Why They Won: Green Bay Packers vs Philadelphia Eagles

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Oct 19, 2014; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers talks with the defense during warmups prior to the game against the Carolina Panthers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Dom Capers’ defensive resurgence

For a few years now, the defense of Green Bay – and the coordinator in charge – has been a much-maligned group that’s received plenty of due criticism for their lack of performance.


Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton gets away from Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews to avoid a sack in the third quarter at Lambeau Field. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph

There’s been a massive uptick in the abilities that have been shown on that end, which has in turn helped to affect these games in a way that many Packers fans could not have envisioned.

Don’t get me wrong, even at the worst of times there have been bright spots to look to.

Clay Matthews is one of the top pass-rushers in the game, the secondary is filled with of major talents, and players like Mike Daniels have shown skill and leadership during their time here.

But multiple games during the season have seen the defense as a whole struggle and fail to make any worthwhile impact.

Ever since that Minnesota game, however, the players on this side of the ball have found ways to step up and make plays much more frequently. A lot of credit has to go to the guys stepping up to make the plays, but you cannot forget that a good portion of it has to be due to the man who constructed it all.

Dom Capers has proven here previously that he knew what it took to create a successful defense; he’s been a head coach and coordinator in multiple places before, most of which also had decent-to-strong defenses in his time there.

He’s also had success here as well, with defenses that have yearly been great at forcing interceptions.

He even had this team leading the league in rush defense back in 2009, unfathomable for a team that’s been poor at it for much of this year.

Tramon Williams has been consistent.

Raymond T. Rivard photograph

So what changed?

Did Capers just stop being good after Green Bay won the Super Bowl a few years back, until just finding that skill again a couple weeks ago?

While that could have happened – it is possible to make a large quantity of bad decisions before making good ones – it is highly unlikely. What would be more likely is that this team finally has some good fortune working in their favor.

During practically the entire current Super Bowl window of this team (going back to Capers’ first season as D-coordinator in 2009), they have been destroyed by injuries. Now, of course, every team deals with injuries, but this team seems to always get hit harder than most in that category.

During that Super Bowl-winning year they ended with 16 players on Injured-Reserve, the most by a Super Bowl winner – and just a ridiculous number to overcome as well. Then looking at just the past two years, they were ranked 30th (2013) and 32nd (2012) in Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Games Lost (AGL)* statistic.

When it comes down to it, these guys have been hit heavier than usual with the injury bug, but have been mostly lucky this year with it.

Yes, a couple of injuries have hit guys across the secondary at random times and B.J. Raji didn’t even make it to the season because of his torn biceps, but as a whole these guys have managed to not be as hamstrung by injury issues.

That lack of injuries has allowed Capers to keep his best players out there playing more often, and his creativity can shine. Like using Clay Matthews at ILB; it is a problem spot that has been at least partially fixed by having the ability to use all of his former high draft picks (Nick Perry, Mike Neal) so that he could move Matthews into a new spot.

That move is bigger than just simply to ILB though; Clay has been put everywhere (ILB, LOLB, ROLB, and even outside of the OLBs).

Health is probably the biggest factor for this team, but having someone like Capers around on defense is allowing for them to reach the heights of their skills when they are able to play. That has shown biggest the last few weeks, and Green Bay is doing great because of it.

*AGL basically calculates the number of games lost by looking at the roster in the scope of ‘If everyone was healthy, who would be starting?’