The Passing Chronicles: 2019 Week 15

Dusty breaks down some passing concepts in the Packers Week 15 victory over the Chicago Bears

We're going to start off this week by looking at four different ways the Packers ran the Mesh concept this past weekend. I've talked about Mesh a lot, but I think this is important enough to revisit it in a bit of depth, so hang on. 

The creation of the Mesh concept  is often attributed to the late, great LaVell Edwards at BYU. The concept is built around the "mesh" of two receivers in the middle of the field. Edwards always ran that the same way: at a depth of 6 yards, with the routes close enough for the receivers to give each other a high five.

This is the basic Edwards Mesh. The mesh point is the central piece, but he would run it with deep out-breaking route and a flat route underneath. He would use that to stretch the defense verically as well as horizontally. There's also a flat route to the other side that helped draw the defense to the sideline and away from the mesh.

A young Hal Mumme became obsessed with Mesh. He would travel to BYU in the summer, watch film and pick Edwards' brain about the concept. He ended up making it the focal point of his Air Raid system. Mumme took the core concept and tweaked it a bit. It's a small change, but also kind of a big one.

The flat routes are still there, but he changed the deep, out-breaking route. Instead of doing that, Mumme brought that route over top of the mesh point. He did that to take advantage of the chaos created from the dueling drags. Mesh has a way of getting defenses to fan out from the middle or have defenders bump into each other. Either way, there is a natural void in the defense that the mesh can create, so Mumme brought a receiver over the top to sit in the middle of it all. Again, a relatively small change, but pretty big in the grand scheme of things.

Now that we've got that little schematic history lesson out of the way, let's look at how the Packers used that concept.

Play 1: 3rd & 5, 9:15 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers tied 0-0

One thing I have loved watching this year is how the Packers have been working to combine the Edwards Mesh with the Mumme Mesh. You can see those concepts on display here, but with a twist. The Packers have kept the vertical route from the Edwards Mesh, but combined it with the crosser over the mesh point from the Mumme Mesh.

On this play, they mix it up even more. Geronimo Allison [81] is crossing over the top of the mesh point. He makes a point to turn and look back at Aaron Rodgers [12] around the point he would normally curl. To the defender, this looks more-or-less like the version of Mesh the Packers usually run. Instead of stopping on a curl, Allison continues across the field. He has his defender on his back hip. That side of the field is cleared out due to the mesh action and the vertical route, so Rodgers hits Allison.

Allison can't haul it in, but it's a nice small twist on a concept they run a lot.

I love this view because you can see how many reads Rodgers goes through on the play, and how quickly he moves through them.

Play 2: 3rd & 4, 14:55 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers leading 7-0

You can see the mesh point in the middle, but it's not a parallel mesh. Instead of running directly at the other drag, Robert Tonyan [85] drifts up the field at an angle. It forces the same action in the middle, but could help to force the boundary defender to pull up on the drifting drag instead of helping on the vertical route down the field. 

On this play, the vertical route is coverered well, so the defender peeling off to pick up Tonyan doesn't do much. I could absolutely see this pass going to the vertical route up the right side against a lesser defense.

As it stands, Rodgers doesn't have anyone to throw to on his first step. He steps up and through the pocket and throws back-shoulder to Tonyan in the middle of the field. Tonyan can't adjust and the pass falls incomplete.

Tonyan has a defender underneath and a safety over the top. There's very little room for error on that throw. It would likely either result in an interception or Tonyan getting lit up. Rodgers threw this pass in the only place he could have. At the moment he's set to release it, it looks like Tonyan is starting to head to the middle. He doesn't it ends up with an incompletion.

Play 3: 2nd & 7, 5:53 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers leading 7-0

You can see the familiar parts, but, again, there's a bit of a twist here. It looks like Davante Adams [17] and Jimmy Graham [80] are running the dueling drags, but Graham drifts up the field before the mesh point and acts as the curl over the top. They did something like this in the Giants game, and I absolutely love it. It starts out looking familiar, so you can get the defense thinking about how they've seen it run in the past. You can still get the defense fanning out from the middle in anticipation of the mesh, only to find one of them drifting up the field on the curl. On this play, Graham's route is a two-for-one: it can get the defense to act on the drag while actually running the curl. The threat of his drag can get the defense to react as if the Packers were running a mesh while also allowing him to take advantage of the chaos. It's lovely.

