The Passing Chronicles: 2019 NFC Championship Game

Dusty breaks down some passing concepts from the Packers loss in the NFC Championship Game to the 49ers

I can confidently say that the game didn't turn out quite the way we all had hoped. But that doesn't mean we can't look back on some concepts from the game. The game itself may have been bad, but it wasn't all bad. Join me for the final Passing Chronicles of the 2019 season, won't you?

Play 1: 3rd & 6, 13:24 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers trailing 0-10

Let's start with some of the ugly, knowing full well that even ugly can be interesting. Ask anyone who has ever had a good conversation with me! 
/proceeds to sob in the corner

This is the 3rd down strip-sack of Aaron Rodgers [12]. You can see Davante Adams [17] pointing to the blitzer before the snap. Rodgers looks over and appears to see it. More on that in a second.

Rodgers is looking for Jake Kumerow [16] out of the bunch on the right, running a curl. Given the alignment of the defense pre-snap, that looks like the correct read. Unless the slot-blitzer drops back under the curl.

The slot corner blitzes, so it looks like Kumerow will be open. But check out the drop from Dee Ford [55]. At the snap, Ford sprints across the formation to pick up the curl. That's a tough angle for a quarterback to pick up, especially since they don't typically look for an edge rusher to drop to the other side of the formation. Still, Rodgers sees Ford and doesn't pull the trigger. If he does, the pass would have been either knocked down or intercepted.

He pulls it down and is immediately strip-sacked. So what of the protection?

The 49ers are showing 7 potential rushers and the Packers have 7 back to block (I'm counting Jimmy Graham [80] as one of the blockers since he chips Bosa, then follows Bosa down to David Bakhtiari [69] instead of immediately releasing to a route).

The 49ers end up bringing 6 men on the rush, with Ford bailing to pick up the aforementioned curl from Kumerow. Bakhtiari is dropping to pick up Bosa off the chip. Elgton Jenkins [74] is looking to block Ford, but switches back to the inside after Ford bails. Corey Linsley [63] is blocking the guard, but switches to the middle pressure after Jenkins rotates.

Jamaal Williams [30] picks up the other middle pressure, while Billy Turner [77] rotates to pick up the slot blitzer. Bryan Bulaga [75] has Arik Armstead [91] on the edge. 

Everything seems fine, but Turner is out-of-position and whiffs on the slot blitzer. Rodgers does not appear to be in any hurry, because he seems to trust the protection. But it all goes wrong and ends up with a strip-sack.

Play 2: 1st & 10, 9:12 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers trailing 0-17

Nice follow concept. This one is a little deeper than the ones we've been looking at recently. On this play, Adams is running a deep crosser, pushing hard to the middle of the field. That gets the attention of the single-high safety. 

With the safety backpedaling and keeping an eye on Adams, it's up to Kumerow to get a clean release on his dig route. He aggressively pushes upfield, getting his defender to flip his hips downfield. At that point, Kumerow cuts to the middle. The safety is gone. The slot defender is gone. Fred Warner [54] settles into his middle zone, and Rodgers fires to an open Kumerow in the middle of the field for 23 yards.

Play 3: 2nd & 15, 1:08 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers trailing 0-20

This is Rodgers' first interception, thrown towards Geronimo Allison [80] on a three verticals concept.

Let's talk about verticals for a second. Four Verticals - or "4 verts" - is a play that is very common in Air Raid systems. Hal Mumme simply refers to the play as "6", since the goal is to score 6 points when you run it. The idea itself is simple while the execution can be difficult: send the receivers downfield on go routes and have them read the defense. Based on the coverage, the routes will be adjusted.

That's the tricky part. You need the receiver and the quarterback the read the same thing and react the same way. That's where this play goes wrong.

The boundary cornerback drops back to cover the deep slot while the slot defender falls under the outside route. That gives an open zone in the field to throw a comeback route. The timing is tight, but the opening is there. Rodgers throws to the open zone, expecting Allison to run a comeback route into that zone. Instead, Allison keeps running a go route.

With Allison blowing right past the zone, Emmanuel Moseley [41] simply steps into the path of the throw and picks up an interception.

Quarterback and receiver aren't on the same page and it ends poorly. Tale as old as time.

Play 4: 2nd & 8, 9:30 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers trailing 0-27

I'm a sucker for a good screen pass. The Packers send Tyler Ervin [32] on jet sweep motion before the snap to spread out the defense to the left, then use play action to the right to draw them up and over. Lewis is off the end of the line. 

Lewis is known for his blocking, so no one is really looking hard for a release. He intentionally whiffs on a block of Bosa, then turns around. Rodgers throws low, but Lewis is able to dig it out and follows the downfield blocking from Bakhtiari and Linsley for an 11 yard gain. Beautiful.

Play 5: 2nd & 5, 10:55 remaining in the 4th quarter, Packers trailing 13-34

If you have learned anything over this season, I'd like to believe that it is how to spot a Mesh concept. I've talked about it a lot in this space, and I have absolutely loved seeing how the Packers have been playing with the core concept. Here, we have an offset Mesh, with the drag routes coming from the slot and the backfield. We have a dig over the top with Robert Tonyan [85], timed up to be crossing over the mesh point as the underneath drags run in opposite directions.

Tonyan appears to have a step on Richard Sherman [25] in the middle of the field as the mesh is crossing. However, Rodgers doesn't pull the trigger and ends up throwing the ball away. Why might he have done that?

For starters, Kwon Alexander [56] hangs back in the middle as Tonyan is breaking to the inside. That causes a slight delay on the initial time of release. After the break, watch the route of Tonyan and how Sherman is playing him. Tonyan is not running at full speed, allowing Sherman to stay on his hip out of the break. If Rodgers throws a ball that hits Tonyan in the hands, Sherman is just waiting to undercut it. 

Play 6: 2nd & 10, 9:28 remaining in the 4th quarter, Packers trailing 13-34

I just wanted to bring this play up to show the pre-snap read. The cornerback across from Adams is playing off, angled inside and looking at Rodgers. More than what kind of coverage that signifies, it tells Rodgers that unless that defender flips his hips to the outside at the snap, he won't be able to close on the boundary.

The cornerback bails and Rodgers throws the quick out to Adams for 8 yards to set up a manageable 3rd & 2.

Play 7: 3rd & 4, 11:10 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers trailing 0-27

Let's close out with a couple match-up driven concepts featuring Aaron Jones [33].

Jones motions out before the snap, drawing a linebacker to the slot. That tells Rodgers that the 49ers are in man coverage, with Jones against a linebacker. Adams runs a curl route, forcing Jones' defender over the top. Rodgers simply takes a couple steps and fires to Jones under the curl route. That puts the ball in Jones' hands in space, and picks up an easy 6 yards and a 1st down.

Play 8: 3rd & 2, 8:57 remaining in the 4th quarter, Packers trailing 13-34

This time it's the motion of Jace Sternberger [87] that signifies man coverage. The 49ers have a safety on Jones (Tavarius Moore [33]), but he is in the middle of the field. Adams is running a slant from the outside while Jones is running a flat underneath. There is plenty of room on the edge for Jones and he has a decent angle, but Moore is fast (he ran a 4.32 40 at his pro day) and could potentially ruin that angle.

David Bakhtiari releases after a chip on Bosa and escorts Moore to the ground. Jones cuts inside to pick up 6 yards and a 1st down.


Thank you all for following along with these this season. I hope you learned half as much reading them as I did writing them. This was my first season here at Cheesehead TV and I couldn't be happier with how it went. I've been writing about the Packers for a while and I can honestly say that this has been my favorite year writing about them, both personally and "professionally." 

I'm sure I'll be popping up during the offseason, but I'm not entirely sure what I'll be doing just yet. Whatever it ends up being, I'm sure it'll be a blast.


Albums listened to: Halsey - Manic; Eminem - Music to be Murdered By; A Girl Called Eddy - Been Around; Mac Miller - Circles; The Innocence Mission - See You Tomorrow; Tom Waits - Alice; Dreamend - Dreamend

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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 [email protected].

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Comments (25)

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SterlingSharpe's picture

January 23, 2020 at 04:06 pm

Good stuff. This is more illustration that Rodgers is not as mentally sharp as he used to be. I don't think there's much dropoff physically. It's mental and I don't know why that is the case.

Aaron Jones is a stud, and he has plenty of tread left on the tires.

I hate seeing Joey Bosa in this film. It sucks that they got the #2 pick last year when there were 3 other 4-12 teams who were worse than they were. And we picked up a worthless last-play win over them last year that cost us about 5 spots in the draft and moved them up about 5 spots. That will haunt us for years. Imagine us getting a guy who made us better instead of Gary, and imagine the 49ers getting someone else instead of Bosa.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

January 23, 2020 at 04:39 pm

He hasn't learned a new system in over a decade. I hope he's back to his normal acuity next season.

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ShooterMcGee's picture

January 23, 2020 at 07:25 pm

The 9ers really showed us how to tank. We should have sat Rodgers last year with his injury. No need to win meaningless games especially against the 9ers and Jets. We could have been 4-11-1 or worse. What a difference it would have made for the draft.

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HankScorpio's picture

January 24, 2020 at 06:12 am

The 49ers picked top 10 for 4 straight drafts. It was 5 straight years out of the playoffs. I thought 2 years out of the playoffs was bad enough. Neither of those years produced a top 10. So more painful and twice as long? No thanks.

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jannes bjornson's picture

January 24, 2020 at 01:06 pm

Rodgers pointed out the slot blitzer, that once again Turner Failed to pick up. [Burned by the same play since game one . There has to be discussions about bringing Turner back to the RG spot]. Hard to get separation for the scrub WRs and Rodgers cannot watch the Pass Rush and scope the WRs at the same time. This is a coaching and personnel issue when teams successively attack this guy with stunts, twists and CB attacks and nothing improves.

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SterlingSharpe's picture

January 23, 2020 at 04:14 pm

Rodgers seems to throw everyone around him under the bus....parents, brothers, coaches, teammates, ex-teammates, girl-friends....not surprised he throws God there too now. He'd be happier in LA.

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EddieLeeIvory's picture

January 23, 2020 at 04:35 pm

The Chargers are so desperate right now to sell some season tickets that the Packers would be able to get a kings ransom from them for Rodgers, if the contract wasn't so bad.

Whatever the Cows got for Herschel Walker, Ditka gave for Ricky Williams, the Oilers got for Wayne Gretzky, the Chargers are even more desperate right now. Dean Spanos us under tremendous pressure to sell tickets ad they enter a huge new stadium that they share with the Rams, who have outsold them by a 5-to-1 margin.

The Bolts have the #6 pick & a ton of good assets.
Gosh a Bosa & that 6 pick would be nice .....

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HankScorpio's picture

January 24, 2020 at 06:54 am

No it would not be nice when you consider the entire picture, including the $45 mil cap hit for trading Rodgers.

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jannes bjornson's picture

January 24, 2020 at 01:12 pm

The Chargers are in position to get one of the top QBs in this draft and Herbert could be their guy. They already have played the veteran Star Attraction Game with Rivers, who may end up with Belichick.

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J_brooks's picture

January 23, 2020 at 05:32 pm

Thanks for your work this season Dusty! I can honestly say I am a better student of the game and Packers fan because of your posts - keep up the great work (and music recs)!

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Handsback's picture

January 23, 2020 at 06:14 pm

Thank you Dusty, it has been a great season!

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Rebecca's picture

January 23, 2020 at 06:46 pm

Dusty, your passing concept breakdowns have taught me how to be more aware of both passing play setups and the corresponding defense at the same time. Very well done and educational plus fun! Thanks for your work, Dusty.

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Tundraboy's picture

January 23, 2020 at 09:29 pm

Same here. Learned a great deal. Thanks.

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LeotisHarris's picture

January 23, 2020 at 09:51 pm

Well said, Rebecca. It's always interesting how Dusty's work generates relatively few comments compared to other columns on CHTV. For me, it's great to learn from someone who can explain what's happening on the field, and is excited to tell the story so well.

Dusty, I look forward to your work again next year. You add so much to CHTV. Thank you!

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

January 25, 2020 at 06:44 am

LOL. That's because most of us don't know enough to argue or disagree with Dusty, and we know that we don't.

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MarkinMadison's picture

January 23, 2020 at 07:42 pm

Amazing work Dusty.

Sheesh. I've criticized #12 plenty in the past but I'm not sure what you guys are smoking.

Rebecca, you are a very naughty girl.

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Packer_Fan's picture

January 23, 2020 at 07:58 pm

The pass play where the three verticals were run should have never been called. It requires that the receiver and the QB are totally on the same page. When momentum is not there and players performing poorly, that was not the time to call that play. Obvious now, but that is what Lafluer needs to learn. Learn to call plays where the players can have successes to get back in the game. He didn't, they intercept the pass and the Packers fall further into a hole.

Looking over these plays, Jones had plays where a LB was covering him. They should have kept using those plays and personnel groupings until SF changed their coverage. We could have dinked and donked our way down the field by using up tempo game to force the coverage to remain. That is what New England does and did to get back in the Super Bowl with Atlanta. A dink to James White to the left, then a donk to James White to the right. Mix it up with some other short passes and they come back and win. Lafleur needs to learn that.

It was so disappointing how bad the Pack played and then see these plays. These blowouts are just as much how the coaches manage the game as how the players play. I would imagine that similar things could be found on the defensive side.

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albert999's picture

January 23, 2020 at 09:29 pm

They have never done dink dink football and still don’t and they really need to because that’s what teams are giving them and they are forcing everything especially when they are behind which seems pretty often

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

January 23, 2020 at 10:02 pm

On the INT Vert, Adams running a dig instead of a go makes it very easy for Moseley to switch and move into the open space. Yes, Gmo didn't adjust. It would have been tight even if Gmo had throttled down to stay in the open zone.

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jannes bjornson's picture

January 24, 2020 at 01:39 pm

To run the verticals you need 4.2 guys at the wide spots. The idea to get aggressive and pull your team back into the flow involves beating on the 49rs with the run and short-timing routes of the WCO. If some elements of mccarthy's one-ring circus remain in this Gameplan, they need to be eradicated.

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albert999's picture

January 23, 2020 at 09:30 pm

They have never done dink dink football and still don’t and they really need to because that’s what teams are giving them and they are forcing everything especially when they are behind which seems pretty often

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HankScorpio's picture

January 24, 2020 at 05:22 am

Year one of the ML offense is now in the books. I told myself I would give it the entire year to judge. We got 2 bonus games of data from the playoffs. I'm pretty happy with things.

They surely do need another WR. And another TE. I'd like to see a little more physical play and attitude from the OL. But the concepts and direction are good, IMO. Rodgers is buying in to the program. Adams and Jones are absolute stars. I think year 2 will be a big step forward from a middle of the pack offense to becoming a strength again.

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murf7777's picture

January 24, 2020 at 06:35 am

Hank, I really like where this Offense is heading. It looks more like SF’s then LA’s and I’m good with that. It was funny in MLF presser, Silverstein asked if he would mimic LA & SF Offenses, MLF snickered and said they are very different O. It seems many think because they come from the Mike Shanahan tree it is the same. MLF went on to say you play an O based somewhat on the players you have....good answer.

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jannes bjornson's picture

January 24, 2020 at 01:49 pm

They need a Fullback and a power running back to displace Williams. Sternberger should have a bigger role and looks like Lewis wants to hang on. Jimmy would have to take a significant pay cut to stick around and Tonyan can go to the XFL. Draft a guy with a #5. See who shows up as free agents if they are not Franchised or re-signed. Still going WR or OT at the one and two picks. CB with the #3. Pick up free agent ILBs and one with the four pick.

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murf7777's picture

January 24, 2020 at 06:13 am

Dusty, awesome work....I was wondering what went wrong with the INT. GMO has taken a major step backwards in 2019 and I suspect he won’t make the cut in 2020.

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