Three and Out: Will officials protect read-option QBs?
In last year's playoff game, Colin Kaepernick tore through the Green Bay defense for 181 yards rushing on 16 attempts. (AP)
Mike McCarthy: "This is a different game, and we're prepared for a totally different outcome." (USA TODAY IMAGES)
SANTA CLARA -- The Green Bay Packers feel better prepared to defend the read option than a year ago when they faced 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the playoffs.
But before Kaepernick dashed through the Packers' defense running the option out of the pistol formation, Green Bay struggled to capture Kaepernick on standard quarterback scrambles.
After all, the 49ers' first touchdown of their 45-31 victory over the Packers in an NFC divisional round game at Candlestick Park came on a called pass play. When the protection broke down, Kaepernick merely sprinted 20 yards into the end zone.
Later in the first half, Kaepernick beat Packers blitzes by escaping the rushing and picking up 19 and 18 yards on separate scrambles.
"The root of our issues really came in the passes, his ability to scramble out of the pocket," Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday in a conference call with Bay Area reporters. "From a defensive perspective, (our) gap integrity and rush lanes is really what started his production."
Kaepernick gained 181 yards rushing on 16 official rush attempts. He also completed 17 of 31 pass attempts for 263 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
It was not until the third quarter that Kaepernick had success with the read option. In the third quarter, Kaepernick faked an inside handoff to LaMichael James and tore off on a 56-yard touchdown run. In all, Kaepernick gained 99 yards on seven keepers out of the read option.
And it was enough to make the Packers devote a good chunk of their offseason preparation to defending a quarterback such as Kaepernick.
"We feel good about our mindset on this defense and opening back up against a mobile quarterback and a talented offense," Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews said. "Obviously, Colin is going to make his plays but we got to minimize that."
In March, McCarthy took his defensive coaching staff, including coordinator Dom Capers, to Texas A&M to discuss from the principles involved in defending the read option with Kevin Sumlin and his staff.
"There's a focus on the athletic quarterback, particularly Kaepernick and some of the other guys in the league," McCarthy said. "We feel we're definitely bette prepared for than we were last year, that's for sure."
The Packers will not have to wait long to see if the time was well-spent. After all, McCarthy was reminded that Kaepernick gained more rushing yards than any quarterback in NFL history against the Packers just eight months ago.
"Anybody would be motivated when it's directed at you like that," McCarthy said. "But the reality is, it is a new year. this is a different game. and we're prepared for a totally different outcome."
Here's a look at how Kaepernick's 181 rushing yards in the playoff game Jan. 12 against the Packers broke down:
7 attempts, 99 yards, 14.1 average, 1 TD
Pass play scrambles
5 attempts, 75 yards, 15.0 average, 1 TD
1 attempt, 9 yard, 9.0 average, 0 TD
1 attempt, 0 yard, 0.0 average, 0 TD
2 attempts, minus-2 yard, minus-1.0 average, 0 TD