Defense, Capers, blown out, season over
By Rob Demovsky, Press-Gazette
~SAN FRANCISCO — Dom Capers and his defensive players will be left to answer one question the entire offseason: Why couldn’t they stop a quarterback they knew would try to beat them with his feet?
The Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator couldn’t devise much of anything that worked against San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his blazing speed in Saturday’s NFC divisional playoff game at Candlestick Park. Capers couldn’t come up with much to slow him down.
Some games are decided by a multitude of players. This game, a crushing 45-31 loss for the Packers, was decided by one.
And when that one player, quarterback Colin Kaepernick, rushed for 181 yards — the most ever by an NFL quarterback — there were few answers.
“We expected them to try to get him out on the perimeter,” Packers safety Charles Woodson said. “But we didn’t expect to let him do what we did. Give him a lot of credit. He made plays, a lot of great plays out there. It was hard to swallow.”
No quarterback has ever had a day quite like that.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Kaepernick, who didn’t even take over the 49ers starting job until Nov. 19, obliterated the previous playoff record for rushing yards by a quarterback (119 by Michael Vick on Jan. 15, 2005) and eventually surpassed Vick’s 2002 record of 173 yards, the most rushing yards by a quarterback in any game — regular season or playoffs.
Joe Webb, the running quarterback the Packers beat the previous week in the wild-card win over the Minnesota Vikings, turned out to be no preparation for Kaepernick, who more than made up for his interception that cornerback Sam Shields returned for a touchdown on the game’s opening drive. Kaepernick had rushing touchdowns of 20 and 56 yards against a rushing defense that ranked 17th in yards allowed during the regular season.
Kaepernick ran the read-option plays that have become the 49ers new identity nearly to perfection. He sucked in the perimeter defenders and then bounced it outside. When the Packers did hold contain, he either handed it off to running back Frank Gore (23 rushes for 119 yards and one touchdown) or made something himself.
“I can’t really speak specifics on it, but it’s about assignment football,” Packers defensive tackle B.J. Raji said. “Obviously, we didn’t do our assignments as a defense. Everyone has a job to do, and we didn’t do that.”
Capers assigned several different players to spy Kaepernick, but that didn’t work, either.
“(Expletive), you can’t let him out of there,” Woodson said. “It’s that simple. You get good rushes on the guy, and he finds that one hole, that one gap. He gets out of there, and it seems like it’s 10 yards at a pop.”
If Vick didn’t completely change the way quarterbacks in the NFL play, perhaps the new wave of quarterbacks, including Kaepernick, Washington’s Robert Griffin III and Seattle’s Russell Wilson, will. And if so, Capers and his long-standing 3-4 scheme will have to find ways to adapt to it.
After his interception, Kaepernick didn’t make many more mistakes. He threw for 263 yards and two touchdowns while completing 17 of 31 passes.
The 56-yard run was the clincher. He faked the handoff to Gore, who drew the attention of left outside linebacker Erik Walden. As Kaepernick ran around right end, Walden had his back to the ball carrier. By the time he realized Kaepernick still had the ball, it was too late.
“I played my responsibility; he just got a step on me,” Walden said. “Anytime a quarterback that fast gets a step on you, it’s pretty much over.”
And it was. The Packers benched Walden after that, but it was too late. When asked what adjustments Capers made, Woodson said: “We didn’t make any adjustments.”
Woodson then paused for a second, smiled as if he had something more to say but only added: “You know, wasn’t good out there.”
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