GREEN BAY—No one can accuse his defense of being unprepared for this game.
Packers Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers spent an offseason preparing for Sunday’s season opener. He traveled to Texas A&M last winter to learn more about read-option football. He spent painful hours studying tape of last January’s playoff loss in San Francisco, when one of the premier defensive coaches in the game over the last 20 years was forced to swallow the bitter taste of 579 yards allowed.
The Packers used “579” as an offseason theme. They scouted college talent specifically for this game before they even knew when it would be played, and they drafted for it shortly after finding out this game would be their season opener. With that in his mind, Capers then dedicated a period early in every training camp practice to defensing the read option. Now, there’s nothing left to do but to do it.
“We’ve invested our time. Hopefully, we’re prepared,” Capers said on Friday, as the Packers were putting the finishing touches to their plans for Sunday’s rematch with the 49ers at Candlestick Park, the scene of the crime last January.
Capers was harshly criticized for not having his defense schooled in the read option for that game. The 49ers had used it previously, since having installed Colin Kaepernick at quarterback in the second half of the season, but the Packers got an extra dose of it. So did the Falcons a week later, and then the Ravens in the Super Bowl, as Kaepernick rose to stardom in the 49ers’ postseason run to the Super Bowl. Nobody stopped him.
“There was a lot more than what we had done. They had two weeks (to prepare),” Capers said.
The Packers have had seven months to prepare for this game. The only question remaining is: Does 49ers Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman have more to show?
“In the opener, you normally see a third of unscouted looks. You have to focus on what you do and fit that into what they show you,” Capers said. “They’re trying to get an element of surprise.”
Last January, they succeeded.
“Our first two games are against teams … they both have mobile quarterbacks. They do a lot more than that. Everybody focuses on that. The 49ers have a heckuva running game,” Capers said.
Capers’ defense will be facing a 49ers team whose running back, Frank Gore, twice topped 100 yards rushing against the Packers last season. The Packers will be facing a young quarterback known for his running skills, but who posted a 100.9 passer rating in the postseason.
Ironically, Capers gave Roman his start as an NFL coach, and now Roman is his former mentor’s tormentor.
“He’s a very bright guy and he really understands football. He’s worked his way up and he’s one of the top minds in football,” Capers said.
“You can’t let these things get personal. If you do, you’re making a big mistake.”
Offensive Coordinator Tom Clements would like to see his unit move the ball as well on Sunday as it did in that playoff loss in January.
“We only had 56 plays in the game,” Clements said.
This time around, Clements will have a rookie left tackle, David Bakhtiari, making his pro debut against no less a pass rusher than Aldon Smith.
“It’s a challenge for him. We have to mix it up, not let them know what we’re doing, so they don’t tee off on the passer,” Clements said.
That’s where rookie running back Eddie Lacy enters the picture. The Packers need to establish the run to be able to mix their plays and keep the 49ers off balance.
“We’re comfortable with it. The line has blocked well for the run. Eddie is an instinctive runner. He sees the holes pretty well. We’re pleased with it,” Clements said.
A team built for this game is racing toward kickoff. What has been an offseason of preparation is now fewer than 48 hours from proving time. Urgency filled the air on Friday. Additional coverage - Sept. 6