A Green Bay Packers Spy Story: WHODUNNIT?

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Erik Walden and Clay Matthews – Packers Spys?

I spy… a blitz?

The impetus for writing this post was to determine once and for all, how much actual “spying” of Colin Kaepernick did the Green Bay Packers do and who was involved? On twitter after the game, there was a wide disparity of opinions on this topic. Some bemoaned why the Packers didn’t employ a spy, others claimed they were spying most of the game. I knew the truth lied somewhere in-between.

I had spotted two instances myself during the first half, always with a linebacker as the spy. As the second half rolled along, I started looking for the Packers to possibly spy the speedy Kaepernick with a DB, but it never came. I was thinking perhaps a modified version of nickel, where a linebacker (Hawk or Jones) would come out instead of a defensive lineman.

My first thought was to use Woodson in this role, but that would have made things a lot easier for Vernon Davis. So I settled on fan favorite Jarret Bush. As the gunner on punt returns, he is face to face at high speed with a guy trying to run by him with the ball. Bush could have handled the job.

In any case, I just had to find out how hard the Packers tried to contain Kaepernick. So, I went through the coaches’ All-22 film of the game and noted every time Kaepernick either ran the ball or threw a pass.  A complete listing of the plays is found below, along with video of the four plays where the Packers employed a Spy.

But first, lets summarize and discuss what I found:

37    PASSES:  Number of times Kaepernick dropped back to pass.

4       SCRAMBLES:  Number of times Kaepernick scrambled after dropping back to pass.

8       PLANNED RUNS:  Number of times Kaepernick kept the ball on a planned run.

4      SPYS:  Number of times Packers used a spy (all in second quarter)

13     BLITZ:  Number of times Packers rushed five or more players.


So, I pretty much found what I expected with regards to spy plays. They tried it four times, all in the second quarter. They used Walden twice and Clay Matthews twice. Video and a brief discussion of each play is a little further down in this post.

What I found that was not expected was the number of times the Packers blitzed (Again, I’m calling any play with five or more pass rushers a blitz). This was not something I had noticed at all watching on TV. Sure, we all saw Casey Hayward whiff on Kaepernick and perhaps we noticed Woodson on a few corner blitzes. But on quite a few of those 13 blitzes, the Packers blitzed from the base defense with the three DL and both outside linebackers (Walden and Matthews) also rushing the passer.

With five evenly distributed rushers, one might expect that the Packers would have kept an unified front, stayed in their lanes and not given Kaepernick big holes to scramble through. Unfortunately, the 49ers’ offensive line had little problem taking the Packers DL (especially BJ Raji) wherever they wanted to.

The 49ers offensive line also had little trouble keeping the Packers pass rushers away from Kaepernick. Green Bay’s’ defense was credited with touching Kaeprnick only twice, a sack by Clay Matthews and a QB hit by Dezman Moses. But that’s not anything new, now is it.



Ok, so let’s take a look at the four plays I was able to identify the Packers employing a spy on Kaepernick. (Reminder: These all took place in the second quarter)

1)   3-12-SF 47 (12:33) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass short right to F.Gore to 50 for 3 yards (B.Jones). Caught at SF 49.  1-yd YAC.

Nothing special here. Walden lines up between the center and guard and never moves, eying Kaepernick if he should decide to tuck it and run.


2) 3-9-GB 24 (6:25) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick scrambles up the middle to GB 9 for 15 yards (M.Jennings, E.Walden).

This one hurt. The Packers are spying Kaepernick on a big third down play with Walden. The timing would seem to be great, but the undisciplined Walden temporarily forgets his assignment when he sees Frank Gore releasing into a pass pattern. This despite the fact that Brad Jones, located right behind Walden has that responsibility and does his job. Walden takes a few steps towards Gore before realizing what he’s done and tries to get back to the middle, but  it’s too late, as Kaepernick has already run through the gap Walden created.



3) 1-10-SF 42 (2:00) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass incomplete deep left to V.Davis (M.Burnett).

The Packers do something interesting here. Matthews moves back and forth as if he’s picking his blitz lane. Meanwhile, in the back field, Woodson alternates between stepping up and dropping back – all of this going on before the snap. When the ball is snapped, Matthews drops into a spy position, and Woodson attempts a delayed blitz. The only chance this would have had is if Mike Neal was enough of a problem for Iupati that left tackle Joe Staley felt the need to double-team Neal. Neal is no threat, Staley peels off to pick up Woodson and Kaepernick has time to try a deep out to Vernion Davis. Burnett makes a diving knock-down of the pass.




