Packers Outplayed, Not Outcoached in Loss to 49ers

ALLGBP.com All Green Bay Packers All the Time

Packers 49ers Wild Card KaepernickAs we become farther and farther removed from the Super Bowl XLV championship season, the microscope on Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy, and Dom Capers becomes increasingly magnified. And for a good reason. The Green Bay Packers have arguably the best quarterback in the league on their team, yet for the past three postseasons, they have come up far short of the Super Bowl. They haven’t even reached the NFC Conference Championship in that time span.

I even wrote a controversial post back in November about how Dom Capers is under-utilizing the talent on the defense, suggesting that he be let go in the offseason in favor of someone new. And many of us were carefully scrutinizing the defense during the Wild Card game against the San Francisco 49ers, since they had been the weak link in many of the postseason failures. Could Capers redeem himself and finally put a stop to Colin Kaepernick?

The strange thing about this game, though, was that blaming the coaches for the loss just didn’t seem right. In fact, it wouldn’t be right, because this game came down to missed opportunities by the Packers. There were a number of times where they could have taken control of the game, yet failed to.

We’ll start with the final drive by the 49ers, because it’s where the biggest and most costly miscues were made.

On 2nd-and-10 at the San Francisco 31-yard line, Micah Hyde makes the most heart-wrenching drop of the game, because that interception would have easily been taken to the house. The Packers would have been up 27-20, and the final four minutes would have unraveled much differently. But even on the ensuing 3rd-and-10, Kaepernick is able to escape the pocket and hit Michael Crabtree for 17 yards.

Then, with just over a minute left, the 49ers once again convert a 3rd-and-8 when Kaepernick escapes a Cover 0 blitz and runs for the first down. Jarrett Bush fails to contain, Ryan Pickett gets pushed to the inside, and Andy Mulumba just can’t run fast enough to save the play.

Those were the missed opportunities that stick in our head the most; however, there were others throughout the game that made a difference.

Both James Jones and Jordy Nelson dropping deep passes in critical situations. The offensive line getting blown up at the snap, especially early in the game. Aaron Rodgers making poor decisions and underthrowing his deep ball to Jones. The front defenders failing to contain Kaepernick on his 42-yard scramble. M.D. Jennings unable to secure Crabtree’s early fumble. Tim Masthay hitting a stinker of a punt.

When you lose by a field goal, you look back on all of those little plays and wonder “what if.” And the close score coupled with these minor failures put the loss squarely on the shoulders of the players. They were obviously in situations to make a difference, but the fact of the matter is that they didn’t. For as cliché as it is, football is definitely a game of inches.

Now, this doesn’t mean that the coaches called a perfect game or that this absolves them of their own failures during the season. We simply shouldn’t allow our previously frustrations with Mike McCarthy or Dom Capers to cloud our judgment of this playoff loss.

Really, for all the injuries that occurred before and during this matchup, you have to hand it to the coaches for being able to keep things together as well as they did. Losing Sam Shields, Mike Neal, and David Bakhtiari could have been disasterous. But the Packers were still able to take it down to the wire.

There is plenty of time in the offseason to scrutinize the season as a whole and to focus on the performances of Mike McCarthy and Dom Capers; nevertheless, for this game, the bulk of the scrutiny belongs with the players. They were simply outplayed this time.

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Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for AllGreenBayPackers.com. You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski

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  • Tarynfor12

    I haven’t jumped to one side or the other of the fire Capers fence,but I have defended him more than looking to ax him.

    I have very often spoke of the inability of the players to simply play to the level needed to win.The reason(s) for that is an argument that will last an eternity.

    Are certain 1st rd’ers injury prone?
    Are they in the wrong scheme?
    Do we have legit depth?
    Are they not being coached up properly?
    Can they even be coached up to a level needed?
    Etc,Etc,Etc.

    These things are all visible in the game tape.I don’t doubt any commitment of coach or player to achieve their best but one can surely do so if wanted when the same miscues become as predictable as some of MM’s play calling in certain situations.

