CB Casey Hayward

Joel from Hebron, KY

I’m glad you bit. Can you take a bigger bite and explain why Hayward and Burnett would have been the difference?

Casey Hayward was the Packers’ interceptions leader last season. He’s the guy in their secondary that would seem to have the best nose for the ball, and the Packers missed having his nose in the game on Sunday. Morgan Burnett is the defense’s quarterback. He’s the player that communicates the coverage calls. I don’t know this to be a fact, but I have a feeling the Packers missed Burnett’s voice in the secondary on Sunday.

Terry from Spread Eagle, WI

After watching Philadelphia and Washington play, if that’s the future of the NFL, I might as well watch basketball. Last team with the ball wins. The new norm? Ridiculous!

I looked it up. There really is a Spread Eagle, Wisc. Beautiful! I wish I was from a place with a name like that. New norm? It’s not exactly new, but the league wants it that way. In a last-team-with-the-ball-wins type of game, the TV ratings stay high right to the end of the game. Fans want that kind of game, especially the casual fans, and the casual fans drive the TV ratings. I’ve never known an offensive-minded coach that didn’t favor a game that would give his team the ball last with a chance to win. Tom Coughlin said it to me several times: Just give me the ball last with a chance to win. This isn’t something new. The game has been headed in this direction for a long time. As for the spread offense craze, I’m not yet sold on its future. I saw Michael Vick take a lot of hits on Monday night. All it takes is one hit to end his season, and we’re talking about the player that eats up the greatest percentage of his team’s salary cap. The 49ers have the right idea with Colin Kaepernick: Create the threat of him running, without him running. He’s “The Man” and “The Man” must not go down, and “The Man” must not go down hard.

Dmitri from Knoxville, TN

Vic, I really can’t stand Jim Harbaugh. Why does everything he does and says continue to rub me the wrong way? Am I the only one here?

I think you belong to a club with a large membership of Packers fans, and I think the club’s membership of Packers fans continues to grow for two reasons: 1.) Coach Harbaugh has an abrasive personality. 2.) His team has won the last three meetings between the two teams. Truth be known, it’s a good thing for fans to dislike the enemy. The popularity of the game rests on confrontation. The Packers and 49ers are developing a strong rivalry, and Coach Harbaugh is largely responsible for that happening. Good!

August from Cincinnati, OH

You stated that you didn’t like the idea of an offense rushing to the line of scrimmage to get the ball snapped before a play can be challenged in review, but you also included the no-huddle offense, calling it cheap and not very manly.

Mostly, I was referring to the muddle-huddle approach, in which the offense stands over the ball and allows the clock to tick, for the exclusive purpose of forbidding the defense to substitute. I don’t like that intent. I don’t mind a team going no huddle for the purpose of increasing the tempo of the game. I think that’s fine and I find that intent to be pure. It’s hurry up and wait I don’t like. I find it to be a violation of the spirit of the rule that allows offense to dictate the tempo of the game. That rule wasn’t created for the purpose of allowing offense to dictate defensive personnel. It was created to allow offense to manage the clock, especially at crunch time.

Matt from Kula, HI

It’s obvious you perceive your job is to come across as pithy, clever and witty. Sometimes you succeed, but far too often you come across as just plain rude and arrogant.

Well, you can’t win ’em all.

Jake from Phoenix, AZ

Will the outside pass rush be more aggressive against the Redskins? Against the 49ers, it was pretty clear containing the QB was the No. 1 priority.

Redskins QB Robert Griffin III

RG3 is a running quarterback. He did a lot of damage outside the pocket last season. I thought the Packers’ rush scheme on Sunday was brilliant. It’s unrealistic to expect a big sack day against Kaepernick. All you end up doing is forcing him to run, and we know how that can end. What the Packers did is to have moved Kaepernick off the spot. They made him move right or left and when that happened, the Packers had somebody there to contain him. That scheme also accomplished something else: It cut the field in half. When you force a quarterback right or left, he’s pretty much relegated to throwing the ball to that side of the field. It should’ve helped the Packers secondary hold its coverage. I can’t fault the Packers’ rush scheme, only applaud it. The Packers’ problems on defense were in coverage. I think we need to give credit to where credit is due. I also think a lot of future 49ers opponents are going to look at the tape of Sunday’s game and rush Kaepernick with the same scheme the Packers did.

Anthony from San Angelo, TX

Vic, with Clay now under review by the league for the 49ers incident, what would be the most probable punishment imposed by the NFL?

I would expect a donation to charity. That’s a good thing, right?

