13

January

Packers Defensive Struggles Go Beyond Capers

Are Dom Capers’ days in Green Bay over?

Before you read further, I want to make one thing clear: This post is not a defense of Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers. After the Packers got shredded for almost 600 yards on Saturday night, Capers cannot be defended.

Go ahead and call for Capers’ firing and criticize him all you want. He deserves it.

However, Green Bay’s problems on defense go much deeper than Capers. I don’t think there was any magical scheme that Capers could have come up with that would have stopped the 49ers from winning Saturday. San Francisco was bigger, stronger, faster and tougher than the Packers. It’s too simple to just pin that performance solely on the guy with weird hair who sits in a booth high above the field.

Look at the Packers’ linebackers. Brad Jones, Erik Walden and A.J. Hawk are no match for a team like the 49ers. An elite offensive line combined with an athletic quarterback, bruising running back, and talented tight ends? The 49ers had to be salivating all week while watching film and preparing to face that unfearsome trio.

The Packers are built to take a lead, then play aggressive defense that relies on blitzes and creating turnovers. They’re not the type of team that is able to stand toe-to-toe against physical teams and out-tough them. That’s extremely frustrating, but true.

I suppose Capers deserves some blame for his defense’s lack of toughness, but I’m not sure what he’s supposed to do to prevent Walden from losing contain over and over or Jones looking helpless trying to chase down Colin Kaepernick.

Again, Capers’ gameplan was pathetic on Saturday (no spy on Kaepernick?). There’s no excuse for it. He probably deserves to get canned.

But even if he gameplanned better, I’m not sure if the Packers could have pulled that one off. The 49ers are a better team, a tougher team. Regardless of who is calling the plays, the Packers are not a team that is able to line up and feel confident that they’re better physically than their opponent.

Getting Desmond Bishop, Nick Perry and D.J. Smith back should make the Packers defense tougher next season. Further development from Jerron McMillian should also help.

Go ahead and vent about Capers. He deserves it. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that some magic scheme could have shut the 49ers down on Saturday.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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72 Responses to “Packers Defensive Struggles Go Beyond Capers”

  1. James says:

    The evolution of the Modern defense is having Linemen, Linebackers, and Backs into just Linemen and a hybrid linebackers that take the place of the D-backs. taller, faster D-backs that can tackle like linebackers.
    I have notice teams like Seattle as well as San Fran. have these type of defense.
    The Packers still have big slow Linebackers and small quick backs that don’t tackle well.
    San Fran and Seattle have been building teams with high draft pick’s over the past ten years. I know Ted Thompson is getting good picks, but how long have the Packers been down on the bottom of the list when ALL teams covet these hybrid D-back linebackers that tackle well?

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    • James says:

      Charles Woodson is one of these hybrid backs, but he is not that big and is getting older and slower.

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      • PatMc says:

        Woodson might like Miami this time next year. Consider trading him for a 7th rnd pick. He was out of position and juked by a rookie QB

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    • Oppy says:

      To be fair, our LB’s aren’t really all that slow- or at least, they didn’t knowingly take slow LBs.

      Clay Matthews is a fast-twitch freak, extremely quick. Brad Jones is a great athlete, actually he’s undersized, not “Big, slow”. Many people completely forget that AJ Hawk was a freak of nature at the combine- extremely quick and mobile, he set marks in some of the agility tests that still stand for LB’s at the combine.

      Francois and Lattimore are both lighter, faster LB’s.

      Just sayin.

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  2. Palmda says:

    I think your comments are right on. Players like Hawk, Driver, woodson, should have been gone two years ago. Capers is a relic past his time. There are also big problems on Offensive, that is why Rodgers is the sack target leader. Newhouse and Evin Smith are not Starters on any team. For some reason the addition of even a average running back does not seem to be must in the personel managers thought? Again no pass rush. Without even a hurry on a good passing quaterback its lights out. Time to remake the defense, prune the offense and use some of that money to get some speed and youth.

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    • James david Marsh says:

      What money? You cannot spend money in free agency that you do not have.

