The Passing Chronicles: 2019 Week 14

Dusty breaks down some passing concepts in the Packers Week 14 victory over Washington

Leading up to this week, Washington said they were going to shut down the running game and make Aaron Rodgers beat them. The way the Packers passing game looked for most of the afternoon, we should all be lucky that Washington couldn't contain Aaron Jones. On the day, Rodgers went 18/28 (64.3%) for 195 yards and a touchdown, for a QB Rating of 96.6. Not terrible numbers, but certainly nothing eye-popping. 

That being said, there was some interesting stuff being run, so let's take a look at a few of those.

Play 1: 1st & 10, 12:50 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers tied 0-0

The Packers came out in 13 personnel. Let's talk about that number for a second. When talking about personnel, the first number indicates the number of running backs on the field while the second number indicates the number of tight ends on the field. Since there are only 5 skill positions available on every snap, the number of wide receivers can easily be figured out. So 13 personnel means 1 running back, 3 tight ends and 1 wide receiver.

Let's keep that in mind. This is the first Packers offensive play of the game. As I mentioned at the top of the article, Washington was talking all week about wanting to force Aaron Rodgers [12] to beat them. Then, on the first offensive snap, the Packers trot out a heavy formation with 3 tight ends. To Washington, that could look like the Packers saying, "It doesn't matter what you said. We're going to run the ball down your throat, anyway." Washington responds by stacking the box.

The Packers run play action to pull the linebackers up, then run Jimmy Graham [80] on a crosser over the top. I love the pre-snap alignment of Graham. He is lined up tight to the right side of the line, with another tight end - Jace Sternberger [87] in this case - lined outside of him. Out of these alignments, you will often see the defense treat the closest-aligned tight end as a blocker, and he can often sift his way through the mess and find open space behind it. That's exactly what happens here.

All things work together perfectly. Let's run down what the Packers did to set this up:

1. Aligned with heavy personnel
2. Put Graham in a spot typically used to block
3. Used hard play action

All of that - combined with Washington wanting to back up their "make Rodgers beat us" out of the gate led to a wide open Graham and 20 easy yards. It's a nice design, but it's a tremendous playcall, executed to perfection. Beautiful all the way around.

Play 2: 1st & 10, 3:40 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers leading 7-0

We just talked about how Graham's alignment tight to the line help to free him up, so let's run it back. This time he's on the left side, but he's still the tight end closest to the line. The Packers go with 12 personnel this time (1 running back, 2 tight ends, 2 wide receivers). Not as heavy as 13, but, with both tight ends on the left, it gets Washington thinking about a power run to the left. Adding to that is Marquez Valdes-Scantling [83] running pre-snap jet sweep motion to the left. 

All of that draws the attention of the defense to the left. Once again, Graham simply runs through it. Davante Adams [17] runs a nice clear-out route from the right, so Graham has plenty of room to move. Relatively easy 25 yards.

Play 3: 1st & 10, 10:34 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers leading 14-0

I covered a play similar to this last week (Play 6) so I don't know that I need to spend a ton of time with this one. I wanted to show this one, just to show how they're continuing to work on counters to their favorite concepts out of different looks.

This works off a concept the Packers run a lot: play action bootleg to levels. Basically, they'll run play action to one side and bootleg to the other, where multiple receivers will be running parallel to the quarterback at different depths. The Packers run that a lot, so this is a natural counter to that. Everything looks the same as play action bootleg, until it doesn't. Two receivers step towards the bootleg side, trying to get the defense to bite on that familiar concept. After one or two steps, they reverse field. To go along with that, instead of continuing across on his bootleg, Rodgers pulls up short and sets up for a downfield shot.

Get the defense reading your concept, then hit them with something else. It works here, but Rodgers overthrows Graham.

One last thing to point out on this. Last week the Packers ran this with a wide receiver split out on either side. This week they ran it out of a tight formation, with Jake Kumerow [16] the only wide receiver. Same concept, different look and personnel grouping. 

When looking at plays, I always look at Process over Results. If you look at the Results, this play was a failure because it ended in an incomplete pass. If you look at the Process, it was a success because they got a man open down the field.

