Mike McCarthy has had a consistent message for his team since the beginning of the 2011 campaign - most times a Super Bowl champion is the one with a bullseye on their back, the "hunted." McCarthy has repeatedly told his players, and the media when asked, that the Packers are not the hunted.
They are the hunters.
McCarthy reiterated this message as recently as last week:
We're still hunting.The nice part about it, our football team stayed right on pace in accordance with that message. We refuse to be hunted. We're always going to be the hunter. We've been talking about it since Day 1.It's important to create the mind-set and develop and more importantly to carry it into the playoffs. That's the way we look at it.
The team seems to have responded to this and taken it on board.
My question is - has Dom Capers?
Hired to bring an attacking, pressure-oriented defense, Capers had orchestrated a championship-caliber turnaround after taking over for a Bob Sanders-directed unit that had done all that it was going to do.
After winning Super Bowl XLV, however, and with a series of personnel issues that while problematic should not have been debilitating, Capers' unit has taken a giant step back.
It doesn't take a football genius to see that the Packers miss Cullen Jenkins and Nick Collins - but do they miss them to the tune of giving up 324 points in a regular season? No, the personnel issues only go so far. So what then? Has the scheme been exploited after only a few seasons of Capers' leading it?
No, but Capers needs to make a philosophical shift heading into the playoffs and he can start by listening to his head coach.
Capers and his defensive staff need to start calling for a more attacking style of play, starting on Sunday against the Giants. Capers was hired to bring pressure, for his ability to confuse and frustrate a quarterback. Yet week in and week out we've seen this defense sit back in passive zones with the defensive backs giving opposing receivers monstrously huge patches of real estate to work with off the line of scrimmage.
Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams, along with Sam Sheilds, are very good man corners. Yes, they've all had their ups and downs this year, but every corner in the league goes through those. Capers needs to trust in their ability to man-up on receivers and to disrupt their timing.
Yes, the Giants' receivers are an excellent group. But paying them respect by way of giving them constant free-releases off the line of scrimmage is just asking to be eaten alive by quarterback Eli Manning and the Giants' passing attack.
One route that the Packers, and Williams in particular, need to be ready for is the deep post, which the Giants burned Williams on three times in the last meeting. Again - look at the size of the cushion Williams gives the receiver:
Now, obviously, it's impossible to play bump-and-run man from start to finish, but Capers has come close to completely abandoning it all together. That's criminal with the likes of Williams and Woodson in the defensive backfield.
Don't mistake my call for aggression as a call for Capers to "blitz more" - as it is, Capers has been blitzing more than he ever has and his defense has been unable to get home more often than not.
What I am calling for is less passivity and more besieging of the opponent. Too often this season the Packers have been overly cautious to a fault on the defensive side of the ball. Again, I understand Capers is dealing with a deficiency in personnel, but that shouldn't call for a neutering of the talent on hand.
It's time for Capers to follow McCarthy's instructions. Time for Capers to become the hunter.
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