16 carries for 181 yards, with two touchdown runs of 20 and 56 yards. And these stats weren't made by All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson, either.
Green Bay coaches should remember these numbers too well. After all, they were made by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is an artist when it comes to running the zone read, having run it to perfection under former Nevada head coach Chris Ault during his time as Wolfpack quarterback. Both the Packers and the Falcons got a taste of what Kaepernick and the zone read are capable of, and how it has added life to both the passing game and the running game. The Washington Redskins and the Seattle Seahawks also ran the zone read under their rookie quarterbacks in Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson, respectively. And they, like Kaepernick, are artists in reading the defensive ends and deciding whether to keep it themselves or hand it off to their running backs, and it was a big reason the 49ers, Seahawks and Redskins were among the best when it came to running the football.
The Falcons realized they needed to combat this threat, so they took to the collegiate level, where it is run often, and went to Clemson University to learn more about the offense from Clemson's offensive coordinator Chad Morris. Morris is one of college football's rising gurus when it comes to offenses, and the Falcons went to learn more about the offense from him. But the thing is, why didn't the Green Bay Packers do something like this?
The Green Bay Packers were completely caught off guard and had no answer for Kaepernick or the 49ers offense when it came to the zone read. Their gameplan on defense looked almost as though it were prepared more for the likes of former 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, who had since been benched in favor of the young, quick footed gun-slinging quarterback. The linebackers looked confued, outmatched, and defensive coordinator Dom Capers couldn't keep up. And with questions all round about the defense, from the outside linebacker position opposite All-Pro linebacker Clay Matthews to the safety position opposite Morgan Burnett, it would certainly have been a step in the right direction to get a step ahead in the learning curve and get some information about the concepts of the zone read, which suddenly looks more appealing as new wrinkles for NFL offenses.
Imagine Mike McCarthy adding a little zone read concepts to the already potent Packer offense. Defenses are already wary enough of Aaron Rodgers, but his added mobility make him enough of a threat to gain yards. If the Packers could decide on a reliable backfield this off-season, which they look to be focusing on in the draft, it could definitely give them an advantage in the NFC, as the San Francisco 49ers have now become the main targets to overcome. Implementing some zone read wrinkles in a Mike McCarthy offense would be exciting, and learning more about it can not only prepare the Packers for the likes of Washington, Seattle, and San Francisco, but also for the teams that could undoutedly incorporate it into their offenses as more rookie quarterbacks enter the league with the same RGIII-Wilson-Kaepernick tangibles and their familiarity with the system. In addition, the system has also revitilized the running game, and with the Packers on the lookout for a running game, this could be the answer to their problems, and finding a good running back could make things easier, as more of them are also familiar with the system as well.
And the added danger the zone read brings to the passing game will make this offense even bigger, and allow the Packers to take another step towards a return to the Super Bowl.
If the Packers don't address the zone read concept, they will not only be unable to contain Kaepernick or other athletic quarterbacks that run it, but also fall behind the NFL curve ,which the Packers cannot afford to do en route to a chance in another Super Bowl appearance.