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They are who I thought they were

Posted Oct 23, 2012


Nick from Water Mill, NY

Vic, I see Green's run average this past Sunday wasn't great, yet, he still had a lot of touches. Does a higher run average affect the defense's respecting the run more than the amount of touches, or doesn't it matter? Also, can an offense be considered to have pass/run balance regardless of yards per carry?

The balance between run and pass is determined solely by the attempts for each. When you display a commitment to the running game, you make the front seven respect the run. When you rush for big chunks, you make the safeties respect the run. Merely attempting to run the ball will help slow the pass rush. If you want to be able to sell play-action, as it pertains to the deep ball, you need to run for big chunks.

Damone from San Jose, CA

What does it mean for the Packers’ secondary that the leading interceptor is a rookie?

It means the opposition has targeted and attempted to exploit a rookie cornerback, and he’s responded in a way that will cause future opponents to look in another direction.

Tyler from Christiansburg, VA

Vic, I'm a big fan of the old tough style of pound the ball and play great defense. I am a huge Packers and Aaron Rodgers fan and future ticket holder (55,000 spots left to go), but I can't help but wish we could somehow play like the teams of old. Do you think Green Bay will ever try and play that way with Rodgers playing like one of the best quarterbacks ever?

No, and I don’t think anyone can play that way and win a championship. I think the 49ers would like to be able to play that way, but I think they’re seeing it won’t work and that they’re going to have to take their passing game to a level higher than 29th in the league, which is what they currently are. The 49ers are No. 2 in rushing and No. 1 in overall defense but I get the sense that their arrow is pointing a little sideways right now, and it’s because of a passing game that’s become somewhat of an anchor. Today’s game is about throwing the ball. I don’t think you can win a championship without having a championship-caliber passing attack. I could be wrong. We’ll see.

Dennis from Sacramento, CA

Aaron Rodgers has 150 career TD passes and 42 interceptions, breaking Dan Marino's NFL record for fewest interceptions at that milestone. Marino had 69 interceptions when he threw his 150th TD pass.

I know a lot of fans love stats and I use them for perspective, and the perspective I get from that statistical comparison is that Marino and Rodgers are both great quarterbacks, but I didn’t need stats to tell me that; my eyes had already told me as much. I covered games in which Marino played in high school, college and the NFL. His talent was always evident. The first time I covered a game in which Rodgers played was in the 2007 preseason. He came into the game and immediately led a long drive near the end of the half. He completed several passes in a row and I remember writing in my game blog something to the effect of, “What are they waiting for?” I covered a regular season game the following season in which Rodgers played. I was stunned by his mobility. I didn’t see much of him in college and I was amazed by what a talent he was, and I remember having gushed about him in my blog during that game. Now there’s statistical proof of all that. Isn’t that kind of after the fact?

George from Hutchinson, MN

The Packers have now won two games in a row. So now the next big question will be can the Packers go undefeated the rest of the way? Are you going to be ready for another go around on that topic?

That’s not the question, and I think that’s where last season created an unrealistic expectation of how a team should perform. The regular season is for two things: 1.) It’s for getting to the playoffs for teams that want to win a championship. 2.) It’s for accumulating statistics for players on teams that can’t pursue a championship. The immediate goal, as I see it, is to get to 6-3 for the bye week. At that point, the goal will change. At that point, the goal will clearly be the playoffs. In my mind, more and more the regular season is becoming the postseason’s preseason.

Steve from San Clemente, CA

Vic, during the postgame interview with Urlacher, the interviewer mentioned this is the first time since 2006 the Bears started 5-1. What is the obsession with “first time since” remarks?

I was covering the Steelers when they were in the midst of an amazing run of not having allowed a touchdown to be scored against them in the first quarter. Every week, the PA guy in the press box would announce at the end of the first quarter that this marked the umpteenth game in a row in which the Steelers hadn’t allowed a touchdown in the first quarter. Then, one day the dam broke and the opponent scored a touchdown in the first quarter, and the PA guy said that was the first time the Steelers had allowed a touchdown in the first quarter since the last time they allowed a touchdown in the first quarter. The press box exploded with laughter. Any time I hear someone say “first time since,” I think of the laughter in that press box. Sometimes I think Elias Sports Bureau is the worst thing to ever happen to sports.

Keith from Cottage Grove, MN

Dezman Moses is one of those young, hungry defensive players looking to make a few plays. He made a great read on the swing pass in the flat, delivered a hard, legal hit and got flagged for his effort. Is it just that rookies need to make a name for themselves to get the same treatment by officials as big-name veterans?

No, I think most officials would’ve thrown a flag on that play, regardless of who the offender was. It goes back to something the NFL asked its officials to embrace a few years ago: When in doubt, error on the side of caution. In other words, throw a flag any time the hit looks the least bit violent or malicious, because penalizing plays like that will help us change the culture and make the game a kinder, gentler sport. There was only one thing wrong with Moses’ tackle: It was violent looking. It makes me think of something Bear Bryant used to say about good football players needing to be mobile, agile and hostile. That’s changed.