Play 4: 2nd & 8, 3:01 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers leading 14-6

I've been tracking The Cheese Wheel - a name given to plays featuring Danny Vitale's [45] vertical release up the field from the backfield - for a while now. They use it in a variety of ways. On this play, they're using the threat of The Cheese Wheel as a way to help clear room for a screen underneath. The Packers have run this enough to where defenses are starting to pay attention to it. Sometimes they'll hit Vitale in the flat underneath the defense but today they're using it as a decoy.

The movement from the left side is almost always the same: Vitale starts from I-formation (or offset I-formation) and releases up the field, while the lone outside receiver to that side pushes hard towards the middle of the field. You can see how the defense reacts: two defenders inside fall back with Valdes-Scantling while a linebacker turns to run with Vitale. That all opens a lot of room underneath for Jamaal Williams [30], who releases on a screen.

On this particular play, Ryan Kerrigan [91] shoves David Bakhtiari [69] back into the lap of Rodgers before the screen can fully develop. Rodgers can't throw to Williams because Jonathan Allen [93] is still in the way, so he tries to move a little to get a better angle on the throw. Allen hits Rodgers and the ball falls incomplete

Again, Process over Results. If Bakhtiari can keep Kerrigan off of Rodgers for another half-second, this is likely a big gain. 

Play 5: 4th & 5, 1:05 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers leading 14-6

The Packers are in no-man's land, so they opt to go for it on 4th & 5. I love it.

They run a post/dig from the right, with a running back releasing through the middle of the field, running the opposite direction. I've talked about follow concepts before, but let's hit a refresher. The basic idea behind a follow concept like we're seeing from the post/dig combination is that the first route will clear room for the route behind it. They're looking for that initial post to draw a defender out of the middle with it. If it does, they'll have room on the dig. If they don't, they'll have room on the post.

(A quick note: I'm calling the initial route a post even though it ends up looking like a dig. Allion's initial cut appears to be a post, but he ends up leveling off after seeing the coverage. So, even though Allison & Adams end up running to the same space, the route starts as a post, so I'm calling it a post. Just wanted to get that out of the way.)

The problem is the dropping defenders. Washington is showing a lot of potential rushers at the line. At the snap, 4 of them drop back, clogging the initial passing lanes. 

Rodgers is looking to hit the dig, but he sees a couple linebackers in the way. Because of all the dropping linebackers, he knows he can wait for something to get open. Once the linebackers are drawn up by Williams out of the backfield, he knows he'll have space to hit one of the crossers.

There's a single linebacker left in the middle of the field. If he drifts with the first receiver, Rodgers will hit the follow. If he waits on the follow, Rodgers will hit the first receiver.

The linebacker drifts and Rodgers hits Adams on the follow for 9 yards and a 1st down.

Play 6: 1st & 10, 15:00 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers leading 14-6

The left side of the offense starts with 2 wide receivers, but Geronimo Allison [81] loops behind Rodgers in the backfield as soon as the ball is snapped. The hard play action - combined with the hard-pushing route from Adams from the left and the motion of Allison - clears a lot of room on the left. After the play action, Jones simply leaks out to that side and behind the attention of the defense. The Packers don't have to do much here and it results in a wide open playmaker in space. Nice work if you can get it.

Play 7: 3rd & 9, 13:36 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers leading 17-9

Matt LaFleur mentioned this play at the top of his postgame press conference. In these articles I always try to bring as much context as I can, but without seeing the playbook or being in the huddle, there's not really a way to know with 100% certainty how these plays are supposed to go. Seeing this live - and even rewatching it with the All 22 - it certainly looked like Rodgers missed Jones down the field. In the press conference, LaFleur said that Jones was supposed to go outside on this play, but Landon Collins [20] slipping forced Jones to go inside, instead. You can see Jones trying to cut to the outside, but the fallen Collins cut off his path. Rodgers throws as if Jones is going outside, but the timing is just a little off.

Why did Collins fall? Aaron Jones is running a sluggo. If you're not familiar, "sluggo" means "slant-and-go." Sell the slant, get the defense to bite, then run a go route behind them. If you catch the defense leaning, it can produce some very big plays. Collins bites hard on the slant and slips on the recovery. That little action throws off the timing.

Rodgers has room to climb the pocket and step into the throw, but he saw the inital move from Jones and knew he had Collins beat. The sooner the ball comes out, the more room Jones has to make the catch without Collins being a factor. It's really easy to second-guess when watching a play a dozen times, but I don't know that I can disagree with his thought process in the moment.

