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June

Colin Kaepernick: Revisiting the Packers’ defensive debacle

Colin Kaepernick rushed for a quarterback-record 181 yards against the Packers in the playoffs.

Colin Kaepernick rushed for a quarterback-record 181 yards against the Packers in the playoffs.

Football is the ultimate team sport, so crediting just one player for a win in the NFL is foolish.

But in the divisional round of last year’s NFC Playoffs, the Green Bay Packers fell victim to a dominant performance by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. In his first career playoff sart, the second-year quarterback put up video game-like numbers.

Kaepernick was sharp as a passer and electric as a runner, racking up 181 yards on the ground — a new NFL record for a quarterback.

Kaepernick may have been the NFL’s biggest breakout star throughout the entirety of the 2012 season. To start the year, Kaepernick carried the ball just once for 17 yards against the Packers in Week 1 at Lambeau Field. Four months later in the playoffs, Kaepernick accounted for 444 total yards and four scores.

After flexing his biceps in the end zone and drawing a 15-yard first-quarter penalty for taunting, it’s almost as if Kaepernick is now to Packers fans what Lord Voldemort is to Harry Potter.

He’s the archenemy. Don’t even speak his name in Packers country.

The Packers, again, will open up the season against the 49ers, so they’ll get an early look at the quarterback who dominated their playoff matchup. The effects from Kaepernick’s performance against the Packers, specifically, have been evident throughout the offseason in Green Bay.

For the second consecutive year, the Packers have focused on the defense early in the NFL Draft.

After being selected with the 26th overall pick in April’s draft, Datone Jones weighed in on Kaepernick’s playoff performance. “I thought he was pretty good,” Jones told the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “But I don’t think they’re going to be able to run him like that. He takes one good hit, there goes their season.”

But while plenty of Kaepernick’s production against the Packers came on designed run plays out of the read-option, the fleet-footed quarterback continually escaped the pocket and caught the Packers out of position on designed pass plays.

Facing a third down early in the first quarter, Kaepernick eluded the pressure and found running back Frank Gore, who got behind Charles Woodson, gaining 45 yards down the left sideline. With the exception of a first-quarter pick-six by Sam Shields, Kaepernick torched the Packers through the air.

He threw for 263 yards and a pair of touchdowns, completing 17 of 31 passes. Still, Kaepernick did as much–if not more–damage with his legs as he did with his arm.

One of his 16 carries was a bad snap, which Kaepernick recovered for a 3-yard loss, and two of those attempts were knees to end the game. Take those three plays out of the equation, and Kaepernick’s yards-per-carry average balloons to over 14.

On scrambles, Kaepernick ran the ball six times for 86 yards and a touchdown.

 

Kaepernick runs vs. Packers on designed pass plays:

Kaepernick’s first scramble netted just three yards, but after that, he averaged 16.6 yards per scramble on his next five carries.

A combination of miscues led to Kaepernick running free in the first half. The Packers consistently sent four or more players to rush the quarterback. And when they decided to use a spy–Erik Walden at the 0:19 mark–the spy was caught in no-man’s land, and Kaepernick won that one-on-one battle fairly easily.

The Packers routinely sent different blitz packages to try and confuse Kaepernick. But once they took away Kaepernick’s initial read, he tucked the ball and ran. Blitzers were caught overpursuing, and Kaepernick enjoyed a first-half stat stacker.

But for all the criticism of Dom Capers and the team’s defensive game plan headed into the Jan. 12 game, the Packers successfully adjusted at half time to combat Kaepernick’s scrambling.

In the first half, Kaepernick rushed for 86 yards on designed pass plays. In the second half, the Packers never allowed Kaepernick to escape the pocket as a runner.

On the flip side, despite Kaepernick accounting for just 23 yards from the read-option in the first 30 minutes, the second half yielded much better production in that department for the 49ers.

Kaepernick carried the ball three times for 76 yards and a touchdown running the read-option offense in the second half. For the game, 99 of Kaepernick’s 181 rushing yards came on read-option plays.

 

Kaepernick runs vs. Packers on read-option plays:

On Kaepernick’s four runs out of the read-option in the first half, he gained an average of 5.7 yards per carry. On his four carries running the read-option the second half, Kaepernick averaged 25.3 yards per carry.

