Capers – a playoff choker


A few minutes ago as I was getting worked up again over the loss Saturday, I suddenly remembered that this wasn’t the only horrendous defensive playoff performance by a Dom Capers’ defense. In fact, after doing some research, it could be argued that the atrocious defensive performance Saturday is more the norm for a Capers-led defense (in the playoffs anyway). Check it out:

  • 2009 – The Packers lost in the first round of the playoffs – 51-45 to the Arizona Cardinals in Arizona. Not only did the Packers give up 51 points, they gave up 535 yards, 379 of which were to Kurt Warner and the passing offense. That is terrible playoff defense.
  • 2010 – Ok. This year I’ll give Capers a break. The defense was pretty solid throughout the playoffs right through to the Super Bowl.
  • 2011 – The Packers lost in the first round at home to the Giants – 37-20. The Pack gave up 425 yards of offense, including 330 to Eli Manning and the NYG passing game. Terrible playoff defense.
  • 2012 – The Packers D was admittedly pretty solid against Minnesota in round 1. No question. But in round 2, they gave up 590 yards, including an unforgivable 327 rushing yards, and watched San Fran puke out 45 points. That again is terrible playoff defense.

I highlight this only because my larger concern about Capers is that the guy clearly doesn’t bring it – doesn’t plan well – for the playoffs. Throughout the season he does an OK job, but even then he really has never done anything special with our his defenses (except for 2010). He’s had defenses that have flashed brilliance at times, but he’s never produced consistent defenses that other teams worry about. Wayne Larrivee was saying the other day he thinks Capers will surely stay and that he should, because TT and MM will base evaluations on the full 18 games played, not just one playoff game. But I’d urge Wayne, TT and MM to consider first of all, that over 18 games this year Capers and his defense had yet another pedestrian, unremarkable season – and secondly, that Capers’ having shoddy playoff defensive performances has become a pattern now. And considering playoffs are far more important than the regular season, this can’t be ignored.

I don’t think it would be unfair for TT to essentially say to Capers at this point, next year will be your last if you don’t get the D to perform much better during the season and in the playoffs. (Though looking at the schedule as friend Mike points out, playoffs could be a stretch…)


12 Responses to “Capers – a playoff choker”

  1. RayMidge Says:

    To what degree do you think this performance is a result of the cyclical nature of the sport. What I mean is that the 3-4 seemed a great response to the more pass-happy league. Now the offenses in the league have adjusted to more hybrid offenses (zone read) which exploit the aggressive, upfield rushing OLB. Will it take another adjustment away from the 3-4 to something that uses personnel more suited to stopping the zone read? Does that require a younger, more innovative mind as the DC?

    In a lot of ways, I think the personnel is to blame. Injuries are always a part of the game, but to have so many injuries to the LB corp really hurts a 3-4 and especially in a game with a good running QB. What difference would Perry, Bishop and Williams have made? who knows? I do think Hawk probably has to go, he just isn’t any kind of positive difference maker. Moses and Walden are good backups/role players, but they get exposed with too much playing time.

    The DL is pretty solid, although it is built for a 3-4 alignment. the DBs are good and getting better. the two glaring weaknesses on this team are OL and LB (and I realize I am not the first one to make this point).

    • awhayes Says:

      That’s a great point raymidge. You know, in checking out some stats for my most recent post, I did conveniently leave out the fact that the Capers-led defenses of 2009 and 2010 were ranked 2nd and 5th respectively in total yards given up (in the regular season) – which speaks to your point about his 3-4 defense and its general effectiveness a few years ago. But in 2011 and 2012, we were 32nd and 11th in total yards – so there may in fact be an indication that this style of defense has become ill-suited to some of the nuances of more modern offenses like these hybrid offenses. It would be interesting to do an analysis of how our D has performed against different teams based on their offensive styles (hybrid, traditional run, spread/pass-focused, etc).

      I agree that our secondary does show promise and as much as I am concerned about Capers playoff performances, I have to say he and his staff have done well to get some young dudes ready to play (and play immediately at a high level). I think House, Hayward and Shields should get lots of playing time in the next few years. High quality there.

