Regular Cheesehead TV reader (and all-too-infrequent commenter) "Paul Ott Carruth", a former player and coach who wishes to remain anonymous, breaks down different aspects of the Packers and their opponents from an X's and O's standpoint. Today he looks at the first touchdown pass the Packers gave up to Kyle Orton and Eric Decker.
Sports writers and fans have been scratching their heads lately. The Packer defense seems, in a word, “off.” It’s really hard to put a finger on it, although, I have my own take. But in the spirit of puzzlement, let’s take a look at Denver’s first touchdown of the game on Sunday and check out Green Bay’s defensive alignment and the actions of the players within the scheme. It just might have you scratching your head or throwing your TV remote…..or neither.
On this play the Broncos set up shop on the Packer 5 yard line. Denver comes out in a 3 by 1 formation with the 3 receivers in a bunch alignment to the right, (Packer point of view). Decker, #87 is aligned as the inner most receiver, Lloyd, #84, is the outer most receiver and #12, Willis, is aligned on the line, in between Decker and Lloyd. On the left side of the formation, Denver aligns with a TE (#86 Fells). In the backfield, Orton is in shotgun with McGahee off set to the left. Therefore, the personnel grouping is 11 for Denver (1 back, 1 TE).
The Packers are in their Nickel sub package (2 DTs, 4 LBers, 5 DBs). Woodson is playing his usual position in the slot/inside, with outside leverage on #12 just short of the goal line. Tramon is leveraged inside of #12 with his heels on the goal line. Shields is playing off of Lloyd with outside leverage about 1 to 1 and half yards deep in the endzone. Burnett is about 3 to 4 yards deep in the endzone in the middle of the formation. Hawk is about a yard short of the goal line and Bishop, who initially lines up 1 yard shy of the goal line, changes his alignment to outside of Matthews on the line of scrimmage. Peprah is aligned with outside leverage on the TE Fells a yard shy of the goal line.
At the snap, Denver keeps in the TE in to help the offensive tackle double on Matthews. Denver then slides the remainder of their line to their left (Packer right). Walden receives a one on one match-up against the Denver left tackle. Our two defensive tackles are left to take on both offensive guards and the center. The diagram is adjusted to show the line movements post snap. Denver routes show McGahee executing a check-release and run the check down. To the bunch trips side we see Lloyd running a wheel-fade route at Shields. Shields executes his drop to match Lloyd’s release and route. Willis runs a stop route right between Tramon and Woodson. He stops at the goal line. At the snap, Woodson opens his hips at a 45 degree angle, facing his rear to the sideline. As he does this he should be able to see both Willis running the stop route and Decker running the short out (sometimes referred to as a bench route). Tramon “bounces” at the goal line waiting for Willis to declare his intention. Orton successfully throws the ball to Decker who catches it, turns upfield and lurches in to the end zone. So what happened? Why was it such an easy pitch and catch?
Here is my take. It appears the Packers were in some type of zone coverage based on the drops and reaction of the Packer defenders. My guess it was some type of Cover 3 based on the alignment of Burnett playing the deep middle, Shields ability to react to the short throw after his drop and Woodson’s opening of the hips to play the releases of Decker and Willis. This brings me to another point. How can you tell when the coverage is zone or man? Well, a simple check is to look for the drop of the coverage defenders. By that I mean do they turn toward the man or do they turn toward the ball. Woodson’s hip turn had him facing his eyes inside toward the QB. He was executing what is called a “zone turn.” Zone turns have the coverage defenders getting their eyes on the ball. “Man turns” have the defenders turn toward their man and run with him from the snap. It is not surprising the Packers went with zone coverage vs. the Denver “bunch set.” Going to some type of man coverage would have put the Packers at a disadvantage. When receivers bunch up closely they are hoping to face man coverage in order to rub and pick defenders off. Because the Packers run so much man and man/free coverage perhaps the Broncos were banking on some type of man coverage in this situation? Now, that doesn’t mean man coverage can’t be executed vs. a bunch set such as this. Tramon and Woodson could execute what is called a “banjo” technique on Decker and Willis. This simply means that both Tramon and Woodson are playing man to man but they won’t declare who they have until the receivers declare. If this was the case, Woodson would have jumped Decker and Tramon would have stuck to Willis because Woodson was leveraged outside and Tramon was leveraged inside. Had Decker run vertical to the goal line and Willis run the out then Tramon would have taken Decker and Woodson would have taken Willis.
So where was the breakdown? For my money, I’m banking on Woodson as the culprit. Now, as I said in the post about the Kellen Davis TD, the Capers’ defense allows for risk taking. I’m hoping that Woodson was doing just that by jumping Willis instead of taking Decker. The problem here is that Shields was forced to come off of Lloyd and react late to Decker. While the tackle attempt was atrocious at best, asking him to play their best receiver and compensate for Woodson is just too much to ask of any corner. Had Woodson not gambled and executed his responsibility by taking Decker based on his release, the chance for a TD becomes smaller.
It’s hard to argue against Woodson taking a chance and jumping the stop route by Willis after he registered an interception and return earlier in the game. One could argue that taking a risk when you’re in your own territory as opposed to taking a risk when your opponent is backed up is not a smart thing to do. I don’t have a problem with Woodson’s play in general or this play as long as it was a risk type of action and not a blown assignment. I choose to believe Woodson knew what he was doing and gambled and lost. It’s just something that fans are going to have to get used to with this defense and the style of play by certain defenders executing it. I’m more concerned with Green Bay’s inability to consistently get off the field on 3rd down and medium to long distances from time to time……but that’s a different story altogether.
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