Two Simple Things That Beat the Packers in San Francisco All Green Bay Packers All the Time
Colin Kaepernick 49ers Packers
Colin Kaepernick owns the 2 things that beat the Packers

In the aftermath of the Packers’ loss to the 49ers, there were fingers pointing in every direction. If you were a Packer, there was no escape from the scrutiny, whether it was deserved or not.

Players, coaches, GMs, scouts, everyone except the owners were raked over the coals (we never do anything wrong, right?).

But in reality, and despite the final score, this was a game that midway through the third quarter was still tied. This despite the offense hardly being on the field in the first half.

This also despite the Packers’ gift of two turnovers which resulted in 14 points for the 49ers. You could easily make the case that those were the “two things” I alluded to in the title. But it’s not.

There are, in fact, two reasons the Packers are not travelling to Atlanta for the NFC Championship game. They both happen to be attached to be attached to Colin Kaeprnick’s body: They are his legs.

There is little doubt in my mind that if Alex Smith were quarterbacking the 49ers on Saturday night, we would not be listening to season-ending press conferences this week. We would not be hearing chants of “Fire Capers,” and “Our defense still sucks.”

You hear the term “favorable down and distance” a lot. Mike McCarthy uses it a lot. Any NFL coach will tell you that maintaining favorable down and distance improves your chances of winning dramatically. Especially on third down.

The Packers defense (the one that improved greatly this season but seemingly everyone now thinks is so awful), were able to put the 49ers into unfavorble down and distance on third down a total of eight times in the first half. EIGHT TIMES the 49ers were looking at third down distances of  8 to 12 yards.

Think about that a bit. Does that sound like a “horrible” defense? Any defense would take that performance in a heartbeat, knowing that they would probably get off the field at least six times out of those eight.

Instead, five times Colin Kaepernick’s legs kept the ball in the 49ers hands and kept the Packers’ offense off the field.

Whether you think the Packers failed to make the right adjustments or they were simply unable to keep up with the speedy Kaepernick, I believe you have to tip your hat to Jim Harbaugh  (I know it’s painful) for his gameplan and Kaepernick for his individual performance, rather than degrade the Packers’ defenders.

At the half, Frank Gore had 44 rushing yards, three less than DuJuan Harris. Colin Kaepernick’s completion percentage was just under 50%. The Packers’ secondary was playing fantastic in coverage, contesting every catch, save for their supposed best defensive back, Tramon Williams.  I maintain it was a good enough job by the defense. But alas, they had no answer for Kaepernick’s legs. I’m not giving them a full pass, but at the same time, I’m not condemning them either.

Kaepernick’s extending of drives on third and long kept the defense on the field for most of the first half. Each time he did so, another pound of flesh was extracted from the  Packers’ defense. If the offense couldn’t put together some extended drives in the second half, you knew this would end with a beaten-down defense getting run over by Frank Gore and the Niners’ powerful offensive line. And it did.

Colin Kaepernick made some fantastic individual plays when they could most hurt the Packers. Praise him. Don’t kill the defense.

For those of you who would like to review those five third down plays I am referring to, here they are from the All-22 coaches film:


Q1, 11:28, 3rd and 10:  (while this is a pass play, I’m sure we’ll agree Kaeprnick’s legs make this play happen and he probably could have kept the ball and easily made the first down).


Q1, 9:09, 3rd and 8: (note Brad Jones out wide on Delaney Walker) Although Walker hardly runs a route, Jones never even looks over and never sees CK taking off until it’s way too late)

Q2, 6:25, 3rd and 9: (both Erik Walden and Brad Jones seem to be spying Kaepernick, but both vacate the middle when Frank Gore releases. Jones stays with Gore but Walden realizes too late he should have held his position and CK speeds by him.)

Q2, 3rd and 10, 1:48: (Packers bring six rushers, doing a nice job of disguising a blitz by Charles Woodson and working a stunt with Brad Jones and Clay Matthews. The stunt was designed to create an open lane for CMIII and it worked, but LaMichael James smartly reads the stunt and comes over from the opposite side to cut Matthews. )

Q2, 0:35, 3rd and 10: (a well designed play by the 49ers. With no defensive linemen on the Packers’ left side, they let Clay Matthews take himself wide which leaves a huge hole for Kaepernick to run through behind a pulling Joe Staley.)

Those two things hanging down from Colin Kaepernick’s legs? Yeah, that’s what beat the Packers…


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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


45 thoughts on “Two Simple Things That Beat the Packers in San Francisco

  1. Well said and totally agree. Despite the time of possession and the fact that we were not generating any OFFENSE, I was surprised that we were still in this game into the 3rd quarter. As much as it was Kaepernick’s legs, he was effective with his arm and Michael Crabtree had a big game.

    I will add two more contributing factors to your assessment. Their pro bowl O-line gobbled up our pedestrian D-line and everyone snacked on our linebackers. Of course this all happened while our OFFENSE was busy drawing up its next 3 and out drive. I am laughing now.