4) 2-10-SF 42 (1:54) (Shotgun)  C.Kaepernick pass incomplete deep right to D.Walker.

For the second play in a row, Matthews drops into a spy position. This time he is flanked by Brad Jones and the Packers only rush three, Jones is there to pick up the running back out of the backfield, which he does.

So that was it for the Packers’ spy games. Should we have seen more? Pretty much everyone (including this observer) wondered why there were “no adjustments” made at halftime. In reality there were, just not what we were hoping for. The Packers adjusted by abandoning the spy, rather than trying different personnel in that role. They also blitzed less, which makes some sense when you consider that Kaepernick’s two back-breaking scrambles in the second quarter came against the blitz.

The 49ers also very smartly ran the ball more in the second half, knowing it would wear down an already exhausted Packers defense. Before the fourth quarter started, Green Bay’s defense was done. The 49ers drove the Packers into the ground with ruthless efficiency.

It pains me to say this, but the 49ers had a perfect offensive game plan for beating the Packers. What hurts even more is they did it twice this season, with different schemes tailored to two very different quarterbacks. Both were designed to directly attack the Packers’ weak spots.

If the Packers had continued to use a spy in the second half, would it have helped? Probably not as much as I felt it would have during the game, but I still would like to have seen them try – with a defensive back in place of a linebacker.

I think I’m finally done analyzing this game….


Here is a complete listing of every play Kaepernick either passed or ran the ball himself:

First Quarter:

PASS 1-10-SF 28 (14:56) C.Kaepernick pass short right to M.Crabtree to SF 37 for 9 yards (T.Williams). Caught at SF 32.  5-yds YAC

SCRAMBLE 2-5-SF 25 (12:13) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick left end pushed ob at SF 28 for 3 yards (A.Hawk).

PASS 1-10-SF 33 (11:36) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass incomplete short left to M.Crabtree. (BLITZ – Packers rush 5)

PASS 2-10-SF 33 (11:32) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass incomplete short right to V.Davis (C.Woodson).

PASS 3-10-SF 33 (11:28) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass deep left to F.Gore to GB 22 for 45 yards (S.Shields). Caught at SF 49.  29-yds YAC

PASS 1-10-GB 22 (10:35) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick sacked at GB 29 for -7 yards (C.Matthews). (BLITZ – Packers rush 5)

SCRAMBLE 3-8-GB 20 (9:09) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick left end for 20 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

PLANNED RUN 1-10-SF 13 (8:05) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick up the middle to SF 17 for 4 yards (B.Jones).

PLANNED RUN 3-2-SF 21 (6:49) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick right end pushed ob at SF 34 for 13 yards (T.Williams).

PASS 2-11-SF 33 (5:33) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass short right to R.Moss to SF 45 for 12 yards (C.Woodson). Caught at SF 40.  5-yds YAC (BLITZ – Packers rush 5)

PASS 1-10-SF 45 (4:52) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass short right to R.Moss to GB 42 for 13 yards (S.Shields). Caught at GB 42.  0-yds YAC (BLITZ – Packers rush 5)

PASS 2-8-GB 40 (3:33) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass incomplete deep middle to R.Moss [D.Moses].

PASS 3-8-GB 40 (3:27) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass incomplete short left to D.Walker (S.Shields).

PASS 1-10-SF 20 (:29) C.Kaepernick pass short right to M.Crabtree to SF 35 for 15 yards (T.Williams). Caught at SF 32.  3-yds YAC


Second Quarter:

PASS 2-5-SF 40 (14:26) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass short left to M.Crabtree to SF 49 for 9 yards (M.Burnett, C.Woodson). (BLITZ: packers rush 5)

PASS 1-10-SF 49 (13:40) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass incomplete short right to D.Walker.

PLANNED RUN 2-10-SF 49 (13:34) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick right end to GB 48 for 3 yards (D.Moses)

SPY PASS 3-12-SF 47 (12:33) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass short right to F.Gore to 50 for 3 yards (B.Jones). Caught at SF 49.  1-yd YAC

PASS 1-9-GB 9 (11:43) C.Kaepernick pass incomplete short left to B.Miller (C.Matthews).

