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Fans air it out on 'Miserable Monday'

Defense at heart of the criticism for 45-31 playoff loss to 49ers


Matt from Dyersville, IA

I know you love BAP drafting, and the Packers have landed some very good players that way. I just hope this year some of those BAP are linemen who can punch the opponent in the mouth.

I would agree that 323 yards rushing would indicate a need for players that can "punch." I had never covered a team that allowed 323 yards rushing.

Aaron from Fort Wayne, IN

You know what is one of the worst parts of Saturday's loss? Now we have to listen to the "fire Capers" crowd. He took the worst defense in the NFL and turned it into an 11th-ranked defense in one season, and I understand the new players played a huge part in this, but other people think it's all on him so shouldn't he be kept if he made that much improvement?

Fans have to be allowed to satisfy their frustration. I'll do that this week. This was a bitter loss, and coaches understand that when their particular discipline has a bad game, and Coach Capers' defense certainly had a bad game, there's going to be "noise in the system," as Ron Zook was fond of saying when he was the coach at Florida. There's noise in my inbox; I think you know that. I don't think much is going to change. I think Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson are going to analyze this game rationally and see what the needs are for this team going forward, and pursue that course. They did that after the 2008 season, when there was "noise in the system," and they did that after giving up 51 points in the playoff loss in Arizona in the 2009 season. In each case, the result was upward. Hey, they analyzed last season's playoff loss and I would say the result was upward. I know these words will be met with resistance by those fans that want dramatic action, but the Packers don't need dramatic action to fix what happened in San Francisco. They need more players and more work. The core is there. They lost to a very talented team, twice. In each case, the difference between the two teams was distinct. As I wrote in my editorial from Saturday night's game, that's when you say congratulations and move on.

Kerry from Chicago, IL

Vic, if I wanted the read-option, I'd watch college football.

It's here. It's the new trend in pro football and you're going to see more teams go to it. The read-option is the new wildcat. The question is: How long will it last?

Bill from Ames, IA

I feel the offense let the defense down. There were too many three-and-outs. Better protection for Rodgers and a better run game would have kept the defense on the bench and rested. Now the question: Heading into the draft (don't give me the BAP stuff) do you address the needs of the offensive line or the running game first, realizing that a single draft pick at running back could help all of the above?

OK, let's get this out of the way: You identify your needs and move into position, if you can, to select players that address those needs who don't represent a move down your board to select them. The Packers did that last season when they traded up to pick Casey Hayward, and they did that in 2008 when they traded back to pick Jordy Nelson. It's OK to pick for need, as long as you're moving to where the player that addresses need fits. When you do that, you're selecting from the top of your board, which means you're picking the best available player. I agree that the Packers would benefit from selecting a franchise-type back.

Gary from Davenport, IA

Have you ever heard of anyone rushing for 181 yards or more in a game without breaking a tackle?

After the game, I asked Mike McCarthy if he thought his players were surprised by Colin Kaepernick's speed. He said they weren't surprised. I totally disagree. I was surprised by his speed. Dom Capers had told me Kaepernick was a long strider who covered a lot of ground, but I had no idea he could run like that, and I don't think the Packers knew it, either. I don't know what his clock speed is, but he blew past the Packers secondary on his 56-yard touchdown run and was able to coast over the last half of the run. The 49ers' running game didn't start with Gore, it started with Kaepernick. Kaepernick's legs, not arm, were the catalyst to everything. If he wasn't a runner, I'm not sure the 49ers win that game. I think the Packers defense was ready to play, it just wasn't ready for Kaepernick's ability to run.

Justin from Wilmington, DE

What do we do now, Vic?

Just draft, baby.

Steve from Columbia City, IN

Vic, if I were a Seahawks fan I'd be pretty upset after Sunday's game. Atlanta intercepted Russell Wilson in the end zone as time expired. Seattle should have been awarded a touchdown.

This is a great time for humor.

Thumoe from Grandvaux, Switzerland

You said no blitz. Defense blitzed and Colin Kaepernick scored. Postgame quotes suggest defense still believes blitz was a good option but not well executed.

There was a particular play in the game that stands out in my mind as to what I envisioned going into the game. It was a third-down passing play and the Packers rushed four. All four were blocked in such a manner as to create a perfect pocket for Kaepernick, who was herky-jerky in looking right and left as he patted the ball. In other words, he was plainly uncomfortable. The play ended with Kaepernick throwing a harmless incompletion to an underneath receiver on the left. That, in my opinion, should've been a recurring play and theme in the game.

Jeremy from Bowling Green, KY

Vic, Saturday was my birthday and it wasn't very enjoyable. That was a hard game to watch. I'd really like for you to tell us all why we shouldn't get rid of Capers after a game like that. He ran man coverage and we got torn to pieces. Why would he not adjust?

Happy birthday! Dom Capers is the best defensive coordinator I've ever covered.

