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Ryan, Flacco outstanding

Join Senior Editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Brian from Jacksonville:
While watching old NFL Films footage, it looks like a lot of the old fields were always brown and muddy. Did they not take care of them back then as well as today, or were most of them up north and they didn't have artificial turf yet?

Vic: The answer is yes to both questions, but it's necessary to understand the landscape of professional football in the old days to understand why the fields were so bad. First of all, a lot of the games were being played on baseball fields owned by baseball teams that were the dominant sports franchise in their towns. Games were played at Yankee Stadium, Forbes Field, Memorial Stadium, Tiger Stadium, Cleveland Stadium and Wrigley Field, for example, all of which were built for baseball. Baseball was the national pastime and the NFL was just thankful for a place to play; it didn't demand too much. That's what today's young fans don't appreciate, which is to say the humble beginnings of pro football. When I started covering the NFL, the league was just happy to have the coverage. Its PR motto was any ink is good ink, just spell the name right. Some teams played in college stadiums. The Eagles played at Franklin Field, the Steelers at Pitt Stadium, the Giants played in the Yale Bowl for a few years, the Saints played in Tulane Stadium. It was the same deal for them; they weren't the primary tenant so they just said thanks and didn't complain too much about the condition of the field. Hey, it was football, not golf. We expected games to be played in bad conditions. We've become so spoiled by today's pristine conditions. I can't imagine what the reaction would be today if a game had to be played on a field in the condition Lambeau Field was in for the "Ice Bowl." A few years ago a game was played in Heinz Field following a freak, late-season thunderstorm that followed a re-sodding, and the outrage was such that you would've thought they asked the two teams to play on a bed of nails.

Donald from Saint Johns, FL:
Why is spiking the ball not considered intentional grounding?

Vic: Intentional grounding is the result of throwing a pass aimlessly for the sole purpose of avoiding a sack. Spiking a pass is what a quarterback does for the purpose of stopping the clock. The first is forbidden, the second is allowed, but there's a specific technique for spiking that is required. It must be done immediately upon taking the snap from center, for the obvious reason that the intent has to be to stop the clock. You can't drop back, survey the field and then spike the ball for the purpose of stopping the clock.

Matt from Jacksonville:
What is the major difference between run-blocking and pass-blocking for offensive linemen? Are the skill sets required that much different?

Vic: Yes, the skill sets and techniques are very different. Run-blocking is an action. Pass-blocking is a reaction. Run-blockers fire out of their stance. Pass-blockers retreat. Run-blockers attack. Pass-blockers mirror. Run-blocking requires strong hips and upper bodies. Pass-blocking requires quick feet and hands. Run-blocking is an act of moving an object. Pass-blocking is an act of deflecting a moving object.

Mike from St. Marys, GA:
I like your proposition to eliminate intentional grounding. It's a little silly that the quarterback has to run outside the tackle box to throw it away.

Vic: Bingo!

Steve from Jacksonville:
I want to thank the military for their service and avoiding the blackout. My dad served in World War II in France and he just passed away a few years ago, but he'll be with me at the game on Sunday.

Vic: The greatest generation, huh? You bet they were. My father was four years old when the Great Depression began and he was at war shortly after he graduated from high school. For the first 20 years or so of his life, all he knew was poverty and war. I don't think they had Thursday Night Football back then.

Robert from Jacksonville:
Does the job Mike Smith is doing in Atlanta say anything about Jack Del Rio? I'd like to think it could.

Vic: It says that coach Del Rio identified a good, young assistant football coach and gave him a chance to show the world what he can do. The job Mike is doing in Atlanta also says something about the value of having the third pick of the draft and spending it on what I consider to be the best young quarterback in the game.

Scott from Atlantic Beach, FL:
On his last drive, Ryan hit the "honey hole," so Baltimore started blitzing. Ryan then proceeded to hit the hot routes and beat the blitzes. That was all after a great drive by Flacco. Two crunch-time performances, your favorite.

Vic: The throw that was reviewed in the game-winning drive was a classic "honey hole" pass. I didn't notice if Baltimore was in two-deep safeties, but the throw was to the "honey hole" part of the field and it was a beauty. Ryan doesn't have the game's strongest arm, but having observed him up close and personal in the combined practices with the Falcons this past summer, it was easy to see that he makes up for what he doesn't have in arm strength with anticipation. He gets the ball out before the receiver makes his break about as well as any quarterback I've ever seen. He is extremely accurate. He knows where the ball should be, he puts it there and his receivers know they can count on his passes being on time and on the mark. Joe Flacco was outstanding, too, and I couldn't help but think as TV showed Ray Lewis walking the sideline and expressing his faith in his young quarterback, that he better stop worrying about what his quarterback is doing to get the lead and start worrying about what he was going to do to hold the lead. Has anyone noticed that the Ravens' defense isn't as dominant as it has been in the past? Just do your job, baby, just do your job.

Carlos from Barcelona, Spain:
I'm sorry, but listening to Joe Theismann and Matt Millen calling the game last night was just painful. Do you see this ex-players trend ever going away? Do the majority of fans really want this?

Vic: Yeah, I think the majority of fans really do want ex-players and coaches in the broadcast booth. There's a mania among fans, driven by the video games, for explanations of strategy. The young, video-game fan wants to know about cover two, cover three, cover eight, cover 28, etc. He wants to know about hot reads, cold reads, lukewarm reads, etc. Personally, I think a lot of these explanations are bogus, and I've chuckled at times at the overly-indulged and smugly-technical presentation of these explanations, but I think the young fan likes it because it allows him to talk the same language. I prefer something less technical. I prefer a Don Meredith singing "Turn Out the Lights" or telling me that the guy TV just caught flipping the bird was, in fact, letting everyone know he's number one, but today's fans take football too seriously for that kind of presentation to be popular. Either way, the booth belongs to the jockocracy. Howard Cosell was right. He predicted it.

Shaun from Jacksonville:
Were you at practice when Kampman hurt his knee? The rumors are swirling that it's a serious injury. When will the team officially know how serious it is?

Vic: It happened at a point when practice is closed to the media. The team will know this morning what the extent of the injury is. I'll provide a story on as soon as information is made available.

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