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Defense is the difference

Join senior editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Steve from Jacksonville:
Would NFL rules allow Tim Tebow to paint Bible verses on his eye black as he does in college?

Vic: Pete 1:1—He who uses his uniform to deliver personal messages shall be fined a great amount.

Dan from Jacksonville:
When I was in college, I read you every day. Then I got a full-time job and my life ended. I read you for the first time in awhile on Friday and I laughed for the first time in awhile. Thanks.

Vic: You made my Monday morning nice, which is nice.

Ted from St. Augustine, FL:
Since you are apparently older than you look and turned the national championship game off and went to bed before its conclusion, you missed something very important. The guys calling the game had a discussion about Tim Tebow's missionary work. He lived in a leper colony. I know, I didn't think they existed anymore, either, but wouldn't that make him the perfect pick for Detroit in the 2009 draft?

Vic: Good one. Seriously, though, all through elementary school the nuns that taught me pounded away on the leprosy thing. I don't know what it is about nuns and leprosy, but they just couldn't stop terrorizing us about it. They had me convinced that if I ever left the bathroom without washing my hands, I'd get leprosy. When I started to get teenage acne, I thought I was a goner.

John from Crossville, TN:
Didn't it look like the Titans' Chris Johnson got hurt because the Ravens' weak defense couldn't stop him so they hurt him?

Vic: I really didn't like the twisting thing the Ravens did to him. That kind of stuff bothers me because it's so cheap. Yeah, the game sure changed when Johnson left it. The Titans were never the same. It goes to show how much one player can mean to a team. Johnson is the guy who changed the Titans from an average team to the AFC's number one team.

Jeff from Fullerton, CA:
If Kurt Warner wins another Super Bowl and Super Bowl MVP, will you then consider him a Hall of Fame candidate?

Vic: Yes, he would then be a likely candidate to be elected to the Hall of Fame. He would not, however, fit my criterion. In my opinion, a Hall of Fame player must be a great player and great players excel at all times and for a long time. They are victorious in the regular season and in the postseason. They are statistically impressive and they are record-wise impressive. They are dominant players. Kurt Warner does not fit my definition of a truly great player, but there seems to be a movement to get him into the Hall of Fame and I agree that a second Super Bowl MVP would do it.

Kevin from Jacksonville:
Didn't it put a smile on your face to see the Titans lose at home? What a good playoff game and a great no-call on the delay of game.

Vic: No, it didn't put a smile on my face to see the Titans lose. Don't go through life bitter, Kevin. The other team is trying to do the same thing your team is trying to do, win. Why does that make them bad guys?

Patrick from Jacksonville:
Why didn't the Titans challenge the play clock expiring?

Vic: It's not reviewable.

David from Jacksonville:
What's the big difference between the Jaguars and the Steelers this year? Both teams played at relatively the same level last year, both teams with a poor offensive line, solid quarterback play and a strong running. This year one of those teams makes it to the AFC championship game while the other team finishes last in their division. What did they do differently than us over the last 12 months?

Vic: They were number one in defense; the Jaguars were 17th. That's the major difference. Number one in defense will usually breed success.

Kevin from Jacksonville:
After seeing what Larry Fitzgerald has done so far in the postseason, is there any question that this guy is the best receiver in the league right now?

Vic: He may be the best receiver I've ever seen. I've never seen anyone look more natural at catching the ball, more fluid in running through the passing lanes, more athletic in adjusting to the ball and more instinctive in how he presents himself to the quarterback.

Ryan from Jacksonville:
On the postgame show after the Giants-Eagles game, Jimmy Johnson said Tom Coughlin should have deferred to the second half after winning the coin toss in order to have the wind at their backs in the fourth quarter. When you defer your decision to the second half, your decision is almost exclusively to take the ball. If, in fact, you take the ball, wouldn't it be the Eagles' decision which goal they want to defend?

Vic: I wasn't watching when Johnson made the comment. All I can tell you is what the rules governing the coin toss are. When you win the coin toss, you may exercise one of three options: kick or receive, defend a goal or defer your choice to the second half. If you elect to defer, then you may exercise one of two options to start the second half: kick or receive or defend a goal. If Coughlin had deferred, the only way he could've assured having the wind at his team's back in the fourth quarter is by electing to defend a specific goal to start the second half. That, likely, would've resulted in the Eagles receiving the kickoff to start the game and the kickoff to start the second half.

Jeff from Melbourne, FL:
With all of the controversy surrounding the play clock this weekend, I suggest a buzzer or horn be sounded from upstairs when the clock hits zero. What would you do to fix the problem?

Vic: One of the officials needs to carry a time piece that is in sync with the play clock and includes an alarm. When his time piece reaches zero, the alarm sounds. He doesn't have to look at the play clock and then look at the ball. All he has to do is blow the play dead. It's really a shame the play-clock play was botched. Given all of the attention the league gives to correcting wrongs, nothing could've been easier to fix. It's also not the first time it's happened and it's just not that difficult to execute. The back judge is looking right through the ball to the play clock. That play was a difference-maker.

Kevin from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
During the last half of this season, I was convinced the Jags were going to be in a major rebuilding mode the next couple of years but, after watching the playoffs unravel this year, I feel like we are only a couple of draft picks away, especially if one or two of those guys could re-energize this team. Your thoughts?

Vic: I think it's possible that what you're suggesting could happen – Chris Johnson is an example of what one impact player can do for a team – but I also think it's dangerous to think that way because it could alter expectations and that could lead to more disappointment. In my opinion, after a year in which expectations were allowed to burn out of control, it's time to return to a more conservative approach. This team has a lot of work to do.

Eric from Jacksonville:
None of the final four playoff teams going into the conference title games has a 1,000-yard rusher. The Steelers, Eagles and Cardinals rank 23, 22 and last in the NFL in rushing yards per game. It seems that only Baltimore fits your run the ball, stop the run idea, ranking fourth in the same statistic. Does your mantra need revising?

Vic: I don't think so. Pittsburgh is number two against the run, Baltimore is number three and Philadelphia is number four. Those three teams, by the way, are 1-2-3 in total defense, so I think the stop the run thing still works. The Steelers have had a down year in rushing but ran it like their teams of old on Sunday against the Chargers. The Eagles have long used the short passing game as their running game. The Cardinals are this year's sissy team, but they're not playing like sissies in the playoffs, are they?

Dave from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
Is it any coincidence that three of the most physical teams in the league are in the conference championship games?

Vic: That's the better way to ask the question. No, it's not a coincidence.

Eric from Jacksonville:
I think both Tebow and Superman wear Jones-Drew pajamas.

Vic: Real men don't wear pajamas.

Will from Jacksonville:
Ouch! 1-3 in this past weekend's games. Who are your picks for next weekend's games?

Vic: Yeah, I had a bad weekend. Oh, well. I'm sticking with the Ravens and Eagles. They were my darkhorse teams going into the postseason.

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