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 from an X’s and O’s standpoint. Today he takes a look at some of the issues surrounding the offense and its failings against the Giants this past Sunday night.
Situational football is an important aspect of the game. Philosophies are like…..well you know. Every coach has one. Some have the same and others go a different route. In the end, I appreciate the Herm Edwards philosophy….”you play to win the game……Hello!” McCarthy and Co. didn’t appear to take this approach. Yes, I understand McCarthy likes the vertical passing game. I get it.
However, sometimes your philosophy needs to be one of matriculating the ball down the field as Hank Stram used to say. Bill Walsh would attack all areas of the field, width wise and length wise. He would take his shots of course. He loved to go for the endzone when he got to the opponent’s 25 yard line because the field would be compressed at that point and the defense was sure to pull out their blitzes, leaving single coverage on the outside. But philosophies aside, you play to win the game and that means being judicious with the ball so your team can keep possession. I’ve taken the liberty to assess 4 plays in the game. Two show poor play design for the situation. The other two show how a 3 step drop can result in a 10-15 yard gain. Let’s begin.
At first glance this looks like a 3-4 defense (3 DL & 4 LB). By alignment it may look like it is. In fact, it is not. Take a closer look. The player circled in yellow is Justin Tuck. The other three players in their 3 point stances are defensive linemen. The Giants have their 4 defensive linemen in the game. Additionally, there are not 4 linebackers. There aren’t even 3 or 2. The lone linebacker in the game is circled in blue. The defenders in the red circles are the two deep safeties. The remaining defenders the Giants have in this situation are corners and safeties. The Giants are in Dime personnel (6 DBs). The player circled in orange is indeed a safety.
The Packers are in 11 personnel (1 Back, 1 TE). Finley is aligned as the TE to the right of the formation with 2 receivers to his right. To the left off of the picture is a lone receiver. This is a trips formation commonly known “Trey.” The game is tied at 7 and the Packers need 3 yards for a first down.
As Rodgers receives the snap we can see the Packers are in a 6 Man protection (5 OL plus Kuhn). The two deep safeties (in red) gain width and depth off of the hashes. The linebacker (in blue) opens his hips towards the 3rd receiver (Finley). Justin Tuck jams Finley as he tries to release up field. The safety (in orange) opens to the single receiver side with his eyes on Kuhn. Should Kuhn release, he would be responsible for man coverage on Kuhn. Immediately you can see that this is 2 Man coverage. Rodgers is looking “down the pipe” at that linebacker to see his drop.
Tuck has done a nice job of disrupting Finley’s release. Pay particular attention to the depth of the defenders. The safeties (in red) are 15 & 20 yards from the line of scrimmage. The linebacker in the hole is almost 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. The green line represents the line to gain (1st down). The protection is solid. Notice Kuhn on his double with Newhouse to the left in the picture.
Rodgers now comes off to the right to see if he can hit Cobb who has run a “whip” route. Cobb is covered pretty well as he makes his break to the outside. You can see Kuhn releasing out after his chip with Newhouse. Again, the protection isn’t the issue. Rodgers has time and a clean pocket. Notice Tuck? After jamming Finley he inserts himself in to the rush late. You can see Saturday leaving EDS to pick up Tuck.
No longer does Rodgers have a clean pocket. Saturday does a horrible job of picking up Tuck, forcing Rodgers to flush to his left. Again, notice the line to gain. Do you notice anything else? More on that in a minute.
Rodgers is now trying to escape to his left. He could take a chance and throw it to Kuhn but he tries to rely on his athleticism to buy some more time and possibly run for it. Ultimately he gets tripped up by Canty and the Packers attempt the 55 yd. field goal which Crosby promptly misses. Would Kuhn have picked up the first down had Rodgers thrown it? Who knows. At this point in the play progression it really doesn’t matter. The problems with this play occurred in the heads of McCarthy and/or Rodgers.
In slide number 5 I asked if you noticed anything. Do you see it now? Look at the open area in the short middle of the field between the hashes. My major complaint with McCarthy has always been his proclivity to want to push the ball down field and not take what the defense is giving him. The Giants are telling the Packers to take the first down. The red dot represents where Finley was initially aligned. A simple 5 yard route to the middle (Hank route in WCO lexicon) of the field (red line) would have picked up a first down and kept a drive in Giants territory going with the score tied at 7. Simple pitch and catch. The only defender Rodgers and Finley would have had to worry about was the backside shallow safety checking on Kuhn. This is where Finley would have to sit hard and not drift to give Rodgers a clean window.