David from Toronto, Ontario

If Jennings leaves Green Bay, how do you think it will affect our receiving corps?

There's a healthy core of pass catchers, beginning with a rising star in Randall Cobb and proven veterans in Jordy Nelson and James Jones. Beyond those players, there are young developmental types, such as Jarrett Boykin. The draft, of course, always offers more prospects. I don't know what course the Packers will choose with Greg Jennings, but I have a strong understanding of the salary cap and it was imprinted on me a long time ago, when the cap first came into existence, that to preserve a healthy salary cap, teams must be willing to let players go. You keep the ones that are irreplaceable, and replace the others. In the salary cap era, pro football is a game of replacement.

Dean from Bluewell, WV

Vic, I'm sure your inbox is jam-packed with anger, frustration and sadness, but in my opinion the game was closer than the scoreboard tells. It just came down to who made fewer mistakes, and we can all see who that was.

I don't agree. I think the two games against the 49ers are eye-openers, especially because they bookend the season. I think they provide for a clear analysis. When a guy can get to the second level as quickly and as unencumbered as Kaepernick did on Saturday, people are stuck on blocks.

Tay from Elk Grove, CA

Vic, I'm criticizing and blaming the Packers with this and that throughout the day, accusing them left and right. Am I being too unsupportive of my team? After all they are the greatest team in the world and I still love them.

No, Tay, you're not being unsupportive. They can't hear you. What you're doing is making it difficult on yourself. When I finished my writing on Saturday night, during the return flight to Green Bay, I had a chance to sit back and think on what I had seen. I think the better team won. The challenge now is to be the better team next season.

Tom from Fort Myers, FL

If we are using a 3-4, then the linebackers are supposed to clean up. Aside from Matthews, we really had average guys out there. Other 3-4 teams with consistent success in the playoffs seem to have three or four very good linebackers. Does this make sense or am I missing something?

If you're going to run the 3-4, your linebackers absolutely must be the stars of your defense. Look at the 49ers: Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Ahmad Brooks. The Packers have a star in Clay Matthews. They drafted Nick Perry to be the next Clay Matthews, but Perry was lost at midseason to injury. Desmond Bishop was lost to injury, so was D.J. Smith. That's too much to lose from one unit and not experience a decline in play. When you lose that kind of talent at linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, you've got problems the next man up can't fix.

Dawood from Maple Grove, MN

As much as I like and respect Dom Capers, I think it's time we make a change. I don't believe we have the players to play the 34. Like you always say, players not plays. However, I do think we have the players for the 43.

Coach Capers ran a 43 in Jacksonville. It was the No. 1 defense in the league and was on pace heading into the final month of the season to set a league record for fewest points allowed. He can run a 43. He can run anything you want.

Dennis from Sacramento, CA

This performance makes me wonder what our defense did all week. I want to believe the contrary, but it seems Dom did nothing, or the defense just wasn't able to execute the plan set before them, either because of a lack of personnel or a lack of a plan worthy to counter this offense.

Something was obviously wrong, and I know what it is: They couldn't catch Kaepernick. After Sam Shields opened the game with a pick-six, Kaepernick looked wobbly at the start of the next series. He threw incomplete on third-and-two, but a holding call against Tramon Williams gave the 49ers a first down. That call was huge. If the Packers get the ball and score to take a 14-0 lead, the pressure on Kaepernick would've increased. Two plays changed the game. After throwing incomplete on first and second down, and looking bad doing it, Kaepernick found Frank Gore all alone down the left sideline for 45 yards. Gore had gotten behind Woodson and all Kaepernick had to do was shovel the ball to Gore. When Kaepernick scored on a 20-yard touchdown run, he had overcome the jitters from his pick-six. It all starts with the run for Kaepernick. In time, he'll become more comfortable throwing the ball, but I don't think that time is now. I wish the Packers could've made him be a passer.

Aaron from Hays, KS

How many times does the SF quarterback need to run the ball before anyone defensively gains enough common sense to stop it?

You have to catch him first, and they couldn't catch him. I thought his athleticism overmatched the Packers' front seven.

Marty from San Francisco, CA

Vic, did the other fan bases from the teams you covered take losing so personally?

They absolutely did. Everybody thinks they should win all the time. This past weekend set an NFL record for points scored, which means it was a really bad weekend for defensive coordinators. In Denver, the fans want to fire Jack Del Rio. In Houston, they want to fire Wade Phillips. In Seattle, it's Gus Bradley for not using a man-to-man zone defense – whatever that is – against Matt Ryan in the Falcons' final-seconds drive. Who will it be next weekend?

Andrew from Shawano, WI

Vic, retire and give up. If you were such a brilliant and witty writer, as you pretend to be, and had actually something to offer the Packers organization, they wouldn't have lost like they did. Thank you.

You're welcome.

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