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Why isn't there more joy?


Joe from Bloomington, IN

On the Harrell fumble, Benson is looking ahead rather than looking the ball in. Is that standard procedure for running plays?

Yes, it is. The running back's responsibility is to form a pocket in which the quarterback might place the ball. When the back feels the ball firmly within that pocket, he clamps down on the ball. At all times, the running back's eyes are to be forward, looking for the running room the blockers are creating for him.

Jason from Summerville, SC

Well, it didn't take long for some big missed calls to take place.

And I didn't have to be clairvoyant to predict it. We've become obsessed with officiating. My inbox on Mondays has more e-mails in it regarding officials calls than it does regarding the performances of the players and coaches. I'm serious. We've lost perspective and I blame it on replay review. It's created a mania for perfection, for not accepting mistakes, yet, the system continues to fail us and force us to accept mistakes. The frustration level it's created is intense and I think it's costing fans a significant degree of appreciation for and enjoyment of the game. Once again, replay review failed us on Sunday. Twice in seven days it failed us. It didn't fix the mistake in Seattle and it couldn't be used to fix the incorrect ruling on Darren Sproles "fumble." Replay review has become a horrible tease. I'd rather just know that mistakes are part of the game and there's no choice but to accept them, rather than fixing some and not fixing others.

Don from Brumm, WI

What if Mike McCarthy had a challenge left for the Sproles fumble? Aikman said the refs never determined who recovered the ball. Who gets the ball then?

There was a situation in a game in Miami two years ago when Referee Gene Steratore unpopularly but correctly ruled that because replay could not determine who recovered the ball, the original call of no fumble had to stand. This was different from yesterday's situation, however, in as much as the officials on Sunday ruled "down by contact," which means the whistle blew the play dead. That canceled any potential for using replay review.

James from Manchester, UK

How about that Ryder Cup comeback?

That's one way to look at it. I feel badly for every guy on the U.S. team. That was a classic choke. I also feel badly for every fan that cheered misses by the Europeans and chanted "USA" tauntingly. Golf is supposed to be a gentleman's sport. As far as I'm concerned, the whole Sunday scene was an embarrassment for U.S. golf.

Nick from Conneaut, OH

Vic, the Packers go down 27-21, move the ball a little bit, but end up having to punt back to the Saints and, with how the defense was playing, it didn't look pretty. From someone that was there, what was the mood like in the press box and around the stadium?

I was in the process of moving through the stadium en route to the media auditorium, where I would finish my bulletin game story and prepare for postgame interviews, during the Packers possession that resulted in a punt to the Saints. I remarked to one of my colleagues who was walking with me that the stadium was eerily hushed. At that point, I had a strong sense the Packers were in grave danger of losing the game and, frankly, I think it might've collapsed their season. Taking a 1-3 record into three consecutive road games would've been a daunting challenge. I think we're going to look back on the Packers' 57-yard, game-winning touchdown drive as a turning point in this season. I think we should also acknowledge the one yard gained to which the defense held the Saints when they had the ball at their 9-yard line and an opportunity to drive for a game-clinching field goal or, at the least, flip the field and kill much of the remaining time.

Jon from Lewisburg, PA

A writer blamed McCarthy for mismanaging challenges. When are you going to use your clout to get the league to stop forcing coaches to ref?

I obviously have no clout. I've been barking about this for years. Who's the brain-donor that invented this piece of the failed replay review system? Why should coaches be responsible for officiating the game? That's nuts. Again, it's selective fixing. We're asking the coach to gamble as to what mistakes he wants to fix. Here's the best part: The more mistakes the officials make, the more likely it is the coach isn't going to fix the most important mistake. Please, somebody, fix this system.

Kenny from Champaign, IL

The game against the Saints made me question the direction these 2012 Packers are headed. On one hand, Rodgers and the offense were well on their way back to finding that record-breaking magic from last year. On the other hand, the defense seemed to regress back to their less-than-acceptable quality of play from last season; no turnovers and the pass rush seemed non-existent at times, allowing Brees to throw for over 400 yards. What's your take from this? Has the team really changed that much from last year?

I see a great win. I see an offense and a defense that got it done at crunch time. With their season on the line, the offense went 57 yards for the game-winning touchdown; the offense moved with precision. Protecting a one-touchdown lead, the defense denied the Saints six times from inside the 11-yard line. You're looking at a football game as though judges hold up cards when the game is completed, and the team with the most style points wins. That's not football. Football is just win, baby, and the way to win the game is to make the plays at crunch time. The Packers did. That's the art in football and you're missing it.

Harsha from Waunakee, WI

Vic, it perplexes me how Rodgers could possibly squeeze that ball to Jennings for a touchdown. It almost looked impossible to see Jennings amidst all the madness in the end zone. How does he do that?

He's got the best eyes of any quarterback I've ever covered. He sees everything. Rodgers' greatest attribute is the courage that allows him to survey that field with such disregard for the harm that is swirling about him. My greatest attribute is the cowardice that allows me such a great appreciation for Rodgers' courage.

Joe from Clio, MI

Do you know of a coach with more guts than Mike McCarthy?

I've covered some great coaches, but I have never covered a coach that would even think of attempting what Coach McCarthy ordered in two of the Packers' last three games. Fake field goal on fourth-and-26? Fake punt from your own 17, leading by a touchdown? Coach McCarthy's answer was, "They gave us a look." What was the look? Were they playing dead? I won't be offended if Coach McCarthy decides to play it more conservatively in the future.

Joe from Framlingham, UK

Hey, Vic, good win, but I feel like the woeful third quarter made the game a lot closer than perhaps it could have been. What do the Packers need to improve on most going into Week 5?

We're missing something, folks. We're missing the joy. We're missing the heroics. I get the sense that we're pursuing relief, not fun. I expected my inbox to be a place of joy today. It is not. It is a place of worry. That's too bad.

Herb from Palm Desert, CA

Vic, the crowd at Lambeau sounded mild. What was your impression of the crowd noise, and has enclosing the south end zone made a difference?

Not that I can tell. At no time on Sunday did I see evidence that Drew Brees was struggling to communicate with his offense at the line of scrimmage. Maybe that'll change when those new seats have people in them.

Tony from Truckee, CA

Vic, you have a way of looking at the positive and keeping it real. It has been four games. It seems teams have found a way to minimize our strengths. Are the Packers just an average team this year or do you still see something special?

I'm not looking for something special. I'm just enjoying the pursuit of victory. The last two games have been incredibly thrilling. The comeback the Packers' fashioned on Sunday is the kind of thing that defines a team's grit. The season will define whether or not the Packers have enough grit to be special. All we have to do is watch. I think 19 wins in a row spoiled us. I think it cost us some appreciation for what it takes to win in this league. I would encourage everyone to come into the real world. Nineteen in a row is gone and it's not likely we'll see that again in our lives. The real NFL is about being 2-2 and finding a way to get it done at crunch time. The real NFL is about finding a way to win this week and then finding another way to win next week. I think you're looking so closely at the brush strokes that you're missing the big picture.

Nick from Water Mill, NY

So, Vic, two steps forward and one step back?

Not in my book. Yesterday's win was a huge step forward.

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