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    • Oppy says:

      get some speed and youth?

      Hey, Rip van Winkle, wake up, you missed the 2012 draft.

      ;)

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  3. Phil says:

    I’m no fan of the 3-4 to begin with — I don’t like 3 lining up against 5 at your first line of defense — and especially don’t like it when you have ‘backers like Hawk and Jones in the middle and Walden on the outside. All week I was concerned about that soft ‘n slow bunch, and for good reason. When that’s your second line of defense, all sorts of things can go wrong, be it stopping the run, getting to the quarterback or covering tight ends and backs. I knew we’d miss Desmond Bishop a lot this year, but the ‘backer issue goes deeper than just that.I wanted Barnett and Hawk gone years ago, and there’s one piece of that duo that remains to be jettisoned. This needs to be the year…Even so, on the whole, the Pack just isn’t as hardnosed on defense as the Niners are on offense (can you say “Tramon Williams?”) Got buried across the board.

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  4. Nathan says:

    Nice article. Time to start draft coverage.

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  5. PatMc says:

    Any discussion of players needs to begin with TT. The idea that a world class team of players can be sucessful without getting elite stars is silly.

    TT needs to change the draft and FA strategy this year. Use high picks to get a replacement for PICK. If possible get a RB that can show up to pair with Harris.

    Use the CB’s (tramon) to get taller, faster and meaner. If woodson wants to play then trade him. Same with Driver. Trade up (if needed) and get a SAFETY that puts fear in the other teams WR’s. Right now our DB’s are a joke.

    Newhouse actually was blocking very well from what I saw. He needs to Move to LG. If Lang can play center then move him there. Otherwise draft the kid from Wisconsin to play center. He can push Lang at LG and Play just as well. Thank Saturday but cut him today.

    TT needs a heart to heart with MM. The Offense needs to get bigger, meaner and able to move the ball on the ground.

    TT needs a heart to heart with DOM. Maybe there is another team that needs DOM as HC or DC. His D has cost us several SB’s run’s.

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    • Bird Dog Uni says:

      Agree… If you’re going to go with late round picks and UDFA, you better have the best scheme around… No scheme gets you embarrassed… I don’t profess to have all the answers, but, we need to do a better job drafting, and as much as I love Raji, we have to have a guy to spell him… He’s not as dominate as I thought he’d be by now… As much as we’ve tried to protect AR, he’s taken more sacks than any QB should! Our lack of a decent RB has killed us for years… Can’t wait to see what the plan is, just hoping it’s a good one!

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    • Turophile says:

      PatMc. High picks for replacements sound good. So, how do you feel about giving up our first or second rounder this year, for an extra pick next year ? Most fans don’t like that (though I do). Hard to get a high pick any other way, these days.

      You will get nothing from another team for Driver, Woodson.

      McMillian might be the tough safety you want. He has the speed (4.3 40) and hits. He just needs more seasoning, as he was considered a raw prospect.

      Also, since Pickett played very well this year, why spend a real high pick there. Instead, get one of the maybe four NT types available in rounds 4-6, and bring them on steadily.

      Lang won’t move from LG. It will still be EDS at center, in 2013, even if we draft one. Newhouse is supersub, if he is displaced by Sherrod.

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      • PatMc says:

        First, Pickett is great but he is close to being done. A great replacement needs to be found this year to groom that person.

        I agree about a NT type in RND 4-6 as a backup but a star needs to be acquired to replace pickett in 1-3.

        Lang needs to be pushed. A high pick for a G/C bigger lineman to push bodies will help stablize the line.

        McMillian might be answer but with so many safeties in draft a good hard hitting fear creating safety is needed.

        I think trading for next year’s picks as long as they are a good value is ok. I much prefer to trade the lower picks to get a better quality player this year as that will allow GB to win the division again.

        A very good CB that is tall and agressive is needed. I thought House was that guy and maybe he is.

        A G/C – RB & NT/DE in 1-3 will go along ways to helping this team. A free agent acuisition on a pass rusher along with the injured players coming back will go a long ways to healing this team.

