The Passing Chronicles: 2020 Week 10

Dusty breaks down some passing concepts from the Packers Week 10 victory over the Jaguars

It wasn't always pretty, but the Packers got a win in Lambeau and are currently sitting in the #1 seed: the only seed to get a playoff bye this year. There are certainly things they could clean up from this past weekend, but 7-2 and the #1 seed should give everyone something to be happy about.

Today, we're going to be looking at 9 passing plays from this past weekend and breaking them down a bit. We'll be starting with an old favorite.

Let's get it.

Play 1: 1st & 10, 10:36 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers trailing 0-3

We're going to start off by talking about Slant/Flat. The Packers run this a lot, but I don't talk about it much. That changes today (and then I will promptly not talk about it again in this space for another year).

The concept of Slant/Flat is simple. Not only is it simple, but the name of the concept itself perfect describes the action. The outside receiver runs a slant while the inside receiver runs a flat underneath. Against man coverage, the motion can create a natural rub. As we'll find here, you can also take advantage of a sagging defender to pick up a few easy yards. The Packers have several variations to this we've seen go for big plays over the years, but the core Slant/Flat concept is a staple in Green Bay, as well as pretty much every other offense.

Davante Adams [17] runs a slant from the outside while Aaron Jones [33] pushes up the seam slightly before veering to the flat. The pre-snap motion signals man coverage, but it's not clear until after the snap which defender has responsibility for Jones. Is it the edge defender or the inside linebacker? If the edge comes on the rush, we're likely looking to the inside. Either way, it's a mismatch and Jones has outside leverage, so that's where Aaron Rodgers [12] is looking first.

The edge defender picks up Jones, but drifts back on what appears to be a release up the seam from Jones. Not only does that gives Jones separation on the defender, but it also puts the slant in a perfect position to work as a wall for the defender. He has to go over the slant, giving Rodgers an easy completion to Jones for 6 yards.

Play 2: 1st & 10, 12:10 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers leading 17-10

We just looked at the flat option, so now let's look at the slant and just talk for a second about why it works. Once again, Adams is running a slant from the outside while Jones is running a flat from the inside. The Jaguars are in man coverage. Marcedes Lewis [89] is running a sit route from the other side to draw up the middle linebacker, so there's room in the middle. The flat route from Jones drags his defender to the sideline. All Rodgers has to do is wait for the slant route to clear the flat defender and fire.

With the flat defender moved to the sideline and the inside defenders held by the sit route, Rodgers has a nice window to hit Adams in-stride.

Perfect throwing lane and a throw on-the-money so Adams could catch it and immediately get up the field. This was beautiful right up until the moment it wasn't.

Play 3: 3rd & 3, 13:39 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers tied 0-0

First 3rd down of the game for the Packers, and they went with a Mesh look out of a compressed formation, with Robert Tonyan [85] running the drag from the left. At least, it looks like a drag, and in a traditional Mesh it would be. But instead of continuing flat across the field, Tonyan veers upfield after the mesh point. You're trying to get the defense to think they know what they're seeing and try to jump underneath. It doesn't work here, but that's the overall thought.

A big part of the Mesh concept is a vertical route on the outside, and Adams has a go route to take care of that part. The Jaguars are in man coverage and the defender is tight to the line over Adams, so Rodgers' initial reaction is to throw the transition go to Adams on the outside. The defender has good coverage off the line and the safety is shading over, so Rodgers pulls the ball down and looks elsewhere.

Rodgers escapes up-and-out through the pocket. Once he does that, Tonyan breaks downfield as part of his secondary/scramble route. Rodgers throws to Tonyan, but just misses.

Tonyan veers toward the middle of the field to track the ball, but it's just past his outstretched hand.

Play 4: 1st & 10, 15:00 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers trailing 0-3

The Jaguars have the majority of their defense pulled in tight to the middle of the field, leaving Marquez Valdes-Scantling [83] and Davante Adams on islands on the outside. In addition to that, their deepest defender starts only 9 yards deep, shading to Valdes-Scantling's side. Rodgers is looking at the movement of that defender post-snap to see what he does. If he buzzes over Valdes-Scantling, that means there is no deep defender in the middle, which would put Tonyan in a favorable match-up over the middle of the field and the linebackers pulled up due to the play action.

The safety rotates to the middle after the snap, and is further drawn away from Valdes-Scantling because of the routes of Tonyan and Adams. That leaves Valdes-Scantling man-to-man on the ouside against Sidney Jones [35]. Rodgers knows what he has with Valdes-Scantling, so he looks to the other side of the field first. He checks the coverage on Adams and Tonyan, then comes back to Valdes-Scantling and goes over the top.

Valdes-Scantling secures the ball, then cuts all the way across the field to pick up a TD. 

Play 5: 3rd & 6, 8:34 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers trailing 7-10

We just talked about Valdes-Scantling, so let's keep the good times rolling. This time we have Valdes-Scantling running a deep crossing route against zone coverage.

