In last season’s matchup with the San Francisco 49ers, Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers began the game by leaving cornerback Charles Woodson matched up with 49ers tight end Vernon Davis almost exclusively. While facing Woodson, Davis did little to no damage against the Packers. But once Al Harris was injured, Capers took Woodson off Davis and used him on the outside, leaving Davis matched up against a revolving door of players, from linebackers A.J. Hawk and Clay Matthews, to cornerback Jarrett Bush to safeties Nick Collins and Atari Bigby.
None of them could stop Davis or even slow him down.
Head coach Mike McCarthy seems to understand the need to shut down Davis, as he illustrated with his comments during his Wednesday press conference:
The vertical big plays that he hit on us really gave the 49ers an opportunity to get back in the game. We were winning I think 23-3 at halftime.
He’s a unique player. What I like about him is he’s tough and physical in the run game part of it too. He’s not just a receiver. He can really run. He’s a powerful man, and he has the ability, when you can stretch a defense vertically like he does, it not only gives himself opportunities, but it makes the guys on the outside better.
I’m a big believer in the fastest way to the end zone is through the post. You can never have enough big guys that can play inside and stretch it, and I think he’s definitely one of the premier big guys in the league to play inside and get vertical.
With the loss of Frank Gore for the season, the 49ers are left to rely on the 31 year old Brian Westbrook and rookie Anthony Dixon to produce on the ground in their run-heavy offense. When they have taken to the air this season, the passing game has gone through Davis. There’s no reason to think they won’t run the offense through him even more now that their workhorse Gore is gone.
Capers should just take away that option by leaving Woodson on Davis all game long, regardless of what happens.