Lastly, I want to talk about why Rodgers went to Jones. A lot has been made over the last few weeks about how defenses have adjusted to covering Aaron Jones. The Packers were doing very good things in the passing game when they were getting Jones matched-up on linebackers, but defenses have started using cornerbacks to cover him instead. In this case, Rodgers saw Jones lined up wide against a safety. And, while Collins is perfectly fine, he's not exactly an elite coverage safety. With Jones running a sluggo, Rodgers liked that match-up.

They got Jones matched-up against a safety on the outside, on a route that he ended up winning. Process over Results, man.


Every week, I mark up a bunch of videos and only end up writing about a handful of them in this space. The rest end up getting posted to a thread on Twitter. So, if you're looking for some quick-hitting looks on some other concepts, you can find those here:


I'll be making the trek up to Green Bay for the Packers/Bears game this weekend. If you happen to see me wandering around aimlessly, feel free to say hey!


Albums listened to: Bishop Allen - The Broken String; Angie McMahon - Salt; TOY - Songs of Consumption; Emily Jane White - Immanent Fire; Camila Cabello - Romance; Louise Burns - Portraits

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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 (22)

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Lphill's picture

December 12, 2019 at 04:10 pm

Excellent work Dusty, I think on play 3 the long pass to Jimmy G I don’t think Rodgers over throws him I just think Jimmy G is just too slow , Sternberger probably makes that catch.

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ILPackerBacker's picture

December 13, 2019 at 12:26 pm

or Tonyan

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DustyEvely's picture

December 13, 2019 at 10:56 pm

You work with the packages you roll out. They practiced that concept with Graham. Everyone was healthy, so they had their pick and Graham was the guy they chose. Just because someone else is faster doesn't mean that's a perfect ball.

Graham was the guy. They had their guy. He got open. Rodgers overthrew him by a hair. It happens, but that's an overthrow.

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Lare's picture

December 12, 2019 at 04:32 pm

Nice work Dusty. As they say, it's a game of inches.

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ShooterMcGee's picture

December 12, 2019 at 06:51 pm

The creativity of MLF now introducing 3 TEs on the same side is just awesome. In the "illusion of complexity" theory I will be watching for different plays from this formation. 1 of my favorites from the Chiefs is a TE middle screen. The QB rolls out looking downfield, then turns and throws it back to the TE who has 3 lineman in front of him. Big Bob Tonyan could do some damage on this play.
Thanks for breaking down these plays which really increases our knowledge of the game.

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Packer_Fan's picture

December 12, 2019 at 08:06 pm

You look at these plays and the miss from Rodgers could have been a 21-0 lead. That was a big miss. And Rusty, you are showing how miss- steps blow the timing and mess up plays. I just read another article on how Rodgers habits are making the offense inconsistent. Your analysis shows if a tackle lets too quick of pressure it messes up the whole play. If Rodgers steps into the pocket to adjust to Jones change on the pattern would have been another TD. These tendencies are tougher to change and the habits Rodgers picked up with McCarthy will take perhaps next year to fully change. IMHO.

Also, watch the Bears this weekend. They will run 2-3 plays with Cohen running a wheel route to the flat and a quick pass to him. Always a sure 5 yards. The Pack could do that with Jones multiple times a game and get Jones into the passing game and get him in space to break out a big gain. To check the alignment, watch the play from the Chargers game where the DE disrupts Jones and blows up the play. A wheel route to the flat with the inside LB trying to cover will be open every time.

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DustyEvely's picture

December 13, 2019 at 11:01 pm

Specifically on the Jones throw, I have no issue with him throwing from where he was. With the line closing in, he doesn't have a clean view of what was going on. He knew the route and he saw the initial cut. Yes, he could have stepped into it, but he saw his man juking his defender. If he steps up-and-over to the opening to release, Collins has a chance to recover and that's a more difficult throw. On that play, he knew where his man was supposed to be and threw it to a good spot. That's a good throw! Jones was just forced inside. It's tough to complain about Rodgers holding onto the ball for too long then get upset with him for throwing a pass where his guy was supposed to be.

