Bears WRs can expect rhythm issues against Capers’ crew
By MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org January 21, 2011 12:24AM
In a Jan. 2 showdown, safety Charlie Peprah (left) helped make sure Bears wide receiver Johnny Knox (13) wouldn’t burn the Packers again. | Matt Ludtke~AP
Fool Me once . . .
Bears wide receiver Johnny Knox had four receptions for 94 yards in a 20-17 victory over the Packers in September at Soldier Field. He was shut out in the rematch — zero catches for zero yards — which the Packers won 10-3. It’s unlikely it was a coincidence. Under coordinator Dom Capers, the Packers have a knack for shutting down receivers when they see them a second time:
First game Second game
Player Rec./yds Lg TD Rec./yds. Lg TD
Johnny Knox, Bears 4-94 35 0 0-0 0 0
Calvin Johnson, Lions 6-86 23 2 1-44 44 0
Percy Harvin, Vikings 5-64 37 0 2-12 9 0
Brandon Pettigrew, Lions 8-91 19 0 2-14 11 0
Desean Jackson, Eagles 4-30 28 0 2-47 28 0
Tony Scheffler, Lions 6-63 25 0 1-3 3 0
Tony Gonzalez, Falcons 6-51 21 1 1-7 7 0
Greg Olsen, Bears 5-64 21 1 5-29 7 0
Updated: April 5, 2011 3:58PM
GREEN BAY, Wis. — It was as if Dom Capers and the Green Bay Packers said they’d had enough of Johnny Knox.
The speedster from Abilene Christian had caught 11 passes for 259 yards and a touchdown in three previous games against the Packers. In Knox’s first NFL game in the 2009 opener, he burned Charles Woodson — the NFL Defensive Player of the Year-to-be — for a 68-yard reception from Jay Cutler, then ‘‘shushed’’ the Lambeau Field crowd by putting a finger to his lips.
He also had receptions of 35, 31, 28 and 23 yards, plus a 19-yard touchdown catch last year at Soldier Field. In September, he had four catches for 94 yards in the Bears’ 20-17 victory at Soldier Field.
But at Lambeau Field on Jan. 2, with the Packers desperately needing a victory to make the playoffs, they shut out Knox and won 10-3. It was the first time all season and second time in two seasons that Knox was held without a reception.
‘‘It was just good defense, good all-around defense,’’ Woodson said. ‘‘Our thing is to take care of vertical routes, not allow people to get over the top of us and try to eliminate those big plays.
‘‘We got some good pressure up front with our guys, limited the time that Jay had back there to throw the ball, and then made some plays downfield. It’s always about designing to try to stop their players from having big days.’’
Since Capers became their defensive coordinator last year, the Packers have been pretty good at shutting down wide receivers. Woodson added another Pro Bowl to his Hall of Fame resumé, with 105 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, five forced fumbles and 13 pass breakups.
Cornerback Tramon Williams had six interceptions and 23 pass breakups. Free safety Nick Collins made the Pro Bowl for the third consecutive season. And two newcomers, strong safety Charlie Peprah and rookie cornerback Sam Shields, have fit in well in Capers’ system — seemingly always at the right place at the right time.
The Packers allowed 16 passing touchdowns in the regular season, only nine by wide receivers. The Giants’ Mario Manningham (four catches, 132 yards), the Dolphins’ Brandon Marshall (10-123) and the Redskins’ Santana Moss (7-118) were the only wideouts to break the 100-yard mark against the Packers.
The secret to their success is their ability to be aggressive and physical without losing their discipline. They’re athletic, smart and well-coached.
Williams has been known to ‘‘bait’’ quarterbacks into throwing interceptions. He was asked if he could risk baiting Cutler that way in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.
‘‘I don’t really ‘risk’ doing it against anybody,’’ Williams said. ‘‘It’s just things that I’m aware of and playing disciplined at the same time, but playing with the awareness that this can be coming in. If I know it’s coming, then I’m going to react to it.’’
The Packers’ defensive backs aren’t flawless, but they never seem to get burned too badly. Against the Giants, Manningham had an 85-yard touchdown catch and Hakeem Nicks caught a 36-yard touchdown — but the Packers won in a rout 45-17.
Against the Lions, Calvin Johnson caught touchdown passes for 23 and 21 yards in the first half and drew a pass interference call against Woodson early in the third quarter. Two plays later, Woodson intercepted a pass intended for Johnson and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown. The Packers won 28-26.
If the Bears receivers want to beat them, they’re going to have to out-tough them because the Packers’ defensive backs will be as physical as they can be Sunday.
‘‘It’s important [to be physical] any time you play an offense that is based on rhythm in the passing game to knock their receivers off their rhythm,’’ Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. ‘‘So you want to be physical with them, get your hands on them. That’s where you want to play every week and where we plan on playing this week.’’