The 56-yard third-quarter touchdown gallop on which Kaepernick went untouched certainly spiked the numbers. Without it, Kaepernick totaled 43 yards on six attempts–still well above average at more than 7 yards per carry. But Kaepernick made the correct read on the play, and Packers linebacker Erik Walden was lost and got completely washed out of the play.

Walden was also partially at fault for a 13-yard Kaepernick keeper in the first quarter. Dezman Moses and Clay Matthews consistently held the edge more effectively than Walden, who played 52 of Green Bay’s 80 defensive snaps.

Just as Packers cornerback Casey Hayward whiffed on a potential sack, leading to a 19-yard run in the first half, the blaming finger can be pointed at Walden for a handful of plays in the second half. Since then, Walden received $16 million over four years despite grading out as the worst 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.

But by no means was Walden the Packers’ only problem against Kaepernick. On the third-quarter touchdown, Brad Jones thought Kaepernick handed the ball off, Ted Ginn had a great downfield block on Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson took a poor angle.

There are 181 reasons why the Packers struggled to contain Kaepernick that night.

 

Are the Packers better equipped to defend Kaepernick now than they were then?

It’s the same defense, plus Desmond Bishop, 2012 first-round pick Nick Perry and this year’s top pick Datone Jones. With the exception of Erik Walden–who will be replaced by a healthy Perry–and 36-year-old safety Charles Woodson, every Packer to play a snap on defense against the 49ers in the playoffs will return to the team in 2013.

Woodson played all 80 snaps against the 49ers in his second game back from a broken collarbone. He broke up a couple passes but showed his age and some rust throughout the game. Woodson was one of 12 Packers defenders to receive a negative game grade from Pro Football Focus.

And once again, Packers made it a priority to strengthen the front seven in the draft.

Last year, they spent a first-round pick on Perry, a second-round pick on Jerel Worthy and a fourth-round pick on Mike Daniels. Add undrafted free agent Dezman Moses to the mix, and the Packers’ 2012 draft class is deep in the front seven.

This past April, the Packers took Jones in the first round, and Mississippi State defensive lineman Josh Boyd in the fifth. Johnny Jolly has been reinstated, deepening the competition on the defensive line.

Still, a bunch of rookies won’t be enough to solve the team’s woes against an athletic quarterback like Kaepernick. The team was blindsided by Kaepernick and the explosive 49ers offense and even spent time at Texas A&M to research the read-option offense.

But scheme and play-calling aside, the game tends to come down to the players. And just like Aaron Rodgers is capable of putting the team on his back and propelling the Packers to a win, Kaepernick can do the same.

He’s got everything one could want in a quarterback; a powerful arm and quick release, an ability to make plays with his feet and a great head coach.

Jim Harbaugh raised some eyebrows when he decided to roll with Kaepernick as his starter despite Alex Smith going 6-2 in the team’s first eight games. Smith went 13-3 and led the team to the NFC Championship in 2011.

But Smith last started a game for the 49ers in November, and he’s now the starter for the Kansas City Chiefs. The 49ers are fully committed to Kaepernick moving forward, and if his 11-game sample size from last season is any indication, San Francisco will be a Super Bowl contenders for the foreseeable future.

Kaepernick certainly had his way with the Packers but only slightly more than half of his production on the ground came from the read-option. So for all the talk about the Packers struggling to defend the read-option, know that Kaepernick’s big night wasn’t entirely the product of the read-option.

It was Kaepernick making plays against a vulnerable defense.

The game put the Packers’ defensive woes in the national spotlight. With Bishop on injured reserve, Clay Matthews was the team’s only real difference maker in the defensive front seven, especially against a versatile 49ers offense. And despite being the highest-paid defensive player in the league, Matthews isn’t capable of blitzing, setting the edge and spying the quarterback on the same play.

With Bishop and Perry returning, coupled with the arrival of Jones–who may be the team’s most natural fit as a 3-4 end–the Packers figure to be in better shape against physical running teams.

But despite Kaepernick leading the 49ers to an impressive run over the second half of the season, the Packers were blindsided by him in the playoffs, to some degree. After his playoff dominance in January, the Packers will certainly have Kaepernick in their crosshairs as they prepare for a Week 1 matchup in September.