PASS 2-9-GB 9 (11:37) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick FUMBLES (Aborted) at GB 9, and recovers at GB 9. C.Kaepernick to GB 12 for -3 yards (E.Walden).

PASS 3-12-GB 12 (11:04) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass short middle to M.Crabtree for 12 yards, TOUCHDOWN. Caught at GB 9. 9-yds YAC

PASS 2-4-GB 42 (8:40) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass short left to T.Ginn to GB 39 for 3 yards (B.Jones). Caught at GB 39.  0-yds YAC

PASS 1-10-GB 25 (7:16) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass incomplete short middle to M.Crabtree (T.Williams). (BLITZ – Packers rush 5)

SPY – PASS 3-9-GB 24 (6:25) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick scrambles up the middle to GB 9 for 15 yards (M.Jennings, E.Walden).

PASS 2-6-GB 20 (5:33) C.Kaepernick pass deep left to M.Crabtree for 20 yards, TOUCHDOWN. Caught at goal line.  (BLITZ – Packers rush 5)

PLANNED RUN 1-10-SF 20 (2:33) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick right end pushed ob at SF 23 for 3 yards (B.Jones).

SCRAMBLE 2-7-SF 23 (2:11) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick scrambles left end pushed ob at SF 42 for 19 yards (C.Woodson).  (BLITZ – Packers rush 5)

SPY – PASS 1-10-SF 42 (2:00) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass incomplete deep left to V.Davis (M.Burnett).

SPY – PASS 2-10-SF 42 (1:54) (Shotgun)  C.Kaepernick pass incomplete deep right to D.Walker.

SCRAMBLE 3-10-SF 42 (1:48) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick left tackle ran ob at GB 40 for 18 yards. (BLITZ: Packers rush 6)

PASS 1-10-GB 40 (1:41) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass short left to L.James to GB 33 for 7 yards (B.Jones). Caught at GB33.  0-yds YAC

PASS 1-10-GB 27 (:46) (No Huddle, Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass incomplete deep left to T.Ginn. (BLITZ: Packers rush 5)

PASS 2-10-GB 27 (:40) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass incomplete short left to D.Walker (BLITZ – Packers rush 5)

PLANNED RUN 3-10-GB 27 (:35) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick up the middle to GB 18 for 9 yards (M.Daniels)


Third Quarter:

PASS 2-8-SF 37 (12:16) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass incomplete deep left to R.Moss. (BLITZ – Packers rush 5)

PASS 3-8-SF 37 (12:07) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass incomplete short left to V.Davis (C.Woodson).

PASS 1-10-SF 20 (8:24) C.Kaepernick pass deep left to M.Crabtree to SF 38 for 18 yards (T.Williams). Caught at SF 37.  1-yd YAC (BLITZ – Packers rush 5)

PASS 1-10-SF 38 (7:56) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass short left to M.Crabtree to SF 44 for 6 yards (S.Shields). Caught at SF 37.  7-yds YAC

PLANNED RUN 2-4-SF 44 (7:16) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick right end for 56 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

PASS 3-2-SF 15 (3:36) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass deep right to M.Crabtree to SF 31 for 16 yards (T.Williams). Caught at SF 31.  0-yds YAC

PASS 2-8-SF 41 (1:32) C.Kaepernick pass deep right to V.Davis to GB 15 for 44 yards (A.Hawk). Caught at GB 25.  10-yds YAC


Fourth Quarter:

PLANNED RUN 2-5-SF 12 (10:49) C.Kaepernick left end pushed ob at SF 28 for 16 yards (C.Matthews).

PASS 2-8-SF 30 (9:35) C.Kaepernick pass deep right to D.Walker to SF 47 for 17 yards (T.Williams). Caught at SF 47.  0-yds YAC

PLANNED RUN 2-19-GB 36 (6:59) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick right end to GB 32 for 4 yards (T.Williams)

PASS 3-15-GB 32 (6:15) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass short right to M.Crabtree to GB 18 for 14 yards (S.Shields). Caught at GB 31.  13-yds YaC





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Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, 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 Drafttek.com.


