Soft Zone or Blitz? What Will Packers DC Dom Capers Do? All Green Bay Packers All the Time
Christian Ponder - Packers Blitz
Will Packers blitz Christian Ponder?

Now that we’ve dissected the “Peterson Problem” here and here, it’s time to turn to the guy who really won the game last week for the Vikings: Christian Ponder.  The Packers made a huge mistake by being passive and letting Ponder get comfortable. This was the exact opposite approach they took against Ponder in the first meeting of this season.

Rightfully so, Packers fans are up in arms again over Dom Capers’ use of the soft zone / 3-man rush last week, specifically on 3rd downs. The one play that has caused the most consternation was the 3rd and eleven with 2 minutes left in the game. Capers went to the three man rush with only one DL. With no pressure, Ponder found the soft spot in the zone for a 25-yard completion that kept the Vikings game-winning drive alive.

While one could argue that Casey Hayward did not execute his drop properly, thus creating the open area, this is not just about one play. Throughout the game, Capers kept the blitz in his pocket, especially on third downs.

Keven Seifert of the ESPN NFC North Blog uncovered some very pertinent statistics from the Packers – Vikings two meetings this season (full article here):

Overall, the Packers sent 5 or more pass rushers after Ponder 60% of the time in Game 1, and only 44% in Game 2. But wait, that’s not even the good part:

In their first meeting, the Packerblitzed Ponder a whopping 75% of the time on third down. Ponder’s resulting cumulative QBR rating on those down was a horrendous 5.5.

In last week’s game, the Packers blitzed Ponder only 25% of the time on 3rd down.  Ponder’s resulting cumulative QBR on those plays was a whopping 98.6.

Think that made a difference in the result?

Adrian Peterson had pretty much the same performance in both games. The difference was Ponder. Why was Ponder different? The Packers allowed him to be.

Here’s hoping the defensive game plan more resembles the first time around…


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Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of, 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


24 thoughts on “Soft Zone or Blitz? What Will Packers DC Dom Capers Do?

  1. That says a whole lot Al. The focus should be and should have been attacking Ponder and taking him out of the game. No Ponder = 3 less TD’s, theoretically. GB wins. AP can run until his legs fall off and the Queenies will still not win. He can’t do it alone.

    The Packer D must be attacking Ponder from the first play until the last. Shadow AP and at least be hitting him hard and that will be enough. Shut Down Ponder = Win.

    A 3rd playoff loss in a row at Lambeau is reaching the potential for bad things happening at the corporate offices in Lambeau. MM needs to get involved in the D game plan. It’s going to be his ass on the line.

  2. Thanks for the stats Al. They radically confirm how much DC is out of touch with this soft approach. Every time I see this D alignment, I have to close my eyes because I can’t stand watching the results. I agree with Ron, MM needs to step in and slap Dom for this game losing tactic.

    MM is an aggressive minded coach. He takes chance’s and also likes to attack defenses. The D also needs an attacking mentality through the whole game. DC lost us a chance at a 2 seed. If he costs us a playoff game , at home, to the hated queens, he needs to be fired.

  3. Do you think Matthews’ absence in the first game was the difference? Maybe Capers felt he *needed* to blitz more to get pressure, while in the second game he relied too much on Matthews getting the pressure.

    1. I thought the same thing as I was reading Kevin Seifert’s article. Hopefully Capers does not make that mistake again. Also, I like the idea of using Woodson as a spy on Peterson.

    2. That’s a good point Chad. I’m sure it entered into the decision… In any case, whatever it takes, they have to make Ponder uncomfortable back there…

  4. I think Capers kept the defensive game plan very vanilla because he was just sandbagging for this Wild Card game. He probably did not want to show all pf his cards. I expect the defensive game plan this Saturday evening to be wide open and blitz heavey!!! Go Pack!

      1. 100% they lost that game on purpose… they wanted the giants out, they know they cant beat the giants if their lives depend on it. They can however beat the queens.

        1. You realize the Giants were eliminated from playoff contention once the Lions lost to the Bears before the Packers/Vikings even kicked off, right?

        2. What is wrong with you Big T. Every article written here all you ever have to say is something negative. Are you a fan of another team and you actually have nothing better to do than come here and bag on everyone and everything? I’ve been reading what you’ve have to say for a few weeks now and nothing has been positive once. Not only that you have no clue what your talking about as that was pointed out to you by CCS. Kinda pathetic.

  5. Whatever the Packers do on both on the O and D, if something is not working, don’t wait until the next game to fix it. Change it during the game.

    Several Packer fans I know are critical of coaches not adjusting a gameplan quickly enough.

    I like the old Fritz Shurmur technique. Blitz four. If you don’t get home, try blitzing 5, if that doesn’t work try it with 6. If THAT fails go back to rushing 3 or 4 and have extra DBs in coverage. Simple, but self-adjusting.

    Of course the game is much more complex than that, but its a good start.

  6. What was Ponder’s performance under different situations for both games–3 man, 4 man, 5 man rush, etc? Unless you analyze all situations and their outcome you’re just simplifying a ‘game that is much more complex than that’. That’s reactionary, not analytical.