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Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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43 Responses to “Colin Kaepernick: Revisiting the Packers’ defensive debacle”

  1. zac5 says:

    Enough of Kaepernick already.

    Most of his yards on the ground came through broken plays and he will be without his favourite receiver in Crabtree for most of the year.

    If I were an opposing coach, I would be more worried about a Rodgers lead offence with a revamped ground game than anything any other team can muster.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 9

    • Stroh says:

      But surely you know Kaepernick has already revolutionized the NFL! Just ask CowPie, Kaepernick is soo much better than that Rodgers scrub!

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 7

      • cow42 says:

        Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

        Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 9

        • Chad Toporski Chad Toporski says:

          Everything? I’ve heard that he’s just overcompensating for some other things…

          ;-)

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

      • mark says:

        I am glad neither zac5 or stroh are worried about the 49ers. All I know is is they completely annihilated the Packers the last two times they played them. The Packers also didn’t make it tyo the SB.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

        • mark says:

          The SB goes thru SF. This game will tell if the Packers are ready to challenge this year for the SB.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

        • Stroh says:

          Didn’t say a thing about the 9ers. They have a terrific team and are one of the SB contenders. Packers have to beat SF to advance. Just said cowpie thinks Kaepernick has revolutionize the NFL. He hasn’t. he would probably trade Rodgers for Kaepernick in a heartbeat…

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

          • cow42 says:

            i’d have to think long and hard about it, honestly.

            i never said he HAS revolutionized the NFL… i said he (and athletic qb’s like him)WILL.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

            • Lucas says:

              Randall Cunningham. Michael Vick. Yeah…heard it/seen it before. How is he different?

              Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

              • Stroh says:

                Exactly… Hope he does a lot of the read option and gets hit everytime! That’ll put an end to the read option.

                Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

              • cow42 says:

                so let’s say they run the R.O. 10 times… and he gets hit on 7 of those plays.

                are you telling me that he can’t handle getting tackled 7 times in one game?

                seriously?

                would you worry about Jordy Nelson getting tackled 7 times? and Kprnk’s bigger/stronger/faster than Nelson.

                i’ve said it before and i’ll say it again… this whole “that won’t work once he starts taking hits all game” garbage is a bunch of bull.

                Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

              • cow42 says:

                “Randall Cunningham. Michael Vick. Yeah…heard it/seen it before. How is he different?”

                um…

                he’s better.

                oh – and he’s in a system that utilizes ALL of his abilities.

                Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

            • Sir Cheese says:

              Honestly people don’t feed the troll, Cow42 is on multiple Packers websites doing nothing but stirring the pot.

              Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. gamer says:

    Correction: You stated- “This past April, the Packers took Jones in the first round, and Mississippi State defensive lineman Josh Boyd in the second.” Boyd was the second of 2 5th round selections.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  3. Savage57 says:

    Coupla thoughts on this:

    Kaep is still one of ‘ours’ even if he plays for the 49er’s. Any dude who always rocks Brewers and Bucks hats in his interviews gets to claim dual citizenship.

    Yup, he’s good but he’s gonna break at some point. The size of the target this guy is going to be sportin’ on his back this year is cartoon-like.

    Most of the yards he got on pass plays were the result of over zealous rushes that lost all gap discipline. Athletic spy would have helped too.

    Since Eric Walden is gone, Packers can look to Moses and Perry for right side contain and not get gashed to that side like they did in January.

    Guy’s for real though.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

    • Sven says:

      I thought from the sample of videos in the article that Walden and Woodson had “screw-ups” where a tackle should have been made and both led to very big plays. On the other hand, Moses and B. Jones both looked sure of what they were doing and limited Kaep very well. There was on very obvious hold on Jones by the Fullback where he is pulled down by his arm.

      I have very high hopes for week one. I think that we will have vast improvement at all three levels of the defense. Datone jones should be good on the line. We will have two starting linebackers back and great completion in the secondary.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

      • cow42 says:

        Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

        Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 11

        • Bearmeat Bearmeat says:

          I know, I know… don’t feed the troll.

          But I have to respond to this..

