Capers Vs. Kaepernick, Round III
The Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers have quite a history between one another, especially in the playoffs (See: 1995 playoffs, The Catch II, 579). The Packers lead the all-time series 34-29-1, but with the current form of each team, San Francisco owns Green Bay 3-0.
As the Packers prepare to end that streak and finally get over the hump that is the 49ers, I only see one matchup that will be key in deciding the outcome of this game. San Francisco’s offensive line versus a Johnny Jolly-less defensive line? Nope. Frank Gore versus a regressing run defense? Nope. Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb shaking off the rust to get into prime form? Still no.
The answer is simple. Don’t over think it. It’s Dom Capers versus Colin Kaepernick. We already pretty much know how those aforementioned matchups will go – the 49ers’ offensive line will get the better of the Packers’ defensive front, Frank Gore will have a field day and Rodgers and Cobb will be fine and put up big numbers. But with Kaepernick, who knows?
Last year in the playoffs, he owned Capers and his defense, setting a quarterback record of 181 rushing yards in a game while adding 263 passing yards and four total touchdowns. The biggest offseason storyline became “Will Capers be able to figure out how to stop the read option?” Well, after Week 1 this season, we got our answer.
Capers indeed stopped the read option – Kaepernick only rushed seven times for a total of 22 yards – but this time, the San Francisco quarterback torched Green Bay through the air. He put up 412 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions that day. And it’s not like Kaepernick is exactly Drew Brees – he surpassed 200 passing yards only five other times this season, and he’s only gone over 300 two other times in his career (310 in this year’s regular season finale and 302 in Super Bowl XLVII).
It appears Kaepernick has Capers’ number. If you blitz him, he becomes Steve Young to escape and run all over the field. If you contain him, he’s Joe Montana, methodically carving up your weakness at safety (Side note: this problem should be not quite as severe this time around. The starting safeties for Green Bay in Week 1 were Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings. McMillian has since been cut, Jennings was kind of benched for Sean Richardson and normal starter Morgan Burnett has returned from his hamstring injury. But still, Richardson looks very raw, and Burnett has not lived up anywhere near to his four-year, $24.75 million extension).
If I was to guess, Capers will take an approach closer to the one in Week 1. He’s without his best pass-rusher in Clay Matthews, who also is the only player athletic enough to chase down Kaepernick. Loading up against the run would also help limit Gore’s effectiveness, so you’re killing two 49ers with one stone. Which means he’s going to have to find some way to cover up his weaknesses in the secondary. Sam Shields and Tramon Williams have been playing better late in the year, but the safeties are still a problem. Add in the fact that the 49ers will have Michael Crabtree this time around, and this strategy isn’t sounding too appealing either.
So what are you gonna do, Dom? The offense will do its part. You’ve had two cracks at figuring out how to stop Kaepernick, and failed miserably each time. If you falter once again, don’t expect the Packers to be playing past round one.