Rodgers certainly has his habits, but I've seen a lot of times this year where the timing is off from the receivers. Hesitate a beat and you've missed your window. I'm not saying Rodgers is blameless - he's not - but if you have multiple times where you throw to a place your receiver is supposed to be only to find that he's not there, there's a natural hesitation to make sure everyone is where they are supposed to be. It may look bad when that guy gets open, but I've seen more than enough times where it seems to be on the receiver to just chalk it up to "Rodgers has bad habits."

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SterlingSharpe's picture

December 12, 2019 at 08:41 pm

This season reminds me of the 2002 season when the Packers "had a nice record" but weren't really that impressive. They went into week 17 (or 16, maybe weren't byes yet) with a game at the Jets where a W would give us the #1 seed.

We laid an egg to Chad Pennington & lost. Ended up having to play Wildcard weekend hosting Michael Vick & the Falcons. Packers had NEVER lost a home playoff game.
Until that game.

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Bearmeat's picture

December 12, 2019 at 09:00 pm

I have thought of that season several times this year. The good news is that 03 was a team that could have won it all if not for 4th and 26...

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ShooterMcGee's picture

December 13, 2019 at 04:29 am

Good news is that past performance has no relevance to future results.

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Leatherhead's picture

December 12, 2019 at 11:29 pm

I think we should retire the “no open receivers “ excuse, because it’s pretty obvious we’re getting guys open on most pass plays.

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Bure9620's picture

December 13, 2019 at 05:49 am

Yes this is a lazy assessment, WRs are open on most plays, actually were last year also

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

December 13, 2019 at 08:37 am

Sadly the main problem is Rodgers. Even Jimmy Graham is getting open.

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edp1959's picture

December 13, 2019 at 10:09 am

Sadly none of you have a clue. So keep pretending if it makes you feel better.

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Spock's picture

December 14, 2019 at 08:29 am

Dusty, I always enjoy these type of articles, especially from you with the arrows and boxes to show what to look for. I learned something new from your WORDS on this one though :). "The Packers came out in 13 personnel. Let's talk about that number for a second. When talking about personnel, the first number indicates the number of running backs on the field while the second number indicates the number of tight ends on the field. Since there are only 5 skill positions available on every snap, the number of wide receivers can easily be figured out."
Thanks for that explanation. I had read about 12 personnel, 10 personnel, etc. but never knew what it meant in terms of the RB's and TE's being used. Great information!

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packergal's picture

December 13, 2019 at 08:35 am

Hello Dusty,

Your articles are terrific in explaining play designs and hits/misses.

Thank you very much!

I'm not trying to add to your workload, however, have you ever considered identifying and diagraming just "one" money play from the Packers upcoming (next) opponent?

It would then be quite interesting to see the Packers D success or failure when/if this competitive play gets called.

Keep up the good work, Dusty, and GO PACK!

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DustyEvely's picture

December 13, 2019 at 11:03 pm

Thank you!

I have certainly considered it, but I've got a lot going on. It's one of those things I'd love to do if I have the time, but I don't always have the time. One of these days I'll get it all figured out, though.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

December 13, 2019 at 08:35 am

I was screaming at the TV for the sluggo in the second half of the Big Ten Title game. Once a team goes to short zones sluggo is a great way to make them pay.

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Since'61's picture

December 13, 2019 at 09:23 am

Great work Dusty. Appreciate your efforts to provide us with these clips. Thanks, Since '61

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Point-Packer's picture

December 13, 2019 at 09:59 am

Someone should show MVS that toe drag from Marquise Brown last night in the Ravens vs Jets game. Apparently "all that playing" that Nagler has called on GB's underwhelming WR corps to experience hasn't been enough to teach MVS that when you catch a ball out of bounds, it doesn't count.

Speaking of Baltimore, I hope to god that GB doesn't play them in the SB. Cause if that miracle someone becomes reality, the Ravens will whip on GB circa San Fran vs Denver in 1989.

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ILPackerBacker's picture

December 13, 2019 at 12:28 pm

Another great effort. really appreciate your time and effort with these

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porupack's picture

December 14, 2019 at 06:06 am

Great work Dusty, and gives us all a great reference for debate regarding our complaints about the packers offense, at least the passing game. At casual watch, its hard to see the concepts, especially if the defense plays it, (or slips) and the play fails, its easy to just conclude that receivers "aren't getting separation" or "too slow" (which can still be true). But my usual gripe is just as bad, to blame the coaches for poor scheme. So I stand corrected somewhat...thanks to your arrows and spotlights.

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