That's the Way the Ball Bounces?

Capers (Jeff Hanisch - USA Today Sports)

It hasn't bounced the Packers' way, as they have one of the worst fumble recovery rates in the NFL during Dom Capers' four years as defensive coordinator. It's a dumbfounding statistic, as defenses recover more than 47 percent of fumbles.

Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers is a numbers guy.

Even he was caught off-guard by this fluky statistic: During his first four years, the Packers are one of only three teams that have failed to recover 50 percent of opponent fumbles in any of those seasons. Moreover, his defenses have the third-worst recovery rate in the league over that span.

"Well, you know, I'm not proud of that stat," Capers said.

Capers sounded like a fisherman lamenting the one that got away.

"You think about the Colts game last year, you remember the one where Clay (Matthews) came and knocked the ball out of (Andrew) Luck's hands and it was rolling around?" Capers recalled last week. "We had about a quarter of the field and D.J. (Smith) went to scoop it and scoops it out of bounds. If we get that one, we probably win the game because we got the ball down there. In the same game, when Nick Perry came off the back side and knocked that ball out, we got it at the 15-yard line. And the flag comes out on that one. Sometimes, that's the way it goes, you know?"

From 2009 through 2012, the Packers have recovered 36.1 percent of opponent fumbles. It's a bizarre stat, since recovering a fumble is essentially a 50-50 proposition. During the last four seasons, NFL defenses have recovered 47.3 percent of opponent fumbles.

Incredibly, the Packers haven't gotten anywhere close to that number. The Packers have pounced on just 36.1 percent of opponent fumbles during Capers' tenure. Their best season was his first season, when Green Bay recovered 41.7 percent in 2009. That dropped to 36.4 percent in 2010, 36.8 percent in 2011 and merely 27.8 percent in 2012.

Only St. Louis and Miami have worse recovery rates than the Packers, with the Rams at 35.1 percent and the Dolphins at a dumbfounding 29.1 percent. Those also are the only other teams that have failed to recover 50 percent in any one season. The Rams' best mark was 46.2 percent in 2009; the Dolphins' best was 36.4 percent in 2010.

Only Miami (23) has recovered fewer fumbles than Green Bay (30) during Capers' tenure. They have just 12 since Desmond Bishop's critical recovery in the Super Bowl.

"All I know is we've certainly been a lot better intercepting than we ever have been with fumbles, and I wish I had an answer for you," Capers said. "Because I can go back to some teams I've been with where I thought we were outstanding in causing fumbles and recovering them."

With Green Bay's 83 forced fumbles over the past four seasons being a whopping 39 fewer than Chicago, it's no wonder forcing fumbles has been such an offseason emphasis. Play after play during the offseason practices, the defense swarms to the ball-carrier, with one defender after another trying to pull the ball loose. Incomplete passes, especially screens and checkdowns, often are treated as fumbles, with defenders racing to the ball.

It seems so simple.

Capers hopes the results follow, just like last year's emphasis on tackling made his unit one of the top tackling teams in the league.

"The more you emphasize something, the more results you're going to get out of it," Capers said. "So, I like what I've seen to this point. I think there's enthusiasm."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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