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Thoughts on weekend's games

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

Jayson from Jacksonville:
Tell the truth, did you almost lose your lunch when the Pats went for two in the third quarter?

Vic: I expected they would go for two because Bill Belichick is a go-for-it coach. It's not what I would've done but he's consistent in his aggressive approach to such situations. What you don't want to do is pick and choose your spots to be aggressive or conservative. That's when you can get caught on the wrong side of each.

Tyler from Albuquerque, NM:
Over the last seven seasons, only three teams have won the AFC: New England, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis. Should the Jets make it to the Super Bowl, they will have beaten all three. Is this the hardest path to the Super Bowl ever?

Vic: I don't think it's any more difficult than the path the Steelers or Giants took to the Super Bowl in the 2005 and 2007 seasons as wild-card teams that played all of their postseason games on the road. The Steelers had to win in Indianapolis, where they had been clobbered only a few weeks earlier, much as the Jets won in New England on Sunday after suffering a 45-3 loss there late in the season. The Giants had to win at Green Bay in the NFC title game. The Steelers broke the sixth-seed ice in '05, but we might very well have an all-sixth-seed Super Bowl this year.

Stuart from Morton, IL:
So, with regards to the Jets and Pats, did that game show one window closing and one window opening? Wasn't this a year for New England to make a serious run to the Super Bowl and be favorites?

Vic: I don't think the Patriots' window is closing, but they certainly missed a golden opportunity for their coach to tie Chuck Noll for the most Super Bowl wins, four. The table was set. All they had to do was win at home against two teams they had already clobbered, but they got careless and they lost their focus. As I listened to Wes Welker make those "foot" references in his press conference interview, I couldn't help but be reminded of all the teams that made Super Bowl songs and dances – remember "Uh oh, Jaguars"? – and looked foolish when they lost and didn't make it to the Super Bowl. Welker made me laugh, but what purpose did that serve for the Patriots? The Patriots lost their focus. They got sloppy and the Jets made them pay. Belichick did not have his team ready to play.

John from St. Augustine, FL:
The Jaguars have a run-the-ball offensive philosophy. Have the changes in the modern game made the philosophy obsolete? I like to watch it when it works, but maybe it's time to change our offensive strategy, assuming either Garrard or our future quarterback is capable of it.

Vic: Mark Sanchez is 4-1 in the postseason as the quarterback of a team with a run-the-ball, play-strong-defense philosophy. There's no one way to win. Yes, I think it's important to have a championship-caliber quarterback, but if you spend all of your effort trying to imitate trends, you'll never be a trend-setter. Be whatever you wanna be. Just win, baby.

Brian from St. Augustine, FL:
I remember reading a book written by a real Colt. He played behind Raymond Berry (Hawkins?). He got tired of watching and asked coach Shula if he could try special teams and put a little more planning into it. Are there any real pioneers of special teams?

Vic: You're talking about Alex Hawkins, the pioneer of NFL special teams play. He popularized and, to a large degree, invented the role of the special teams specialist.

Leo from Atlanta, GA:
As a redhead, I'm rooting for Andy Dalton. Have there been any other red-haired quarterbacks in recent history, or ever?

Vic: Didn't Archie Manning have a reddish tint to his hair?

Stirling from Sydney, Australia:
After hearing much debate about the effectiveness of the NFL's blackout policy, do you believe the blackout policy is effective in ensuring stadiums are filled?

Vic: Yes, I do, and I think it's a very fair compromise to what the policy was prior to 1973, which is to say that all home games were blacked out, period. I think that was, to a degree, unfair in that it denied the right to see the game on TV for people who had also been denied the right to buy a ticket to see the game. If all home games were televised, regardless of how many tickets were sold, ticket sales would tank big-time in places such as Jacksonville. I don't think there's any doubt about that.

Keith from Jacksonville:
Just wanted to pass along my prayers and energy for Keane's recovery from cancer. If you're passing along e-mails, please forward mine.

Vic: I'll allow you to speak for the mountain of e-mails I received expressing the same hope for Keane's speedy recovery. For cancer survivors everywhere, I'll add this: We're with you, Keane.

Patrick from Jacksonville:
What's the difference between a strong safety and a free safety?

Vic: The strong safety plays to the strong side of the formation and the free safety is free to roam.

Nathan from Vancouver, BC:
What do you make of the "26-27-60 rule" as a predictor of quarterback success? The first number is the minimum score of 26 on the Wonderlic, the 27 is the minimum number of college starts and 60 refers to completion percentage. Obviously, you're not going to pick a guy based primarily on this, but would you pick your quarterback of the future if he didn't come close in one of these categories?

Vic: What, no shoe size? Who's the brain donor that thought this one up? Look, if you wanna know whether a guy who has the physical tools to play the position will be successful, try to get a read on how he plays when the pressure is on. Quarterback is all about crunch time. All of sports is about playing your best under pressure. Go to a golf tournament and watch the guys warm up on the range. The worst guy in the tournament looks great on the range. When the pressure is on, however, the winners are separated from the losers by the winners' ability to hit the same good shots under pressure that they hit on the range when they were warming up. The chokers hit shots at crunch time they never hit on the range.

