GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Only Dom Capers knows exactly how much time he spent this offseason studying the read-option offense and devising ways to defend it.
And we know Capers spent a day this offseason talking to Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda about it.
And we know he dedicated at least a portion of almost every training camp practice to working against it.
His offseason work was shaped largely by what happened in the Packers’ 45-31 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in last season’s NFC divisional playoff game. Capers’ defense, which had improved from dead last in the league in 2011 to a respectable 11th last season, allowed the 49ers to pile up 579 yards. Colin Kaepernick rushed for 181 of those yards, the most ever gained on the ground by an NFL quarterback.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, the 49ers ran the read-option on just 16 of their 75 total snaps in that playoff game and gained 176 yards. Perhaps more remarkable was how easily those yards came. A total of 149 of them came before contact.
But here’s something worth considering: What if the 49ers, knowing full well how much time the Packers dedicated to stopping their read-option in advance of Sunday’s season opener at Candlestick Park, decide not to run it?
The question was posed to Packers players and defensive coaches on Friday.
“Then we’ll have to resort back to our scheme and our instincts and our play-making ability,” Packers defensive tackle B.J. Raji said.
Capers was quick to point out the read-option is just one part of the 49ers offense.
“That’s just one phase of it,” Capers said. “The goal is to win the game, so hopefully you’re ready for whatever phase they give you. It’s just another element you have to prepare for, and we’ve invested our time. Hopefully we’re prepared.”
The Packers were caught off guard by the read-option last January. Now, it’s worth wondering if they’ve spent too much time preparing for that one aspect, albeit an important one, of the 49ers game.
“We haven’t just said this is a total read-option team,” Packers defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said. “They have other runs and other schemes in their game plan. We haven’t just said everything we’re doing is read-option. We haven’t done that at all because, how many runs did they have against us, 39? (Actually 43). And 16 of them were read-options, so obviously not even half of them were read-options. You have to prepare for their other things as well.”