this Jan. 12, 2013 file photo, San Francisco 49ers
quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) runs against the Green Bay
Packers during an NFC divisional playoff NFL football game
in San Francisco. The last time the Packers saw Kaepernick
in person, he was a meteor tearing through their flimsy
defense. When Green Bay journeys to San Francisco for
Sunday's marquee matchup with the NFC champion 49ers, that
defense better be a lot stingier, or the Packers will get
smashed up again.
GREEN BAY —
Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers and his fellow
coaches went back to school after the team's ugly loss to San
Francisco in the playoffs last season.
McCarthy sent his coaches on a day trip early in the offseason to
College Station, Texas, to talk football with the staff from Texas
A&M. Lessons learned from that meeting as well as subsequent
discussions with other college coaches about defending the read
option could play a part Sunday when the Packers return to San
Francisco for a rematch.
Green Bay can
only hope for a better outcome. The 49ers, led by elusive
quarterback Colin Kaepernick, caught the Packers' defense
flat-footed as they ran and threw their way to 579 total yards and
a spot in the NFC championship with a 45-31 win. It raised the
stakes a bit for this season's opener.
let it linger in your mind," Capers said. "Every week's
a new game, and obviously we're disappointed in the way we played
there. But we're looking forward to the challenge this week."
The Packers have
known since April when the NFL released the season schedule that
they would be seeing the 49ers again right away. Preparing for
another shot at Kaepernick after he set a single-game NFL record
by a quarterback with 181 rushing yards in the playoff meeting
started several weeks earlier when the defensive coaches visited
Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin and his assistants covered their version
of Xs and Os as it pertains to employing an up-tempo, zone-read
offense with the quarterback squarely as the centerpiece.
flourished in Sumlin's system last season, becoming the first
freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. Manziel rushed for more than
1,300 yards and amassed 5,100-plus yards in total offense.
"We had a
nice visit with them," Capers said. "We talked on both
sides of the ball because obviously they went in and beat Alabama
in Alabama. So you kind of wanted to look at that tape and see the
things. And, of course, Kevin's run that offense for many years
and just talking with him about things that potentially gave him
how valuable spending part of just one day with the Texas A&M
coaches would be for giving the Green Bay staff some guidance for
defending the read option in the NFL.
like we went down there and got a whole new scheme or
something," Capers said. "We just kind of wanted to get
different animals — college to here," added Capers, who has
coached 42 years, the last 28 in the NFL. "But let me say
this, 30 years ago, I was having some of the same conversations,
because when you're coaching at Tennessee and you're playing
against Bear Bryant and you're at Ohio State and you're opening up
with Oklahoma, you spend a lot more time talking about that guy
handing the ball and pulling it and pitching it and all that
stuff. You stay in something long enough, it goes full circle, and
it comes back around to where you have to deal with it.
that probably every team in the league is trying to make sure that
their players are familiar with it and that type of thing, because
it really didn't show up until real late last year. You didn't
have a lot to go off of."
The Packers have
made considerable use of the film from their debacle against the
49ers on Jan. 12, when a combination of read-option plays and
breakaway scrambles by Kaepernick contributed to a whopping 323
rushing yards by San Francisco. Its 579 yards is the third highest
single-game output in an NFL playoff game.
around the league long enough to know that on any game or any
given day, things might not go your way," said Capers, the
Packers' defensive coordinator since 2009. "You've got to be
able to learn from them and work at it and try to make it better
the next time because those things happen."
Green Bay will
see another running quarterback in a Week 2 visit from
Washington's Robert Griffin III.
Capers also met
with new Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda in Green Bay
this spring. Previously in the same role at Hawaii, Aranda's
defenses had success keeping Kaepernick under wraps when the
quarterback starred at Nevada.
linebackers coach Kevin Greene also talked read option with
Illinois State assistant head coach/defensive line coach Spence
"I think all
of your intel out there, everything can assist you, hopefully, in
increasing your vision and understanding of the mentality of the
attack with the zone-, read-option stuff," Greene said.
"You take all of that stuff and you file it away and you come
up with the best game plan."
Matthews feels the defense is sufficiently prepared for the
rematch with Kaepernick.
just schematically we're much more sound," Matthews said.
"We understand what they're capable of doing, the
capabilities of not only the scheme but the players as well and
what they possess. So I feel like we're more than ready to handle
the read option and it's just about executing now."