    There was a line in “The Professionals” a 1966 western with an incredible cast,Robert Ryan is a master horseman and is told he’ll have to make do with what he has and the reply was “I can make them go,but I can’t make them do”…simply put,players can be taught everything but once they hit the field,the doing is on them….we get to much doo-doo and not enough ‘do’.

    Point fingers at whichever direction you want but there can be no mistake that the level of players and their individual play needs to be greatly enhanced.

    • Razer

      “I can make them go,but I can’t make them do”… That pretty well sums it up. It would be so simple if all we had to change is the DC and all of a sudden our deficiency at safety disappears or our ILB turn into monsters or Casey Hayward starts a game. From what I saw, Dom called a hell of a game and the guys played their hearts out. If our 3rd string, injured Andy Mulumba can outrun Kaepernick, the game is saved. Maybe if Sam Shields and Mike Neal play, we tilt the field in our favor. So many ifs.

      As we have seen from the coaching carousel this year, there are a lot of weak coaching staffs on poorly designed teams. The Packers are not part of this group or culture. We were beaten up and under manned but we have heart and grit of a championship team. This comes from the coaches. We didn’t win this game but we have a great foundation and will be healthy and better next year. It will be our last loss to the 49ers.

      Go Packers

  • Since ’61

    Taryn – I totally agree. Once the ball is snapped the game comes down to players executing and winning their one in one battles. The Packers played hard but didn’t execute in some critical plays as pointed out by Chad. Make any of the mentioned plays and the game plays out differently, very probably in favor of the Packers. My problem with Capers as DC is not the scheme and I know they have dealt with numerous injuries. But since the 2010 run I have not seen our defense play with an edge, particularly a nasty edge. Our D needs an attitude adjustment that it brings onto the field. It’s not just making plays, it’s making them with a bad attitude, with solid hits, getting penetration, making stops to protect a lead in the 4th quarter, that’s where we need to get to. I don’t know if Capers can get us there any longer. Schemes, blitzes, etc…, sure he’s good but defensive football is also about a sense of urgency and attitude and I just don’t see it enough from our defense. Thanks, Since ’61

    • Dobber

      Someone said the other day that there were just far too many “key plays” for the Packers that didn’t happen, and that’s why they lost. Pretty much sums it up.

      …I’m not going to talk too much about “making plays”. I seem to remember Chad giving me a hard time about using that assessment of a loss earlier in the year… ;)

      • http://allgbp.com/ Chad Toporski

        ;-)

    • Razer

      A guy like Tramon Williams fully endorses Dom Capers and loves the design of this defense. He states that the young guys need to mature enough to play as a unit and understand what an offense is trying to do against the defense. He gets it and he played with attitude. When ran back that interception and lowered his head on Kaepernick, you could see and hear the attitude.

      I don’t see edge as the issue. Sticking rookie, UDFA into a defense doesn’t inspire playing with confidence. Playing with different units each week doesn’t promote cohesion and speed. You can’t play with edge if you are trying to think of your assignment at game speed. By the end of the year with the loss of Matthews and our other starters in the first quarter we could only hope for a heart win.

      For Dom to do his job, TT will need to do a better job. We need 3 more guys on defense and holes at safety filled sooner rather than later. At this point Capers is the answer not the question.

  • Dave D

    Totally disagree…

    Capers and MM were out coached this game as in every other game. It was MM who got Lacy hurt in the Atlanta game. Should have won the Vikings game, and could not score on the last drive, 2 plays in final 45 seconds) in the Pittsburgh game.

    Taking Lacy out of game on last Packer drive, dumb. Out coached as always.

    Hey even marpag can out coach him.

    • http://allgbp.com/ Chad Toporski

      The fact that you bring up other games when talking about this game shows your natural bias towards the coaching.

      Plus, you only cited one play where you didn’t like the call. Care to comment on the rest of them?

      • Dave D

        Definitely biased, no doubt.