    How often does the soft-zone prevent D work, or have we established that it always fails? How often do other defenses fail, or have we established that they always work?

    Is it scheme or is it execution? It seemed to me the Dback was clearly out of position, defending the wrong empty space.

    1. Bingo, Rob.

      Here are the unassailable truths that we have established so far…

      1. Capers = Lucifer.
      2. To blitz is to win.

      We know this is true because everyone is saying it. And everyone is saying it because it’s true.

  7. PREVENT defense does NOT prevent anything, just as Capers soft zone secondary is not preventing teams from moving the ball–it may give defenders more opportunities to look for INT’s but it’s killing Packers with yardage allowed to opponents on the field. In a game like the Vikings loss–it allowed Vikes to move close enough to kick winning FG–and looked terrible on national TV giving a long 1st down completion on sideline with 3 Packers defenders 5 yds or more away. It doesn’t help that Vikings KNOW Tramon”Chicken”Williams will NOT tackle Peterson head on. In the first game at Lambeau–Peterson and Vikings players on bench were LAUGHING because “Chicken” Williams was “SCARED” to tackle Peterson. Go back and watch the loss last week, they were RIGHT! “Chicken” Wiliams dodged, ducked and ran away from tackling Peterson head on and AP–KNEW HE WOULD. You can BET Peterson will again run AT “Chicken” on Sat. nite–he knows he won’t get a 100% effort from Williams.

  8. news: Williams has flu. House at Full Strength. Woodson to start.

    Will all the analysis on how the Little Blitzing was done, I’m sure DC will have an idea to tune the blitz packages up.

    Can’t wait for the game. Go Pack GO!

  9. rushing three on third down against ponder. Really? It’s like putting up the bumper guards for bowling. I’d rather see more single safety and man to man on the Vikings average receivers and load the box with rest ..

    Oh yeah, ring ring …. “Hi Mike, congrats on winning the division title … And I know I’ve complained about this all season… Yes Mike, I’ve never coached a lick of football in my life …. but if you are really serious about getting yards on run plays, never ever ever ever use the delayed shotgun run again .. Or at least keep it to once a game. Seriously, using it with Ryan grant twice on the first series for two yards total … That play averages one to two yards at best no matter who the back is while the power formations are getting 5-7 yards, no matter who the back is …. I’d rather see the vaunted sherman shuttle pass to Cobb out of the backfield … and please don’t take another first half to adjust and move to the power formation.”

  10. Blitz em. And after that, blitz em again. If Ponder makes us pay.. fine. I can live with that, I can’t live with this soft defense. Not a good look for the GREEN BAY PACKERS.

    GBP 4 LIFE

    1. I agree with FITZCORE1252. Blitz Ponder and keep blitzing. These receivers the Vikings have, if we can’t cover THOSE guys one on one we have bigger problems than I thought. Even the stubborn Capers has got to see the soft zone doesn’t stop anyone! Make Ponder beat you. I don’t think he can over a whole game. I think that Wood being back will be a huge lift for this defense. I can see it already, Peterson breaks contain and starts for the edge. The only one between Peterson and a huge gain is Woodson and Wood puts him on his ass! The defense goes nuts, the fans go nuts, the Packers offense begins to score at will, 49ers here we come!

  11. I wish it was that simple.The harsh truth was that the blitz scared Capers because earlier in the game it was blocked very well by the Vikes,which led to completed passes.

    1. Not to mention, with a back like Peterson, if you pin your ears back and send the blitz the offense will counter with delayed hand offs and tear off huge chunks of yardage with fewer bodies at the second level.

  12. Oppy, so you’re saying that there is a chance Peterson shreds us if we blitz? LMAO, well it’s not like he hasn’t been doing that to us already… Where’s the problem?

    1. Lmao, if it’s the difference between 34 attempts for 199 yards and one touchdown…

      …And 20 attempts for 150 yards and 3 TDs because AP isn’t even getting touched until he’s at full speed..

      There won’t be any Laughing our asses off, because the Packers will have had their asses handed to them.

      Something else to think about with AP’s big game last week.. if you take away his long run of 28 yards, he averaged 5.2 yards per carry.. Keep in mind, Adrian had a number of other break-away runs during that game. DeJuan Harris, who did not get a break away run, averaged an even 5 yards per carry on his 14 attempts.

      I’m all for getting more pressure on Ponder (if he even plays), I’m just saying blitzing until you fall over will cause more problems than it solves.

      Didn’t we all just establish that we failed to stop AP because of lack of discipline and run fits? Blitzing like maniacs is just going to make it worse.

      I happen to be the one Packers fan who believes that AP can actually beat the Packers by himself if you don’t commit to stopping him.. The pressure on Ponder must increase, but it has to increase due to execution and efficiency, not just sending extra men at the QB all game long. IMO, of course

  13. DC is without a doubt the worst DC in the NFL. His teams annually rate near the bottom of the league in defensive statistics. Our only hope in seeing a solid Packer defense in the future is if DC lands one of the head coaching openings.

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