Will All the Packers’ Preparation Prevent a Repeat Performance?

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Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick

Most NFL teams take a very measured approach to week one games. Although coaches want to stress the importance of starting off strong and getting an early notch in the win column, they usually don’t want to overstate that factor and make it seem like the entire season hinges on one game. However, the amount of importance the Green Bay Packers have placed on their week one match up against the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers is anything but usual.

It all started with the Packers opening-day loss to the Niners last season. The 30-22 final score at Lambeau Field made it seem much more respectable than it really was. In all reality though, the San Francisco 49ers came in and ripped through the Green Bay Packers like Walter White rips through a Mexican drug cartel — with brute force and superior strategy.

Then came the NFC Divisional Playoff debacle in which defensive coordinator Dom Capers failed miserably by seeming to prepare for quarterback Alex Smith instead of Colin Kaepernick and the read-option offense he knew would be front and center. Rather than focusing on containing the mobile Kaepernick, like he did to Ben Roethlisberger in Super Bowl XLV, Capers rolled the dice and decided to treat Kaepernick as ordinary. The end result was an embarrassment of riches for the 49ers offense and a downright embarrassment for Capers and the Packers, as San Francisco piled up 579 yards on offense.

After this solid defeat in the playoffs, it was clear the opening day loss at Lambeau Field could no longer be considered a fluke. It became common knowledge/sense that the Niners had surpassed the Packers and were the finer football team. This result rightfully led to questions, exclamations and panic from the press and passionate fans:

“What the hell happened?”
“How could they be so unprepared?”
“Dom Capers needs to go!”
“This defense gets lit up in the playoffs every year!”
“The 49ers really have the Packers number!”

As writers and fans alike searched for answers as to why two promising Packers teams in a row had made early playoff exits, a theory began to emerge. Although credit/blame could go to one of any number of Packers writers, perhaps it was this piece that started the onslaught of suggestions that the Packers were, in practice and in theory, a finesse football team.

Bob McGinn from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel chimed in four days later with his version. Then four days after that Aaron Rodgers was disputing the ‘soft’ tag and defending his team. It suddenly became a feeding frenzy and both the local and national media ran with it and continue to run with it to this day.

The Packers, of course, publicly brushed off the notion that a team only three years removed from Super Bowl glory could possibly be considered soft. Outwardly they remained steadfast that they were once again well-positioned to make another run at the Lombardi Trophy. However, there was plenty of speculation within the walls of Lambeau Field that the Packers brass were quietly acknowledging these allegations, and vowing to do something about them.

It started with a well-publicized coaching-staff field trip to Texas A&M University in February to learn more about the read-option from coach Kevin Sumlin. It was Sumlin who guided Johnny Manziel to Heisman honors utilizing a similar scheme. Although many would have argued that all this game-planning should take place BEFORE a meaningful playoff game ends in disaster, Dom Capers made the trip and managed to hang on to his job.

Then the NFL announced the season schedule on April 18th and put the Packers right back in Candlestick Park on week one. This further fueled the ominous black cloud of doubt hanging over the organization, while also offering an immediate opportunity for redemption. In this case, “immediate” meant almost five months later.

One of the major components of the “soft” label is the Packers total inability to establish any sort of ground game. Teams have been simply keeping their safeties back in a 2-deep zone and daring the inept Packers ground game to hurt them. It never does. Green Bay responded in the draft  by selecting running backs Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin, with the former expected to provide that toughness in a runner not seen since a healthy Ryan Grant, circa 2008.

The Packers went even further. General manager Ted Thompson actually spent some money (gasp!) to sign free agent blocking tight end Matthew Mulligan in order to open up some holes for the running game. Mulligan, however, struggled mightily in training camp both with injuries and production and was cut, not even making the final 53-man roster and eventually landing in New England with the Patriots.

Then, after surprisingly bringing in quarterback Vince Young to back up Aaron Rodgers, the Packers did a complete quarterback line-change by jettisoning both previous backups B.J. Coleman and Graham Harrell. They even eventually sent Young packing only to replace him with not just one former San Francisco quarterback who knows the Niners offense well, but two of them… Seneca Wallace and Scott Tolzien.

The Green Bay Packers have certainly made plenty of moves in preparation to face their now-rival San Francisco 49ers in week one. If Green Bay can exorcise the San Francisco demons on the road, their confidence will be sky high heading into this fledgling 2013 NFL season. But if the Packers fall short after dedicating an entire offseason to taking down the NFC champs, they might have just set themselves up for a very long and disappointing season.

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23 Comments on "Will All the Packers’ Preparation Prevent a Repeat Performance?"

  1. Hank Williams Jr. Sr. III

    Well, look at it this way; Tennessee Tech gave up 606 yards to Bucky today, so the Packer’s defensive play last year in SF is officially not the worst defensive performance of the 2013 calendar year. Score!

    Now, I just hope the dipshit refs let us hit the QB, like promised. That gives the Pack a shot. Otherwise, if Jimmy starts whining and getting some calls, it may be a long day.

  2. Vijay

    This article was posted by Andrew Chitko…I did a double take because I thought it was an Andrew Datko post! I’m like….yeah boyeeeeeeee, you can’t block but you can sure scribble some knowledge up on the muthas’!

  3. Richard

    27-20 Packers. If they lose this game after reeking of this much desperation and with SF heading to Seattle week 2, then the Packers really are middle of the road now.

  4. Deepsky

    This game will be a measure of Caper’s skill as a coordinator because he has had all summer to prepare for one team. If the Packer defense can’t defend the pistol or Harbaugh produces another wrinkle that embarrasses the Packers, the hoards are going to be storming Lambeau with pitch forks and torches calling for his head.

