The Passing Chronicles: 2019 Week 4

Looking at some passing concepts from the Packers week 4 loss to the Eagles

I briefly considered only looking at the 4 failed plays from the 1 yard line here, but I couldn't do that to you all. I couldn't even do that to myself. I did want to dig into those, though, so we'll get them out of the way quick. There are also quotes on each of the plays from Matt LaFleur, so we'll start off each play with the relevant portion of that quote.

So take a deep breath as we push through these first four plays. There's fun on the other side. I promise.

Play 1: 1st & goal from the 1 yard line, 9:19 remaining in the 4th quarter, Packers trail 27-34

LaFleur: "We got into goal line, we liked the match-up on the outside, Jimmy Graham on the safety and that was incomplete."

The Packers motion their tight ends out wide before the snap: Marcedes Lewis [89] goes left, Jimmy Graham [80] goes right. They're both running fade routes. As LaFleur said, they liked the match-up. Graham has the size advantage and is able to get to the outside. The ball is a little short and falls incomplete.

I'm not a huge fan of goal line fades, and I'm even less a fan of them on 1st down. The defense is likely keying in on the run more on 1st down than they would be later in the sequence. If you're not going to run on 1st & goal from the 1, I'm always in favor of a hard play action and look to hit something in the middle of the field. On this particular play, the Packers don't run play action and the two defenders in the middle of the field are still looking to crash the line. Play off the natural aggressiveness and go hard play action on 1st down.

Play 2: 2nd & goal from the 1 yard line, 9:15 remaining in the 4th quarter, Packers trail 27-34

LaFleur: "Second down we tried to stay in goal line thinking they might think we're running the ball. We ran the keeper and they played the keeper. Credit to them. Their defensive end read the field and was right in Aaron's face."

This played out exactly like LaFleur said. After the failed 1st down, the Packers are looking to play off the defense's aggressiveness. "They failed passing the ball, so they're likely to run." I don't hate the thought process, and it's a pretty good call. If Brandon Graham [55] doesn't stay home on the edge, there's a good chance this play ends up in the end zone. Marcedes Lewis and Danny Vitale [45] are the receivers on the rollout side, and both of them are covered, but if Brandon Graham crashes the play action, those defenders would be the only ones on the outside. To stop Aaron Rodgers [12] from walking into the end zone, one of them would have to peel off their receiver to converge on Rodgers, but that action would open up the receiver.

Also, Jimmy Graham was able to get inside position on his drag route from the left, so that would have been an option for Rodgers as well. It was a good plan and a good play, but Brandon Graham stayed home and blew it up.

Play 3: 3rd & goal from the 1 yard line, 9:12 remaining in the 4th quarter, Packers trail 27-34

LaFleur: "Third down we called a play for the run-pass option and Aaron saw who he saw and pulled the ball, then the defense reacted so he had to throw it away."

The Packers spread the field with 4 receivers and the Eagles show 7 men in the box, with what looks like man coverage on the receivers. A 7 man box isn't terrible to run into, but this is a run to the right. It's quite possible that Rodgers didn't love that match-up, with a right side of the line comprised of Alex Light [70] and Billy Turner [77]. Light was pressed into duty after the injury to Bryan Bulaga and was having his struggles. Meanwhile, for all his good work against the pass, Turner hasn't exactly been a road-grader in the run game.

Now if you think about the passing game, Rodgers is seeing man coverage across the field and seems to like Allen Lazard [13] running a slant from the left slot. Rodgers is banking on Rodney McLeod [23] flowing over to pick up the run, leaving a nice open piece of field for Lazard to run his slant route into. If both McLeod and Derek Barnett [96] crash the edge, Rodgers would also have room around the edge to keep the ball and run it in.

Rodgers also has Jimmy Graham on the outside, but we'll get to him in a minute.

