The Passing Chronicles: 2019 Week 3

Looking at some passing concepts & talking a little about sequencing in the Packers Week 3 victory over the Broncos

Another week, another win. The offense still isn't 100% there, but I'm fully confident it will get there. As long as they keep racking up wins while trying to "figure it all out," I'm perfectly fine with that.

Let's get to the film.

Play 1: 1st & 10, 13:49 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers tied 0-0

The Packers are looking for a shot down the field with a double-post look with Davante Adams [17] and Marquez Valdes-Scantling [83] from the left. The Broncos are moving before the snap and end up showing a single-high safety look. As we talked about on the Geronimo Allison touchdown last week, double-post is a good way to attack that single-high safety. If the outside receiver - Adams, in this case - can get inside position, the slot receiver should clear the safety with his post, opening up room to the post behind it. 

Keep an eye on Von Miller [58], highlighted with the blue spotlight. It looks like he's rushing, but he drops back into coverage and is watching Aaron Rodgers [12] the entire time. 

Rodgers looks to have Valdes-Scantling in the middle of the field, but the rush is starting to break down the pocket, so Rodgers flees. By the time he gets set up, the defense has recovered and has fallen under the route of Valdes-Scantling. 

Rodgers sees the defense falling back and knows he has Marcedes Lewis [89] releasing as a late outlet, but there's the Von Miller problem. Rodgers keeps his eyes down the field, selling the Valdes-Scantling pass. Miller stays in place, looking to knock the ball down. By staring at Valdes-Scantling, Rodgers holds Miller in place and doesn't allow him to widen his drop to pick up Lewis. Rodgers gives a little pump fake to get Miller in the air then dumps the ball to Lewis, who picks up 19 yards.

Play 2: 1st & 10, 9:42 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers lead 7-0

Nothing huge here. Just a little quick-hitter to the left. Valdes-Scantling is running an out route as the under man in the stack look, while Geronimo Allison [81] is running a curl route. Jamaal Williams [30] releases through the middle and pushes up the field before curling in the middle of the field. A cornerback follows Valdes-Scantling on the out route while the release from Williams holds the linebacker on that side in place. With the defender over Allison retreating, it's an easy read for Rodgers. The ball is out of his hands on time and it would have been a nice gain on 1st & 10 if Allison could have hung on. 

Just a nice, quick bit of spacing. Everyone runs nice routes and Rodgers gets the ball out of his hands on-time and in-rhythm. Things don't always have to be complicated to be beautiful.

Play 3: 2nd & 15, 9:38 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers lead 7-0

Another week, another Smash Fade concept from the Packers. You can see that action on the right, with Valdes-Scanting running a fade from the right slot over the curl route from Robert Tonyan [85] on the outside. Traditionally, a Smash concept is a corner route over a curl. This takes the Smash concept and turns the corner route upfield. It's a nice little concept that keeps the defense on their toes. On this play, the defense falls back with the fade, leaving Tonyan open on the curl. Rodgers looks his way late and tries to hit him, but there's a rusher in his face and he sails the throw. 

There is something else I want to talk about here, and that's the pre-snap motion. Jamaal Williams motions out to the wide spot on the left, and you can see how the defense reacts. There's a shift, leaving a cornerback on Williams and a linebacker on Adams in the slot. The linebacker immediately calls for the safety to help, which is smart on his part, because that is a mismatch of the highest order.

That's the second week in a row that motion has gotten Adams matched-up on a linebacker. Last week the throw to Adams was taken away when another linebacker fell under the quick route from Adams. But I still like seeing this, for multiple reasons. For starters, using shifts and motion to get favorable match-ups is always a good thing. The Packers have obviously been looking to do this and have gotten those match-ups. Due to adjustments by the defense, it hasn't paid off yet, but not every defense is going to be able to adjust before the ball is snapped.

Here's another reason I like this. Look at how the safety shifts and comes up to help pick up Adams. That leaves the Broncos in a two-high safety look with a wider split than they would like, and with one of the safeties coming up to help on a receiver. That could help open up the middle of the field, or open up something over the pulled-up safety. Just something to keep an eye on in the future.

Play 4: 3rd & 15, 9:33 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers lead 7-0

This play does a good job of showing the Packers attacking a team based on down and distance. They are facing 3rd & 13. Two receivers are running routes exactly at the 1st down marker, while Valdes-Scantling slips in behind on a deep crossing route. 

