Soft Zone or Blitz? What Will Packers DC Dom Capers Do?

Christian Ponder - Packers Blitz

Will Packers blitz Christian Ponder?

Now that we’ve dissected the “Peterson Problem” here and here, it’s time to turn to the guy who really won the game last week for the Vikings: Christian Ponder.  The Packers made a huge mistake by being passive and letting Ponder get comfortable. This was the exact opposite approach they took against Ponder in the first meeting of this season.

Rightfully so, Packers fans are up in arms again over Dom Capers’ use of the soft zone / 3-man rush last week, specifically on 3rd downs. The one play that has caused the most consternation was the 3rd and eleven with 2 minutes left in the game. Capers went to the three man rush with only one DL. With no pressure, Ponder found the soft spot in the zone for a 25-yard completion that kept the Vikings game-winning drive alive.

While one could argue that Casey Hayward did not execute his drop properly, thus creating the open area, this is not just about one play. Throughout the game, Capers kept the blitz in his pocket, especially on third downs.

Keven Seifert of the ESPN NFC North Blog uncovered some very pertinent statistics from the Packers – Vikings two meetings this season (full article here):

Overall, the Packers sent 5 or more pass rushers after Ponder 60% of the time in Game 1, and only 44% in Game 2. But wait, that’s not even the good part:

In their first meeting, the Packerblitzed Ponder a whopping 75% of the time on third down. Ponder’s resulting cumulative QBR rating on those down was a horrendous 5.5.

In last week’s game, the Packers blitzed Ponder only 25% of the time on 3rd down.  Ponder’s resulting cumulative QBR on those plays was a whopping 98.6.

Think that made a difference in the result?

Adrian Peterson had pretty much the same performance in both games. The difference was Ponder. Why was Ponder different? The Packers allowed him to be.

Here’s hoping the defensive game plan more resembles the first time around…


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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.