Gameday Notebook: Can't Be 'Stupid' With Vick

We clean out our jam-packed notebook in time for today's playoff game with our signature feature of the week. Leading off, defensive line coach Mike Trgovac offers his unique perspective on stopping Michael Vick. Plus: Bulaga, common opponents and much, much more.

Michael Vick.

That name alone has occupied the thoughts of Green Bay Packers defensive players since about 15 minutes after their playoff-clinching win over the rival Bears last week.

"I absolutely hate it," defensive end Ryan Pickett said ahead of Sunday's playoff game at Philadelphia. "It is not fun chasing that guy around. But you've just got to keep heat on him."

If chasing Vick isn't fun, then what's it like to be a defensive back and having to cover a receiver for far longer than against most quarterbacks?

"I don't know if hard is the word. It's damned near impossible," safety Charlie Peprah said. "You give somebody 5, 6 seconds, they're going to get open. On top of that, you've got to worry about him running for 40, 50 yards."

Stopping Vick, to borrow a Yogi Berra phrase, is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical. And the Packers' defenders are going to have to be on their game.

"We were talking and saying, if we have zero sacks but can force him to stay in the pocket, I think that's a win for us," Pro Bowler Clay Matthews said. "It's difficult. You're obviously going to have to keep your rush-lane integrity and not get too high or too low because he can make plays with his feet. But it's one of those things where you're just going to have to try your best, really. Kind of stay honest and keep an eye on him at all times."

Clearly, it will be vital for outside linebackers Clay Matthews and Erik Walden to pressure Vick in such a way that he can't simply step up in the pocket and start racing down the sideline. It's a similar challenge for the interior rushers.

"Like I told the guys, there's a difference between rushing stupid and rushing cautious," defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said. "You can't just open up huge lanes in there and take some liberties that you might take against a guy like Eli Manning, one of those guys that are more of the pocket-presence guys that you can sometimes take some liberties.

"You've got to be very careful about that because he can beat you with both. The guy's proven he's got a dynamic run but he can take over a game with his legs if you're stupid. You can't play the game scared but you can't rush stupid on the guy. I told them, we're going to do everything we're coached to do in this game and he's going to break loose for a run. He's done it 500 times in his career. But if you do something stupid, then that's where it hurts you because you have things designed to try to stop him."

Packers fans forever will be haunted by Vick, who became the first visiting quarterback to win a playoff game at Lambeau Field on Jan. 4, 2003. Trgovac is haunted, too. On fourth-and-goal from the Carolina 12 in a game in December 2004 when Trgovac was the Panthers' defensive coordinator, Vick dropped back to pass, spotted an opening in the middle of Trgovac's defense, bolted and dove head-first into the end zone for a touchdown in the final moments, and the Falcons won in overtime.

For more current film, Vick led a stunning comeback against the Giants in part because their defensive line lost discipline during a three-touchdown collapse in the final 8 minutes.

Cullen Jenkins chases Michael Vick in Week 1.
Jim Luzzi/Getty Images
"What it shows is his ability," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said about that game. "You might contain him for a while, but you're always one play away from him coming out of there and making a big play. That's the mentality you have to play with. You can't relax on any play because of the capability of pulling the ball down, and those receivers, if they give him time back there, he can throw the ball any place on the field because he has the arm strength."

The challenge will be for Matthews and Walden to make plays when they've got Vick in their sights, and hard-charging defensive linemen Cullen Jenkins and B.J. Raji to play within the game plan rather than using the instincts that serve them so well in most games.

"He's a very dynamic runner. You've just got to be smart and when you get your shots, you've got to get him down," Trgovac said. "You've got to understand where the weaknesses are in the rush lanes. And he can still expose them — I'm not going to say we're going to stop him on every one. People have been trying to do it since he came into the league. He's going to win some of those battles but you try to limit those and don't do stupid things. If you've got a blitz coming on the outside, don't — just because you think you can beat a guy underneath — don't do it. If you have a rush lane that's open on the inside and you're the contain rusher, even though it's there, don't take it, because if you do, he's just doing to see it and go to the outside and then he's gone.

Putting it in the past

In the opener against the Eagles, Mark Tauscher allowed two sacks by Juqua Parker. With Tauscher on injured reserve, rookie first-round pick Bryan Bulaga will be making his 13th consecutive start.

The last few starts haven't gone well. His blown blitz pickup ultimately cost the Packers a chance to upset New England. Only Aaron Rodgers' feet prevented the Giants' Justin Tuck from getting two or three sacks. And last week against Chicago, Bulaga was penalized four times — including two for holding.

For the season, he's allowed 11 sacks. There's little doubt that he'll be a marked man in the game plan of Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott.

"I know how to leave things in the past," Bulaga said, "even out there on the field. If something happens, I'm able to learn from it and when that Monday's over, it's over. You move on and learn from it and build on it. I learned that from Chad (Clifton). He's able to let things go pretty easily. And that's a big reason why he's been able to play this long mentally. He can let things go and move on when things happen. If you can do that, you can play this game for a long time. I learned that from him and Tausch, too."

