As 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.——————Follow @ChadToporski