GREEN BAY—This is a time of year when good teams stick to those plays that have been good for them. Predictable, yes, but execution is always the key.
"When you get to this time of the year, don't try to reinvent the wheel. Do what has been good for you," Packers Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers said.
The San Francisco 49ers aren't typical for this time of the year. They're a good team, but a lot of what they're doing now they didn't do for much of the season, especially back when the season began with a 30-22 win over the Packers at Lambeau Field.
That's because shortly after the midway point in the season the 49ers made a switch at quarterback from a stationary drop-back passer, Alex Smith, to a "New Age" running quarterback, Colin Kaepernick. The switch gives Capers a degree of angst for the unpredictability that accompanies it.
"Makes you conscious of your rush lanes," Capers said of Kaepernick's penchant for running, which has produced 415 yards and a 6.6 yards-per-carry average. "He can eat up some ground in a hurry."
The Packers just beat a running quarterback in the wild-card round of the playoffs, when they held the Vikings' Joe Webb to 68 yards rushing and a paltry 61 yards passing in the first 56 minutes the game. Kaepernick, however, isn't Webb.
"He's got a 98 quarterback rating, which is awfully good for the number of games he's played. He hasn't made critical mistakes you see a young guy make," Capers said of Kaepernick.
Capers' defense will try to score a second postseason win on Saturday, when it faces Kaepernick and the "Pistol" read-option that is the 49ers' new offense of choice. Kaepernick played for the Pistol's creator, Chris Ault, at Nevada, and there are rumors Ault might join Kaepernick next season, which would suggest Kaepernick is the 49ers' quarterback of the future.
"So many teams are different now after you have a season under your belt. We're a different defense. They've been through some transition, too. You find your niche, what your guys can do," Capers said.
The Packers defense hadn't found its niche for the season opener. It was roughed up by the 49ers for 186 yards rushing, a 125.6 passer rating by Smith and 33 minutes of possession time. By the end of the season, however, the Packers were 11th in the league in overall defense.
San Francisco is 11th in overall offense, fourth in rushing and 23rd in passing, which is up considerably since Kaepernick took the starting job. Other than for Kaepernick and the switch to the read-option offense, everything else about the 49ers offense is status quo, beginning with running back Frank Gore (1,214 yards rushing).
"He gets his pads down low so you have to be sure he doesn't bleed you for yardage," Capers said of Gore.
Capers described star tight end Vernon Davis as a "tight end body type with the speed of a wide receiver; he creates matchup problems," and wide receiver Michael Crabtree as "their most productive guy in the pass game."
Kaepernick has been a difference maker, and the 49ers are counting on the unpredictability he provides to be the catalyst for a long postseason run. Additional coverage - Jan. 10