On his first step, it looks like McLeod is angling towards the line. That's good! That means Rodgers can keep the ball around the edge or hit Lazard on the slant. Rodgers starts moving to his left to keep the option of either keeping the ball or throwing. Unfortunately for the Packers, McLeod is able to recover and shoots the edge, getting right in Rodgers' face. Beyond getting in his face, he gets in the throwing lane to Lazard. Rodgers' only option from here is to throw to Graham. But what about Graham? 

Graham seems to be caught in no-mans land. His initial step looks to be an in-breaking route, like a slant. Then he kind of looks to want to run a fade, before finally settling into a late and half-hearted box-out at the goal line. It's like he wasn't entirely sure what he was supposed to do. As a last option he has done nothing, so Rodgers throws the ball away. 

Play 4: 4th & goal from the 1 yard line, 9:08 remaining in the 4th quarter, Packers trail 27-34

LaFleur: "Then fourth down we tried another pass."

They certainly did try another pass. They got up to the line quick and snapped the ball, hoping to catch the Eagles out of position.

They started with some spacing routes on the left. The first stop of the video is when Rodgers hits the last step of his drop. Five receivers, not a single one of them open. So he starts going through reads again, starting with the middle. The receiver is completely covered up and the pocket is starting to break down, so Rodgers escapes, scanning the field as he does. He's looking back towards the middle and, while it looks like there's space between the receiver and the cornerback, there is a safety looking to pounce as soon as the ball leaves Rodgers' hands.

As he sets up, he sees Graham heading toward the back of the end zone while a deep defender crashes the flat. There is a bit of space for a couple other receivers, but this situation - high throw to the back of the end zone - is one of the reasons Graham was brought in.

Graham goes up to make the catch but can't come down with it. Initially it looks like he only went up with one hand, but on further review, it looks like he was working to get his second hand up, but it hit Zach Brown's [52] hand on the way up and prevented him from attempting a two-handed catch. It's not pass interference: it's just a bit of incidental contact. 

Looking at this sequence as a whole, I can understand the thought process. I don't love the fade - and I especially don't love the fade on 1st down - but even then I understand the thought process. "Jimmy Graham is big and he's matched-up on a safety, who is smaller. Let's throw him a jump ball." I may not like it, but I can at least understand the thought that led to that decision.

Ultimately, I believe this is something LaFleur will learn from going forward. It was not a good look, but I don't expect every trip to the 1 yard line to go with 4 straight passes in this exact same sequence.

Play 5: 3rd & 7, 0:17 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers leading 7-0

I know I just ragged on Graham a little on that 3rd down play, but he had a pretty good day overall. He caught 6 of his 9 targets for 61 yards and a touchdown. Per Pro Football Reference, 3 of those targets came in the middle of the field. Graham caught all 3 of those passes for 29 yards. I just wanted to give a quick look into a couple of those.

This is a slant/flat run with Graham on the left (running the slant) and Vitale out of the backfield (running the flat). The Eagles are showing man coverage, with the deep man aligned over Graham being responsible for Graham. At the snap, he retreats while the lienbacker runs with Vitale in the flat. Rodgers hits his back foot just as Graham is clearing the flat defender and he lets the ball fly. Good timing leads to a pick-up of 8 yards and a 1st down.

Play 6: 1st & 10, 5:02 remaining in the 4th quarter, Packers trailing 27-34

We saw the Packers doing something like this a couple times in this game. They'd spread the field a bit, then have Graham just run a curl in the middle and find a soft spot to sit down in. The linebackers spread a bit, Graham finds a nice spot just as Rodgers hits the top of his drop and they pick up a cool 12 yards on this play.

It's all about creating room. If the defense is going to drop their linebackers wide to help pick up the spread offense, just work the middle they just vacated.

Play 7: 2nd & 10, 2:13 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers leading 7-0

This is small, but I really like this little wrinkle so I wanted to point it out. Robert Tonyan [85] motions in pre-snap to just off the right side of the line. At the snap, he looks to release under the formation, something the Packers do a lot of. But wait! Instead of releasing under the line, he cuts up and releases through the A gap and continues across the field. He doesn't catch the ball here, but he is open and I really like the thought behind this. There are two main reasons I love this:

1. Before the snap, Zach Brown is mugging up on the line, looking like he's going to blitz through the A gap. As it turns out, that's exactly what he does. By releasing through the A gap, Tonyan is able to get a chip on Brown. Usually we think of a tight end chipping to help with the edge rush, but a player blitzing through the A gap can be just as harmful. Chipping that player can help tremendously when trying to prevent pressure coming up the middle.