The defense on Valdes-Scantling's side crashes on the dig, cutting at the 1st down marker. On the left, the defense is pulled up by a curl at the sticks. That leaves Valdes-Scantling one-on-one with the safety. As Valdes-Scantling rounds his cut, the safety is still backing up, leaving a ton of space to run into. By the time Rodgers throws, there's even more space, as the edge cornerbacks have been completely pulled away from that area.

Play 5: 3rd & 13, 8:07 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers lead 7-0

Another 3rd and long, another nicely drawn-up play. The Packers are running a nice little mesh concept with Jamaal Williams out of the backfield and Jimmy Graham [80] off the right side. I dug into the mesh concept in the offseason, but let's revisit that real quick.

Mesh was a staple of LaVell Edwards' West Coast Offense at BYU. Hal Mumme fell in love with the concept and made it a staple of his Air Raid offense. If we're looking at what we're used to seeing - both from LaFleur and McCarthy - it looks something like this:

Two receivers crossing each other roughly 6 yards down the field (Edwards taught it exclusively to be run at 6 yards and close enough so the receivers could give each other a high five on crossing each other). A common way to run this now is to have a receiver come over the top and curl over the mesh point, looking to find a window just after the receivers cross each other.

The Packers are running that concept here, but it is run from a different angle. The receivers are crossing each other, but they're crossing from a tight formation, and Geronimo Allison is running a well-timed dig behind the Mesh action. 

Everything is extremely well-run and well-timed. It's a great call and it works great, until it doesn't. Rodgers sails the throw and the Packers punt. 

I don't really write this to cast blame on individual players. I'm here to look at concepts. What are they running? Why did it work? Why didn't it work? We're focusing more on the thought process than the result. Yes, Rodgers missed the throw and that's too bad, but the concept itself worked like a dream, and it appears as though everyone ran it well. I really like this one.

Play 6: 1st & 20, 5:30 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers lead 24-16

I didn't want to spend too much time on this, but I did want to take a quick look at this failed RPO (Run-Pass Option). The Packers are running a double-slant on the right. With the run-blocking line, the ball has to come out fast so the offense doesn't pick up a penalty, so there isn't really time for a second read. Rodgers is looking at Allison out of the slot pre-snap. Both the cornerback and the safety back off at the snap, telling Rodgers he has an open throw.

But that darn Von Miller off the edge. He's looking at Rodgers and looking to knock the pass down. Again, Rodgers is looking to get the ball out quick. If he releases this on-time, there's a good chance this ball is batted. Rather than risk the chance of having it batted up in the air, Rodgers escapes. Due to the offensive linemen pushing downfield, he can't hold onto the ball for much longer, so he just throws it away. It was a good read by Rodgers, but it was also a nice play by Miller. Pulling the ball down was absolutely the right call there.

Play 7: 1st & 10, 13:44 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers lead 17-0

The look at this play is less about this specific play, and more about how it sets up what comes next. The Packers come out in I-Formation, with Danny Vitale [45] as the up-back and Aaron Jones [33] lined up behind him. Vitale sets up to block while Jones releases through the line and to the right. The result of the play is a quick-hitting curl to Valdes-Scantling on the left for a pick-up of 9 yards. 

If you look at the formation, you'll see Lewis tight on the line at the right. That leaves two wide receivers, one on either side. With that 21 personnel grouping (2 running backs, 1 tight end, 2 wide receivers), the Packers could easily call a power run out of this formation. 

Vitale played on 33% of the offensive snaps on Sunday (19 total) and, when he was out there, we saw a lot of this. Come up and block, either in the run game or the passing game. 

Play 8: 2nd & 1, 13:05 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers lead 17-0

Now it's 2nd & 1. The Packers are still in 21 personnel, but it's a tighter grouping. Valdes-Scantling is wide to the left, but even as the widest man, he's aligned inside the numbers. Allan Lazard [13] makes an appearance (one of his five snaps on the day), but he is offset over Vitale. This is a power run look in a short-yardage situation and the Broncos are stacking the box. 