Dawn from Charleston, SC:
I really enjoy your column and was wondering if Sea Best Seafood is available in Charleston, SC?

Vic: Sea Best is a seafood wholesaler, so you probably eat it and don't even know it. They only catch the BAF (best available fish).

Rod from Liverpool, UK:
That's why you take a knee and go to the locker room.

Vic: In which game, Packers-Falcons or Jets-Patriots? The interception Matt Ryan threw on the last play of the first half and the fake-punt play the Patriots botched in the final moments of the first half were game-changers. What is it with this desperation? I just don't get it. The video-game people will never admit it, but the facts don't lie: Overly aggressive play-calling late in the first half of games in the 2010 season produced a lot of disastrous results.

Andy from Jacksonville:
We passed on that guy in the draft, huh?

Vic: Which one? Rodgers or Roethlisberger?

Andrew from Daytona, FL:
"Today's games have featured three of the top young quarterbacks in the game: Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers." Did you accidentally leave Flacco out, or was it on purpose because he lost?

Vic: I just don't think he fits with the other three, even though Ryan didn't play very well, either. Joe Flacco is 0-6 against Roethlisberger; that says it all. He's still a young quarterback, but I'm starting to wonder if he has another level left in him. The thing that would concern me the most is that he's not a crunch-time quarterback. Boomer Esiason referred to Flacco at halftime as "Joe Cool," and I thought to myself, "When did that happen?" He sure wasn't cool in the second half on Saturday. That's a performance that could haunt him. Had the Ravens won that game – they gained only 126 yards so they sure didn't deserve to win – they would be hosting the Jets this weekend for the right to go to the Super Bowl. Flacco has shown a tendency to start fast and finish slow. That's a no-no.

Conor from Missoula, MT:
What would you think of changing pass-interference penalties to 15 yards?

Vic: The number of pass-interference penalties would explode and deep-pass completions would decrease exponentially.

Ulysee from Jacksonville:
What position do you think Jaguars will target in the draft?

Vic: The teal bibs are gone and we're starting to run low on the gold ones, too, but we have lots left in black and white. Which would you prefer? The white bibs offer a very clean look and bear the words "I drool for Vic" displayed in teal.

Mike from Jacksonville:
"The Ravens-Steelers game was football the way football should be played." I agree, it was a great game to watch, but don't you think there were too many bad turnovers and senseless penalties on both sides of the ball?

Vic: I don't seek FULL CONSISTENCY. I seek FULL INTENSITY, and that game was absolutely played with FULL INTENSITY. Those teams truly don't like each other; no hype, it's all for real. They didn't care about next week. They didn't even care about the Super Bowl. They just wanted to win that game because that was the championship of their little world and it means everything to them. This has been a unique postseason in that we have so many games between archrivals, such as the Ravens-Steelers, Jets-Patriots and Packers-Bears. All of those teams are within 200 miles of each other.

Andrew from Toledo, OH:
"Big Ben" was handed short fields the whole game and only had to make the one big pass play at the end. Do you think this guy is an automatic Hall of Famer? I don't! Their defense won that game on Saturday, just like they win every game. Ben is an average quarterback with great clutchness. That makes him an above average QB in the NFL, but not one of the best ever.

Vic: Yes, you're absolutely right. He's very ordinary. They win with defense. Never mind that 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to start the game or the 11-play, 65-yard drive that produced the game-winning touchdown at crunch time and during which Roethlisberger converted a third-and-10 play with a 12-yard pass to Hines Ward and a third-and-19 play by completing a 58-yard pass that will become legendary. Hey, the bottom line is that the guy only completed 19 of 32 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns and those aren't Hall of Fame numbers. It's all about the stats, baby. Who cares about great clutchness? You really know your stuff, Andrew.

Derek from Jacksonville:
Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh are just more proof that receivers are a dime a dozen. Wonder if those fans would trade a second-round pick for the likes of them now.

Vic: Signing Houshmandzadeh was like signing Boldin twice and neither one was a difference-maker for the Ravens' passing game in 2010. In the playoff loss on Saturday, Boldin made one catch for minus two yards and dropped what should've been a touchdown catch. Houshmandzadeh dropped a fourth-down pass that should've sustained the drive. The Ravens have been outstanding in their personnel moves, but these were acquisitions made out of desperation and now the Ravens have got some significant age issues and they're without three draft picks they spent on Boldin that would've added some youth to their roster.

Ancil from Charleston, WV:
Did you notice how coach Harbaugh used his challenge flag to buy time to substitute on a fourth-and-short when the Steelers were lining up for a quick count, claiming he was confused about whether the officials had signaled first down?

Vic: Yeah, the league has to do something about that in the offseason; I've seen a couple of other instances when the same thing has happened. A coach should be not be permitted to stop the action by throwing a challenge flag when a challenge is not applicable. That should constitute a delay-of-game penalty, in my opinion.

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