        If jennings goes in FA then a lower pick for a quality wr is needed. However, without a RB to pair up with Harris I don’t think the kid will last next year.

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  6. PatMc says:

    Meant to add good article Adam!

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  7. Since '61 says:

    Adam – you may be right, that no plan would have stopped the Niners Saturday night, but how can Capers plan all week against the Niners and not include a spy on Kaepernick in the game plan? The defense is too soft and has been for a long time. As you correctly mentioned the second string linebackers were badly exposed. The packers defense did find a way to get off the field, by giving up touchdowns. With all the injuries the Pack still had a good season, even with this disappointing loss. See everyone next year. Thanks for all the great points and discussions this season, Since ’61

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    • Adam Czech says:

      Well said. It was still a good season, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the moment.

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    • ray says:

      I’ve never seen a team consistently make the same mistakes over and over and a defense that refuses to adjust.

      Hire Lovee Smith

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      • Mudduckcheesehead says:

        Yeah. Lovie’s no good at beating the Packers. I wish the same could be said for DC.

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  8. JJ50 says:

    We all agree that we need (and do not have) a defense that can shut down a good offense and get off the field. Ours is an offense that does sometimes sputter and needs to have the ball returned to them. But I think people are too quick to say that SF is a good team. Putting a QB at risk, the way SF does, is a short-sighted strategy, and many of their most successful plays last night were unplanned. The Packers beat themselves – as they often do – with dumb mistakes.

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    • Adam Czech says:

      The Packers did beat themselves. Not even close. SF owned them and is a better team.

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      • Adam Czech says:

        Whoops. Meant did NOT beat themselves.

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      • Billy D says:

        Adam I agree with you, this game looked a like ND vs Bama. 38 points to the G Men last year and 45 this year tells you all you need to know. The draft takes time to develop we need free agents. Super Bowl team of yester year Reggie White, Santana Dotson, Shawn Jones, Keith Jackson hope TT gets the picture

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  9. KurtMc says:

    Nice article Adam.
    Agree about SF building via draft, but…They were not elite until the head coach change. Not sayin MM has to go. But what coulda, woulda, shoulda with the way the team is built (score fast and furious, D bend, don’t break, hang on a turn over or 1 stop to ensure point difference and win) We should have been at SB XLXI and XLVII. Fact is the Defense has cost us dearly. Problem is, where can you get he next coordinator? The upper echelon of the league has passed Capers. We will be a middle tier team until its fixed.

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  10. Kevin VG says:

    Find it amazing that people say that they saw this coming. Turnovers hurt any team and we had 2 back-to-back that killed us. But if it were us getting more turnovers-things would be different.
    The most frustrating thing is to watch a team run over and over and we seem to have no answer–the entire game! Walden is too slow to try to keep up with Kaep. Overall I felt the D was not prepared or made enough adjustments all game.

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  11. James david Marsh says:

    The defense needs better players with speed at linebacker. Dom is not the problem.

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  12. Razer says:

    I too am disappointed in the San Fran game but I won’t lay this at the feet of Dom Capers. They have like 4 pro bowl O-linemen and we have guys like Walden and Mike Daniels trying to win battles. This defense lacks talent. A few less injuries and it is a different picture, but as it stands you need at least one more mountain man to hold the D-line and someone other than Clay Matthews to set the edge and someone in the middle that makes it a dead zone. Capers doesn’t have this talent so what, we should get rid of him. Why don’t we yell crucify him – will that make us feel better.

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  13. Oppy says:

    more than one or two posts seems to gently complain that Brad Jones isn’t cut out to play ILB.

    Um, did these posters actually watch Jones play this year? I was always a fan of giving JOnes snaps at OLB, but even I was skeptical of his ability to play inside.

    However, Brad Jones played like a solid starter from start to finish this season. The performance he put on this season has guaranteed him a spot in the NFL for a long time to come. If the Packers don’t retain him (I’m fairly sure they would), he’ll have a starting position on another NFL team via free agency in a hurry.

