After the 49ers had a big day once again this past Sunday against the Packers, Twitter and Facebook were rocking with fans calling for Dom Caper’s head. He doesn’t make in-game adjustments. He’s too old – the game has passed him by. His scheme was all wrong. And those were just the nice comments, I won’t repeat some of the other ones.
There’s just one problem with this groundswell of emotional hysteria – it’s dead wrong – well, at least as far as this game goes. Look, I’ve been on both sides of the Capers fence myself. The soft zone on third and a few yards? Three man rush on 3rd and long? Yeah, I’ve had my complaints too. But if you watched this 49ers game and came out thinking the loss was Capers’ fault, then I don’t know what to say to you.
Capers had almost eight months to prepare for this game and he came up with a pitch perfect plan. Don’t let Kaepernick break your resolve with his feet when you think you’ve got them stopped. Make Kaepernick beat you in the air, especially with the 49ers missing their #1 and #3 receivers. The fact that Kaepernick was able to do so is not Dom Capers’ fault. To re-work a Bill Clinton phrase, “it’s the players, stupid.”
Up until the Friday before the game, I had every confidence the Packers would win this game. I had them winning 31-27 in our staff picks, despite realizing they’re probably not the better team overall, personnel-wise. After all, the 49ers had nine players in last year’s Pro Bowl, the Packers just two.
So what happened on Friday? The Packers found out they’d be without Morgan Burnett for the game, after having practiced and prepared all week with Burnett as the defensive backfield quarterback. Basically, the Packers had one day to re-work their roles and assignments in the secondary and make do with two players who are accustomed to being the direction followers, not the direction takers.
You saw what happened. the secondary looked like that of two years ago, when there was more finger-=pointing than play making. Cornerbacks handed off receivers to safeties only to find the safeties were out of position. There were plenty of holes in the Packers secondary on Sunday, and Anquan Boldin is the wily veteran who knows how to find them.
I’ve heard many people also try to shrug off the absence of Burnett, “He’s a good player, but not a star,” was the most common refrain. Even if that’s true, the positioning and coverage assignments in the backfield are set up by one guy – Morgan Burnett.
As for making in-game adjustments, the Packers tried. Dom Capers explained in an interview with Fox Sports Wisconsin that they had double coverage called for Boldin on several occasions, but the players didn’t execute the scheme properly. That’s not Dom Capers’ fault people.
As a defensive coordinator of a team with only one true star player (as opposed to 5-6 for SF), Capers is sometimes forced to pick his poison during a game. Stopping the 49ers’ running game and keeping Kaepernick from beating them with his running ability was by far the best option for this game. By far. It almost worked. If the offense could have maintained possession for more than a paltry third of the game, I’m convinced it would have worked. Take just five minutes away from the 49ers and I’m certain the Packers prevail in this game.
Fire Capers? Not this week, folks.
Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.