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Let's blame somebody

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

Jason from Jacksonville:
The announcers on the Monday night game mentioned that during an onside kick attempt the receiving team can signal for a fair catch and have the right to make the catch unimpeded. Does the ball striking the ground nullify a fair catch call? That would be my expectation.

Vic: It's live once it strikes the ground. A member of the receiving team may also exercise a "fair catch kick," which allows the receiving team to attempt a field goal from the spot of the fair catch. In a "fair catch kick," the two teams would line up and execute the play as they would a kickoff.

Nathan from Richmond, VA:
I refuse to argue with anyone over their views on how to resolve the red-zone issue, but I have a huge fear growing in me right now. What if it's not the talent, nor the play-calling, nor the execution, but the will? Please tell me you have seen hard, concrete, cast-in-stone evidence that is verifiable by independent branches of the federal government that this is not true.

Vic: I don't measure will. I measure results according to the facts and the facts are this team doesn't have players who score touchdowns. The Jaguars only have three rushing touchdowns scored by running backs this year. I can't imagine that has ever happened on any other team I have ever covered. Three rushing touchdowns by running backs in 12 games? What does that tell you? Do you think the Jaguars need a goal-line runner?

Jacques from Alexandria, VA:
Tell D.J. that while we are all aware that football is just a game, he isn't alone in feeling down after a loss and there is nothing childish about the emotional response that is elicited after a victory or defeat, especially since one doesn't have a control switch on such feelings. Football is a tough man's sport but tough men are people, too, with hearts. If the game is all about toughness and physicality, why do you think you are concerned about the hangover effect for this week's game? Vic, the game we all love so much is a very emotional sport which bears fruit in vast ways.

Vic: I'm sorry, I left my violin in my other pants.

Damien from Jacksonville:
Hello, Vic, I read your column a lot. My only concern for my Jaguars is the play-calling, in and out of the red zone. I know this is a touchy subject, but Mr. Musgrave is not the best of play-callers. I sit in those stands week after week and I think that maybe just one play-action play could change the game, or maybe not running the ball on first down would be the change we need. We are very predictable when it comes to our play-calling; even I sit in the stands and call the plays. Heck, if I can do it I know the other team can. Listen, Vic, with the talent we have I promise I could get us to the playoffs. Yes, I could go on but I won't.

Vic: Thanks for stopping there.

Ed from Kansas City, MO:
Vic, in reference to Andy from St. Augustine's comment about "icing kickers," I saw a study released about a month ago tallying up the stats on this. I think the study concluded that kickers average around a 75 percent success rate, but that drops to 65 percent when the opposing team uses a time out right before the kick. I would say that study would be pretty good evidence that "icing" works.

Vic: NFL coaches have statistics on everything and if they had a stat that said "icing" is ineffective, they wouldn't try it. Coaches spend entire offseasons doing research like that. I think we've lost an appreciation for the thoroughness of preparation in the NFL. This incessant criticism of the play-calling is just a way for people who aren't tough enough and gracious enough to accept defeat to assign blame.

Howard from Homestead, FL:
Given your projection for the Jaguars at the beginning of the season (division title contenders the final month of the year), has this team failed to meet your expectations?

Vic: The answer has to be yes because I did expect them to be division title contenders in the final month of the season and, clearly, they are not. But I missed on two counts and the combination is why the Jags aren't a division title contender. I expected them to be a little better than 6-6 and I expected Indianapolis to be a little worse than 9-3. I missed.

Gordon from Jacksonville:
What are your thoughts on Byron Leftwich calling audibles at the line? How much leeway (if any) does he currently have to change the play and, in your opinion, how much should he have?

Vic: He should have as much as he can handle. Del Rio said on Monday that Leftwich does have limited freedom to change plays at the line of scrimmage and that freedom continues to expand. I'm satisfied with that answer. I think if you looked in Peyton Manning's background, back to his first two seasons in 1998 and '99, you'd see that he wasn't doing all of those gyrations he does now. Young quarterbacks must be developed carefully and incrementally.

Marcus from Vancouver, BC:
Looking at the stats, the Steelers' defensive domination in the Ben Roethlisberger era started after their bye week, in week seven. In their five games before the Jags game, they dominated time of possession and only one team achieved 20 rush attempts against them (Cleveland thanks to Garcia's four rushes). The Jaguars are the first team to turn the tables on the Steelers since their bye week. We dominated time of possession, we ran the ball 34 times and we held them to 17 points. I, at first, was blaming the play-calling and the coaching staff, but after taking the time to look at the stats and the facts, I am more convinced than ever the Jaguars are headed in the right direction and have an excellent coaching staff.