Scott from Raleigh, NC

I was listening to Colin Cowherd the other day on the radio, praising an e-mail he got from someone saying the stats show Rodgers can’t come from behind in the fourth quarter. My initial thoughts went to the 49ers game, where he took the lead in the fourth, only to have the defense let them down. Same thing about four years ago when the Packers played the Steelers and Roethlisberger threw a TD as time expired. How can Rodgers be knocked for that?

You’re right. If the defense protects the Packers’ 28-24 lead on Sunday, Aaron Rodgers gets credit for a fourth-quarter comeback. Stats are everybody’s friend because they tell us whatever we want to hear.

Koigi from Lynchburg, VA

Vic, Mike McCarthy talked about similarities and differences between the 49ers and Redskins. So what makes the bigger difference for a defense, the runner or the blocking scheme?

The runner. I’ve never known a defensive coordinator that didn’t believe scheming personnel was more important than scheming schemes.

Zachary from Brentwood, NY

Ever since Woodson left, I haven’t seen a solid tackler in the secondary, Williams being an exception. Who is a player in the secondary that needs to step up?

He’s only been gone for one game, Zachary, and I gotta tell you, must lasting memory of Charles’ final game with the Packers wouldn’t qualify as a tackling clinic. Everybody needs to step up. Obviously, Sunday didn’t qualify as a pass coverage clinic.

Greylorn from Cochise, AZ

Would the Matthews penalty have occurred with a coach intelligent enough not to trade a fourth-and-two for a third-and-seven?

First of all, the choice was fourth-and-inches or third-and-six. In 42 years of covering football, this might be the most mind-numbing, obtuse debate I have ever witnessed. Hey, it worked. Why doesn’t anyone seem to understand that? Had Coach McCarthy chosen fourth-and-inches, he would’ve likely been forcing his defense to stop a play for no gain, vs. a play that would’ve allowed a gain of five yards and still qualified as a stop. As it turned out, Kaepernick gained only four yards. The strategy worked. The Packers stopped them. It even worked after the Clay Matthews penalty. Should it have been expected that Bill Leavy would botch the call?

RB Eddie Lacy

Rick from Wausau, WI

I recorded the 49ers game and watched the first quarter’s run plays numerous times using the pause and slow buttons on Lacy’s run attempts. On a number of no-gain or low-gain plays, Lacy seemed to have just missed the seams created. My take is once he develops vision at NFL game speed, we are going to see potential for great improvement. Do you agree?

That’s where patience is required. The running game takes a long time to develop. The back needs to find the seams or lanes, and that means developing a sightless instinct for where those seams and lanes are. It can’t all be done by sight. That’s too slow. There has to be a feel for where those seams and lanes are. The area the eyes must survey has to be reduced. Give it time. Eddie Lacy will find the seams and lanes. When he does, look out.

George from Hutchinson, MN

Although the Packers lost, I think there were enough wins in that game to give the team a feeling of good upside down the road. Many fans are expressing that in your column. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Is the conscience of the optimistic fan base tapping into a kind of precognitive intuition, a futuristic glimpse of greatness about to evolve into its own entity, or is this just an up-and-down phase of a winsome lot?

The fan base is relieved; that’s all it is. It was fearful it would experience a repeat of last January. What it witnessed on Sunday was a Packers team that had erased that gap. It knows its team can play and beat the 49ers, and that sure beats the alternative.

Mary from Duluth, MN

Right now, all I want is for the Packers to not suffer a letdown and to bring that same man’s game, aggressive attitude they had in the ’Stick to Lambeau Field against the ’Skins. What are you expecting?

I’m hoping the Packers will satisfy your wishes and win a game that’ll set them up for a strong start to the season. You don’t want to go to Cincinnati 0-2. A win on Sunday against the Redskins would make everything right with the world and give the Packers an intense focus on winning in Cincinnati, heading into the Packers’ bye week.

Andrew from Somers Point, NJ

Aside from the great plays Matthews made on Sunday, the play that really sticks out to me was on the fourth down near the end of the game. With the 49ers trying to draw the defense offsides, all I kept seeing was Matthews waving his hands to tell his teammates not to jump. Even though the 49ers ended up converting, I thought that was such a great leader moment at a crucial time. Your thoughts?

There’s a TV commercial that highlights pre-snap action. Everybody on the offense and defense is running around, communicating calls, trash-talking, etc. It’s all high drama that takes you up to the snap of the ball, and then the commercial ends. I can’t help but think to myself, “Is this what excites fans? Has bluster replaced action for excitement?” Andrew, even the drunk in the upper deck was expecting the 49ers to fake it.


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