Michael from Dallas, TX

Can you please comment on the absolutely stellar job Tim Masthay has done for the Packers for the past year and a half. Maybe put it in perspective?

OK, here’s my perspective: In my 41 years of covering football, Masthay might be the best of any teams’ punters I’ve covered.

Paul from De Pere, WI

Are the Packers who we thought they were?

They are who I thought they were. Toward the end of the preseason, I wrote an editorial in which I expressed the opinion that improvement on defense would take time. I wrote: “Be sensible about this. The defense with which the Packers ended last season was last in the league and getting worse. You don’t fix something like that in the space of one offseason and no games.” I went on to say that by season’s end I expected the defense to be playoff-ready, but results wouldn’t be immediate. I saw comments at the bottom of the story that suggested I was making excuses for the defense’s performance before the season even began, and I thought that was an unfair criticism of my intent. What I wrote, I genuinely believed to be true, and I think we’re seeing it come to fruition. The defense is up to No. 14. That’s a dramatic change from where it finished last season. Frankly, I didn’t expect the improvement to be this quick. The development of the unit’s young players has been rapid and that’s the difference. If this continues, I’ll be able to revise my expectations.

Wesley from St. Marys, GA

Vic, what are your thoughts of the Jaguars coming to Lambeau this Sunday?

My thoughts are that I enjoyed 16 wonderful years covering that team and living in that beautiful place. I never leave places behind. I take them with me and I hold them tight to my heart forever. The Jaguars are good people that share with their fans a burning desire to win. One day they will. I don’t think this Sunday will be that day, but it’ll happen some day and when it does, winning will stick around. All teams go through hard times. Even the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers endured hard times. Buddy Parker once said the Steelers would one day get good luck and it would stay that way for 10 years. Then came the “Immaculate Reception” and a nearly 10-year playoff run, and Parker looked like a prophet. How about the Packers? Doesn’t the trade that brought Brett Favre to Green Bay qualify as a good-luck event? Everybody needs good luck, and the Jaguars got some very early in their existence. It’ll return some day.

Rod from Middletown, NJ

Casey Hayward said about his interception after the game Sunday that he noticed the Rams sideline people tracking the ball in the air, so he knew the ball was coming his way. Have you ever heard a player notice, then react to what was happening on the sideline in order to make a play on a ball, let alone intercept it?

Never. Forty-one years and I’m still learning about football.

Thomas from Auckland, New Zealand

With the injuries mounting, should Packers fans just keep calm and carry on?

Just sit back, watch and enjoy the emergence of young talent. It’s the very best thing that can happen to a football team.

Danny from Alameda, CA

What stood out to you in Monday's Bears-Lions game that the coaches will be preparing for during the bye week?

The way the Bears defensed the Lions’ passing game, especially Calvin Johnson. Their safeties and linebackers took deep, deep drops and dared the Lions to run the ball and throw underneath. Until the Lions defeat that strategy, that’s what they’re going to see.

Blaine from Madison, WI

Who do we expect is in line to replace Woodson at safety now that he is hurt?

I get the sense Morgan Burnett will be challenged to become the “new” Woodson, and I also get the sense Jerron McMillian will be challenged to expand his role in the defense.

Dan from Pittsburgh, PA

Vic, a couple of columns ago you talked about Ray Lewis' injury and how the media tends to exaggerate how much leadership veteran players bring to the field. With Charles Woodson out for six weeks, do you still think we will only be missing our safety and not his leadership?

I assume you’re equating leadership with giving pep talks. I don’t know that Woodson gave pep talks, other than for his famous postgame locker room speech following the 2010 NFC title game. I know he led with his performance on the field and if the Packers don’t find somebody who can play as effectively as Woodson, they won’t have replaced his leadership. Did you see Woodson yelling at teammates, as Lewis is famous for doing? I didn’t see any yelling. I saw a lot of playing, but I didn’t see any yelling. Truth be known, Charles is the quiet type.

Wes from San Antonio, TX

Vic, congrats to your Golden Flashes on becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 1972. Did you do anything special to celebrate this achievement?

No, but I thought to myself that the last time Kent State went to a bowl game – it was the Tangerine Bowl – I was a senior, the team’s star defensive player was Jack Lambert and two other players on that team, Nick Saban and Gary Pinkel, would become college head coaches of renown. It seems like yesterday.

Brian from Lenexa, KS

When did Woodson break his collarbone?

It was on the third-down play preceding the fourth-down miss by the Rams in their next-to-last series of the game. Woodson fell on his shoulder while defending against a pass. As I watch the play, I can’t help but wonder whether bigger shoulder pads would’ve prevented the injury. I’m not a fan of the knee pads the players wear on their shoulders in today’s game. I never heard of a torn labrum until they started wearing these itty-bitty pads.

Sean from Vermontville, MI

Vic, glad you mentioned being annoyed by the pink shoes because they looked like a fumble. Sunday, I was annoyed by the Packers yellow shoes because it looked like flags on the field.

This isn’t a big deal with me, but the NFL has long badgered and fined players about keeping their shirts tucked in and socks pulled up and conforming in all ways with the league’s strict uniform dress code, but games in October are beginning to look like a rummage sale.

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