Vic: Excellent analysis. The Jaguars' preparation for the Steelers game was outstanding. They were said to have the best practices last week they ever had. The players were ready to go and the game plan was superb. They lost because they couldn't get it done inside the red zone and that's the topic of the week. Why can't they get it done in the red zone? Everyone has their own opinion. My opinion is that they lack touchdown-makers.

Brandon from Jacksonville:
You and I, along with the rest of the football world, realize the BCS is a terrible system and that a playoff setup would be much more logical and satisfactory. So what must be done in order to bring about a change? Is there a BCS dictator that we have to overthrow? If so, who is it? I'm more confused now because even major-conference teams are getting the shaft.

Vic: The BCS system will be abandoned as soon as somebody devises another plan that will produce more revenue than the current plan does. That stinks. Why is West Virginia going to the Gator Bowl? Because they travel well. Hey, I don't wanna see games between teams that travel well. I wanna see games between teams that play well. I love college football. I've loved college football since I was a little boy, walked into Pitt Stadium for the first time and fell in love with Mike Ditka. I am begging the NCAA to devise a playoff system the equal of what they have in Division II.

Brian from Jacksonville:
Last night on ESPN they made the prediction that the Jaguars, Broncos and Ravens all would end the season 9-7 and that we would win with the tie-breaker and would be the final wild-card team. What do you think?

Vic: I think the Jaguars will have to win 10 games to make the playoffs.

Derek from Pittsburgh, PA:
I attended the game on Sunday night and I just wanted to say thank you to Jacksonville. It was a great atmosphere. I also would like to thank the fans. Mostly everyone I encountered was friendly and courteous. I had great football conversations with all of them and it was a really fun time. So, I thank you and I wish you guys the best of luck on the rest of your season. You are a great football team and I would hate to have to face you guys in the playoffs.

Vic: It's nice to be nice.

John from Jacksonville:
What is the difference between a referee and an umpire?

Vic: The referee assumes a position behind the offensive backfield. He is to have general oversight and control of the game. He is the final authority. The umpire assumes a position behind the defensive line and in the center of the field. His duties include recording all charged times out, the winner of the coin toss and the score, and he is to assist the referee on matters of ball possession and fumble recoveries near the line of scrimmage. The umpire and the line judge rule on ineligible linemen downfield, and the umpire is responsible for wiping off a wet ball and counting offensive players on the field prior to each snap. He also has primary jurisdiction over equipment and the conduct of players.

Ken from Jacksonville:
How come I'm made to feel guilty for not buying tickets and being a disloyal fan, yet, when I do shell out 45 bucks for a ticket and the stadium is full, the team loses? Is it wrong for me to feel like I'm not getting my money's worth? I'm also tired of reading articles in the newspaper about the blackouts. Give me your free press pass, then you buy your own ticket. I have a shirt from the first game ever, so I'm not some rinky-dink fan. I just want my money's worth. Should be 8-0 at home, always.

Vic: You're living in a dream world.

Charles from Jacksonville:
I have read that you believe we need a pounder to gain better red-zone efficiency, however, it does not get more red zone than the two-point conversion. We seem to get the most out those situations so why not employ the same tactics during actual red-zone situations? Oh, and trust me, before you tell me they have, I know at least one play in particular they have called for a two-point conversion that they have not called in a red-zone situation.

Vic: You've made an astute observation. The Jaguars are four-for-four in two-point conversion attempts this season. All four were the result of pass attempts. What are we to make of that? Are four plays enough to make a judgment? I can tell you that, typically, teams do not line up with goal-line personnel in two-point conversion attempts. They line up in middle-of-the-field, two or three-wide-receiver sets. Maybe that's the answer; don't pound it, spread it and throw it. But, trust me, the Jaguars have done that, too. Typically, teams want to pound the ball into the end zone when they get into goal-line situations. It's the safer play. The Falcons, for example, were at Tampa's one-yard line on Sunday when they decided to get cute. Michael Vick's pass was tipped and intercepted and that was the turning point in the game. This week, the people in Atlanta are ripping Jim Mora and his offensive coordinator for not pounding the ball into the end zone with T.J. Duckett. The solution is make it work. If you make it work, nobody complains.

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