        First three drives of the game totally predictable. Not a good way to start game.

        More to follow…

        • Chad Toporski

          And that first play of the game failed because Bakhtiari was three yards behind the line of scrimmage on a play where he was supposed to be run blocking… That’s on the play call??

  • MadTownDan

    In defense of Mulumba, he couldn’t run fast enough because he was gimpy from the knee injury he suffered earlier in the game. Watching the replay, you can see that he was limping as he tried to get to the sideline. Had he been whole, he could have cut off Kaeperdink. Whether or not Kaeperdink would simply have juked him there is another issue altogether!

    • Tarynfor12

      The fact that Mulumba was hurting lends even more evidence to the total idiocy of Bush giving Kaep exactly what he wanted..a soft edge defended by a slowed-hurt player.

      • Bedroske

        Bush didn’t have outside contain. His sole responsibility is getting to Kaepernick. If you watch the tape, GB ran a stunt that was easily picked up. The looping DT actually had outside contain, but he ran into the DE.

      • Bedroske

        See comment #8 by Gary.

    • Razer

      Hey, I am not blaming Mulumba. A great effort by another fallen or dinged up warrior. But in this one snapshot of our defense you see our season – young, injured, guys playing a new position, new scheme trying to win against very good teams. Pretty tall order for both player and coach.

  • Dave D

    On the last 49’s drive, especially on the three crucial 3rd downs. Capers needed to call ALL OUT blitzes. Having the 49’s score a quick TD, although not optimal, would have been better than just giving up the yardage to sustain the last drive. Was very painful to watch Rogers just stand on the sidelines and never touch the ball again. ALL OUT blitzes were required to disrupt kaepernick and the 49’s offense.

    Again, even Bill from Trenton can out coach Capers and MM and he would not know what a football was if it hit him in the face.

  • Dave D

    Just messing with you Bill, you know I love ya!

    • Pete Kliman

      It’s all so easy after the fact.That’s why unless it’s an obvious mistake ,I can’t bring myself to criticize coaching moves. Plus we’re not privy to some info.

  • Since ’61

    Razer – you make some fair points, however, I respectfully disagree. I am not trying to be critical because that’s not what I do, but I want our defense to have a take no prisoners attitude, like Reggie White, Nick Collins, Woodsen, Nitschke, Adderly and numerous had. I want our defenders to bring attitude that Lacy has on offense to our defense. He gets hit but he makes defenders pay. I want to make our opponents offense pay for every yard. I understand that the rules favor the offense now, I understand that our opponents will make plays and score some points, but our defense makes it too easy too often, especially on 3rd downs and in the 4th qtr. when we need to hold a lead or get the ball back for Rodgers. We have had 3 seasons of a weak defense. Capers is fine with schemes, blitzes etc…, but it’s time for an attitude adjustment. When was the last time we saw an opposing QB uncomfortable in the pocket against our D. Too long ago. I want the opposing QB to feel pressure and to be thinking about running for his life all day, rather sitting in the picket picking our 3 ring circus secondary apart. I want our opponents to remember the day and the price they paid when they play our Green Bay Packers. Win or lose. Thanks, Since ’61

    • JimR_in_DC

      Man, I really love that kind of talk! :D

      • Since ’61

        Thanks Jim!

        Since’61

  • Gary

    On Larry McCarren’s last show he talked about the 3rd and 8 play in SF final drive. This is the play where Bush blitzes and Gore blocks him out of the play and Kap runs for a first down. Larry explains that Mike Daniels and Andy Mulumba are running a crossing stunt instead they run into each other taking them both out of the play. What is even more troubling is the play of AJ hawk. After waiting for Mulumba and Daniels to collide Hawk runs directly into one of SF now unoccupied blockers then upon seeing Kap run out of the pocket he turns and starts jogging toward the endzone. I have never seen anyone put this much effort in being totally useless. Re-watch the play you won’t believe your eyes.