    1. I agree, and offense never was in synch the past three games, Rodgers admitted as much, with all rcvrs healthy this is a head scratcher…
      Also for all the gushing about how good Kapernick and the 49ers are, remember they got handled just a few weeks before that by the Seahawks and right now are getting beat 17 – 0 by the Falcons, Think that speaks volumes about our defensive problems, not to mention getting embaraased by AP TWICE. Clearly there are problems there

  2. Yes, Kaepernick has skills, but not anything the Packers couldn’t have stopped. We abandoned the run too early, couldn’t protect Rodgers and Capers had no half-time adjustments.

    1. superb article; shows we should lighten up on the coaches a bit, though not completely, and ask raji especially to show up.

    1. Thanks for that great link. I’m only part way through the article, but it seems as if it wasn’t the scheme per se, but as much the execution of the scheme.

    2. what the analysis in the article shows with painful pics is that the problem is less one with scheme and capers, than with raji (mostly) and with the linebackers. the SF O-line just dominated.

      1. Although, it still remains the responsibility of the coaches to make sure the players are attacking things with the right technique and discipline.

        Being physically outmatched is one thing, but using poor technique and angles is another.

  3. Here’s two more things that let Kaepernick’s legs beat the Packers:

    1. No adjustment out of primarily man coverage allowing 20 plus yards of open field for CK to eat up before anyone even reacted to him.

    2. The over agreesive rush and failure to hold the edge by CM3 and Erik Walden. They simply lost contain on way too many plays.

  4. I agree with the spirit of your article Al, which is why I am hesitant to get on a “fire the coach” bandwagon. That’s what Bear fans do..haha

    In any case, sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you. Hats off to SF and play better next time.

  5. These are great points and I mostly agree. However, I thought before the game that one key would be how well Williams shut down Crabtree. He didn’t shut him down and I would add that is another reason why our favorite team lost.

  6. It doesn’t matter that the 49ers blew us up on third downs. AS Lombardi said “the results are what you are judge by.” Coach Bill Muth of the “Football Insider” does a great job of breaking the Packer def collapse. He shows pictures and def schemes. Raji got single blocked and blown up all day and the offensive line dominated the packer def line in a nutshell. Just like they did in the first game and like the Giants did.

  7. Listening to the radio, a former Packer noted GB had no player that day that could have made an opposing player think twice. Imagine if Kaepernick took a good lick, even out of bounds. It would have been worth the 15, easily, to instill some hesitation into him. Yes, he’s a heady player and played to avoid hits, but we needed to play closer to him to make him feel the hit was coming. There’s a reason we don’t have unnecessary roughness for late hits in GB. Granted, the coaches can’t say, “hit ’em late”, but they can instill that attitude a little more and be “forgiving” when it happens at the right time. Perfect opportunity, in my opinion, is 1st and Goal. A roughing penalty is only half the distance, tightens things up, etc. Coach ’em up to be violent.

    1. Can’t beat them legally so lets cheat. Never was the Packer way and I hope never will be. I could never root for a cheap shot team.

    2. Again…these were the comments of a former player.
      It is interesting that somebody brought up the idea of cheating. The same show had a caller that said a real team doesn’t cheat. His response: It’s not cheating. It’s playing the game knowing you’ll be penalized. It’s a calculated loss. Cheating is trying to do something without getting caught to gain an advantage. This is blatant intent.

      Now…regardless of the thoughts of this Lombardi era player, we have nobody on this team that was able to instill fear.

  8. Kaepernick had an awesome game that only a very good defense could contain and an offense that runs the ball with authority.

  9. Wow! These clips are indicting of the D scheme or the absolutely stupidity of those charged with carrying it out. The line and LB’s take outside rush routes. The db’s and remaining LB’s vacate the middle as fast as they can and Kaepernick reads this and off he goes. Once he clears the the line there was no one even looking at him. Seems like they were playing man in the secondary. Who the hell had the middle?

    If this was the D called by Capers he needs to apoloigize to the Packer Fans. If this is an indication of the player incompetence of the guys on the field, TT needs to review his drafting and FA policies right now. I’m no longer surprised by the 22 minute to 8 minute disparity in the first half.

    And just how many of the Packers gave away their plan of attack by showing keys before the ball was snapped? Walden for sure and probably even more than him.

  10. Al – good job! If you go to you will see the posting from 1/17 titled, “What you Might’ve Missed, Nothing Worked. It covers some of the same plays and one or others where the Packers used different schemes or spies to stop Kaepernick but poor execution resulted in big plays for the Niners. Can’t just blame it all on Capers, MM or TT. It’s players not plays. For 2014, an improved running game and a healthy linebacking corps could make all the difference. Thanks, Since ’61

    1. Hmm… if it’s “players not plays”, then wouldn’t the guy choosing the players be the one to blame? “Players not plays” implies TT should take the blame. I don’t have a problem with that sort of criticism — who’s perfect? — but you’re also saying we can’t just blame it on DC, MM or TT. Does not compute.

