I think this season’s underwhelming defensive performance is largely a result of Dom Capers calling a very conservative game plan. I think he’s doing so for a couple of reasons:
1) Covering up for Tramon William’s not-quite-healed shoulder (at least I hope it’s his shoulder that’s causing him to play not so well). As a result, we’ve seen a lot more zone coverage and a lot less of the aggressive man-to-man play that we’re used to seeing from Tramon.
|He's so fly.|
2) Capers does not trust Charlie Peprah. Having a player like Nick Collins at safety allowed the Packer’s secondary to play more recklessly and aggressively, knowing they had Collins covering over the top. I think people are too mean to Charlie, but he’s certainly a step down from Collins. As a result, the secondary is playing farther off their men and are unable to contest the catch. This is exacerbated by the fact that many of the players seem to have forgotten how to tackle, leading to big gains after the catch.
Here’s my thing, though: the Packers are presumably playing this “off and soft” coverage to keep the ball in front of them and prevent big plays from happening. But … they’re still giving up huge plays every single game! So, if you’re already giving up big plays, why not show some more aggressive coverage? Just occasionally, mind you, not all the time. The worst thing that can happen is what’s been happening all year: you give up the big play. It’s a little high risk-reward, but when you’ve been losing those risks anyway, you might as well try for the reward.
It did seem like the secondary got more aggressive in the Minnesota game, showing a lot more man-to-man. The result was two Charles Woodson interceptions and two more Charles Woodson almost-interceptions.
|Get used to seeing this picture. I can't get enough of it.|
I was glad Capers finally decided to go after a rookie quarterback in Ponder, but I would have liked to see even more pressure. I get that Ponder is good and Cam Newton is exceptional, but these are rookie freakin quarterbacks! Rattle them! Scare them! Put the fear of God in them! Show them a defensive look they can’t read. Pull out the Psycho package. Do something to show that you’re the Super Bowl Champions and they are a lowly rookie.
Remember the NFC Championship game last year? After Quitler went out of the game** and Chicago’s third-string quarterback Caleb Hanie went in? Instead of throwing the kitchen sink at this guy who was playing in his fourth NFL game ever, the Packers backed off on defense, playing a very vanilla and conservative scheme while Hanie marched the Bears down field for two touchdowns!
|Thank goodness for B.J. Raji!|
I like Dom Capers. I think he’s an excellent defensive coordinator, one of the best in the business. I also trust him. I think the Packers’ defense will continue to improve this season. But every once in a while he does something that makes me nearly apoplectic, like the NFC Championship game, or using Clay Matthews as a spy in the Super Bowl (Yes, put a spy on Roethlisberger. Good idea. Very smart. But don’t make Clay Matthews your spy! Don’t take your BEST PASS RUSHER and have him sit back and track Roethlisberger. Anyone - seriously, anyone - else on that defense would have been a better choice for a spy. I don’t understand you sometimes, Dom!).
But, as I said, I do think this defense will improve. Sam Shields is back after missing a game. Zombo's back. Tramon's shoulder and Clay's quad had the bye week off. Morgan Burnett might be able to play without a club on his broken hand. And as long as the Pack continues to have a strong redzone defense and keeps creating turnovers, I suppose I can stand the gaudy numbers they’re allowing opposing offenses.
- Tim Tebow is terrible. That being said, his coach and organization are not helping him at all. No offensive line. No one to throw it to (if Tebow, hypothetically, were able to throw). Coach John Fox does not seem to be a fan. Tebow was drafted under a different coach and a different GM and it feels like Fox got forced into playing Tebow. I think Fox is more interested in shutting up the Tebow devotees than trying to help Tebow. When asked after this week’s dreadful game if Tebow was still the starter, Fox said, “For this week, yes.” Thanks for the vote of confidence, Coach!
|I know he's not very good, but he's just so darn likeable!|
- Can we stop all this absurd “Peyton Manning for MVP” talk? Yes, Peyton Manning is good. One of the top quarterbacks to ever play the game. But let’s not pretend that he alone could prevent this season from being a disaster for the Colts. He may be the quarterback, offensive coordinator, and coach, but he couldn’t help the pitiful defense, and there’s only so much he could do with the current talent on offense. Also, I’ve always thought Tom Brady was better.
- Peyton Hillis re-injured his hamstring. This isn’t going to help the fact that everyone in Cleveland kind of hates him right now.
- It must be embarrassing for Philip Rivers that everyone is suggesting he’s hiding an injury. That’s never a good sign when people are trying desperately to come up with excuses as to why you’re playing so badly. (I’m kinda mean to Rivers because his on-field petulance bothers me, but I did feel really bad for him after last week’s game-losing fumble.)
|I know, Phil. Rough game.|
- Why am I never afraid of the San Diego Chargers? They always put up big numbers and they’re always being picked to go to the Super Bowl, but they just don’t feel like contenders. Particularly this season. But, just in case, let’s hope they’re not out to make a statement Sunday when the Packers visit.
**Y’all know I hate Jay, and I hate to defend him, but I really thought the criticism of him coming out of the game in the NFC Championship was way unfair. It’s hard to throw when you can’t plant your leg, people. I could not believe that people - including Chicago "fans"! - were questioning him. Totally, totally out of line.
Because I just defended Jay Cutler, which goes against every fiber of my being, here are some pictures of him getting sacked by Packer players.
|Good Lord, he's wearing eyeliner!|
|Haha, look at his face!|
Ah, everything is right in the world once again.