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    • Oppy says:

      *Unless he decided to retire and use apply his Astrophysics degree working in for NASA or in the aerospace industry

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    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      I wouldn’t say Jones is a bona-fide starter, but he is a really nice chess piece to have that you can plug in at multiple positions and he won’t hurt you.

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      • Bird Dog Uni says:

        McCarthy loves Jones… Think he’s found a spot for him, and probably won’t even consider replacing him…

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      • Oppy says:

        Disagree, Al-

        There were more than one game where Jones was the most active / best Packers’ defender on the field this year.

        I don’t think he’s a star player, but I do believe he has done enough, at a high enough level, consistently, this season to be legitimately considered one of the league’s top 40 or so inside linebackers.

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  14. Ron LC says:

    I heard a comment from Francesca out of NY that describes the problems of the Packer D to a tee. “They are undersized, under-aggressive, and under-talented. Although for most games this year they showed progress over last year, when they faced aggressive, big and active teams on both sides of the ball they failed. NY, SF and Seattle are perfect examples.

    They need to get bigger, stronger, faster and, most important, smarter on defense. Capers is trying hard to use 7th rounders and UDFA’s to play at a level they can’t. His defense requires adjustments to be made on the fly and let’s be honest there are players out there that just can’t learn. Walden is the poster boy.

    In the off-season they need to look at the D and decide which way they will go. One thing is sure, the formula for beating GB has been established. Fortunately there are only a few teams in the league that can pull it off so far.

    Looking forward to the complicated decisssion making process that faces our heros going into the 2013 season.

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    • Bird Dog Uni says:

      Knee jerk reaction would be to fire Capers and re-tool defense… Which may very well happen… Injuries killed us, but, we have needs at every level of the defense, (even if our guys are healthy). Probably won’t have: Charles Woodson, Greg Jennings, Donald Driver next year… Hoping we trade Finley… Benson probably won’t be back, and I wouldn’t mind Hawk being traded or cut… It’s very unfortunate that Sherrod and Bulaga both went down with injuries… Two 1st round OT’s out sure hurts, and no telling if Sherrod will ever crack the starting line-up… We have so tough decisions to make… Hoping TT makes the right ones…

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    • Nick Perry says:

      Well what to do Ron? If that’s what Capers is trying to win with why is Ted Thompson looked at like a God around here? It’s Ted’s job to get the players his coaches need. Ted’s been here since 2005 and this is the defense he’s provided Capers. Bishop, Perry, Worthy, Smith wouldn’t have made that much of a difference. Tramon Williams has become a liability. He can’t tackle and he’s made many average receivers look great. The Packers have the players to be a very good 4-3 team. Like everywhere he’s coached,Capers has worn out his welcome with below average defense.

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      • Oppy says:

        Bishop, Perry, and Smith might have made ALL the difference in the world.

        I agree, though- Worthy, not so much. Not this season, anyways.

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  15. johnny d says:

    not happy about the loss last night to 49ers…however, very glad to not be a Broncos fan today , disagreeing with Vandermause about Packers not an NFC elite team anymore, i see 5 or 6 starters on IR that may have helped the defense all season

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    • skyler says:

      Vandermause is right on. We have an elite QB, great Receivers, ok te’s, ok o-oline, poor defense (CM,Raji,Shields and a few good first and second year player)
      Be real, Do you want to go back to the Bart Starr years. Holmgren had Farve and a great Defense. How do you think we got to the Championship and SB so many time.

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      • Oppy says:

        IMO, the “WonderMouse” is kind of a hack. But then, I’m also a very opinionated jerk.

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  16. John Stone says:

    Capers may or may not be a keeper, but when an amateur like me can start spotting problems that is a pretty good sign of a weak coach. In this game the announcer mentioned a couple of times that zone coverage by the Packer defense would give better contain on the runs. I took it as an implied criticism of the Green Bay defensive strategy. You know, we are up against a running quarterback who is not always accurate when passing, and our defensive scheme is vulnerable to the run.

