The storyline of yesterday's game was the Niners, like the NY Giants did last January, outmatching the Packers' explosive passing game by limiting big plays and forcing Rodgers' to methodically execute long drives to score--and rightfully so.
I have not heard anything regarding the defensive game plan Capers had in store for the Niners; not even in the "What went wrong" post.
As a Niner fan, I am perplexed by what Dom Capers was trying to do yesterday (but also relieved), and was hoping to get some input and perspective from Packer fans.
Capers can't do much to control missed assignments (i.e. blown coverages), poor communication amongst players, and poor tackling, ability and instincts; but that's not what I'm talking about.
I'm talking about what I perceived to be a heavy dose of "soft" man and zone coverage. Smith went 20-26 for 212 yards--pretty efficient in terms of percentage and yards per attempt. Time and time again, receivers were given a bit of cushion and Smith would hit WRs on quick hitches, outs and slants for consistent gains of 5-15 yards.
I have watched Smith play for seven years, and it appears to me that Capers let Smith do exactly what he does best with little resistance. Capers is frequently lauded for being a brilliant coordinator--which I may as well accept as truth--yet it is quite clear to me that the best way to beat Smith is to make him throw it over the top of you (vs. man coverage) with aggressive, bump and run coverage and jumping "in" routes, forcing him to throw to the sidelines; and crowding the LOS to deter the short game(vs. zone) and forcing him to adjust his read and throw into tight windows, preferably down field.
When Smith had to scram out of the pocket and had a wide open Delanie Walker running a streak past a LB and missed him badly, illustrating Smith's struggles with accuracy when having to lead receivers down the field over the top of a defender. And the pass wasn't even all that deep.
Smith likes when his first read pre-snap is still viable immediately post-snap (who doesn't?), but tends to struggle when this isn't the case (but it won't matter if Vernon Davis and Randy Moss are left completely alone). The Packers gave that to him consistently, on top of the blown coverages and wide open passing lanes. Smith missing Moss in between the LBs against zone coverage is another example of how forcing Smith to do other things can be effective.
If my memory serves me correctly, I don't recall ever seeing Packer DBs crowding wide receivers. Press coverage and conceding getting beat by a step is worthwhile until Smith proves he can hit that player on the outside. A zone coverage that crowds the 3-8 yard area across the field has worked as well.
Maybe I'm seeing something that's not there, but it seems clear to me that the Packer game plan--whatever it was--in terms of pass coverage was antithetical to everything we know about Smith's strengths (short-game accuracy, increasing intelligence) and weaknesses (reading defenses, pocket awareness, accuracy down field, fitting the ball through windows).
Are any Packer fans bewildered by how the defense chose to attack the Niners? I am confident the Niners will win a Super Bowl and Smith will have a career year if other teams choose to utilize the same general philosophy--no matter their defensive personnel.