By doing this, they're able to stretch the field vertically in ways they can't normally. Instead of sacrificing the vertical route for the curl, they are able to keep the vertical route in, while also keeping the idea of the mesh alive in the middle. Beyond that, the vertical route they run is a post route. So now you've got a curl over the mesh point and a post over the mesh point. It sets up a nice high-low read in a place where you could expect there to be a void in the coverage. It's a beautiful, beautiful concept.

The Bears don't bite, but I really love the idea.

Play 4: 4th & 6, 5:08 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers leading 7-0

We've got the familiar mesh point in the middle. This time we have a receiver releasing vertically over the mesh point, instead of curling over the top. I love the release. Davante Adams is releasing vertically on an out-veering route from a stack look on the left, while Jimmy Graham kind of circles behind him on a follow before releasing to the middle. The route of Adams works to help clear out space for the release of Graham.

Graham is picked up, but his release through the middle draws the attention of the single-high safety. That gives Adams one-on-one coverage with his defender, with Adams getting over the top on the route. WIth the single-high safety, Rodgers throws towards the sideline, while Adams looks back over his inside shoulder. Wires are crossed and the pass falls incomplete.

If the safety shades on Adams or an underneath defender drifts towards Adams, that helps open up the route of Graham in the middle. If they run this enough, the defense could be looking for the vertical release, so the quick curl over the mesh point would be open.

Four versions of Mesh, four ways to run it. And I love each of them for different reasons. I love how much they're playing around with this concept.

Mesh may be done for the week, but I wanted to take a look at 4 more plays before we get out of here this week.

Play 5: 4th & 4, 4:53 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers tied 0-0

I love the aggressiveness to go for this. The weather made for tougher field-goal kicking conditions. Given those conditions and their place on the field, I love that they lined up and went for it.

Rodgers sees his three receivers going against three defenders on the left, with a single-high safety over the top. The post should draw the attention of the safety, giving Adams a man-to-man opportunity from the slot. All Rodgers needed was for Adams to get a clean release, and he knew where the ball would be going. Adams gets a really nice release to the outside and the safety's initial step is to the opposite side of the route. 

If you have your #1 receiver with a clean release and no safety, that's a shot you should always feel comfortable taking, and Rodgers took it.

Rodgers looks to his right initially to draw the safety, then comes back to Adams over the top. Adams high-points the pass and fights through Buster Skrine [24] trying to rip the ball away.

Play 6: 2nd & 9, 14:18 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers leading 7-3

Rodgers addressed this concept in his post-game press conference, saying that it's something they've been running throughout the year but haven't found it open very often. Well, it was open here.

Rodgers goes play-action to draw the defense up-and-over. With the tight formation, the edges are relatively clear, so they just need a little movement from the linebackers for this to work. The defense pulls up and Adams drives forward to create separation. Rodgers has a ton of room to hit this throw. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix [21] takes a poor angle from the safety position and Adams ends up picking up 34 yards on the play.

Play 7: 1st & 10, 9:45 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers leading 14-3

That play worked so well they decided to run it again. Once again out of a tight formation, but this time they throw Danny Vitale [45] into the mix, so they've got an 8 man box instead of the 7 man box they were working against on the previous play.

The defense bites, Adams gets a good release and Rodgers gets the ball out on-time. Adams just can't haul it in.

Still, pretty nice to see this working twice. Definitely something to keep an eye on going forward.

Play 8: 3rd & 4, 8:58 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers leading 14-3

Last but not least, here is the 49 yard gain to Jake Kumerow [16]. Adams is running a quick-out under the go route from Kumerow. Clinton-Dix is looking at the break of Adams, Kumerow's defender drops to pick up Adams on the sideline and Rodgers goes over the top to Kumerow. Clinton-Dix can't get over in time and Kumerow has a nice little cut after the catch to get back inside and pick up some nice yards after the catch (YAC). 

In his post-game press conference, Rodgers went into a pretty in-depth breakdown of what he was seeing on this play and why he threw to Kumerow. It's a fascinating look into how much information a quarterback has to process. Peter Bukowski took that section of his press conference and put it over a clip of the play. I highly recommend checking it out.

Living in Kentucky, I get a chance to go to one Packers game a year if I'm lucky. As it so happens, I was in Lambeau for this game. The game was cold but we layered well and am happy to announce that my entire group left the game without losing a single toe.

I also got a chance to meet some people I have admired for a very long time.