    What also makes Capers look bad is how things went against the Vikings. For two games in a row we made Adrain Peterson look like a superman, and apparently it was not for want of talent because on the third game they managed to contain him. Just like in this SanFran game, in the first two games the defensive strategy lacked an adequate contain against the run.

    Maybe Capers wants to be somewhere else?

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    • Nick Perry says:

      What’s funny is the Packers gave up like 175 yards in that Wildcard game and look at that as a victory! Yes they won the game, that’s the most important but how sad is that when you consider giving up that much rushing yardage a good thing. The Packers still have a very good team. It’s just time for a change. The bottom line is this team has been to the playoffs 4 straight years and 5 of the last 6. They’ve been to two NFC Championship games and have one World Championship. Not to shabby. The NFL is designed to have parity though out it’s league. The days of dynasty’s are over. Ask the Browns, Lions, Vikings, or any of the other teams that lose at a consistent rate what they’d rather have. Change is not always a bad thing. Thank you Dom Capers for helping us win another World Championship in 2010, but it be time to go. If not we’ll see you next year, and hope for better results. Thanks to the entire Packers organization for another WINNING season!

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      • skyler says:

        New England is a Dynasty

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        • johnny d says:

          really? when was Pats last title? 05

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          • Oppy says:

            ….Aaaaaaand, they have been in the conversation year in, and year out, since 01.

            The most consistently dangerous team in the NFL come playoff time for 12 years running.

            I’d say that’s good enough to call it a “Dynasty”.

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            • Adam Czech says:

              The Pats are a dynasty. No question about it. Three titles and five SB appearances in 10 years? That’s amazing in any sport, especially in today’s NFL.

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              • Nick Perry says:

                Winning it all is a what I would call a dynasty. Personally I’d rather lose in the divisional game than the SB. New England won in 2002, 04, 05, (something like that) They haven’t won in 7 years and who knows this year. Sorry guy but that’s NOT a dynasty.

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  17. Tarynfor12 Tarynfor12 says:

    “The Packers are built to take a lead, then play aggressive defense that relies on blitzes and creating turnovers. They’re not the type of team that is able to stand toe-to-toe against physical teams and out-tough them. That’s extremely frustrating, but true”.

    Then MM and Capers are on different pages in team meeting…MM seems to think the defense should hold anyone until the offense can get going which is what kills Capers defense as the offense has been tossing up 3 and outs on the first two possessions most of the year and way too many period over-all.
    We can point a finger at both but firing either isn’t the answer.On another note,lets not fool ourselves in thinking that Perry would have contained or caught Kaep..cement shoes Nick Perry isn’t a quick OLB but a bull rush DE and will be groaning with him all next season.

    The INT by Shields gave us a lead but kept the offense on the sideline for the first 11 mins of the game where they were quickly dispensed with the usual 3 and out and the steam rolling of the defense commenced.

    Are there games where a bad flag enables a change..yes,and IMO,the call against Shields holding that kept the ball for SF and the ultimate TD was one on their second posession.Is this the sole reason fro the loss no,but it sure put us on our heels the rest of the game.

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  18. Nick Perry says:

    Well if Dom is not the problem then is it Ted Thompson fault? I mean common, it has to fall somewhere or at least a combination of both right? Or would having Bishop, Perry, D.J. Smith, Worthy, or any other injured defensive player made a difference? Everywhere Capers has coached he does this. Takes the team to the top in rankings his first few years then straight to the bottom by year 4. Look it up yourself. The fact is Capers didn’t make any adjustments. Waldon is still looking for who has the ball on that 56 yard run by Kapernick for a TD. You would have thought by the end of Quarter 3 when Gore is running into the guts of the Packers defense someone would have been on Kapernick. Nope, the Packers continued to collapse. Thompson had Rodgers fall in his lap and he rode him to a SB title. Rodgers is SO good he make’s up for all the issues the Packers really have. I don’t know where the blame falls but this is far from a “Great Team” that Thompson has built. With the players the Packers drafted last year, I would play a 4-3. Clearly it’s time for a change. Like his entire career, Capers defense’s blow by years 4 and 5.