Instead we see Finley 15 yards down field with a linebacker giving him a cushion of 5 yards. The other receivers were canceled so Rodgers was left to scramble to buy time. In short, this play took too long to develop. This miscue was not on the offensive line. It was in the play design and play call for that situation. Why the Packers insist on throwing in to the teeth of 2 Man time and time again is beyond me.
The ball is on the Packer 39 yard line. Again we have a Trey formation with Finley now in a flexed alignment. The Giants are once again in Dime personnel and the coverage is 2 Man. Notice the red lines? Rodgers is 5 yards from the ball. He will be much further than that after he receives the snap.
Rodgers ends up taking a 5 step drop from the shotgun. This is the equivalent of a 7 step drop from under center. The red line at the bottom of the screen shows where his back foot hit at the top of his drop. In the picture Rodgers has taken the first of his two hitch steps to step back up in to the pocket. The protection broke down as Newhouse whiffed on the block. Now, even if the block is made, Rodgers will either have to scramble or hit Kuhn on the checkdown.
My issue with the play is the design and decision to call it in this situation. The Packers had 1st and 10 with 1:24 to go in the 2nd quarter. They were down 24-10. Another key fact is that they had 2 timeouts. But yet again, McCarthy and Rodgers insist on taking a shot down the field and throw in to the teeth of the coverage. It just doesn’t make any sense ladies and gentlemen. A simple 3 step drop from the gun to hit Kuhn on the checkdown might have avoided this situation. This is Mike Martz style passing. …hold the ball and hope something develops. I just don’t understand this.
The Packers are in a Trey left formation with Finley aligned in a flex position and Cobb to his left. The Giants are in dime personnel and 2 Man. The ball is on the 24 with 1:45 on the clock. It is 2nd & 10 with the Packers down 24-10 in the 2nd quarter.
Rodgers takes 1 quick step and a balance step and fires the ball to Cobb who has run a 5 yard “Stick” route along with Finley.
You can see Cobb has caught the ball and has room to run up field. He gains an additional 10 yards in RAC, making this a 15 yard gain. Imagine that ladies and gentlemen. …15 yards from a simple 3 step drop 5 yard stick route. This is the essence of the West Coast offense. The fact Cobb was off the line of scrimmage did not enable the Giant defender to jam him and instead the defender had to sink. The defender guessed Rodgers would through the stick to Finley and this left Cobb with plenty of space. This is a simple but as you can see, effective read.
The Packers are initially aligned in a 2 x 2 formation. However, Cobb (in yellow) motions to the left to make this, once again, a Trey formation.
At the snap, Cobb runs a shallow cross under Finley who is, you guessed it, running vertical up the seam. Here you can see Cobb just as he’s about to break underneath Finley.
TJ Lang breaks down in his protection and Rodgers is able to avoid JPP and move to his right. You can see Cobb (in yellow) moving across the field at the 27 yard line. The ball was snapped from the 32. This is a simple 5 yard shallow cross.
Cobb is now picked up by Chase Blackburn on the shallow. Can you say “mismatch?”
Cobb has caught the ball and turns up field for an additional 6, giving the Packers another 1st down. Ultimately, the Packers kick the field goal on this drive to score 10.
Did the OL play poorly? Yes. Was this all on the OL? Not for even a second. The two bad plays I showed you were not solely the fault of the OL. The play design and call doomed the team from the start. Should we be surprised? I say no. McCarthy and/or Rodgers just seem to believe they can force the ball deep against anyone regardless of coverage. The Giants, 49ers, Bears, and Lions have proven they can’t, yet they insist on doing it. Packer fans had better hope that McCarthy and Co. are just testing things out in the regular season and will call a more effective game in the playoffs because if things don’t change the Packers will be “one and done” in the post season should they face a team that plays Cover 2 or 2 Man.
What’s even more baffling is the fact that, on occasion, McCarthy and Rodgers attacked the short to intermediate zones and let their play makers make yards after catch in space. So is it really a question that they don’t know how to attack this coverage or is it pure stubbornness and holding on to your philosophy come hell and high water? They say patience is a virtue. Somebody had better tell that to the Packer offense and tell them fast. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words and the film doesn’t lie.