19 thoughts on “A Green Bay Packers Spy Story: WHODUNNIT?

  1. So at the end of the day it’s safe to say the Packers don’t stack up well against the big boys of the NFL? This past season suggests that right? All season long I had this horrible feeling that this was going to be the end result. Sure the Packers had won 9 of their last 11 games but against who? During many of those games I felt like something is very wrong with this team. Not having their last 3 number one picks on the field doesn’t help but I hope that Ted T learned at least this from this past season. The Packers have to take a dive in the free agent market. You don’t have to sign the those that break the bank top tier FA. But with the holes on this team and there’s many, they can’t wait 8 weeks and start looking through the scraps either.

    1. Well said Nick. I too felt that uneasiness as we approached the playoffs. Too many missing pieces and not enough toughness up front. I also think that we got fooled by some of these weak opponent games. I hate to say it but, at this point, we are a finesse team.

  2. At the end of the day, it doesn’t seem like it mattered what the Packers did or didn’t do, the 9ers are simply a all-around better team. Like nick perry mentioned, the pack didnt fair well against the nfl big boys and only ho-hummed their way through the average to below average teams.. I hopeTT realizes that this team needs some studs up front on both sides of the ball. Obtaining these elite trench players is easier said then done. Teams like the 9ers had to suck for 10 years to pull talent out of the top of each rd in the draft.

    Getting knocked out of the playoffs, the last 2 years, to more physical teams, SUCKS!

  3. Great job AL and appreciate the amount of time you invested into it.

    I try hard to find any path that can allow me to feel otherwise about this team in general but certainly more toward the defensive side.Although many will scream that a certain player(s) should be excluded but I won’t because it’s an as a whole belief.

    Even the teams we won against,they played to achieve a higher rung on the step ladder,we played every week seeking only to be able to achieved the high rung on a step stool.

    The debates of where the problem lies will be on going whether scheme or personnel or the combination of both but,one thing is a certainty..we simply have too much dependency on grade C level players on the DL and LB squads.

    What does a Scotsman wearing a kilt and the Packer defense have in common….everyone knows whats underneath without having to look.

    1. “…The debates of where the problem lies will be on going whether scheme or personnel or the combination of both but,one thing is a certainty..we simply have too much dependency on grade C level players on the DL and LB squads…”

      I think that you have boiled this down to it essence – well said.

  4. What bothers me most is knowing Gore could have gotten the ball and gashed us as much as Diapernick did. Larry McCarren’s video on Packers.com points this out. Sucks. The 34 needs double team eating DL. This scheme doesn’t want linebackers going against 330lb guards. More and more I’m convinced the big uglies need help on both sides of the ball.

  5. Thanks for another great job, Al. In other posts on other topics recently, so many Packer fans feel that winning 15 last year, the division this year, etc is good enough. To me it’s about winning Super Bowls. The inability of Capers’ unit to get it done in the playoffs hangs heaviest over the organization. In the three playoff losses since DC has been coordinator, the Packers have given up an average of 44 points and 510 yards. This is not simply losing, it is dismantling. It is embarassing. And as a fan, it is simply heartbreaking. It is so obvious DC and his assistants did not prepare the Packer defense for the 9ers, too shocked to make intelligent, professional adjustments at any time during the game including halftime when the game was still close. The 9ers are a great team, admittedly better than the Packers. But the best team doesn’t always win the game. The Packers could have kept it close perhaps with a few lucky breaks even won the game. But DC did not do his job once again. Looking towards next eyar scares me, the schedule is a lot more difficult than this past year. MM is appauled that we question DC. He has a decision to make about DC’s future with GB. We may have to live with him and accept what has happened three of the last four years may probably happen again or they can change the course. Again, winning a division or winning 15 games may sound good enough to many of my fellow Packer faithfuls, but not to me. In my mind I still see CM standing next to AR hoisting the Lombardi trophy. That’s what it’s all about.

    1. Of course winning the Superbowl is not good enough. Of course losing in the playoffs hurts. The reason “professional adjustments” were (not) made, I thought was a main point of this article. Although coaching is part of the loss, I think that the players we had to work with on defense were the biggest reason for the record setting stats against us.

