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Texans present a tough matchup

Posted Oct 9, 2012

Dan from Houston, TX

In the past, Jennings has made big plays that worked as a catalyst for the offense. How much is his injury affecting the whole offense?

It’s hurting. Here are the facts: Greg Jennings injured a knee in the Oakland game last season. He missed the next game, in Kansas City, and hasn’t enjoyed an extended period of health since then. Is it a coincidence that the Packers are 4-5 since Jennings missed that game in Kansas City? He’s a playmaker who has been lost to the offense for much of the time since that game. That means defenses have had one fewer weapon to defuse, and that has allowed them to shift their focus to other weapons in the offense.

Ross from Grandview, WI

I imagine weeks like this suck some of the fun out of your job, Vic. What's the atmosphere like around a team when losing sets in? Do you have any indication, yet, that this team is in crisis? Would you feel it if they were?

Yes, I would know it if this team was in crisis; it is not in crisis. When a team has a stable management group, as the Packers do, there is a confidence that losing will always be temporary. I felt that in Chuck Noll when I covered the Steelers. There were periods of extended losing. They started 1-4 and lost their quarterback in 1976, and then turned in the best football over the next nine weeks that I’ve ever covered. His 1989 team lost its first two games of the season by a combined 92-10, and then came one play away from the AFC title game. I’m sensing panic in the fan base, but there is no panic in the hallways at Lambeau Field.

Joe from Billings, MT

Vic, is there anything we, the fans, can do to stop these outrageous roughing-the-passer/illegal-hit calls? If this game is played for the fans, we should be able to at least get the NFL's attention that we want change. These calls take away from the game and should be eliminated.

Joe, it’s the fans’ fascination for the quarterback and their love of the passing game that is driving the softening of the game, especially as it pertains to the quarterback. When the fans send the message to the league that they want the ball run, and that their favorite player on the field is the running back, then the game will change in a way that favors the running game. In case you haven’t noticed, this is not the golden age of the running game. Football is no longer first and foremost a running game. I would dare to say most fans view a running play as a waste of down. The fans want the ball thrown and that can’t happen if the league’s featured player is on injured reserve. I watched a Texas-Oklahoma game on ESPN Classic last night. It was from the Steve Worster, James Street wishbone era. I almost got teary-eyed. It was a thing of beauty, the back hitting the hole with a kind of quickness and recklessness that is long gone. The linemen came off the ball low and hard, as one. The snap of the ball created an explosion of force at the point of attack. When there was a hole, the back was through and into the secondary in the snap of a finger. There was a total commitment to the spot on the line that had been designated as the POA. Run on first down, run on second down, run on third down and convert, and then do it all over again. People don’t want that kind of football anymore. I’m not even sure I want it, but it was fun to take a look back at how the game was played.

Justin from Penn Valley, CA

Vic, I don't understand how the same QB with the same receiving corps can be playing so differently this season as compared to last. What happened to Rodgers in the offseason?

He’s the same guy. He’s as talented as any quarterback I’ve ever seen and that talent isn’t going away anytime soon. He’s going to be a star player in this league into the next decade. What’s happening right now is he’s not getting the support he needs to fully express his talents. He lost his running game in the first half on Sunday, and that initiated a chain reaction that invited the rush. This is going to take some time for the Packers to reinvent themselves. As much as the talent is the same as it was last year, this is not the same team because its challenges are different. Defenses are demanding that the Packers be different. In my opinion, the defenses the Packers faced last season didn’t know who the Packers were. They exploded onto the scene late in 2010 and opponents were still trying to get a handle on these “new” Packers last season. They know now.

Tamino from Rottenburg am Neckar, Germany

The Packers are now 2-3. What do you think? Can they still make it to the postseason?

That’s still my expectation. I think we’re going to head into the division-games part of the schedule with a must-win mentality each week. I’m looking forward to it. We’re going to hear a bell ring in November, and I think we’ll know what the sound of that bell means. Just win, baby. I don’t need style points. I don’t need breakout games or power rankings. Just win the game, because each win brings a team one step closer to the postseason, and that’s the goal.

James from Manchester, UK

What did you think of the unsavory scenes in Kansas City on Sunday after Matt Cassel was knocked unconscious? I heard an opinion yesterday how things like fantasy football and games like Madden have led us to this dehumanization of players.

I covered a game in 1973 when Terry Bradshaw dragged his separated shoulder off the field, to the cheers of fans that were happy to see Bradshaw replaced by Terry Hanratty, and there was no fantasy football or Madden back then. We’ve always been savages.

