Capers Stuck to Guns to Stop Lions' Run Game

Green Bay stuck with its nickel and dime packages, even while being gashed by Lions running backs Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell. The second half was a different story, as the Packers slammed the door on the run game and made the Lions one-dimensional.

There is a reason why Dom Capers is calling the shots for the Green Bay Packers' defense rather than, oh, say, this humble scribe.

During the first half of Sunday night's game against Detroit, the pass-happy Lions rammed the ball down the defense's throat with a power running game. On the first drive, a 12-play, 80-yard march to a touchdown, Detroit ran the ball nine times for 58 yards.

Capers ran his two-linemen nickel and dime packages on every snap.

On the second drive, an 11-play, 79-yard march for another touchdown, Detroit ran the ball six times for 27 yards.

Again, Capers ran his nickel and dime packages on every snap.

By halftime, the Lions had run the ball 24 times for 117 yards.

And yet, with the Lions using Riley Reiff as an extra offensive lineman five times in the first quarter and seven times in the first half, and even with the Lions dialing up seven more running plays than passes, Capers stuck to his guns. Not once did he use his base 3-4 defense, going with the five-defensive-back nickel package on 37 of the 43 snaps, with the six-defensive-back dime package on the other six plays.

It appeared Capers was coaching scared, afraid of long Matthew Stafford-to-Calvin Johnson completions even though the Lions were missing their second-, third- and fourth-leading wide receivers.

Instead, Capers was coaching smart.

Eventually, he made the minor corrections and his players simply started playing better.

"We have confidence that we can play the run," Capers said on Monday when asked why he didn't put in his base defense to slam the door on Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell. "It's just kind of the base part of our scheme. We have our run calls. Now, when you're playing a team like Detroit and you've got Calvin Johnson out there, you have to weigh what's going to be your top priority. One of the things I was pleased with was Calvin Johnson's long reception was 20 yards. We would have had him under 100 yards if he hadn't gotten a couple of those catches there right at the end of the game. To answer your question, you've got to make a decision of how much single-high and single-coverage you're going to put on Calvin Johnson to make sure you're stopping that run."

Eventually, Green Bay slammed the door — though some of that was of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan's doing for scrapping the running game in the second half. Detroit ran the ball only eight times for 18 yards after halftime.

To do it, the Packers needed their defensive linemen to play big. B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett played outstanding games to hold up against the Lions' use of five and six offensive linemen.

"I thought B.J. played one of his better games," Capers said. "Pickett's always good in there on the double-teams. Those guys end up getting three blocks on two most of the time. The success of the linebackers is based a lot on what kind of job those guys do inside. I thought they did a good job on Sunday."

After dictating down-and-distance situations through much of the first half, Detroit's first-down runs in the second half delivered gains of 3, 2, 1, 3 and 2 yards. That success helped the Packers hold Detroit to seven first downs on their first five possessions of the second half after allowing 16 on five possessions in the first half.

"The thing I was pleased with, I thought our defensive guys kept their poise," Capers said. "I didn't see any panic in them. I think there was a confidence level that we could get things squared away."

That echoed what safety Morgan Burnett said after the game.

"I think guys just kept playing," Burnett said. "Nobody ever panicked. As a team, we all stuck together and kept playing. We knew it was going to be that type of game. You can't (panic). It's 14-0, it's the first quarter, the game's not out of reach. You've still got a lot of football to play. Each play, we tried to find ways to get stops and get the ball back to the offense."

Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave Bill a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

Packer Report Top Stories