Meeting the founders of this lovely site - along with the amazing Maggie Lawler - was absolutely incredible. Having never met any of them, I wasn't exactly sure how the first meeting would go, but it really just felt like meeting up with old friends. I loved it.

Mark Beech has written an amazing book on the Packers that came out this year. It's called The People's Team: An Illustrated History of the Green Bay Packers. The book itself is terrific and I would recommend it to all fans of the Packers. As it turns out, Mark is a great person. We sat and talked to him for over an hour, and it wasn't long enough. He has a ton of great stories and an insane knowledge of the Packers. Great dude. I really hope our paths cross again one day.

I've been recording the Thursday edition of the Pack-A-Day podcast with Steve Perhach (far right on this picture) for over a year now, but we had never met in person. Until this past Sunday. Steve was able to come to the game with me and two of my brothers, and I couldn't have been happier. We had an absolute blast.

Catching a game at Lambeau is always amazing, but this weekend was the best trip I've had. To cap it off, we got to see a Packers victory that moved them to 11-3. Later that night, we sat in a sports bar in Sheboygan and watched the Cowboys finish off the Rams to put Green Bay in the playoffs. We couldn't have asked for a better time. Until next time, Green Bay.

I had a bunch of leftover plays that didn't make it to this article, so feel free to roll this this Twitter thread!

Albums listened to: M83 - Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts; Josh Ritter - The Gospel of Mary; boygenius - boygenius; Jessica Lea Mayfield - Make My Head Sing; Chromatics - Kill For Love; Vetiver - Up On High; The Stargazer Lilies - Occabot; Lucette - Deluxe Hotel Room; Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven


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].

6 points

Comments (7)

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LambeauPlain's picture

December 19, 2019 at 03:38 pm

Mesh concept makes sense...too bad the Packers can't get receptions from their receivers out of it.

2 points
ShooterMcGee's picture

December 19, 2019 at 06:38 pm

It is certainly time to draft some weapons early next year. We need a huge upgrade at the wr position. Allison is underwhelming, MVS is a huge dissappointment, and EQ is a question mark. Lazard and Kumerow are the only half way decent options behind Adams. There is no reason to keep Jimmy Graham around so drafting a TE makes sense too, although I like Tonyan and Sternberger.
For this year we are stuck with mediocrity in the hope they would develop. The only thing developing are cases of the drops.

0 points
MarkinMadison's picture

December 19, 2019 at 08:44 pm

Nice write up again Dusty. You are the man this year. I love this stuff.

2 points
Sol's picture

December 19, 2019 at 09:11 pm

I really enjoy your in-depth breakdown of plays, are you sure your not a coach? I sometimes watch the coaches film on the NFL Chanel and you always see things I don't, keep up the good work.

1 points
Bearmeat's picture

December 20, 2019 at 06:29 am

Thanks again - this is one of my "must reads" every week!

I will say, the thing that was most encouraging was seeing the All-22 with ARod going through all FIVE of his progressions in the last mesh within 4 seconds. And then dealing the ball without hesitation to the right option. Too bad Allison has stone hands...

On the 4th and 6, did you notice that the mesh running towards the top of the screen (is that Lazard? I can't tell) is about to bust WIIIIIDE open. And ARod goes to Davante on a much lower percentage throw 25 yards down the field. Between Davante, Allison and Graham, it's so frustrating to see the design of the play work, but ARod trying to play superhero ball. THIS IMO is what is wrong with our offense.

2 points
PatrickGB's picture

December 20, 2019 at 09:48 am

Nice write up dusty. But it looks to my untrained eye that often it doesn’t work. I am not sure why except that it also looks like that it brings a lot of defenders with it to the spot that you want to throw to.

0 points
Matt Gonzales's picture

December 20, 2019 at 03:15 pm

Always love these breakdowns, Dusty.

I do have a question for you, though - you mention in every article where the mesh comes up that a proper mesh has the receivers crossing close enough to make contact with each other. But, in the videos, it seems like the GB receivers are nowhere near each other, either being off a few yards in depth or a second in timing. It seems like this eliminates some of the effectiveness of the concept, since it lets the defensive players pass off coverage pretty effectively if it's in a zone, and creates clear lanes for man defenders to stay with their receivers.

So, am I actually seeing what I think I'm seeing? Is there a reason that necessitates these looser meshes like wanting to avoid OPI calls for illegal pick plays, or is this just a timing/execution thing, or am I missing something else entirely? We're the Bears this week just THAT good at jamming receivers that they threw off the timing every time the play was run?

0 points