  11. Well, I’m not really buying it.

    Sure, Kaepernick killed us with his legs. That’s undeniable. But Kaepernick started seven games before the playoffs, and in those seven games he averaged 6 rushes for 34 yards. Yep, 34 yards.

    And the Green Bay game? 16 rushes, 181 yards, 11.3 per rush with a long of 56, and two touchdowns.

    Anyone see a difference?

    Maybe it was OUR OWN legs that killed us?

  12. I’m not exactly sure how to say what I’d like to on this topic, but the bottom line is that a 3-4 is a linebacker defense. When you’re relying on the likes of Erik Walden, Frank Zombo, Brad Jones, and Dezmon Moses (who I actually think could grow into a good player) to keep the core of your defense competitive, there are going to be breakdowns…and it will expose Hawk, who came out of college as a solid all-around player, but not a game-changer, for what he is.

    We all love CMIII, but he can’t do it alone. Getting Bishop back will make a big difference in the physicality of the defense, and one can only hope that Nick Perry will, also.

    Wouldn’t it be nice to have a physical, take-charge safety? When was the last time the Packers had that? As a team that wants to make its opponents one-dimensional, not by stopping the run and forcing down and distance, but by playing “track meet” games, the Packers have devalued physicality at safety…I think it hurt them Saturday.

    1. I think that’s what they were hoping to get in Jerron McMillian and perhaps Sean Richardson.

    2. Maybe we need to give the human tomahawk missle Chuck ceicle a call and see if he can come back and play some strong safety for us. You want physical? ask Al toon who tuned up his band and ended his career……the guided missle ceicle. WE NEED MORE OF HIS TYPE!!!

  13. Great review as always Al. Great responses as well. Since we’ve had some to time to review the game film it is apparent we need 2 big Uglies on the D. One for Pickett’s retirement someday and another to play NT. If RAJI isn’t in shape to handle a center 1-1 then we need another guy.

    As Chad says, I hope Jerron or Sean are the answer to safety…Big Fear Instilling Hitter..butt if we could get a top of the line FS like McDonald that would be great.

    If we only had 2 or 3 more high picks…
    A high pick on OG/C and a safety, and a RB and a DE/NT…

    1. Oh sure! You mention a fear instilling player! I mention a former player says it and I get blasted. Well…at least you and I agree we need that type of player.

      1. You mentioned (or quoted an ex-player who mentioned) deliberately drawing penalties with late hits.

        That it what got blasted.

        Players can instill fear with legal hits on the field of play. Of course, they have to be willing to stay in their run gap and not be turned around chasing receivers down the field.

  14. I put the lose totally on Capers. He did not have the Defense prepared, and made no adjustments during the game. His defense has given up big yards 3 of the last 4 years in the playoffs. It is time to make a change he is really holding back this team. Right now we should be playing Atlanta if not for Capers and his poor job as DC.

  15. Overmatched on both lines, and their coaching was far superior to the Packers. Capers is horrible!!! He didn’t even TRY to change his defense. McCarthy and his pass on every down offense. And his tricky 3rd and 1 long pass, EVERY FREAKING TIME! The Packers didn’t just lose a game. They were showed that they are far away from the talent the 49ers have. Both lines!! If you have a great offensive and defensive line, you can always win despite the talent at other positions. The Packers are backward, all their talent is in WR’s and DB’s! Until this team really puts forth the effort to run the ball, this is the kind of ending to the season they should expect!

  16. Gee, guys, after reading this article, I can whittle it down to ONE thing that beat the Packers in San Francisco: they had the extra bye week to prepare, and we didn’t. The SF game was lost two weeks earlier in Minnesota.

  17. I have to disagree about one area of Packers defense, before the game ever started almost EVERY Packers fan KNEW Kaepernick was gonna RUN THE BALL. Capers came out with a defense NOT PREPARED to stop him and IF he made any adjustments-it wasn’t noticeable to anyone watching the game. Even if it meant giving up experience in secondary, it would’ve helped if Sam Shields had been moved up behind D-line as a “spy” on Kaepernick–you can only beat SPEED with SPEED and Shields was likely the only GB player able to catch Kaepernick before he could break into secondary. Just watch the runs, if a LB or two didn’t get angles to run him out of bounds, he’d get 20-30 yds before secondary could react. Shields around the scrimmage line could’ve helped prevent this, meaning two down lineman with an extra LB or DB. By end of 3rd qtr it was obvious Pack would lose because they had NO answer for Kaepernick’s runs–a QB that Capers had 6-7 game films and a week to prepare for. That preparation NEVER showed up.

    1. This is exactly the reason Capers must go! He knew what they were going to do, and never came close to stopping it! Kaepernick gained 178 of his 181 yards rushing before he was hit!! If you can’t devise a scheme that can at least touch the QB, you need to go.

  18. The Packers don’t play well against physical teams. The Giants and the 49ers have proven it twice now. It may be a more wide open speed game now, but football is still about being physical. That part of their game needs to improve on both sides of the ball or they’ll never get past those teams.

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