Tom, I wanna run the ball here. No, Mike, we're gonna throw it." I don't think that's happening. At the heart of Coach McCarthy's thoughts right now is showing the resolve necessary for a team to remain dedicated to the pursuit of victory. If the coach weakens, the team will weaken. This is Coach McCarthy's ship and he's responsible for steering it out of this storm. A leader of men accepts that responsibility. He has. I could see it in his eyes the other day as we passed in the hallway.

Tom from Sydney, Australia

Vic, I read an article the other day in which the writer stated the Panthers have a particularly complex and sophisticated running system installed. What makes it any more complex than the Packers' running system?

It probably isn't more sophisticated but fans like reading those kinds of analysis stories, so the writer wrote one.

Bob from Beaver Dam, WI

Vic, the Packers are draft and develop. If the players waiting in the wings aren't ready, and a player is clearly underperforming, do you accelerate a backup, or stick with a struggling starter?

You play your best players. Help is not on the way.

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