2. The defense has seen this alignment and a release under the line a thousand times. There are quite a few situations where a defender will drift to the edge to pick up the tight end after he emerges out the other side. By releasing through the middle of the line, you've created a situation where the defender is playing an area the receiver is not going to be. While the defender is on the edge, the tight end is able to get over the top of that coverage and into some space.

Again, the ball doesn't go to Tonyan here, but I really like this idea. I'm really looking forward to seeing what the Packers do with this look going forward.

Before we wrap this up, let's just marvel at the Rodgers-to-Graham touchdown pass in slow motion. Because the world can be a dark place sometimes and you deserve happiness. We all do.


Last but not least, I did a little video breakdown, comparing a week 3 play action bootleg to a week 4 play action bootleg. I used it as an opportunity to show an example of a team setting up their tendencies in the passing game then running variations off of that. The upside is that you may learn something, but the downside is that you have to listen to me talk. I put your life in your own hands.


Albums listened to: The Beatles - Abbey Road Anniversary Super Deluxe Version; Tegan & Sara - Hey, I'm Just Like You; The New Pornographers - In The Morse Code of Brake Lights; Temples - Hot Motion; The Berries - Berryland; Samantha Fish - Kill or Be Kind

-------------------------------

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].

4 points

Comments (21)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Point-Packer's picture

September 30, 2019 at 04:33 pm

Why does everyone else in the world know that Jimmy Graham is not a goal line threat - minus MLF? .........

+ REPLY
-2 points
2
4
Tundraboy's picture

October 01, 2019 at 08:03 pm

And he can not hold on to the ball. Tonyan is already better.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Point-Packer's picture

September 30, 2019 at 04:34 pm

Jimmy Graham runs some of the worst routes I have ever seen.

+ REPLY
0 points
3
3
Norm's picture

September 30, 2019 at 06:52 pm

Is that you Jermichel?

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0
albert999's picture

September 30, 2019 at 08:08 pm

Those aren’t routes those are obstacle courses

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0
Leatherhead's picture

October 01, 2019 at 11:24 am

It's kind of amazing. JImmy Graham was considered a lock for the HOF when he came to Green Bay. Gutekunst.....who we know is a genius......thought he was worth a lot of money and would really help.

And now he runs some of the worst routes you've ever seen. Along with his many other failings noted by others.

Can you explain this?

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
4thand1's picture

September 30, 2019 at 07:39 pm

Watched a lot of flag football yesterday....................................yellow flag football everywhere. Frankly ,it's getting disgusting, the NFL is starting to suck.

+ REPLY
4 points
4
0
albert999's picture

September 30, 2019 at 08:07 pm

Once again left and right side of the field for passes and middle was left wide open most of the game
No slants and or quick over the middle shots
Hideous

+ REPLY
2 points
3
1
albert999's picture

September 30, 2019 at 08:09 pm

Pass interference class are a complete fricking joke and so are the challenges
Again tonight on m0nday night football

+ REPLY
1 points
2
1
splitpea1's picture

September 30, 2019 at 08:12 pm

I don't care what anybody says: there is no rationale for four straight pass attempts from the 1-yard line. The offensive coaching staff should have had a jumbo package ready for this situation.

+ REPLY
7 points
7
0
Packers2019's picture

October 02, 2019 at 09:18 am

I blame ML but I also blame AR for not running it on the run/pass option on 3rd down. You have 4 D-lineman at the line and a free OL to get the LB. Jones most likely scores there.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
albert999's picture

September 30, 2019 at 08:14 pm

Calls not class
Sorry FRICKIN SPELL CHECK

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0
Sureshot's picture

October 01, 2019 at 03:38 am

"If you're not going to run on 1st & goal from the 1, I'm always in favor of a hard play action"

I am totally with you on that. If you want deception with a pass play, at least try to make it first look like a run.
That's how you get a TE all alone just under the FG post.

