Phil from Ardmore, OK
Vic, I have been seeing a lot of analysts debate the size of our defensive front, which in turn is the cause to our struggles in stopping the run. I am no expert but this sure seems like a likely cause. Do you think this is a size or a technique issue? If size, can that be fixed with sheer technique?
Stopping the run begins with an execution of the scheme, which means executing the planned run fits. Each man is assigned a gap; it his responsibility to secure that gap. In a typical 3-4 scheme, the down linemen are often responsible for playing head up on the blocker and refusing to be moved. That allows them to be responsible for the gaps to either side of the blocker. It’s a demanding technique known as two-gapping. If they are moved or are unable to shed the block, they have failed to execute their assignment. Part of their job is to keep the blockers off the linebackers, whose assignment it is to run to the ball, often through their assigned gaps, never by abandoning those gaps. So, if a player loses control of his gap, is it because he wasn’t big enough and strong enough to maintain it, or is it because he mentally didn’t execute his assignment? The answer to that question will be determined over the next several weeks. Sheer technique can’t overcome a lack of power, but it can overcome a lack of size if it’s combined with power. To stop the run, you must play with force. Without force, forget about it.
Brett from Green Bay, WI
Vic, how does the short week affect the big linemen that have to be very fiscal?
I guess they spend less money.
Mike from Portland, OR
Not too surprising the Steelers played Dungy at quarterback. When he graduated, he was the Golden Gophers’ all-time leader in pass completions, passing yards, touchdown passes, and he was ranked fourth in Big Ten history in total offense. Marc Trestman was Dungy’s backup at Minnesota.
I often refer to football as a fraternity because it has an amazing ability to introduce people into your life through relationships with others in the game. I was a rookie reporter working for a newspaper in Doug Plank’s hometown, when Plank was playing at Ohio State. I did a preseason interview with him before he went to training camp, and he talked about being moved to a new position because Ohio State was opening the season against Minnesota and Minnesota had an outstanding option quarterback named Tony Dungy. Little did I know Minnesota’s quarterback would become an important figure in my life. We all belong to the fraternity of football.
Sherman from Blue Lake, CA
Talk about parity, it’s interesting to note that after four weeks there are only two undefeated teams, and they are both at 3-0, not 4-0, both having had a bye week. Similarly, there are only two teams with no victories.
Everybody is average. There are no upsets. This is what the league wants. Is it a good thing? That’s the question and I’m not sure of the answer. That’s why I love December football. That’s when the good teams surface. I need good football teams. Average doesn’t work for me.
Nick from Springfield, MO
“It sucks, man. I hate it.” That’s what Sitton said about Thursday Night Football. Rodgers said others feel that way as well. The TNF games have all been ugly, and I think the league needs to recognize this. Why not schedule TNF games around bye weeks and only have Thursday games from Week 5 to Week 13?
How about scheduling the TNF teams to play the previous Thursday, too, so they have a full week to recover? What do you think about that idea?
Conrad from Ooltewah, TN
When Roger Goodell came into the league, he made his number one priority off-field behavior punishment. It seems like we need a commissioner now whose priority it is to make the game exciting again.
His intentions were good. He wanted to address a growing problem, but punishment has seldom proved to be a deterrent to misconduct. Avoidance is the fix. The league’s teams have to identify miscreants and avoid them. The commissioner’s task is to find a way to promote avoidance.
Del from Sterling, IL
Vic, you answered a question of mine last week, and in it you said, “The NFL can change its culture, but I’m not changing mine. Those days are over.” Does this have anything to do with the new rules emphasis this year and the effect it’s having on the game?
I was intentionally being huffy to drive home a point: Change needs to be achieved at a slower pace and in smaller doses. The change in the game over the past few years, certainly since the CBA of 2011, has been too radical. Before we can clean one plate, they put another plate of food in front of us. I’m done eating for a while. I’m pushing away from the table.
K.C. from Des Moines, IA
Vic, let’s say your grave concerns about stopping the run prove founded. There really isn’t any practical solution to improving that situation other than the current players getting better, is there?
That’s correct. Help is not on the way.
Mark from Kingsford, MI
Everyone seems happy to be playing the Vikings, but I smell trouble since a Bears team averaging only 65 yards a game rushing ran on the Packers for 235 yards. The Vikings run a lot better than the Bears. I see another big rushing game against the Packers. Should I be worried?
I’m not worried. I feel very confident about Thursday night’s game. The Packers are at home and they have a hot quarterback. That’s a tough combination to beat.
Gary from Davenport, IA
Vic, what does the FCC ruling on lifting blackouts mean for the NFL? Does it have any effect on Packers games?
It will have no immediate or near-future effect on Packers games. I’m not an expert on this stuff, but my fears are the FCC ruling, which we knew would happen when I first wrote about this a month ago, will have a negative impact on teams that struggle to sell tickets, especially those in small markets that don’t offer the other forms of revenue available to the big boys. I also fear this FCC ruling will, in the distant future, move the NFL toward pay per view. Everybody loves it now; it’s a very popular and politically correct thing to do. How will we feel about it 10 years from now?
Bart from Williams, OR
I watched the NFL replay of the game last Sunday. It might have been the worst defensive game by two teams in my recollection. Sorry, this isn’t football anymore. It makes it very easy to watch something else.
For every football purist such as yourself, there are thousands of casual fans that love all of that offense.
Peter from Eagan, MN
Vic, I enjoy reading “Ask Vic” and will continue to read it. Keep up the good work. Going forward, I am going to refrain from submitting questions or comments. I have come to realize my place is just to read and enjoy. Thank you for sharing your perspective and helping me to achieve it as well.
There’s a balance between reading and contributing. If you respond to everything, you risk becoming so intense you lose your balance. If you respond to nothing, you risk losing your soul. I encourage you to find that balance.
C.J. from Edinboro, PA
Vic, what are your impressions of Bridgewater so far?
I watched replay of the Falcons-Vikings game. That’s not the guy I saw at Louisville. I thought he looked mechanical, sometimes even soft, at Louisville. The guy I saw playing quarterback for the Vikings on Sunday was an aggressive playmaker. He threw the ball sharply. He ran with conviction. I underrated him.
Ryan from Fredericton, NB
Let’s flip it. What would the Vikings need to do to win on Thursday night?
Dominate time of possession and win the turnover battle.
Kaleb from Boulder, CO
Vic, I was wondering if you could help me understand: How are we supposed to go up-tempo and play fast offense, but still want to control at least half of the time of possession? I’m not sure how that works. Your thoughts?
By getting a lead and then taking the air out of the ball. That’s how Mike McCarthy wants to play. He wants to attack with the pass, and then protect with the run.
Nicholas from McHenry, IL
We go from the sky is falling last week to the Packers are back on track this week. One extreme to the other.
Don’t let them do it to you. Just because that’s the league’s way doesn’t mean it has to be your way. Stay calm. Nobody is running away from anybody in this league.
Michael from Orange Park, FL
Lacy started slow as a rookie, which is understandable. He’s started slow again this year. Could it be he’s just a good cold-weather runner, like Lorenzo White? Do you remember White? He was a big back with really wide feet. He played best in the snow.
I remember White. He played in a dome; too bad for him. I think Lacy is trying to find the cutback lanes. The Packers run a zone-blocking scheme, and for a running back in a zone scheme, it’s all about finding the cutback lanes. Sometimes you can’t see them, only feel them. I thought Lacy struggled in his rookie training camp to find the cutback lanes, and that worried me. When he found them in the regular season, he became one of the most punishing and explosive backs in the league. Be patient. Let him find those lanes. He will.
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