          COW ARE YOU FREAKING NUTS? GB’s D has improved on every level. They’ll be healthy.

          The O will most likely be able to actually run the ball.

          GB may very well lose. But it’s NOT going to be by 30.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

          • cow42 says:

            only the DL has improved… by adding a rookie. jones’ head will be swimming that first game. he’ll get rag-dolled by that SF OL not to menton how lost he’ll be trying to deal with so many reads and misdirections.

            it’s a the last team on earth you’d want to be playing against as a DL rook.

            i think jones could end up being a good player… i just hope that first game doesn’t ruin his confidence for the rest of his career.

            “The O will most likely be able to actually run the ball.”

            why?

            qb’s the same.
            coach is the same.
            OL coach is the same.
            OL players are the same.

            you really believe that the 2 rookies are going to make that much of a difference WEEK ONE?

            stop it.

            after they get down 10, McCarthy will panic and revert to his old play calling ways… and that’s when the 49er’s dogs get less loose.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

            • Bearmeat Bearmeat says:

              I should know better than to respond to you. You’ll take the-glass-is-completely-empty approach every time.

              You are wrong. But you won’t admit it.

              I now see Fitz’s wisdom in deciding to not respond to you 2 years ago.

              You’re dead to me Fredo.

              Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

            • chris says:

              People forget that the Packers were surprised by how well Kaepernick runs. Plus, Bishop was out. Perry was out. And Woodson was a step slow – It is why the Packers let him go. Remember, this all changes but the 49ers are still the same. Oh yeah, they don’t have Crabtree. I guess that will be 1 less weapon for them as well. Boldin isn’t as much of a threat since he doesn’t have the speed like Crabtree. In the playoffs it may be a different story. We shall see.

              Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. Lucas says:

    In the first video, take note of the Mike Neal experiment that had roots last year. Starting with the play at the 20 second mark, Neal is playing essentially OLB.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  5. Dan "FireMMNow" Blakley FireMMNow says:

    the players played poorly, but i do not know how you could watch that game and not feel that they packers were outcoached. the OLBs looked like they had no idea what their assignment was. the ravens OLBs knew exactly what to do. Hit Kaepernick every play no matter what. Leaving an OLB on his heels responsible for the interior gap and outside contain is EXACTLY what the read option wants….they did not even run a pitch option off of it. i do not think i have ever been so disappointed with dom capers as i was after watching that game. it was embarassing.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 3

    • Sven says:

      that is true. I really like Capers, But it felt like he dismissed Kaepernick’s ability. Capers and the defense got schooled in a big way. I think that they learned from it though (I hope so)

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

    • JakeK says:

      Of course you’re correct. In time, some of these posters & bloggers will have GB actually winning that game by rewriting history. Unfortunately, you may see more of the same in 2013. GB is counting on several to improve their ‘D’ like Perry, D. Jones, Boyd, etc. The problem is that none are proven NFL players at this point. It could be a long season.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

    • JV_Waterboy says:

      Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

      Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

  6. Razer says:

    Kaepernick is good. He is big, strong, fast and has a pretty good arm. I can see why the 49ers made the switch. To run for 181 yards in an NFL playoff game is special and should be acknowledged as such. And don’t forget, he plays behind a pro bowl line that manhandled our Dline last year. Combine that with an honest run game, a great TE and some decent receivers and you have a complete offense.

    I have no problem saying that our D was outmatched and outgunned. Capers can’t run onto the field and stop the guy who just stepped around Walden and he can’t shore up the Dline with Mike Daniels and C.J. Wilson. We will have Nick Perry and Datone Jones to help this year but it will be a tall order for these rookies to be the difference makers. It looks like injuries to the opponent (Crabtree) will be our biggest advantage.

