GREEN BAY—Thanks to the injury that sidelined quarterback Christian Ponder, the Minnesota Vikings gave the Packers defense a preview of what they’ll be facing this Saturday in San Francisco.
“We’re going to see another powerful runner and an athletic quarterback,” Packers Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers said.
Capers had to adjust his game plan for Saturday night’s wild-card playoff game against the Vikings, when he learned in the hours before kickoff that an elbow injury might sideline Ponder.
“We knew Ponder had been on the injury list all week. They did a nice job,” Capers said in complimenting the Vikings on disguising the severity of Ponder’s injury. “The first I heard about (Ponder not playing) was yesterday.”
Ponder’s replacement, Joe Webb, is a running quarterback. Capers quickly began looking at old tape of Webb, to get a feel for what the Packers would face. What Capers saw was a running quarterback who would rush seven times for 68 yards against the Packers.
“You’re not going to run a totally different game plan, but you have to adjust to what you see,” Capers said.
The Packers are going to see a similar quarterback in San Francisco. Though Colin Kaepernick only became a starter late in the season, he has rushed 63 times for 415 yards, five touchdowns and a 6.6 yards per carry average. He and leading rusher Frank Gore (1,214 yards, eight touchdowns and a 4.7 average) present a formidable one-two rushing punch.
That’s where the Packers’ got valuable experience against the Vikings. The Packers held Webb and rushing champion Adrian Peterson to 167 yards combined.
“We were more pleased with the way we played the run,” Capers said in comparing Saturday night’s effort to the 199 yards rushing the Packers allowed Peterson the previous week.
“Our guys did a good job of learning. We were more patient holding our gap control.”
The 49ers rushed for 186 yards in a dominant performance against the Packers on opening day, in a 30-22 49ers win. The Packers’ defensive lineup was heavy with rookies making their professional debut that day.
“We’ve played an awful lot of rookies and those rookies aren’t rookies now. We’re quite a bit different now. Hopefully, they’re more confident in our scheme and what we want to do,” Capers said.
Meanwhile, Offensive Coordinator Tom Clements was disappointed in his unit’s performance in the second half of last night’s game. The Packers scored on the opening possession of the second half and then did little in the rest of the game.
“We didn’t play well. (The Vikings) were playing with more intensity than we were. It was not a good ending to the game,” Clements said.
His message to his players?
“Not happy about it. Can’t happen in a playoff game. You can’t let your foot off the gas,” Clements said.
The defense responded to a similar message last week with an inspired performance that has the Packers in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs.Additional coverage - Jan. 6