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Tom Brady is the team

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

Nathan from Golden, CO:
I was watching the Patriots and Colts game and I'm confused when it comes to hitting the pylon. Does the ball have to touch the pylon or at least be inside the pylon, or can the player just touch the pylon even if the ball is out of bounds and still have it ruled a touchdown?

Vic: The ball must cross the plane of the goal line. That's all you need to know. The pylon is part of the goal line, so if a player judged to be in bounds (no part of his body has contacted out-of-bounds ground) touches the ball to the pylon, it's a touchdown. Remember, it's not the player, it's the ball. Corey Dillon did not touch the ball to the pylon or advance the ball across the plane of the goal line before he contacted out-of-bounds ground. Replay clearly confirmed that fact.

Jason from St. Augustine, FL:
How do the players get paid during the playoffs and Super Bowl? Do they get game checks like normal or just bonus checks that are the same for all players? Who pays them?

Vic: Regular-season checks end following the final regular-season game. Players on playoff teams are paid by the league according to the monetary values that accompany each round of advancement, and each player is paid the same amount. Players on divisional-round playoff teams received $18,000 each. This week's conference title-game teams will receive $36,500 per player. The Super Bowl winner will receive $68,000 per man and the losers will pocket $36,500 each.

Kevin from Jacksonville:
I'm normally not a big fan of network broadcast teams. That being said, I really appreciated the explanation of why the Colts were flagged on their trick play. As a sports journalist, do you ever listen to network or radio broadcasts?

Vic: Sure I do. I appreciate every bit of insight I can get. I thought Phil Simms did an outstanding job of explaining the hands-under-center rule on the Colts trick play, though I wonder if Simms really knew the rule. Don't forget, those guys get a lot of information and instruction in their earphones. Where I really give Simms credit is for his explanation of the Patriots' zone pass-defense. Late in the game, CBS showed an overhead shot of the Patriots secondary and Simms explained that the Patriots were simply passing the Colts' receivers from one defender to the next. What a great way to put it. By continuing in their attempts to pass to moving targets, the Colts were merely running their receivers from one zone of coverage into the next zone of coverage. What they needed to do was sit down in the "soft spots." By the way, I knew right away what the Colts had done wrong on their trick play and I said it out loud to my dog. I knew because a while back someone submitted a question to "Ask Vic" that introduced the hands-under-center rule in the answer. You may remember the Steelers first used that trick play with Kordell Stewart in 2001. When the Steelers did it, however, Stewart was in the shotgun with Jerome Bettis next to him. Stewart would then start walking and gesturing toward the sideline as though something was wrong. Then the ball would be snapped to Bettis. I'm surprised Manning made the mistake of putting his hands under center. The rule is very clear about not doing that.

Charles from Jacksonville:
I'm looking forward to your answers to the fans' questions that try to get you to make an exception to the "draft the best available player rule." Are you ready?

Vic: I've already had a ton of draft questions, but I don't like turning this into an all-draft, all-the-time forum until we get closer to March. This is the playoffs time. The stage belongs to those teams. Then the Super Bowl comes here and the stage belongs to Jacksonville and the two teams it'll host. After that comes salary cap talk, the scouting combine, free agency, the draft, etc. Let's stick with the playoffs and Jaguars post-mortem issues for now.

Keith from Atlantic Beach, FL:
Does it seem to you the deeper you go into the playoffs the simpler the game becomes? It's all about running the ball.

Vic: I agree that at this stage of the playoffs, and especially in cold-weather games, you have to be able to run the ball with some degree of effectiveness. I think we can say simply that you won't win if you can't run, but winning football games is about more than just running the ball. Mostly, it's about executing the fundamentals of the game: strong defense, sound kicking game, no turnovers and win the line of scrimmage. One more thing: In the playoffs, your quarterback better make plays or you're not going to win.

Bill from Jacksonville:
If you're the Eagles, don't you stack eight men in the box and make Michael Vick beat you with his arm? Obviously, Vick's running ability is worrisome but don't you think the Eagles' secondary matches up well with the Falcons?