  5. TyKo Steamboat

    Well done.

    Every part of this article have been my feelings exactly.

    Not to look too far ahead…but alot of experts are saying the Bengals have the best roster in the NFL. We go into their house in week 3 & then have the bullshit week 4 BYE. We very well could be 1-2 at that time. Beating SF tomorrow is very important to our staff & our season. GPG

  6. Buster Bluth

    SF has a much better O line and a better D line. Therefore its just a matter of time. The Pack has a good chance in this game only IF the defense is vastly improved.

  7. Packer Bob

    The Packers play another “running” QB in week two. And it’s very possible that they will face one if they make the playoffs. Your fooling yourself if you think all this preparation is just for the 49ers.

    • Andrew Chitko

      Very true Bob. However I would argue that the bulk of this preparation took place because of the 49ers recent dominance over the Packers. I do agree that it will benefit the Packers in later games as well though.

  8. Tequila

    Preparing for the Niners week one isn’t as desperate as it seems, we will be dealing with them and the Peehawks and even the Redskins for years to come.

  9. Savage57

    No

    The Niner’s coaching staff has had eight month’s to prepare for the Packers, just as the smoldering remains of the defense that got lit up for mind-boggling gobs of yardage has had to prepare for the Niner’s read option.

    Harbaugh, prick that he is, is no fool. 9’ers go with straight up run and pass and shitcan the read-option. Packers defenders second guess everything looking for plays that never happen, get torched again as Dom Capers calls defensive adjustments on the plane ride back to Green Bay.

    Sorry guys. This one has ‘The Ass Kicking – Part III written all over it.

    • Andrew Chitko

      Good stuff Savage. In either the ’66 or ’67 Packers ‘America’s Game’ they talked about how a team (the Giants maybe?) was publicly preparing so hard to stop the Packer sweep that Lombardi just tossed it out of his playbook that week. I could totally see the 49ers abandoning it altogether and embarrassing us with something else.

      Either way…is this awesome or what? Man I can’t wait to get into the season. Let’s enjoy the ride.

    • PF4L

      #35 written by PF4L
      09/07/2013 – 1:31 pm

      Food for thought…If I was Harbaugh (Glad i’m not) Based on how much the Packers prepared for the read option, If I was him, i wouldn’t even use it. But he’s not as smart as I am :).

  10. Shawn Iltarion

    I agree that we may see very little of the read option.

    On the other hand, then how are they supposed to “light us up”?

    With Kap throwing to a non-existent WR core? Against our DBs? We’ll see about that.

    I disagree that the 49ers have a better D-Line. Actually, I think ours is better. Besides Justin Smith, whose best tactic is holding Aldon Smith’s guy so that Smith can get after the QB, name one 49er defensive lineman. I dare you.

    No, actually, I think our D-Line is better and deeper than theirs. However, they have probably the best ILB tandem in the league, and we, decidedly, do not. They also have a much better O-line than ours, which is probably where the biggest difference between the two teams lies, except at WR, where ours is hugely superior to theirs.

    Last year, they also had a huge advantage at safety. With Dashon Goldston gone, and hopefully our second year safeties ascending, that advantage no longer exists.

    Will the 49er defense continue the struggle against the pass that it had all postseason, or will the top notch unit show back up? 49er fans have to be just as curious about this game as we are.

    Bottom-line, it is ONE game. Really, being better than the 49ers tomorrow, as great as that would be, is not the end game. Being better than them in January is what matters.

  11. Mike R

    I know everybody is going to overreact if the Packers lose. It is the first game, and no matter the outcome, at the end of the season we will look back at week 1 and it will seems like 2 years ago. The Packers will be a different team 16 weeks from now. So, yes a Packers win on the road to start the season can only be a good things, but at the same time, it’s the first game, it’s a long season, so everyone just relax a little.

  12. PF4L

    So…..Lets see some Packer fans predictions for this game. My heart says the Pack….My head says the 9ers….What say you?

  13. I think the real question is whether or not the Packers have the personal to stop the 49ers. If Dom Capers didn’t have them figured out on paper already then he wouldn’t have a job (and maybe he won’t after this year). Remember, there was no secret to shutting down the Packers offense last year. But only the teams that had the personal to do it were successful.

    Today it comes down to execution. GO PACK GO!

  14. cd4packers

    Hey PF4L..:) I agree with you as usual. I want the Packers to win this game so badly. I think it is a very important game and it is also important to start the season with a win. Especially, to the whiners…a team that cleaned our clocks last time we met. The Defense has to be tough today….the Oline has to do it’s job. Maybe…we will get some semblance of a running game going. We will see soon enough. BTW…go to SKA spikedkoolaid site that is where I will be posting today. Either in the NFCN or the NFCW or the Tailgate party…between the 49rs and Packers. FB me.
    :)

  15. Shawn Iltarion

    Prediction:

    Defense plays a bigger role than people expect. Nick Perry holding down an edge and no Michael Crabtree helps the Packers. Packers D remains stout up the middle.

    The Packers can’t run the football against a strong front 7, and Packer WRs have a hard time getting open. Both Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman allow the 49ers to single Finley with a LB and shut him down, which most defenses can’t do. This leaves few to no good options for Aaron Rodgers, who is sharp and will still make some plays to keep it interesting.

    In the end, Kap’s scrambling on 3rd down makes the difference. The Packers’ O-line and defense should improve as the year goes on, but are not good enough right now to win in San Fran- 27-17 San Fran.

    I would never bet this game though, as I could easily see it going the other way. If the Packers contain Kap and their WRs win their battles, they should win this game.

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