By getting Vitale on the field throughout the game and using him primarily as a blocker, the defense is reacting as if that is what he will be doing here. Valdes-Scantling pushes his route at the single-high safety, dragging his defender with him and tying up the safety. That leaves a lot of green space on the left sideline.

Josey Jewell [47] is looking to meet the run in the hole. He's reading Jones, who makes a move to hit the A gap (between the center and guard) while Vitale is running through the B gap (between the guard and tackle). Jewell isn't even really thinking about Vitale as a receiving option; he's simply reading the run. By the time he sees Vitale releasing vertically up the field, he is already beat. He recovers pretty well and is able to chase down Vitale, but not before Vitale gets inside the 1 yard line. 

By the time the dust settled, the Packers took advantage of a match-up they had been setting up all game and picked up a cool 27 yards as a result. Beautiful sequencing to set this up and really nice execution.


Albums listened to: Angie McMahon - Salt; Blink 182 - Nine; Vivian Girls - Memory; Work Drugs - Fantasy File; Efterklang - Altid Sammen

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Dusty Evely is a film analyst for Cheesehead TV. He can be heard talking about the Packers on Pack to the Future or Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter at @DustyEvely or @All22Talk or email at [email protected].

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Comments (12)

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nostradanus's picture

September 26, 2019 at 07:00 am

Nice work Dusty, I always enjoy your expertise on these plays.

When it is broken down like this it doesn’t seem like the Packers offense isn’t as far away from being in sync.

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Nick Perry's picture

September 26, 2019 at 07:09 am

All interesting stuff Rusty and as always thanks for the awesome content...So far this year Rodgers has been OFF. As we've seen here again and in previous weeks Rodgers keeps sailing the ball over the heads of his receivers. I've also seen several completed passes where his receivers have pulled in less than perfect passes, passes we've seen in previous years to be perfect.

I'd like to see Vitale more involved especially with his history of catching the ball in college. I remember what a weapon he was for Northwestern and with the shortage of receivers making plays for the Packers, maybe Vitale can give more.

Adams doesn't have a TD and has only been targeted in the Red-Zone 2 times...TWO!! I understand the Packers are running the ball more often inside the 10 yard line for example. Last week Aaron Jones scores 2 TD's rushing where in previous years Rodgers probably throws for the TD. If EVERYTHING builds of the run in this offense then I'd imagine there will be more passing in weeks to come.

Side Note... The Steelers just traded for Nick Varnett, the Ohio St. TE Seattle drafted a few years ago in the 3rd round. Now I liked Varnett coming out and for the 5th the Steelers gave up. Hopefully, Gute (And I'm sure he is) is shopping for these deals. The Seahawks also resigned Luke Wilson who was just sitting out there as a FA. Again shouldn't Wilson be someone the Packers bring in to at least look at?

I sure Gute isn't satisfied and is being patient with the offense but if things don't turn a bit tonight against the 29th ranked passing defense who also just lost their best starting CB in Ronald Darby, then that patience has got to be getting pretty thin.

Homer Predictions...

I think Rodgers finally gets it going...Passes for 250-300 yards and FINALLY gets Davante Adams involved for 2 TD's and has 3 TD passes in total. The offense FINALLY hits 400 yards in total offense tonight

Packers 34-17...GO PACK GO!!

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Guam's picture

September 26, 2019 at 08:15 am

I saw the trade for Vannett too and wondered why we weren't in on that deal. Our TE situation is not good and I am not at all sure Tonyan is the answer although he is probably a better answer than Graham at this point. We need a big receiver who can make a living in the middle of the field which would really open up our offense.

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Guam's picture

September 26, 2019 at 08:15 am

I saw the trade for Vannett too and wondered why we weren't in on that deal. Our TE situation is not good and I am not at all sure Tonyan is the answer although he is probably a better answer than Graham at this point. We need a big receiver who can make a living in the middle of the field which would really open up our offense.

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Bearmeat's picture

September 26, 2019 at 10:22 am

NP,

It's "Dusty" not "Rusty." LOL!

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Tundraboy's picture

September 26, 2019 at 10:26 am

as I like to say in pee from your lips to God's ears

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Tundraboy's picture

September 26, 2019 at 10:33 am

correction

As I like to say NP, from your lips to God's ears.