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  19. Elo says:

    Hard to beat a team that’s got more talent, speed, strength, and better coaching.

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  20. Jake says:

    I’ve been firmly planted in Capers’ corner since we hired him. I don’t think schemes have ever been the problem. Unfortunately I think it goes much deeper than that. We have as much top-tier talent on this defense as any in the league, yet when challenged they consistently and continually lose their individual matchups and succumb to mental breakdowns.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

  21. GV889 says:

    I really hurts when your team gets bitch slapped on National TV, But as a displaced Cheese Head who has lived in NY his whole life. I think you have to take a step back and look at the big picture. To me it seems that the whole season was defined after the first preseason game against San Diego. The loss of Desmond Bishop was a devastating blow from which the Packers would not recover. His replacement DJ Smith would also be lost and placed on IR after the Texan’s game. The Packers LB core was playing this year with one hand tied behind its back. I’ve never seen a team that has so much bad luck when it comes to injuries year after year. Just think of the numbers that Sterling Sharpe would have if he had been playing with Brett Farve for ten years.Then there’s Nick Collins. Cheer up PackerLand things aren’t that bad we could be Jets fans.

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    • PA PackerBacker says:

      Why have the Packers had so many injuries (moreso than most other teams?) year in and year out??

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  22. Jason Perone Jason Perone says:

    Very well stated. I won’t be surprised if Capers is back. It wasn’t a total failure of a season but the ending couldn’t have been more disappointing for what the 2012 Packers were. One thing is certain: changes are coming on both sides of the ball. Woodson is aging, Driver is done. Where to go with Finley, Jennings? Stay tuned right here, Packer friends!

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  23. Bob W. says:

    Last nights debacle shows much more than just lack of defense. I agree that the should have put a spy on Kapernick, although I think he still would have had a great game. Maybe not the monster game he had ,but still one for the ages. Not able to see about half the games this year but I do not think I saw the offense take the first drive down the field and score. We are built to get the early lead. Yet we don’t. We had the chance to do some damage after stopping them up 14-7 and we fumble a punt we should not have even fielded. thats was my first cue that we were through. The fire just does not exsist in this team. Changes need to be made in so many areas, say goodbye to the Hawks,Zombos, and all the people who can’t catch and block.DD please retire, Jennings if you want to remain a Packer take less money cause we showed that we can win without you, but I think AR would want you back. A comfort thing. I do like Dujan Harris he is one of the few who show a real fire and desire. AR you took to may sacks, I know your line was aveerage at beast but you stood in the pocket to long alot of times when you cld have taken off for at least a couple yds instead of taking sacks. Not hating on you ,cause I was your biggest fan to replace that #4 guy. Last night showed that we are a decent team,and we can go along through AR’S career and just make the playoffs. Or reevaluate the way we are taking the steps to get us back to the Super Bowl

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  24. GBPDAN says:

    I feel like I ate rat poison

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  25. Mark gast says:

    Linemen please! I believe that TT needs to first improve the offensive line so they can dominate. Next, improve the D line. Since the defense has some injured players that will hopefully be back next year, I think they should start with upgrading the O line.

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    • Brad says:

      I agree….. Linemen on both sides of the ball. Do not neglect the O-line. San Fran won the game because their o-line pushed our d-line back almost every single snap. Green Bay is a passing team that doesn’t pass block particularly well. Harris was pretty effective running the ball against the Niners, all things considered, yet they stopped giving him the ball. This game was 24-24 and we gave up on running the ball except for a couple of handoffs to Cobb. We might need to get some bigger bodies in the secondary, but I don’t feel a need to find someone that puts “fear” into wrs. The game is changing and you cant hit receivers anymore anyway. We may be better served to go back to the 4-3 with the current personnel. Hopefully guys like Bishop, Smith, Perry and Worthy come back healthy next year and can make an impact.

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