Common opponents

The Packers and Eagles are both 7-4 against common opponents. The Eagles went 2-0 against the Giants, 1-0 against the Falcons, Lions and 49ers, 1-1 against the Cowboys and Redskins and 0-1 against the Bears and Vikings. The Packers went 2-0 against the Vikings, 1-0 against the Cowboys, Giants and 49ers, 1-1 against the Bears and Lions and 0-1 against the Falcons and Redskins.

Among playoff teams, the Packers went 3-3 (beating the Eagles, Jets and Bears and losing to the Bears, Falcons and Patriots) while the Eagles went 2-2 (beating the Falcons and Colts and losing to the Packers and Bears).

A vote for Thompson

The Packers lost 85 starts from their preferred starters: Ryan Grant (15), Morgan Burnett (13), Nick Barnett (12), Mark Tauscher (12), Jermichael Finley (11), Brad Jones (10), Cullen Jenkins (5), Korey Hall (4), Ryan Pickett (2) and Aaron Rodgers (1).

With all the players lost since the Packers visited Philadelphia in the opener, Eagles coach Andy Reid is impressed that the Packers have as good a chance as any team to reach the Super Bowl.

"You look at the job that Ted Thompson has done of giving Mike the opportunity to have a load of players," Reid, not completing his thought, said in a conference call on Wednesday. "I think he went through some times when he was being questioned a little bit on the Brett Favre decision, that whole deal, which is a tough, tough thing, man. He sure has proven with time to be a top team president in this league."

Packers playoff history

Fourth-and-26, to Freddie Mitchell between Bhawoh Jue and Darren Sharper.
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
This is Green Bay's 26th postseason appearance, including the 13th in the last 18 seasons. The Packers' winning percentage of .610 (25-16) trails only Pittsburgh's .620 (31-19) and Baltimore's .615 (8-5). Two of those losses are to the Eagles — the 1960 championship game (17-13) and the fourth-and-26 game on Jan. 11, 2004 (20-17 in overtime).

As a wild card, the Packers are 3-2, with wins over Detroit in 1993 and 1994, a loss to San Francisco in 1998, a victory in the rematch in 2001 and a loss last year at Arizona.

A wild card isn't a death sentence, not by a long shot. Last year's Jets reached the AFC title game, the 2007 Giants won the Super Bowl and the 2005 Steelers also won the Super Bowl. Those Steelers, like these Packers, were a No. 6 seed.

Seven points

— Before Reid was the coach of the Eagles, he was with the Packers as a tight ends coach/assistant offensive line coach from 1992 through 1996 and quarterbacks coach in 1997 and 1998: "Well, I still don't know how to spell Ashwaubenon. But other than that, it was the most phenomenal experience I had had to that date in the football world of life here. I loved it. The people there, I've still got close friends there. That organization, they were great. For a young guy just coming into the National Football League, I can't imagine a better place to start than there."

— In 2004, the Eagles thumped the Packers 47-17, with Brian Westbrook catching 11 passes for 156 yards and three touchdowns. Fast forward, and Eagles running back LeSean McCoy causes a similar challenge. With 760 yards after the catch, he led all NFL players by a whopping 126 yards. He also ranked second in the NFL in catch percentage, hauling in 78 of the 90 passes thrown his way (86.7 percent).

— The offenses are getting the ink for this game, and rightfully so. These are two big-play units. According to STATS, the Packers ranked second in 25-yard passing plays with 42 with Philadelphia ranked fourth with 37.

— Here's something you never would have guessed. The Packers' short-yardage running game has been a sore spot — or that was the belief, anyway. Instead, they've converted 51.1 percent of third-and-1 or third-and-2 running plays. Not great but, surprisingly, that ranks 12th in the league.

— The Eagles are renowned for blitzing and Rodgers is renowned for beating the blitz. A huge asset for Rodgers is that running backs Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn are so good at seeing and stopping blitzers. "It starts with the preparation, that's the bottom line, and then execution," running backs coach Edgar Bennett said. "It goes back to fundamentals. It starts in the classroom and then the way we work, the way we practice, and then you continue to harp — Day One, it was all about the fundamentals, and as we've progressed throughout the season, it will always be about the fundamentals. We continue to emphasize the fundamentals, so when they get in certain situations, they put themselves in a chance to win those one-on-one battles. We take pride in that and make sure we're all on the same page."

— The Packers finished second in the league with 47 sacks, their best mark since sacks began to be recorded as a team stat in 1963. Their previous bests were third-place finishes in 1965, 1966 and 2001.

— Since 2008, the Eagles' Asante Samuel and Baltimore's Ed Reed are tied for the NFL lead with 20 interceptions, with Charles Woodson right behind with 18. Woodson leads the league in pick-sixes with six, leads NFL defensive backs with seven sacks and is third among defensive backs with 10 forced fumbles.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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