Colin from Ludlow, England

Which regular season did you enjoy the most, 2010 or 2011? For me it was easily 2010. Close games decided late week after week, an offense that got better as the season went on, a team that was put to the test and fought and grew. Which would you rather sit through?

I regret not having been here in 2010. That’s my kind of season.

Jessica from Hemet, CA

Cedric Benson was really starting to gain momentum. Do you think Green will do the same or do you think we are going to have big issues trying to establish a running game?

I think Green is the next man up. I know he has running skills. I know he can catch the ball; I think he gives the Packers real screen-play ability. Can he hold onto the ball? Can he pass-protect? I think James Starks is close to being ready to play. I think he has intriguing skills. Can he express them on a consistent basis? Here’s the forgotten name: Brandon Saine. He’s ready to play and he’s Mike McCarthy’s kind of back, which is to say a guy that can be trusted to get a few yards, catch the ball, hold onto the ball and pick up the blitz. These were the backs with which the Packers began training camp. Now we’ll find out what they can do collectively.

John from Spokane, WA

So my wife is somewhat new to being a big Packers fan, but she is freaking out about the way this year has gone so far. I keep telling her that we can't expect the same results of last year every year. Is there anything I can tell her to ease her worry? I even told her how the Packers started 2010 with a 3-3 record, and that doesn't even get her to chill out.

Your wife, huh? Tell her to do whatever she did in 2010. Tell her to get ready for a crunch-time December. You’ll make it, John.

Gene from Los Angeles, CA

Hey, Vic, watching the Texans vs. Jets, does it look like a long night for the Packers on Sunday?

At first glance, this is a tough matchup for the Packers. The Texans rush the passer and stop the pass. Offensively, the Texans have a strong running game that demands that defenses play the run and not tee off on the quarterback. I thought the Jets overplayed the pass and invited the run, and you saw what happened; Arian Foster torched them for 152 yards.

Jeff from Rosamond, CA

Against Chicago, Dom Capers double-teamed Brandon Marshall all night. Why do you suppose this was not done to Reggie Wayne?

As I promised in yesterday’s column, I provided Coach Capers’ answer to the double-team Wayne question in the story I did from yesterday’s media interview with Coach Capers. Wayne was double-teamed a lot. He beat it. Blitz doesn’t automatically mean sack and double-team doesn’t guarantee an incompletion. You have to execute both.

Bob from Joint Base Lewis McChord, WA

What are your thoughts on the offensive line? It seems they haven't fully jelled as a group, yet, given the loss of Scott Wells to free agency and Chad Clifton to retirement, and that has played a fair-sized role in the offense's lack of production to date. Thoughts?

Based on what I’ve seen, the line appears to have played its best football when the Packers achieved a run-pass balance. In the first half in Seattle, the Packers didn’t have balance and Aaron Rodgers was sacked eight times. In the second half, the Packers ran the ball and Rodgers wasn’t sacked. In the first half in Indianapolis, the Packers had balance and Rodgers wasn’t sacked. In the second half, with Cedric Benson lost to injury, the Packers opened the third quarter with seven straight pass plays and the first of what would be five sacks began. Part of the process of becoming a winning team is discovering your identity.

Joe from Clio, MI

The pace the Packers were on was unsustainable going into a third straight season. They are simply going through what every team goes through and sometimes you come out on the short end of the inevitable closeness of NFL games. The Packers have what only four other teams currently have: a championship QB and championship coach. This team will be fine.

That’s the kind of confidence within an organization that allows it to weather periods of losing. You have correctly identified the Packers’ strength.

Frank from Lampman, Saskatchewan

Tell me something good.

The final two months of the season are going to be so exciting that it’ll make us forget about winter.

Tim from Cincinnati, OH

McCarthy used to always say it’s about rushing attempts, not rushing yards. What happened to that? The Packers need that philosophy back.

I agree, but it would be unfair of me not to acknowledge the logic behind Coach McCarthy’s plan to go after the Colts’ cornerbacks on Sunday. Hey, I wrote it in my 10 things editorial last Thursday: “9. Attack!—The Colts have injuries at cornerback.” How many times have I gotten questions to “Ask Vic” that were critical of Coach McCarthy for sitting on a lead? It was one of the most asked questions I got last year. Here’s a better question: When did Coach McCarthy sit on a lead that the strategy wasn’t successful? Here’s the bottom line: Whatever the strategy is, make it work. The strategy in the second half on Sunday was to go after a secondary depleted by injury and daring the Packers to throw at it. If the Packers had backed down from that challenge, what would that have said about this team’s reputation for having a high-powered passing attack?

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