      Your point about LBs is a good one. In a 3-4, there is a premium placed on LB play and when you have injuries/weak starters, your D is suddenly at a serious disadvantage. Bishop may have made at least a little difference (he’s a good run defender and very good at pressuring QBs from the middle). I didn’t see all that much promise frankly from Perry before his injury – and Williams got hurt so fast it’s hard to know (though I like his style generally). I think TT needs to give some thought to drafting or otherwise picking up/trading for (won’t happen) a high profile ILB guy. If we could get rid of Hawk and have someone else quality playing next to Bishop, the defense could suddenly become a force. But we’d still be one injury away from further issues- so we’d need better depth there too. Another option may be reassess our personnel and possibly move back to a 4-3 defense, and I’d say even consider a cover 2 type D as teams like the Bears who go with that (and pull in appropriate personnel) seem to be consistently pretty good. As weird as it may seem, I wonder if Matthews could be a DE in a 4-3 kind of like Jean Pierre Paul.

      • Dave in Tucson Says:

        QBs since 2002 that have also ran for at least 50 yards on Packers:

        2002 W1: Vick 9 attempts 72 yards (W)
        2002 WC: Vick 10/64 (L)
        2003 W1: Culpepper 9/50 (L)
        2003 W4: Kordell Steward: 12/71 (W)
        2003 DV: McNabb 11/107 (L, 4th+26 game)
        2004 WC: Culpepper 6/54 (L)
        2008 W1: Tarvaris Jackson 9.65 (W)
        2010 W1: Vick 11/103 (W)
        2010 W4: Shaun Hill 4/53 (W)
        2011 W2: Newton 10/53 (W)
        2012 WC: Webb 7/68 (W)
        2012 DV: Kaepernick 16/181 (L)

        * Some of the most painful memories from the last 11 years 😦
        * Thank God Sherman is gone, anyway
        * I think that game against the Vikings would’ve been a lot closer if they had stuck to that run-heavy offense they used on the first drive.

  2. Dave K Says:

    Hee hee…maybe we should hire Lovie Smith to install a 4-3 for us.

    The simpler path would be to find a bone crushing ILB to play next to Bishop and to find a havoc causing OLB to play opposite Matthews. Do those two things and this defense goes from average to top-5.

    Capers isn’t going anywhere UNLESS they think one of two things:

    1. Capers doesn’t have the drive or worth ethic anymore to get the job done.

    2. Darren Perry is ready to lead the defense. (because he is going to be a DC for someone soon anyways)

  3. 56coop Says:

    Adam Schein & Rich Gannon said that he was one of the top 5 dc’S in the league & shouldn’t be going anywhere if you put any stock in their opinion. Most of the “pundits” are blaming personnel not scheme. All I know is I don’t understand why you don’t put a spy on Kaepernick. Every time the pocket collapsed around him off he’d go. With the likes of him, Wilson, Cam Newton, RG III etc. the NFL is just going to become a faster version of NCAA. All the steps the league has taken to protect the QB and now their taking off of 20-30 yd scampers and then slide. I’ve always heard that running QB’s don’t last in the NFL. Things, they are a changin…..

    Anyway, seems to me we pretty much had trouble with that part of the field, 5-15 yd zone right in the middle, all year.

  4. Dave in Tucson Says:

    I’m not totally disagreeing with you, but let me make some points in Capers’ favor:

    — In 2008, the Packers had the 22nd ranked defense (points allowed), and they lost 10 games, many because the defense couldn’t hold a 4th-quarter lead.

    — Since Capers took over as DC, every season the Packers have won at least 10 games and qualified for the playoffs. And, of cuorse, won a Super Bowl.

    — Let’s give the 2010 defense the props they deserve. They dominated in the regular season, and played a big part in every playoff win in that Super Bowl run.

    — Yeah, 2011 was a disappointing drop off (in part because they were so good the year before). But don’t forget Nick Collins was lost in week 2. He was a big-time playmaker I think near the same level as Woodson and Matthews, but never seemed to get the same level of recognition.