Valdes-Scantling is the front man in the stack on the left. At the snap, he pushes vertically, then glides through the middle of the field, gaining depth along the way. 

The Jaguars are showing a heavy pressure look at the line. They only end up bringing 4 rushers, but one of those rushers is the wide defender against Adams. At the snap, Adams looks back for the hot read, but he ends up being covered up by a defender dropping into a wide zone.

The Jaguars back out of the pressure look at the snap, which sees a lot of defenders from the line scrambling back to settle into their zones. Valdes-Scantling sees the zone developing underneath, so instead of continuing to the boundary, he throttles down and looks for a hole to sit in.

After Rodgers breaks the pocket, the defenders shift more to the boundary, so Valdes-Scantling works back toward the middle of the field and away from the coverage.

Nicely done by Valdes-Scantling to recognize the coverage and to keep working to open spots of the field.

Play 6: 2nd & 6, 3:50 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers trailing 7-10

Here we have Adams running a drag route under a dig from Lewis from the other side. Adams is running a drag the entire way, but Myles Jack [44] backs up at the snap and drifts away from the drag. With the pressure coming from Jack's left, I think Jack is looking for the release from Jones in the backfield. Once Jones comes back inside to pick up the pressure, Jack looks to pick up Adams, but it's too late.

By the time Jack tries to pick up Adams, he has drifted too far back. He ends up running into Lewis on the dig, giving Adams a ton of space underneath. Easy completion in space picks up 18 yards. The Packers would score a touchdown 2 plays later to take a 14-10 lead.

Play 7: 1st & 10, 1:28 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers leading 14-10

After an interception by Adrian Amos, the Packers found themselves with good field position and a chance to increase their lead heading into halftime. On their first play, they run a Mesh variant, with the meshing receivers turning their crossing routes into curls after crossing each other. It's also possible that Adams' route is an option; with the flat defender drifting to the boundary, a drag route would run directly into his path, so the curl route would stop Adams short of the defender.

Whatever the reason, Adams curls and Rodgers has him open, but the ball is tipped at the line and falls incomplete.

Play 8: 1st & 10, 0:44 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers leading 14-10

Same drive as the previous play. After the incomplete pass to Adams, Rodgers hit Jones for an 11 yard gain and a 1st down. The Packers were looking to get into the end zone here, courtesy of a Davante Adams double-move.

Adams running a double-move on the outside is the first read. Rodgers stays on it and pump fakes to draw the defender up, but it doesn't quite work. The defender recovers and falls back with Adams. With that option dead, Rodgers looks to his next read, which is Equanimeous St. Brown [19] running up the middle. However, there is a linebacker sinking underneath that route and a safety over the top.

And that's it for Rodgers. Before he can look anywhere else, DaVon Hamilton [52] comes screaming through the line off a twist and sacks Rodgers for a loss of 10. 

Last week against the 49ers, we saw Rodgers hit Adams on a double-move off a Mesh concept for a big gain. Double-moves can lead to huge plays, but they can also tie up the quarterback a bit. A lot of attention is spent on Adams early: stare down, try to influence the defender with a pump fake then stay on for a bit after to see if you have the opening to fit the pass. There's nothing wrong with it, but if it doesn't open up, that leaves less time to try to find another option. That is especially true if there is a bit of pressure.

Play 9: 1st & goal, 9:11 remaining in the 4th quarter, Packers trailing 17-20

Let's close out on a high note: a touchdown to Davante Adams. 

It's a two-man route. The Packers are really selling the play action here, then trying to hit something that plays off of that (spoiler alert: they are successful). Valdes-Scantling releases through the right side of the line and veers up to the end zone, while Adams plays the slow game. With Rodgers doing a great job selling the run, Adams gives half-effort. "They're not throwing to me, so I'll just go through the motions and jog a route." The defender sees it and jogs along.

Rodgers pulls the ball out from behind his hip. At that moment, Adams breaks back toward the sideline at full speed. With the inside defenders pulled up on the play fake, Adams is alone with a defender who is just kind of jogging along with Adams. They have an unspoken trust to sleepwalk through the play, and Adams betrays that trust.

It's a beautiful and perfect bit of timing on the reveal from Rodgers and the break from Adams.

I wanted to spend a minute on the play fake itself, because Rodgers does a masterful job with it. First of all, it's not just one fake: it's two. Rodgers extends the ball to fake the jet sweep to Valdes-Scantling, then shifts back to fake to Jones coming back to the right after a misdirection step to the left.

Jones does a tremendous job of closing his arms to "accept" the ball, and Rodgers shows the open hand to the defense while keeping the ball tucked on his back hip, away from the prying eyes of the defenders. 

Great concept and executed to perfection by all parties. Golf claps all around.


If you need more passing concepts in your life - and why wouldn't you? - I threw a bunch in a Twitter thread that you can find here:


Albums listened to: Counting Crows - Recovering the Satellites; Wilco - Being There; The Weeknd - After Hours; Bob Mould - Blue Hearts; Aaliyah - Aaliyah; John Carpenter - Lost Themes II; S. Cary - All We Grow; Esben And The Witch - Older Terrors

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Dusty Evely is a film analyst for Cheesehead TV. He can be heard talking about the Packers on Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter at @DustyEvely or email at dustyevely@gmail.com.