    I love my Packers but little has changed on defense since last year. Hopefully, the coaches learned something in Texas and a year of preparation translates into as good a gameplan as we can hope for. Too close to call.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

    • JV_Waterboy says:

      Finally – a Packers fan with some reason. I agree with all of your points other than Kaep having a pretty good arm…..he has a laser.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  7. Big T says:

    I believe Kaperdink is a fluke.. He has some athletic ability, but he will become a headcase… The packers Defense was really just terrible. Any QB that day would appear to be superman…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

    • JV_Waterboy says:

      Ask the Falcons and even the Ravens (though they lost) if he is a fluke. T-Suggs has a different opinion.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

    • Michael says:

      The read option exploded onto the scene last season and teams were not prepared for it. They will be prepared this year.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  8. Chad Toporski Chad Toporski says:

    One thing I noticed in the videos were some particularly bad angles taken in pursuit of Kaepernick. Whether it’s a matter of underestimating his speed or simply not being fast enough, they still came up short in getting close enough to him for the tackle.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  9. Archie says:

    It was the perfect storm – a team that can’t tackle defensing against a team with a big strong OL and multiple run & pass options. Guys like Wilson, Raji, Pickett, Hawk, Walden, Williams, Jennings, Burnett will get eaten alive buy this 9rs team every time out. Replace Williams w House and Jennings with McMillion. Get Raji, Hawk & Pickett off the field. Cut Walden. We did that. Draft Datone Jones. We did that. Get Bishop & Perry back healthy. Now we are talking a much better defense. Also, use the run game to keep the 9r O on the sidelines. That rests the acker D and wears down the 9rs D. Can’t wait for game 1.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  10. Since '61 says:

    I won’t say that Kaerpernick is a fluke, but we have seen him before and his name was Randall Cunningham. The big difference is the 49ers are better coached than that Eagles bunch ever was. They probably have a better O-line as well. I will still take Rodgers over Kapernick any day but I would also take the 49ers O-line over ours as well. Thanks, Since ’61

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  11. JV_Waterboy says:

    Kaepernick was 3rd in the nfl in QBR last year behind Peyton and Brady. Not sure if Randall Cunningham was that good of a passer on his best year. He never made it to the SB with arguably one of the best defenses of the time with Reggie White and Jerome Brown. Maybe watch more than one game of Kaep’s before making crazy comments.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  12. Bearmeat Bearmeat says:

    This is THE make or break year for Capers. The only major player questions are at S and OLB. (Can McMillan et al and Perry actually play?)

    DE/ILB has questions. But not huge ones. Capers has the players to craft a top 10 Defense. If he doesn’t get in the top 1/2, he had better be gone by 2014.

    IMO the biggest difference will be the running game and interior passing game available on O. MM will call more running plays this year and GB actually has the RB’s to pull off a decent run game for the first time since Ahman.

    I see a BIG year for the offense. Like 1997 big. Ergo, if the D can be above average (quite possible), then this is potentially a super bowl team.

    And yes, that means it could very well hang with the 49ers on opening day Cow.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  13. Michael says:

    How ever this thing plays out this season, WE HAVE TO BEAT THE 49ERS!! We used to kick the crap out of them when they had one of the best QBs of all time in Steve Young. I hope karma isn’t catching up to us.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  14. bobalou13 says:

    To those of you who think that the extra shots you take as a QB in the read option are meaningless, ask RGIII. One shot, with his body in an awkward position was all it took. And though he tried to play on, that was it for a great rookie year.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. Jeff Lawver says:

    Totally agree with bobalou. This new fangled option offense will take a toll on any QB eventually. RG111 found out in his first year. Granted Kaepernick is bigger and stronger,but this is still the NFL(Not For Long). Eventually Kaepernick will get some big shots. It’s inevitable, even in the modern watered down version the game.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. Shavager says:

    Packers fans, the problem I had with Kaepernick’s performance in the playoff game-they saw what he could accomplish in the very first game when he spelled Alex Smith before halftime-he went right through Packers defense as SF began to pull away for that first game victory. Kaepernick took over for Smith at QB in game 8 vs Cardinals-Packers and Capers had 8 FULL games of statistics to understand HE IS A RUNNING QB-Capers never adjusted his defense to him in the playoff game. Against the Seahawks-McCarthy adjusted offense, Packers dominated the ‘Hawks in second half. Against the Colts, McCarthy/Capers failed to adjust and GB lost to a rookie QB that outplayed the MVP Rodgers. I fault Capers with the playoff loss-Rodgers and Packers put up enough points to compete-but no matter how close they got–Kaepernick ran GB RIGHT OUT OF THE GAME.

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