Déjà vu has descended upon the Green Bay Packers-and not in a good way.
For the second time in eight months, and third time in the past calendar year, the Packers lost to the 49ers, leaving the Packers asking the question “What happened?”
The answer to that question is simple.
The answer is Dom Capers.
Ever since the Packers lost to the 49ers last September, many (including myself) have been unrelenting in my stance of being finished with Capers. And for good reason. Defensive meltdowns in playoff losses in 2009, 2011, and 2012 will have that effect on people, even if someone has the reputation for being a defensive genius.
And Capers was-key word being was-a defensive genius in the 1990’s. His work with the zone blitz scheme was revolutionary and helped change the way defenses operated.
Only problem with that is this is 2013, and teams have figured out ways to beat the zone blitz, which equals beating Capers.
Capers enters every game with a specific game plan of how he wants to attack the opposing offense the same as all coordinators do. His plan is to utilize his base 3-4 and incorporate different fronts and blitzes in the hope of causing chaos and confusion. Sometimes it works, often times it does not, because teams have figured out how to take advantage of Capers’ calls.
Blitz a ILB-find a hole in the middle zone and throw into that area.
Show man coverage-run it outside where there are fewer defenders.
Play 10 yards off the receiver-throw a 7 yard slant.
These are just a few examples of what offenses are doing to defeat Capers and his scheme.
A major problem with the Packers defense is the inability to make adjustments during the game. While most defensive coordinators will the adapt the game plan with what is happening on the field, Capers either refuses to deviate from his plan, or simply cannot find anything in his vast playbook to stop a team on the move against his defense.
Case in point: the last two games the Packers have played.
Against the 49ers in the playoffs, the Packers were COMPLETELY unprepared for the read option. COMPLETELY. They had no answers to begin the game once Colin Kaepernick began running all over the field. It looked like they had never seen this type of offense on the field. Capers could not come up with anything to even slow them down, and 579 yards later, the Packers went home losers.
Throughout the offseason, stopping the read option was a focal point. It had to be stopped if the Packers had any chance of beating the 49ers to begin the 2013 season. Coaches were sent to college-literally-to study the read option, thinking of ways to slow down this new approach to NFL offenses.
So what did the 49ers do on Sunday against the Packers? The complete reverse of what they had practiced all spring and summer.
They threw the ball all over the field, essentially eliminating the running part of the read option from their offensive playbook for a week. Instead of running all over them, Kaepernick torched the Packers defense to the tune of over 400 passing yards.
And what did Capers do to adjust his gameplan from read option to a passing attack? Nothing. Not one thing.
Sure the running defense was stout, giving up less than 100 yards which was a nice improvement from last January. But beyond that, the defense looked overwhelmed by the defending NFC champs.
Not having Morgan Burnett and Casey Hayward on the field didn’t help matters for the Packers. But considering the way the 49ers were moving the ball almost at will, their presence might not have made that much of a difference.
As a result of yet another poor performance by the defense, frustration has begun to set in with some of the green and gold faithful, and for good reason.
A team which has the Super Bowl on its mind cannot go through another season of bending so incredibly far. They have to find a way to stop 400+ yards and 30+ points allowed games from being the norm if they even want to consider making the playoffs, let alone the Super Bowl. And it begins with Capers.
He has got to start making adjustments to his defense mid-game. For a supposed defensive genius, he looks downright foolish with his apparent inability to do this. Failure to do so will result in nothing good for the Packers, and could very well spell the end of his tenure sooner rather than later.
When Dom Capers came to Green Bay, he was seen as the savior for the defense. He brought with him an impressive resume of successful defenses, with the hope that he could transform an average to poor defense into a great defense. For a while, it seemed this was the case. 2009 (before the epic playoff loss to the Cardinals) and 2010 were mostly successful. But defensive fortitude has been far too infrequent since then, replaced too often with an inability to defend against quality teams.
That is how the entire 2011 season operated, and how the 2012 season began and ended.
2013 may be a brand new season, but so far, it sure looks like the same old Dom Capers is calling the shots on defense.
John Rehor is a writer at PackersTalk.com.
He can also be heard as one of the Co-Hosts of Cheesehead Radio. ---------------------
He can also be heard as one of the Co-Hosts of Cheesehead Radio.You can follow John on twitter at jrehor or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.