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The Patriots know how

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

Mack from Jacksonville:
Would it be easy to say the whole town of Jacksonville needs to pull against any team playing the Jets, Ravens and Broncos? I was just looking at those teams' schedules and it looks like these next five weeks are going to be horse races. I was kind of skeptical when I read that you said 10 wins would get us in, but looking at those teams' schedules I believe we have a real good shot.

Vic: It's called the "playoffs race" and I love it. If you could move Christmas into January, December would be my favorite month of the year.

Mark from Jacksonville:
What do you think about the hit on Rob Meier? Do you think it was a cheap hit or do you think it was all right?

Vic: There is letter of the law and then there is spirit of the law. The same applies to the game of football and its rules. In Rob Meier's case, the block was within the rules, but certainly not within the spirit of the game. That's the issue confronting the league. The spirit of the game should always be the number one consideration. My concern, however, is that by eliminating the low block the league would only serve to further legislate against the running game. For teams to truly succeed in the running game, bodies need to be knocked to the ground. We already have enough pushing and shoving. This is going to be a difficult fix. If the league says "you can't go low," we're going to see more passing and that'll mean more pass-rushing and that'll mean more quarterback injuries. Before you start pounding your fist on the table and demanding that the league respond, think what the repercussions of what you want might be. Football is a tough game. If you play it, you will get hurt.

Doug from Jacksonville:
Although we are 6-5, we realistically could be 10-1. We have been in every game except the game against the Chargers. Would you say we are a hand full of plays away from being a great team?

Vic: No; I think the Jaguars are a hand full of players away from being a great team.

John from Mayport, FL:
I read and love your column every day. It seems to me the Jaguars are lacking something on offense. What do they need to be that explosive offense?

Vic: In the salary cap era, all teams with explosive offenses seem to have one thing in common: bad defenses. Indianapolis is number one in offense and number 31 in defense. Kansas City is number two in offense and number 30 in defense. Green Bay is three and 24. Minnesota is four and 27. So, I guess, for the Jaguars to have an explosive offense they would have to have a bad defense. How do you achieve that? Easy, you spend all of your money on offense. That's not going to happen in Jacksonville. Jack Del Rio believes too strongly in the merits of defense to put all of his "eggs" on the offensive side of the ball. I don't think you should want an explosive offense. I think you should want an efficient offense. You need to spend equal amounts of money on both sides of the ball. I need to know my team can succeed in any circumstance. I need to know my offense has the ability to respond in a final-drive circumstance, and I need to know my defense can do the same. Usually, that's what it comes down to: the final drive. New England is number nine on offense and number nine on defense. That's what you want. The Patriots know how to do it.

Scott from Thunder Bay, Ontario:
Despite your advice, I decided to wear the Jags' colors in Minnesota on Sunday. The Minnesota fans were actually quite friendly. The only problem was that after the game one fan said he hoped my plane crashed, but the joke was on him, we drove.

Vic: At least they didn't stick you head-first into a wood-chipper.

John from Jacksonville:
How do Jimmy Smith's stats this year compare to those of Terrell Owens'?

Vic: Jimmy Smith has caught 55 passes for 909 yards and three touchdowns. Terrell Owens has caught 61 passes for 969 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Rob from Orange Park, FL:
If Alltel Stadium's seating capacity is reduced to 66,000 for next season, how many tickets (non-premium seats) will need to be sold to avoid blackouts?

Vic: Frankly, not very many; fewer than 50,000.

Shon from San Antonio, TX:
What must the Jags do to beat the Steelers?

Vic: The Steelers make football very simple. They are number one against the run, number three against the pass, number two in rushing and number 28 in passing. What do you think the Jaguars have to do to beat the Steelers?

Ryan from Syracuse, NY:
I have been a fan of the Jags since their second season and have been a fan of your column for almost a year. I was wondering, what is the point of downsizing the stadium size to accommodate fewer fans? Wouldn't it be more intelligent to upgrade the size and get the blackout rule repealed?

Vic: Ryan, induction into the "Ask Vic" Hall of Fame is not easily accomplished. There are very few first-ballot inductees. Congratulations! You're one of them.

David from Jacksonville:
In yesterday's edition you mentioned the lack of bump from Fred Taylor's stats. This is the point: Taylor is ineffective in sustaining drives. He gains his yards in bursts but in between he gets no yards. If you remove every carry he has that exceeds nine yards, what would his average yards per carry amount to?