  6. Al, thanks for the analysis. You mention in your article that the 9ers attacked the Packers’ weaknesses differently with 2 different QBs. This may be redundant but could you please outline what you perceive as the weaknesses? From what you have described, it would appear that one of the top needs of this team is an upgrade at NT and that Raji might not warrant the money when he is a free agent.


    1. The obvious difference is using Kaepernick as a runner in game 2. But their philosophy was the same: find the weak spot and attack it in the best way we can. In game one, Alex Smith took advantage of the Packers misguided personnel/scheme decisions, such as starting Jaret Bush, dropping Nick Perry in coverage on a wide receiver, starting a very inexperienced and undersized M.D. jennings at safety. With Smith, they did it with a highly controlled passing game + Frank Gore. Their OL manhandled BJ Raji, as they did in the rematch. in this game, however, They attacked Erik Walden, Brad Jones, and AJ Hawk with the read option, knowing that the undisciplined Walden would take the bait. They also targeted Tramon Williams, who showed you exactly why. Crabtree had an easy time with Tramon on him. Raji again was bounced around like a pinball.

      I’ll repeat” The 49ers offense schemed to the Packers weaknesses. The Packers offense tried to do what it always does, regardless of the opponent.

      1. I agree to a point. MM and AR run the offense and go after the weakness. How often do we see the nickel corner torched? A particular offensive play call allows for Aaron to “find the best match-up”.
        Perhaps SF game plans a little more to directly take advantage of a weakness…hammer the weakness. But GB selects plays that work against an opponents general scheme, allowing Aaron to find the weakness on a given play.

        The GB/SF game, I’m not sure it would have mattered what plays were called or what planning was done. Their OL came to play and ours didn’t.

      2. Al, thank you for the explanation of the weaknesses. So our NT and 3/4 of our LBs need to be upgraded and Tramon needs the competition that Joe Whitt was describing in camp next year. And I may sound like a butt snorkeler but you hit the nail on the head with your description of McCarthy’s philosophy. How many more games will we endure before he finally changes his game plans and/or personnel to attack the cover 2 more effectively?

      3. “…The Packers offense tried to do what it always does, regardless of the opponent….”

        The other side of the coin that seems to be forgotten in this game. If it was going to be a shootout then at least shoot. We don’t lack the talent on offense but we do lack some creativity and sophistication. Well said

  7. The very fine analysis answers a lot of questions Al. Thanks! One question it didn’t answer was who stole Tramon Williams and replaced him with that foo-foo imposter? That and why doesn’t the D get an attitude and actually get some emotion attached to their play.

    Everytime they play soft is the time they get their asses kicked.

    1. They are soft on both sides of the ball! The Zone Blocking Scheme is suppose to be great for running the ball. But McCarthy doesn’t want anything to do with running. EVERY year he has games where he just doesn’t run the ball, then, when he’s questioned about it, he gives everybody what they want to hear. We will run the ball more! Then he does for a couple of weeks, and then slowly he goes back to giving the running game NO ATTENTION! And Capers is useless. I have NEVER seen a defense just lay down and die. It’s a coaching problem! It has to be, or else TT will have to answer for his draft choices!

  8. I felt that Packers would’ve fared better using Sam Shields in LB area as the spy–SPEED to neutralize speed-Shields was likely the only Packers starter with speed to keep Kaepernick from breaking into secondary–Walden, Matthews, Jones, Hawk weren’t fast enough-they could only take angles to force him to sidelines, Shields would likely have kept his runs far under the 20-30 yds he was getting. That would mean substituting 3 D-line for 2 and extra LB or DB for pass coverage to move Shields up. All PACKERS fans could see-the Niners offense and defense knew everything Capers and McCarthy would do-and neither coach adjusted to those schemes. Same result will happen again next season against Niners IF Capers is still in GB.

  9. P.S.–I’m NOT convinced Capers had any adjustments to overcome CK’s running–defense acted like they’d never seen a running QB–he had at least 6-7 games to study his tendencies–WHAT PART OF RUNNING QB DIDN’T PACKERS FIGURE OUT? And it wasn’t late in game with defense tired out–it was throughout the game, IF he broke through line to LB’s, he was GONE-only secondary had enough time to run him down, that meant CONTAINING him around the line of scrimmage. This was a one-shot adjustment-win or go home and Capers proved he didn’t have any strategy for it.

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