That would wake make for an absolutely perfect week

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JHitTheB's picture

September 26, 2019 at 08:07 am

Play 1 - 2 long developing deep routes (4 defenders vs 2 WRs), 1 short TE route, an excellent block pick up by Vitale and a bad release by AJ (he literally runs right into a group of guys and makes little effort to avoid them). I think if MVS slants at the 45 instead of continuing to push up the field to the 50 there was a chance AR could have hit him in stride for a big chunk with 22 back pedaling so hard. That space was just WIDE open. And if MVS is able to make the safety miss it's a house call. You aren't catching him from behind.

Play 3, 2nd and 15 - look how long it takes that play to develop. Everyone screaming AR holds the ball or doesn't hit the open check down should look. Tonyan is open - yes the throw was bad - but even if he catches it, he's not likely going far with 2-3 defenders (2 DBs to hold him up and a LB coming from the middle) crashing down. However, being only 2nd down, taking a check down is a viable option. If this was 3rd down there would be no point in throwing to Tonyan. It looks like Williams could have broke off his route after the curl to go behind the LBs in the middle behind all that space Davante cleared out.

Play 4, 3rd and 15 - another long developing play. Pay attention you "AR holds the ball and doesn't throw the open under route" crowd. Yes, the RB over the middle is wide open for a check down but as I've pointed out a million times there is literally no point in throwing it other than to stat pad, get your kicker a few yards closer, or to give your punter a little more room to work with. Down, distance, and field position matters. You need 15 yards for a 1st and there isn't much chance to get it with 4 defenders ready to pounce. Is it possible? Sure, anything is possible. Is it probable? Nope. That route was left open on purpose because they were guarding the sticks ready to swarm anything underneath. Thankfully the OL was giving AR time - any kind of pressure and it's most likely a busted play.

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Handsback's picture

September 26, 2019 at 09:07 am

Great article as usual from Dusty...Thank you! The team has to get use to the new offense. Every week it has gotten better. Denver does have a pretty good defense, so points weren't going to to come easy. The Eagles, are banged up so we might see the Pack score more in their game tonight.

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Turophile's picture

September 26, 2019 at 09:59 am

Great stuff as usual, I love that your pieces are often not focused on a given players highs or lows, but on the ideas and concepts of (in this case) the offense over time (ie setting up plays for later).

i love that you highlight how plays stress a defense, and how receivers pull defenders out of an area, with that empty area then exploited.

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Qoojo's picture

September 26, 2019 at 11:01 am

Nice videos. Thank you. I noticed that Rodgers is starting to get more blame for the offense from external sources. He hits a couple of those wide open WRs, and the day looks much better.

I looked at his stats, and it's really hard to see a large change from the stats alone. I think the biggest difference might be in his escape ability. In the past, he could really get outside the pocket, and see the whole field. His WRs were better at working with him, getting open, and coming back. These days if he gets outside of the pocket, there is usually a defender breathing down his neck, and almost everyone runs deep. He needs to make an age adjustment.

It doesn't help that when he does make the quick in rhythm pass the WRs drops it.

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JHitTheB's picture

September 26, 2019 at 11:41 am

I have noticed teams are attacking the A gaps a lot so far and pushing the pocket from up the middle while keeping contain. AR made a living by stepping up to escape and then getting outside. Teams are keeping him in the pocket more now. When you have front 7s like the Bears and Vikings or 2 dominate edges in Von/Chubb it makes life for a QB hectic. The Eagles front 7 is nothing to sneeze at either. The change to Jenkins was night/day as far as protection in the middle. Hopefully we will see some of those throwing lanes open up. I'd like to see GB get back to the quick slants/drags more and stop calling so many long developing deep routes so much. MVS or Allison aren't going to make many contested catches in traffic but I think if you hit MVS in stride he has the speed to make something happen. Allison is more of a schemed open possession catch kind of guy. BUT - with no preseason action, GB facing some of the top defenses in the NFL already and it only being week 4, I'm giving the benefit of the doubt to the WR timing/rusty throws. I still think GB needs another playmaker that can make something happen/get open on his own ASAP but I also wonder if the ball being wet last week had anything to do with those couple of overthrows from AR and drops from Allison/MVS.

"I noticed that Rodgers is starting to get more blame for the offense from external sources."
"It doesn't help that when he does make the quick in rhythm pass the WRs drops it."

Rain or shine, the QB always gets the blame lol

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