    — The defense was better in 2012, ranked 11th in points allowed. In spite of some pretty major injuries (Desmond Bishop, D.J. Smith, Nick Perry). Charles Woodson sat out a big chunk of the season, and Clay Matthews missed 4 games.

    If TT and MM are willing to keep him on, I don’t have a problem with Capers getting another year. On the other hand, I think it does have to be a make-or-break year for him; the defense needs to continue to show improvement or we need to find another DC.


  5. Travis Says:

    I haven’t made up my mind if I’d like to see him stay or go.

    But I will say this.

    I am very unhappy about what I saw in San Fran last week. Specifically the game planning and the adjustments made.

    It makes me sick to watch how our defense was called and how nothing changed throughout the course of the game.

    What I really want to stress is this simple point. It’s one thing to be in position to make a play, but not make the play. It’s another to not even be there to make the play.

    And quite frankly I’d say we were for most of the game NOT in position to make the play, especially on the QB.

    What pisses me off most is the fact anybody should of known they do an option read style offense with kaepernick now at QB and he does run the ball whenever he gets the chance. It should not of been a surprise for any fan, let alone defensive coordinator.

    So with them clearly knowing their style of offense, why did we leave so much open field giving him the ability to run. Nobody there at all to stop Kaepernick from running.

    I didn’t mind the idea of playing a lot of man coverage. That’s fine. I think Capers was hoping to send a lot of pressure and play man coverage not giving him time to throw and nowhere to go. But it wasn’t working.

    The pressure was not getting their fast enough. That showed because the times he threw and made big completions was largely in part because he had enough time for the WR to get open. And when we had good coverage, he ran past all the blitzers and then there is absolutely nobody in the second level.

    I honestly don’t recall ONE TIME where I saw somebody even close to him when he decided to run. It’s a first down EVERY TIME. Over and over. You don’t give up 180 rushing yards to a QB if your doing something right.

    Thing is, didn’t we prepare? We spent a week on what? What did we EXPECT to happen?

    And most importantly.. WHY didn’t we do something throughout the game. We would play alright defense, but 3rd down, he runs and picks it up. We had a chance if we changed it up. Even if it didn’t work, what we had been doing clearly wasn’t working either.

    So you tell me? Did it look like we did a good job of game planning? Because to be quite honest, it didn’t even look like we game planned for Kaepernick. If I had to guess, I would of said we planned to be playing Alex smith instead. Just that alone makes me very worried. How can a defensive coordinator do that.

    And did we ever see any adjustments? Like I said, if the guys were just missing and not making the play its one thing. But you can’t make a play if the guy isn’t there in the first place. Capers needs to be calling the right plays, and having the guys in the right places to stop the offence. And all I saw the whole game was the same thing. Nobody there to stop the QB from running, ever. And it showed, 180 yards later.

    Disgusted. I know injuries have hurt, but put a guy in position to make a play. Even a couple stops MAY of been enough to win that game. The offence wasn’t terrible (where the HELL was Cobb) and we had a few bad breaks (PR fumble).

    Either way, not impressed in the defensive coaching. Whether he keeps the job or not, I will never forget how bad of a performance Capers showed up with last Saturday. And it does worry me that he may make the same mistakes in the future.

  6. Cindy V. Says:

    Here is my take on the Packer defense: losing that last game in Minnesota doomed us. It moved the Packers from second seed and a bye to a wild card playoff. That gave San Francisco an extra week to prepare for the Packers. And prepare for the Packers they did because they were counting on the Vikings to lose at Lambeau. So while Capers spent a week figuring how to hold Peterson to under 200 yards, the 49ers were designing plays for their quarterback. After the wild card game, the Packers had three days to prepare for the 49ers. Some of the players have commented that they were seeing things on the field that they never saw before and didn’t know how to react. It certainly explains why there was little to no adjustments at halftime.

    The other thing that really pissed me off was that no defensive player or coach spoke to reporters after the game. They all walked out like a bunch of cowards. You played flat. Put on your big boy underwear and man up to it.

  7. 56coop Says:

    I know it’s far from over but I sure hope Capers is paying attention to ATlanta’s defense

  8. Dave K Says:

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