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 Tramon Williams' interception against the Chargers and gives us some general thoughts about the defense.
No, Admiral Ackbar was not in command of the Packer defense on Sunday vs. the Chargers. Although, judging by the performance of the defense you might wonder if the “force” was with them. I’ll speak more about the overall performance of the defense in a little bit, but first, I’d like to touch on the interception by Tramon Williams.
Brian Billick mentioned that Capers mixed up his coverages and blitzes and he is correct. Billick mentioned that this interception was the result of a trap. It certainly was, but what made this coverage any different from most other coverages? Trap coverage is a result of a combination of things. First, pre-snap alignment. Second, the type of coverage typically found from the type of pressure being sent is different. What does that mean? Let’s go to the diagrams.
This diagram shows exactly what happened in the play. The Chargers end up in a 3 x 1 formation following motion from the #3 receiver from the defensive right to the left. This left Gates as the lone receiver on the backside. To the front side of the play, the Chargers are running off any under coverage in hopes of getting that #3 receiver open to the flat. The call by Capers was fantastic and the disguise by Woodson was great. Woodson is initially aligned closer to the line of scrimmage than is Williams. To Rivers this indicates some type of off man coverage in which the defenders will run with the receivers man for man.
Naturally, as the ball is snapped, Woodson bails deep but he bails over the top of Tramon to leverage the #1 receiver. Matthews runs up the seam with the #2 receiver and then breaks off his coverage. Hawk also drops to the seam/flat area. Notice how the #2 receiver is open on the skinny post after Matthews breaks off his coverage.
Why didn’t Rivers hit that guy?
Well, if he would have had time he would have and it would have been 6 points. Additionally, if he had believed the Packers were in some sort of Trap coverage he would have hit that throw but the fact is that by pre-snap alignment and disguise he anticipated something else. If you expect a guy not to be open based on your pre-snap read it is common to disregard that man.
The Packers executed a firezone but not in the traditional sense. A firezone is designed to get safe pressure by not giving up the big play as is commonly seen vs. pure man pressures. This firezone is different. Traditional firezones cover the seams, 3 deep zones and the intermediate middle (see Diagram 2), and give up the flat areas (blue shades).
The basic structure of a traditional firezone is 3 under and 3 deep. Tramon’s firezone came from a 4 under-2 deep structure. In this type of firezone, the flats, seams, and 2 deep zones are the areas covered while the intermediate middle is voided.
The other weak area is the deep middle. In this case, Matthews broke off his coverage. I don’t know why, but typically, the seam players are supposed to run with any vertical threat because the seams are a weak area. If Matthews would have kept running with the #2 receiver that would have been a mismatch and had Rivers perceived the coverage as 2 deep and had time to throw the ball, it could have resulted in a big gain or touchdown
Green Bay sends 5 rushers as is expected in any firezone. Here they send Zombo, Bishop, and Shields in addition to the two defensive linemen. They overload and pressure the single receiver side. Due to the pressure, Rivers has a limited amount of time to get rid of the ball. Even though the pressure doesn’t get home it does its job by forcing the quicker throw. The pressure and coverage were perfect for the situation and the Packers capitalized. This is a great example of how a blitz and coverage are supposed to work together.
More Defensive Thoughts
Yes, the defense gave up 38 points. Yes, the blitz didn’t seem to do much. But let’s have a little perspective. First, the defense scored twice. Second, they forced 3 turnovers, 1 to clinch the game. Third, they were playing a good offense. Ask any team in the league if they’d like to have Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates on their team. Those are two top tier players in the league. Philip Rivers, although turnover prone, is a proven winner. Maybe he doesn’t have a championship to his name but he’s no slouch. Their offensive line is pretty good and their running backs are okay. The fact they put up 38 points doesn’t shock me.
What concerns me is how they put those 38 points up. 14 of those points came from apparent busted coverages or poor technique. That’s a problem that needs to get fixed in a hurry. It reminded me of the game the Packers played in Minnesota a couple of years back when Al Harris and Charles Woodson were playing two different coverages (I believe it was cover 2 at the time), and the Vikings hit a deep shot. Al and Charles looked confused. Ryan Leaf could have been quarterbacking the Chargers on Sunday and he would have made those throws. For a defense this far in to the Capers system this is a highly concerning. We’re not talking about rookies making these mistakes. We’re talking about veterans who’ve played a lot of snaps in this system. If it doesn’t get fixed soon, the Packers will lose one of these shootouts. And believe me, there will be a time when the Packers don’t score 30 plus points on offense. New York and Detroit could be those times. The other 24 points I can live with to a certain extent. Again, San Diego’s offense, in terms of personnel, is the best one we’ve faced this year other than Brees and company.
The one item that continues to linger is the 3rd and long defense. That should be a distinct advantage for Green Bay regardless of pressures or coverage calls. Opponents are getting open too easily. I’m not sure if it’s technique or miscommunication but it’s something and it needs to get fixed in a heartbeat. Championship defenses get off the field in those situations and the Packers are not getting off the field consistently enough.
In yesterday’s game I questioned the decision to not bracket Gates more. He was the mismatch for the Packers and they had no answer for him. Bishop couldn’t cover him except for the tipped ball. Woodson did marginally better (the pass interference call was baloney….you know which one I’m talking about).
Overall, I thought Capers mixed coverage with pressure well but the coverage mix could have been better. More bracket of Gates and less on Jackson would have been nice. However, give the Chargers some credit. When Gates and Jackson were covered, Rivers used Tolbert in the passing game and it paid off.
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