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Comments (7)

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PeteK's picture

November 18, 2020 at 06:36 pm

I love the flow of this offense and the accuracy and composure of Rogers. It's hard to see how these passing plays develop on TV, thanks. Now, if we could get the running game going , we would be a formidable opponent for any team.

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LeotisHarris's picture

November 18, 2020 at 10:18 pm

Dusty, each week your clear, lively writing provides us with keen insights into the passing game. You do such a nice job of prepping us for what we are about to see on the videos. Your columns are a joy to read, and I always come away with a better understanding of what I thought I might have seen or didn't see during the game. I also applaud your consistently great taste in music. Thank you!

I always feel badly for you in that other CHTV columns with headlines like "The Packers Ran '87 Razor' and You'll Never Guess What Happened Next!" or "Five Packers Who Have Semi-Good Pad Level" will easily generate more than 60 comments, while The Passing Chronicles is lucky to reach double digits. Let's fix that now with some good old-fashioned vitriol and festering resentment, okay?

Not a single 2020 draft pick is helping this offense!!! Why?? Gute needs to be fired!!! MVS is no John Spilis, I'll tell you that, and if Lombardi was coaching he'd be running laps until the cows came home. ESB reminds me of a young Barry Smith, except he's fast and can't catch the ball. This offense wouldn't need to pass so much if the defense could get off the field (FIRE PETTINE!!!!) and why isn't Billy Winn active on game day? Like Dean Lowry can stop a sneeze? Lowry and Lannister couldn't carry Rich Moore's jock!!!!! No one on that defense is mean. Shouldn't the entire scouting department be fired for this? Not one meanie? I blame Murphy!!!

The Packers are 6th in OPST and 13th in TNR, yet we still haven't seen Dillon? Another wasted pick! Gary is a BUST!!!! This team is soft and will lose in the playoffs so I don't even know why I watch. TT ruined everything and McMumbles was fat. Like really fat. And Capers, man don't get me started on Capers...

TJ Watt. TJ Watt. Availability. TJ Watt. TJ Watt. Maybe we're going to run more than we're going to pass, ever think of that? Keep Rodgers clean and we'll be fine. We need a thumper!!!

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DustyEvely's picture

November 18, 2020 at 11:31 pm

Thank you so much, man. Tremendously kind. I spend entirely too much time putting these together each week, so I'm glad you're liking them.

I'm generally fine with a lack of comments. It means I'm either right on everything or so incredibly wrong that people can't find the words to disagree with. I'm good with either.

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croatpackfan's picture

November 19, 2020 at 04:44 am

Agree with you regarding Dusty and his work. I enjoy it very much!

But, I believe the only person here to be fired is you! You are GM?, Owner of other team? I always like when people like you are easy to fire someone who knows his job way over you and dedicated his life to the profession, just to be called almost "an idiot" from fan.

And do not sell me the story you are the owner, because you have 1 share of Packers and have no rights to make decisions, not even to be heard on the managing board. If you like some others GM, coaches and other employees, go and cheer for that team. Packers are top at NFC with those busts by your opinion.

Do you ever look at the facts? Like stats after the game? Who make plays for example? Months ago you were amongst "experts" who were predicting when ESB come back, MVS will not play. WOW. Are you the one who was hoping to get Clinton Dix? Tell me how many your draft darlings are in the league today. What is your record for the players you would draft in the past drafts?

I will also mention one UDFA player, who was picked by Packers and was hated from many. Today that player is starter and have 1 SB ring. Mike Pennel! Where are all those so called experts when they "evaluate" him? I can bet that you'll ruin Packers team as GM faster than Covid-19 may, with only one draft and decisions to fire people...

We have here in Croatia soccer "experts" similar to you...

You'll never learn that for success in NFL you need to have balanced team and you are never only one player away from winning all. Your darling T. J. Watt is wonderful player, but I doubt he would be that good in Packers D. Why? Because he do not play alone. in NFL success is always product of team effort, never one player alone...

Thank you!

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LeotisHarris's picture

November 19, 2020 at 08:51 am

Dude, relax. Everything I posed except for my sincere praise for Dusty, was sarcasm; a tongue-in-cheek synopsis of the endless tirades that consistently grace this fine fan forum.

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HighPlainsDrifter's picture

November 19, 2020 at 12:41 am

I echo the remarks above Dusty. This is consistently the best analysis column on the internet. Thanks for the knowledge.

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EstebanPablo's picture

November 20, 2020 at 10:18 am

Long time listener, first time caller. You finally got me to create a profile so I could comment.

"They have an unspoken trust to sleepwalk through the play, and Adams betrays that trust."

I appreciate all the insights, and nuanced explanations of these plays and concepts, but I live for the magical wordsmithing that plops a big dumb grin on my face every week.

Thanks, dude.

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