Well, the Green Bay Packers 2012 season is in the books after the Divisional round playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers. It’s time for my thoughts on tonight’s game and ask the burning question: Now what?
The Playoff Loss at San Francisco
The Packers knew what was coming at them in this Divisional playoff game. They knew it and still let it beat them. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns, a new NFL playoff record.
Minus the early-game interception that was returned for a touchdown, Kaepernick was near flawless the rest of the way and absolutely torched the Packers defense. There were concerns about the Packers ability to contain the mobile Kaepernick. Others questioned whether Kapernick would be able to handle the pressure of a playoff game, his first. He clearly was.
The signs were all there early on that this one wasn’t going to go the Green & Gold’s way. Immediately after Sam Shields ran an errant Kaepernick pass in for a pick six, Kaepernick literally ran his team down the field and scored on a 20 yard run that was poorly defensed by the Packers.
It seemed like the key was going to be making Kaepernick beat the Packers by having to throw it. He ended the game 17/31 for 256 yards and two touchdowns. Not a bad day, but not great. The problem was, he didn’t need to be great. He just had to be efficient. The 323 rushing yards the Green Bay defense gave up that kept them on the field made that possible.
It was this game that finally made me realize that the Packers just did not have the guys on the field that they needed to win this one. They were hit hard by injuries this season and it caught up with them on Saturday night. The loss of Desmond Bishop, Bryan Bulaga, Nick Perry and DJ Smith were apparent as the Packers had to turn to Brad Jones, Erik Walden for a full game (too many snaps) and Don Barclay to fill the gaps.
There was a lot of talk that they could overcome the losses and win and until tonight, there were many who felt they were on their way. Unlike two seasons ago when the Packers did just that, overcame injuries to win a championship, this team fell victim to the usual culprits: an ineffective defensive scheme and poor fundamentals, especially tackling. Tackling was an issue last season when the team had the league’s worst defense. It was no less harmful in this trouncing by the 9ers.
The offense had its struggles as well but I don’t want to discredit the 49ers. Their great defense did what it has all season long: made plays and made their opponent pay for their mistakes. Throw in the sensational night Kaepernick and the offense turned in and there was simply too much for what Green Bay had on the field.
There were many already calling for changes in Green Bay. “Fire Capers!”. “Get rid of Finley!” “Keep Finley”. Surely these ideas will get some contemplation during the offseason. Others will likely emerge.
Packers receiver Greg Jennings himself said he wasn’t very optimistic that he would be back in Green Bay after this season. After some of the plays he made tonight, I sure hope he is. I realize that this game is also a business and sometimes teams have to let good guys go. Jennings may still be a bit too good. As for Finley, he’s a bit of a wild card. It’s hard to know which Finley is going to come out in 2013 and whether he will be a Packer or somewhere else. At this point and if the team can only keep one guy, it should be Jennings.
I understand the salary cap issue that this team has but this roster is loaded with “Packer people” type players. My hope is that they want to win another championship or two while they have some of this outstanding talent. In order to do that, they will likely have to come together as a unit and find a way to make it work. Many players have given up some of their salary in order to keep a team together and try to win. It’s no guarantee, but hoping this idea gains some traction.
As for Capers, letting him go seems a bit of a knee-jerk idea less than an hour after the Packers last snap of 2012. While I agree his schemes are tired and ineffective, it bears looking at who is out there as a potential replacement. There will likely be more movement among coaches and front office over the next few weeks as more teams exit the playoffs. The possibilities may grow in number, if the Packers do indeed decide to let Capers go. I won’t be surprised if he is retained.
The Packers learned on Saturday, that their Director of Football Operations, John Dorsey, had been hired by the Kansas City Chiefs as General Manager. There could be more changes in other areas as far as coaches and the front office are concerned.
Because of the Packers’ success recently, offensive coordinator Tom Clements is the target of some teams in their head coaching search. He was thought to be a leading candidate for the Chicago Bears head coaching vacancy, but the Bears have continued to interview several others for the job. Still, there are some vacancies and until they are filled, Green Bay’s personnel could get a look.
There is also the offensive line to look at. Rodgers was taken down far too many times this season but as I have said many times before, many of those sacks fall on Rodgers hanging onto the ball for too long. Obviously the team didn’t foresee Bulaga going on injured reserve. They also had to think that Jeff Saturday would be effective and play the entire season.
Given those two factors, the Packers were fortunate that Rodgers survived this season. He may not next season, at present rate. Until they get a solid rotation up front, they need to continue to address this area in the draft and via free agency, if necessary. I have a bad feeling about a second consecutive season in which Rodgers is sacked over 50 times.
Speaking of Rodgers getting pummeled, what do they do at backup quarterback next season? They gambled with Graham Harrell this season and won that gamble. I wouldn’t tempt fate a second year in a row, however.
These are just a few of the questions that we will undoubtedly be discussing as we now look towards the 2013 season. I’m certainly ready to move on from 2012!——————
Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.comFollow Jason Perone: