The Passing Chronicles: 2019 Week 10

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

It may not have been the prettiest game in the world, and it certainly didn't lack for stress, but the Packers ended up with a victory and find themselves cruising into the bye week at 8-2 and relatively healthy. Beyond that, we got to see Lambeau covered in snow. If that doesn't put a smile on your face, I don't know what will.

The Packers seemed to be setting a few things up, but the running game was working well so Aaron Rodgers only attempted 29 passes, tied for his lowest number of attempts this season. Unlike the past few weeks, I don't really have a theme to focus on today. So just kick back, roll through 7 unconnected plays with me and coast into the bye.

I will be at a conference for work next week, so there will be no bye week edition of The Passing Chronicles. I'm sorry to be missing a week, but I think it's pretty nice that this conference decided to work around my writing schedule. Very considerate of them.

Play 1: 1st & 10, 4:22 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers trailing 0-7

Before we get too far with this one, let's answer a necessary question: what is a "hot read"? 

When a blitz comes from somewhere, it means that the area the blitzer started from is now vacant. Well, that's the theory, anyway. Before the rise of zone blitzes, defenses would play straight man-to-man coverage behind the blitz, so if you saw a blitzer off the edge, that meant there was no defender in that area. In that case, the quarterback and receiver would both read "hot". Basically, the receiver would see the blitzer, know the area was vacant, and alter whatever route he was running to look back quickly for the ball. The quarterback would see the blitz, then look to the vacated area to hit the receiver. "Hot route" for the receiver, "hot read" for the quarterback.

The Panthers are only bringing 4 men on the rush, so it's not a blitz, but the principle still holds. The defender over Davante Adams [17] rushes off the edge. You can see Adams immediately looking back for the throw as soon as he releases and sees the rusher.

The linebacker on that side stays home. If Aaron Rodgers [12] throws the ball hot, Adams would have gotten killed.

So Rodgers waits it out. Shaq Thompson [54] is good, but covering Adams is a tough assignment for a cornerback, let alone a linebacker. Rodgers has time, Adams shakes Thompson and it's an easy throw for 15 yards.

Play 2: 3rd & 6, 2:53 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers leading 14-10

I love this one. We've got a curl/post in the middle, with Geronimo Allison [81] on the curl and Jimmy Graham [80] on the post. They mirror their releases for the first few steps. Allison cuts back quickly on the curl while Graham continues over the top. There are two linebackers in the middle and these routes are attacking both of them. Rodgers times his pump fake for the moment Allison breaks on the curl. 

The pump fake causes Luke Kuechly [59] to break on Allison. That break opens up the zone behind him, which is exactly where Graham is running. Rodgers pumps, then goes over the top to a wide open Graham for 48 yards. Beautiful route combination and deception to open up Graham in the middle.

Play 3: 1st & goal, 0:19 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers leading 14-10

I really like this drag/slant combo from Adams and Allen Lazard [13] from the right side. Adams takes a step up the field before just heading across the field. That delayed release puts him underneath and slightly behind Lazard, which puts Shaq Thompson in a bind. Stay with Lazard over the top or take Adams underneath? With Graham running a fade and Jamaal Williams [30] running a flat route, there are only so many defenders on that side. The Packers flood that side, put the defense in a bind then look to hit whichever receiver pops open.

Rodgers looks to be concerned with Thompson, who is still under Lazard enough to make this a more difficult throw than it appears on the other angle. If Rodgers leads Lazard to the corner of the end zone, Donte Jackson [26] is waiting for him. So Rodgers goes over the top and just goes a little too high.

It's a nice thought and I really like the routes, but the spacing is just a little tight.

Play 4: 2nd & goal, 0:15 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers leading 14-10

The Packers are setting up a mirrored Smash concept, with a twist. Smash is a concept that features a short-breaking route - usually a curl - under a corner route. The Packers sell that on both sides, but they're running a variation on the left with Lazard. He initially cuts on the curl before heading to the middle of the field on a post route. Look at the middle of the field before the snap:

It's wide open. So Rodgers is reading Shaq Thompson in the middle of the field. If he breaks on the curl, Lazard will be wide open in the middle of the field. 

Unfortunately, Thompson stays put and jams the throwing lane just long enough for the safety to cover over the top. 

Eventually this leads to a throw to the front corner of the end zone that Graham can't haul in with both feet in. I really like this idea. If Thompson takes even one step forward, this is a touchdown to Lazard. Sometimes they just don't bite.

Play 5: 1st & 10, 7:10 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers leading 21-10

The Packers have Graham on a deep crosser from the right and Adams with a post over the top. Rodgers stares down Graham on the crosser, which draws the attention of the safety. As soon as the safety starts to break on Graham, Rodgers loads up and chucks the ball to Adams.

Rodgers puts the ball slightly behind Adams, causing him to slow down, turn and high-point it. That gives the defender time to catch up and knock the ball away.

We've seen Rodgers miss on some deep throws this year. My first thought is one of concern, as the deep ball is traditionally the first thing to leave a quarterback as he ages. It's the first sign that his skills are on the decline.

I don't think that's what this is, though. When I watch him this year, he's still able to physically make all the throws. His issues this year seem to be more of a timing issue than anything. We have multiple examples from this year that his arm is still very much alive. 

I could be wrong, but I don't believe there's any reason to be concerned about this. Still, leaving big plays out on the field can be a little frustrating.

Play 6: 1st & 10, 6:31 remaining in the 4th quarter, Packers leading 24-16

Just an RPO on 1st down. Rodgers sees Adams alone on the outside with 7 yards of space. At the snap he looks, sees the defender backpedaling and throws the quick out for 5 yards. 5 yards may not seem like much, but, like we talked about last week in the Chargers loss, it's important to stay on schedule. A 2nd & 5 is much better than a 2nd & 10. A lot more of the playbook is available to use. See the mismatch, take the easy yards, line up on the next play with more options at your disposal. I'll take it.

It's been a bit, so let's just talk about what an RPO is. It stands for Run-Pass Option, and it is exactly what it sounds like. The quarterback lines up and has the option post-snap to either hand it off or throw it. That decision is made either pre-snap or immediately post-snap, by reading a key defender. 

How do you know whether something is an RPO or just play action? Easy! Watch the offensive line. The nature of these plays means the offensive line has to run-block, so they will be pushing forward on their blocks. On play action, the offensive line will fall back to pass protect. They may give a jab-step forward first to sell the idea of a run, but they'll always fall back. If the offensive line is pushing forward to run-block, it's an RPO. If they're falling back, it's play action. On this play, they're pushing forward, so it's an RPO.

Play 7, 3rd & 1, 5:03 remaining in the 4th quarter, Packers leading 24-16

3rd & 1. Big moment in the game. What do you do? Hit Davante Adams in the flat on the two-man WR screen, of course. The Packers run a lot of wide receiver screens - I counted 5 this game alone, which accounted for 17.2% of Rodgers pass attempts - but the vast majority of them include three receivers. Two set up to block while the third receives the screen under the blocks. They rarely run a two-man wide receiver screen.

Adams takes a couple steps to sell a downfield route, gets the defender on his heels, then cuts under Lazard. Not only does Adams catch the ball and pick up the first down, but he stays in bounds to keep the clock running

In addition to these plays, I also post a bunch of unused plays over on Twitter. If you feel like rolling through those, feel free!


Albums listened to: The Roots - Things Fall Apart; The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground; The Prayer Chain - Humb, Black Milk - Fever; Charly Bliss - Supermoon; Lucy Dacus - 2019; Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - Watchmen Volume 1


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 (3)

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pacman's picture

November 15, 2019 at 11:51 am

I guess this is what it is like the film room the day after. Great stuff. Many thanks.

AR has not lost arm strength. But he seems to have lost his touch on the deep throws. He has put up some beautiful throws this year too, though. If he hit just half the under-throws this year, that he used to do with Jennings and Jordy, we would be almost unstoppable.

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ILPackerBacker's picture

November 15, 2019 at 12:13 pm

Great work. Always a pleasure to see a great result from effort

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

November 15, 2019 at 03:39 pm

Great work as usual.

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