Vic: Don't you think every team the Falcons have faced have put eight men in the box, so to speak? Yeah, the Eagles secondary should match up real well against the league's 30th-ranked passing game. That's not the issue. The issue is how are the Eagles going to stop Michael Vick and the Falcons' running game? Maybe they should try 12 men in the box.

Howie from Ormond Beach, FL:
I seem to remember you mentioning time of possession as being the key to beating the Colts. Well, I see the Patriots held the ball a full quarter more than Indy this past Sunday. How did the Jags stack up on time of possession against the Colts this season?

Vic: In the first game between the two teams, the Jaguars had an 11:06 time-of-possession advantage, and that would've been significantly higher had the Jaguars not failed repeatedly in short-yardage situations. That's what cost them the game, along with a ridiculous holding penalty against Dewayne Washington. In the second game, which the Jaguars won in Indianapolis, the Jaguars held the ball for 9:08 more than the Colts. The Jaguars have beaten the Colts twice in the two teams' last three meetings. The Jaguars dominated time of possession in each game. That's how you beat the Colts. You run the ball and keep Peyton Manning on the sideline. It's not a secret formula.

Jami from Jacksonville:
I can't seem to get into this year's playoffs. I'm watching but it seems that something is missing. Is it just me?

Vic: If you have a small mirror, put it under your nose, please. You should see fogging.

Mark from Regina, Canada:
Friends of mine call Tom Brady a bad quarterback. They say it is the team that carries Brady. You can't luck out in two Super Bowls and win two Super Bowl MVPs. Don't you agree?

Vic: This Patriots "team concept" thing is getting a little out of hand. Everything that is happening in New England is the result of Tom Brady. Take him away and there are no Super Bowl titles. Take him away and the Patriots aren't even in the playoffs. Brady carried that team on his back in 2003. Everything about Brady has made the difference for the Patriots, starting with having been able to draft him in the sixth round. Getting him that late made him affordable. He won the Super Bowl last year with a salary cap number just above $3 million. That's allowed the Patriots to spend money on defense. Brady's emergence also allowed the Patriots to trade Drew Bledsoe and his big contract, which brought a first-round pick and cleared major cap room. Brady's affordability and the extra picks the Patriots have acquired allowed the team to trade for Corey Dillon. You see what I mean when I say Brady is at the center of everything that is good about the Patriots? But don't underestimate his pure talent for playing the position, either. He has it all. He can make all the throws. He moves nimbly within the pocket. He's tough and gritty. He keeps his eyes downfield and won't cower against the rush. If I needed one quarterback to make one clutch throw, he's the guy I would want. The truth of the matter is that before his career is complete, we may be talking about him being the greatest quarterback of all time.

Randy from Daytona Beach, FL:
Vic, you're right about the teams that can run and stop the run winning during the divisional playoffs. What do the Jaguars have to do to become one of those teams?

Vic: The Jaguars are one of those teams. The gains they've made in Jack Del Rio's two years as coach are the direct result of the team's ability to run the ball and stop the run. The next level for the Jaguars is acquiring the ability to score points. That's what this team needs to do to get over the hump.

Steve from Orlando, FL:
ESPN said the four quarterbacks competing this weekend are four of the best QBs in the NFL. I'm convinced of that about McNabb and Brady. I will even listen to arguments on Big Ben. But I'm just not convinced Vick is as great as everyone makes him out to be. Would you build a franchise around Vick or would you prefer to use any of the other three?

Vic: Michael Vick would be just fine with me, but you have to be willing to commit to an unconventional quarterback. You don't expect Vick to do the things Peyton Manning does, any more than you would expect Manning to run like Vick. Vick is a different kind of player. He's not about precision passing, he's about broken-field running. In time, his passing skills will improve because he has what you want in a passer: great arm, great instincts, fearlessness. Understanding and touch will come. In the meantime, how do you tell a guy not to run 80 yards for a touchdown? My only reservation about Vick is the injury factor. The more he runs, the more he introduces the potential for injury. By the way, the four quarterbacks in this weekend's conference title games may offer the most interesting quartet in a long, long time.

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