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Short-yardage difference

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

Joshua from Jacksonville:
Vic, plainly put, you rock! Hey, I heard somewhere recently that this blackout rule was made back in 1973, long before I was born. The NFL and its stadiums have changed since then. The way I see it is Alltel was built for more than the Jaguars. Jacksonville built Alltel for events such as the Super Bowl, the Florida-Georgia game and the annual FSU-Miami game (ACC championship). They are all events that will sell out our 76,000-seat stadium; not Jags vs. Chargers or any other loser franchise. Do you think the NFL should modify its rule in some way to put all markets on an equal level? It seems unfair to the fans without the means necessary to attend a game to not be able to watch it because the third-smallest market with the third-largest stadium can't and won't sell out. What's your take?

Vic: They're going to cover seats next year, reducing the non-premium-seats capacity by 12,000. Will that make it fair?

Dave from Jacksonville:
I just listened to "Jaguars This Week" and the last 15 minutes were hilarious. I have to agree with you and Jeff, Peyton Manning is a great quarterback but has lacked in all of his final postseason appearances. I called John Elway a loser until his last two years. I guess the question is will Manning survive the salary cap blow-out in Indianapolis, or will he move on when his salary hits $17 million?

Vic: It's not his salary that would be $17 million. In 2006 Peyton Manning would become a $17.8 million cap hit, of which $10 million would be salary and $7.8 million would be amortization. I use the word "would" because it's not likely the Colts will allow his current contract to remain the way it's currently structured. They will almost certainly restructure Manning's contract for '06, which means, of course, they will assume more amortization and push more money into their future and, in the process, dig a hole all the way to Los Angeles. Manning truly is a "franchise player" because he is the Colts franchise.

Jon from Ocala, FL:
As the Titans are now starting to decline, do you think teams wanting an example of what not to do with the salary cap will say, "Remember the Titans?"

Vic: Good one! Maybe they should've made a movie, "Remember the Jaguars."

John from Jacksonville:
I couldn't agree more with your opinion that to be successful you have to do what you want. Watching the offense play, I don't think we are doing what we want and, as a result, we are out-thinking ourselves. In your opinion, what will emerge as the Jaguars' offensive identity?

Vic: That's a good question. There's a little bit of a tug-of-war going on right now. Is this Fred Taylor's offense, or is it Byron Leftwich's? In my opinion, the Jaguars' identity will be that of a ball-control offense with a strong running game and an efficient, drive-sustaining passing attack. But after seeing Leftwich throw for 318 yards without an interception against the Colts, I can understand why some people might think the Jaguars may begin leaning a little harder on him. But remember this, Jack Del Rio is a run-the-ball/stop-the-run guy. It is his base personality and he's not likely to stray too far from it.

Steve from Beltsville, MD:
After reading your editorial about expectations, I began thinking this season may take a dramatic turn for the worse. Is it a good or bad thing that this team is so hurt by Sunday's loss?

Vic: It's not a good thing, it's a great thing. You want your players to be passionate about their jobs; about their careers. Based on what I saw in Byron Leftwich's eyes and heard in his voice in the postgame interview session on Sunday, he's very passionate about his profession, and I came to the same conclusion about Marcus Stroud and other players, too. This team cares. It's not just picking up a paycheck.

Sam from Largo, FL:
Can you assure me this offense will come alive soon enough to get our revenge against the Colts in three weeks?

Vic: There are no assurances. That's why all of this is so intriguing. But come to life? Are you kidding me? Since the second half of the game in Tennessee, the Jaguars offense has gained 589 net yards.

Patrick from Arlington, VA:
I'm sure you'll touch on these things, but I'm curious: Is Pearson lost for the season? If so, who is likely to step up now? How many people were at the game? Was it rockin'? What about that third-down call? Good or bad? What do you think our chances are against San Diego?

Vic: That's a lot of questions, but they're all worthy of an answer. Yes, it's feared Mike Pearson is lost for the season. Jack Del Rio confirmed that fear in Sunday's postgame interview and, of course, will provide more information on Pearson's condition following Monday afternoon's press conference. Ephraim Salaam would be Pearson's replacement at left tackle. The Jaguars announced that they had distributed 73,114 tickets for Sunday's game, but 65,000 would be a guess as to the actual attendance. There was a definite sense of excitement in the air, but I didn't think the crowd was as into the game as they were against Denver. When I voiced that opinion to my wife on Sunday night, she said rather sternly, "It was hot." I told her it was very pleasant in the press box. In my opinion, the third-down holding call against Dewayne Washington is another example of senseless officiating, but I don't get too carried away with that kind of stuff because the Jaguars had 69 more yards and 11 more plays to stop the Colts and they didn't. As far as San Diego is concerned, I need to study more on the Chargers before I can get a feel for Sunday's game. I saw the fourth quarter of their win over Tennessee and the Chargers appeared to be playing with a lot of energy.

Eric from New Haven, IN:
I really enjoy your "Ask Vic" section. What do you think would have been the bigger surprise at the beginning of the season, the Jags being 3-1 or the Titans being 1-3?

Vic: The Titans' collapse does not surprise me. I expected it. My surprise was at how many "experts" weren't expecting it. It's the cap. You can't run from it forever. If you screw it up, it'll get you. As far as the Jaguars are concerned, I think their 3-1 record qualifies as mildly surprising. I was looking for 2-2.

Frank from Iraq:
I was wondering if you could help me sort out the game this week. I know Fred is a quality back but I don't know enough about spotting defenses. How did the Colts contain him?

Vic: I didn't see anything special schematically, and Jeff Lageman confirmed that opinion. I know it hurt the Jaguars a lot when they lost both tackles, Mike Pearson and Maurice Williams, in the third quarter, and guard Vince Manuwai was playing with a calf injury. What the Colts did most effectively was stop the Jaguars in short-yardage situations. As a result, the Jaguars "left a lot of plays on the field," to quote Byron Leftwich. Had they converted those short-yardage situations, the drives would've continued, probably would've led to more points, but certainly would've led to more time of possession and more yardage rushing. Leftwich did his job converting third downs in the passing game, but the Jaguars running game came up short on third down. It wasn't about scheme. The Colts just got more push up front. Frank, you be careful and get home soon.

Kevin from Jacksonville:
Why did we draft Greg Jones in the second round if we are not going to use him on short-yardage plays?

Vic: Greg Jones was given the ball in at least one short-yardage situation I can remember, and he converted. I'm with you on this one. When they drafted him, I predicted his special role would be that of a short-yardage runner the team seemed to lack.

Kevin from Goose Creek, SC:
I saw Peyton asking for a call on that late holding call against Dewayne Washington. Do you think that some refs give in to that?

Vic: I can't get into their heads, but I think if you asked the Patriots whether they think the league has tilted the game toward Peyton Manning, the Patriots would respond affirmatively. The league is in love with the guy.

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