Trent Stutzman

Capers Has Earned One More Year

Created on Jan. 07, 2014 2:23 PM EST

Going into the Green Bay Packers’ Round 1 matchup with the San Francisco 49ers, Dom Capers was essentially coaching for his job. It wasn’t an unfair situation, given his recent history of trying, but failing miserably, to stop Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco offense. The defense’s fall in production from 2009 and 2010 to now also didn’t put him in a favorable situation.

As it turned out, it was his defense that lost Sunday’s playoff game in the end. The 49ers marched down the field and milked the clock to kick the game-winning field goal as time expired.

But overall, it was a fine performance from Capers’ unit. Going against the same offense that averaged 536.5 total yards and 39.5 points against Green Bay in its two prior matchups, the Packers’ defense only gave up 23 points and 381 yards Sunday night. Those aren’t dominant numbers by any means, but it’s a huge improvement against a great offense that has owned them as of late.

More importantly, it happened without Clay Matthews, Johnny Jolly, Sam Shields and Mike Neal. The only two outside linebackers for almost the entire game were Nick Perry and Andy Mulumba, and Mulumba had to leave for a period of time with a knee injury. Jamari Lattimore and Datone Jones, an inside linebacker and defensive lineman, had to fill the void.

Look at the feats this defense accomplished Sunday:

  • Only allowed six points on two 1st-quarter San Francisco possessions that reached inside the 10-yard line.
  • Forced a turnover.
  • Sacked the ultra-elusive Kaepernick three times.
  • Kept the offense in the game by shutting out the 49ers in the third quarter.
  • Micah Hyde was in position to make a game-winning interception.
  • Again, did this with all those injuries.

Under normal circumstances, a defensive performance like this would be plenty enough for the Packers to win. With Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson all on the same offense, they should be able to score over 23 points easily. They did go against an awesome 49ers defense, but their points in the last two matchups against that same unit were 31 and 28. Unfortunately, it was just one of those days. Slow offensive starts to both halves and a career-postseason-worst 177 passing yards by Rodgers was just too much to overcome.

Capers’ defense has been up and down all season, and the past few years too, but I think Sunday’s game officially secured his job for at least one more year. The defense looked quite awful during the middle of the year once Rodgers went out, but it regained its footing and ended the year strong. It held three of the final four regular season opponents under 350 total yards, and the one game it didn’t, at Dallas, it was great at forcing field goals instead of touchdowns and gave the offense the opportunity it needed to win.

Looking at next year’s potential defensive roster is another reason to let Capers stay for another year. He specializes at creating complex blitz packages, and it looks like the Packers could have a pretty good corps of pass-rushers. Clay Matthews, Mike Daniels and Brad Jones are all accomplished pass-rushers for their respective positions, while Nick Perry, Datone Jones and Micah Hyde all are young, raw prospects that could turn into strong quarterback tormenters very soon.

I’ve been skeptical of Capers’ performance, especially following the previous two losses to the 49ers. But the defense’s recent improvement tells me he hasn’t quite lost his mojo. Give him some good pieces to work with, and I think this defense can become a top-10 unit again.

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