Vic: That's not how it works. Take the long runs away from any running back and his average is going to fall dramatically. I agree, however, with your assessment. The Jaguars running game needs to be more consistent; especially in converting short-yardage plays. In my opinion, the Jaguars need a pounder; have needed a pounder to pair with Taylor for a long time. I expected Greg Jones to be that pounder. Maybe he will be.

Greg from Virginia Beach, VA:
I was looking at the stats and I don't think the Steelers run-defense is all that good. They haven't played many teams with a big run game. Also, they have the least attempts per game against their defense while giving up a good, not great, 3.6 yards per carry. The Jaguars have allowed just 3.8 against much better run teams. What's your opinion of the Steelers run-defense?

Vic: They're number four in the league in yards-per-carry against the run. That's not bad. The Jaguars are number 11 and that's not bad, either. Frankly, I'm stunned the Steelers have been as good on defense as they have been this season. It was generally thought the defense was going to be a sore spot for them this season. Let's not forget that they also lost their best defensive player, nose tackle Casey Hampton, for the season. The Steelers may be a classic over-achiever, and if that's their tag, they would wear it with pride. Their identity has always been that of a hard-working, blue-collar team. Everything they do is meant to promote that image. When you say they may not be that good, you put a smile on their face.

Alon from Peru, NY:
There has been talk about Jimmy Smith's chances at the Hall of Fame. What do you think Fred Taylor needs to do to get in?

Vic: The standard for running backs has long been 10,000 yards rushing. There's only ever been one 10,000-yard back – Ottis Anderson – who didn't get in, and that's because his yards-per-carry average is so bad. Taylor is at 7,260 yards for his career. Barring injury, he'll get to 10,000, but I'm not sure that'll do it by the time he's eligible for nomination. He may need more. By then, the 10,000-yard standard may have fallen. It's getting pushed up by the unbelievable numbers being posted in today's game. Curtis Martin is 160 yards shy of 13,000 yards in his career and the debate rages: Will Martin make it into the Hall of Fame? Are you kidding me? He has a chance to finish his career as the NFL's second all-time leading rusher.

Brad from Greenwood, SC:
What is the Jags' touchdown percentage in the red zone for this season? How does that compare to other NFL teams?

Vic: The Jaguars are 28th in the league with a 43.3 red-zone touchdown percentage. The Colts are number one at 73.9.

Marcus from Vancouver, BC:
This is insane! Why does Reuben Droughns have more carries than Fred Taylor and Droughns didn't start the first four games? Why does Willis McGahee have the same number of carries as Taylor, when McGahee was splitting time with Travis Henry most of the season? Even old man Emmitt Smith is neck and neck with Fred Taylor in the carries department!

Vic: Nice research, Marcus. That's the kind of intelligent commentary that makes "Ask Vic" worthwhile; that and the annual golf tournament.

Greg from Winter Park, FL:
Why was the time of the Packer game moved?

Vic: To accommodate television. Be flattered. It's the NFL's and television's way of saying, "we wanna see your team."

Ed from Kansas City, MO:
I just wanted to ask you to clarify your thoughts about comparing Fred Taylor to Bettis. Are you saying Taylor's lower number of carries are a factor, or the fact that he eats up more of the field faster than Bettis? At one point, Taylor was averaging nine yards a carry during Sunday's game. That treats time of possession from a run like time of possession from a pass that is downed in bounds. It seems like it would eat up the field too quickly, then, given the bad red-zone effort, gives the ball back too quickly.

Vic: That's not what I was trying to say. My comparison of the impact of Fred Taylor's stats on the Jaguars to the impact of Jerome Bettis' stats on the Steelers goes directly to how each team builds its running game into its overall plan. The Steelers live and die with the run. They never quit running the ball. They are completely committed to it. There were lots of times when I was covering them that they were being stuffed and they had fallen behind and all of the reporters were shaking their heads and wondering, why do they keep trying to run the ball? Why? Because it's what they do. They're the Steelers. They run the ball. And it is the Steelers and teams who are likewise committed to the running game who realize the greatest benefit from every yard they gain. The Titans have been that way under Jeff Fisher. Check out the Titans' record when Eddie George went over a hundred yards. That's the kind of commitment it takes for the running game to have such a dramatic effect on a team's won-lost record. If the Jaguars committed as completely to the run as teams such as the Steelers and Titans traditionally have, Taylor's stats would have the same impact.

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