+ REPLY
5 points
5
0
Nick Perry's picture

October 01, 2019 at 05:39 am

I DON'T CARE if the Packers have the "Greatest thrower of a Football" in NFL history... 1st and goal from the 1 with Danny "No Neck" Vitale and Aaron Jones behind him, RUN THE BALL!

MLF talks about the run game, stresses the run game, claims EVERYTHING comes off the run game yet you don't run the ball on 6 consecutive plays over the last 2 drives from the one.

#UNEXCUSABLE

Now, in Matt's defense, he DOES seem to learn from his mistakes, at least from the small sample of his first 4 NFL games as a HC. We KNEW this could be rough at times, this adjustment period to a new offense. Without continuing to bag on Matt my hope is he continues to not making the same mistakes over and over again.

+ REPLY
4 points
4
0
RCPackerFan's picture

October 01, 2019 at 06:52 am

Some more "In Matt's Defense".

After Bulaga went out Light was not good. The run game didn't do anything all game long.
And he put the ball in his best players hands and said get us points.

I do agree that LaFleur seems to learn from his mistakes. Should he have called a run. Probably, but I'm not going to rip him about it. He put the ball in his best players hands. They just couldn't get it done.

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0
murf7777's picture

October 01, 2019 at 08:24 am

RC, I agree and probably had to do with losing yards on some runs during the game. I still also would of liked to see a jumbo package and run. Looking forward to seeing MLF adjustments.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
JohnnyLogan's picture

October 01, 2019 at 12:15 pm

Didn't like not running from the 1 but can anyone imagine if Adams, Cobb, Jennings, Jordy, or Driver was in the lineup there wouldn't have been a TD? Well none of them were in the lineup, we had Allison, MVS, and Graham. Three garbage route runners. That's why the D could crowd the line against the run because they knew they could easily cover those receivers. Time to get real WRs for Rodgers or this will continue all year. Allison couldn't even stay on this feet in one of those video clips. Shepherd should play more snaps this week to see what we've got. If there's no improvement, trade for Davante Parker.

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0
The_Justicar's picture

October 01, 2019 at 04:24 pm

Davante Parker? I live in Miami and 3 coaching staffs and an entire fan base would love to see him traded. Down here he has been known as a half effort player; someone who pulls up lame with minute injuries during games. Someone who has trouble running routes. While he is good for 2 great catches per season, he had to take a pay cut to even stay on the team (picked up 5th year option but reworked to less money over more years). Parker doesn’t offer anything other than a possible reclamation project of some other teams first round bust.

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0
Since'61's picture

October 01, 2019 at 06:38 pm

Nice job again Dusty. You learn more from your mistakes than your successes. MLF will learn from last Thursday’s goal line failures. Time to move on to Dallas which I’m confident the coaching staff has done. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since ‘61

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0
stockholder's picture

October 01, 2019 at 06:14 pm

The packers have been afraid of running into the pile since Jonathan Franklin. MVs. = James Jones? I'm getting impatient. Remember Sterling Sharpe ? . James Lofton? How can the packers settle for less? Kumerow just how much time do you give him? Allison has no After burners. Shepard is nothing more than a safety valve. I want more Vitale. And how about a trade for Robby Anderson WR and Leonard Williams DT from the jets?

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0
Pizzadoc's picture

October 02, 2019 at 12:09 am

Thanks Dusty, I learn a lot from these! Dad was a PA and wouldn't let me play football, lived in Alaska, where there is no team, so I became a fan after moving to WI in 94, during Farve mania. Please keep doing these as time allows.

Nobody expected them to go 16-0 right? Hopefully we get healthy and make adjustments.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0

Log in to comment and more!

Not a member yet? Join free.

If you have already commented on Cheesehead TV in the past, we've created an account for you. Just verify your email, set a password and you're golden.