    • Razer

      I am so tired of watching Hawk NOT blowing up a play, NOT getting to the ball carrier before the gain is made, NOT making it into the backfield, NOT covering the TE. Honestly, this defense is designed for the linebackers and we don’t have any, other than Clay Matthews. Could we just draft a mean, strong, fast ILB and get on with things.

      • Since ’61

        Hi Razer – you are stArting to sound like me. You also want players with attitude. And yes, we especially need those mean, nasty fast guys at ILB and Safety.
        Thanks, Since ’61

      • Slim11

        One thing we forget about Hawk is he was drafted to play OLB in a 4-3. Saunders was the DC at the time, ran a 4-3 and had Nick Barnett in the middle. Hawk’s rookie season was at OLB. He didn’t move inside until Barnett was hurt. Ever since then, he’s been on the inside.

        All that said, he’s becoming a weaker link because of what Since61 points out…the lack of attitude, an edge, nastiness, whatever one calls it. Hawk may be “assignment sure,” but that doesn’t make up for an apparent lack of fire. He is also one of the veterans Tramon Williams alludes too…one who needs to set an example for the younger players. Thus far, I don’t like the example he’s setting. Maybe Hawk should be moved to OLB so Kevin Greene can give him an attitude adjustment.

    • Razer

      I can’t seem to find the Larry McCarren show. Where did you find it?

      • Gary

        It’s called Packers Live with Larry McCarren and is broadcast locally. The play can be seen on the Packers website under game highlights.

  • jleu

    When did Nelson drop a pass? Are you referring to the deep ball where the safety climbed on his back and pulled his left arm down by the wrist?

    • Chad Toporski

      Yup. But, of course, we don’t like to give James Jones a break, even though he had two defenders on him over the middle and a defender draped on him along the sidelines.

      I try to avoid those double standards. Nelson still could have made the catch.

      • Dave D

        Jones was interfered with on both plays, who usually catches every pass thrown to him.

  • Nopainnogain

    Yea, the sight of rookie undrafted free agent Mulumba limping desperately after Kaepernick as he ran for another first down pretty much summarized that game. We could’ve had any scheme and any coach and we still wouldn’t have had the horses for that matchup. OLB was the one position that we needed to contain Kap, and every single one of them was hurt. Matthews, Neal, & Palmer all out. Perry & Mulumba playing hurt. I’m not worried. that’s not gonna happen often, even with Green Bay’s injury luck. niners were hardly missing anybody and will be losing good players to free agency this summer and next.

  • Sven

    Great article.

  • Scheny Schen

    Chad, I think it’s relatively clear that Nelson was interfered with while jones let one throw bounce off his face mask and another bounce off his chest. In neither of the the jones plays did a defender have his hand pulled down. I like jones, I hope we can keep him for $3mil/yr but I do expect him to at least get his hands on those throws, not allow them to bounce off of his face. GoPack!

  • Savage57

    A lot of really good points made in this post and one of the reasons why this site is what it is.

  • rick s.

    hindsight is 20/20. if we were at full strength it may have made a difference.
    playing well in the regular season is almost meaningless. we play in a weak division exemplified by an army mash unit winning the division. i’m tired of seeing teams come to lambeau and beat us. this must never happen again!!!

  • Shavager

    Disagree with the idea McCarthy wasn’t outcoached. C’MON Packers fans, weren’t YOU waiting for McCarthy to turn Rodgers loose with the NO HUDDLE BEFORE HALFTIME? He waits till Packers are behind and in second half before giving Rodgers green light to no huddle Niners to keep defensive players on field without substitutions and give Pack offense some consistency on offense. Packers lost simply because Dom Capers defense is NOT on same level of Niners, Hawks, Panthers and probably Saints quality. This is NOT Arena Football, run the offense out there, score 40-50 points per game and outlast teams, OTHER TEAMS PLAY VERY GOOD DEFENSE, and that sets them at different level than Packers. This offense can compete with any team in NFL, they can’t compete on defense with a lot of them.