The Passing Chronicles: 2019 Week 8

Dusty breaks down some passing concepts the Packers used in their Week 8 victory over the Chiefs. 

Another week, another win and yet more things to love about the passing game.

It's no secret that the Packers have been prominently featuring running backs in the passing game. In this game, running backs accounted for 35.5% of passing targets, 56.7% of passing yardage and 100% of passing touchdowns. I wanted to kick this off by looking at 4 plays that worked off of a similar concept and how using it early in the game set up a couple huge plays later.

Play 1: 3rd & 3, 13:38 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers tied 0-0

We've got a little drag/wheel action to the right, with Aaron Jones [33] on the wheel and Jimmy Graham [80] on the drag. Graham and Jones are in a stack look from a tight offensive formation. Jones is the under-man in the stack, which I really like. Before Randall Cobb was injured last year, the Packers ran a lot of looks with Cobb lined up behind Graham and had Cobb briefly follow Graham up the field before breaking off. It makes good use of Graham's large frame getting in the way of defenders and blocking their line-of-sight to the smaller Cobb. They're running some of that this year with Jones as the under man, and I'm a big fan.

Jones is matched up on Damien Wilson [54] on the outside. Jones releases on a flat route and Aaron Rodgers [12] pump fakes, which pulls Wilson up. Jones releases up the field on the wheel, but Wilson was playing off-coverage and recovers well to take that option off the table.

Eventually, Rodgers finds Marquez Valdes-Scantling [83] for a modest 4 yard gain.

Here's what we're taking from this play: Jones was matched-up on a linebacker. The linebacker was playing off the line and had enough time to recover on the deep-breaking route. Got it? Good. Let's hit the next one.

Play 2: 3rd & 3, 5:26 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers tied 14-14

Jamaal Williams [30] motions from the outside to the under man in a stack formation, behind Jimmy Graham. That forces the linebacker - Damien Wilson, once again - to play off coverage. Unlike last time, the Packers don't try a deep shot. Williams uses Graham's body as a shield, then peels off towards the sideline. Wilson - forced to backpedal initially due to the route from Graham - can't recover in time. Rodgers gets the ball out quickly and the Packers pick up 7 yards and a 1st down.

Williams motioning in before the snap does a couple things. The first thing it does is to allow him to use Graham as a bit of a shield. The second thing it does is give more room between himself and the sideline. That gives more room for Rodgers to fit the ball and more room for Williams to turn upfield after catching the ball.

Two plays, two instances of the running back lined up on a linebacker as the under man in a stack formation. 

Play 3: 2nd & 2, 8:14 remaining in the 4th quarter, Packers tied 24-24

This time we have Aaron Jones motioning in to be the under man on a stack look, with Jimmy Graham as the top man. They have stopped victimizing poor Damien Wilson and have decided to roll against Anthony Hitchens [53], instead.

Keep the previous play in mind. The Chiefs had already seen a quick out run from a similar look in a short-yardage situation earlier in the game. Watch how that influences Hitchens: his initial move is to jump to the outside, anticipating an out route. Jumping to the outside puts him in the perfect situation to be blocked by Graham. By setting up that quick out, they forced the defender into a situation that made for an easier block. If I've said it once I've said it a thousand times: set up your tendencies, get the defense to jump those tendencies and hit them with something else. This is a perfect example.

Don't sleep on the downfield blocks by the offensive linemen here. David Bakhtiari [69] releases to get a nice block to set up the lane, while Corey Linsley [63] releases from the center position to block the safety who would prove to be the Chiefs' last line of defense. Terrific job of getting downfield and picking up those huge blocks. It's beautiful.

Play 4: 3rd & 5, 2:00 remaining in the 4th quarter, Packers leading 31-24

We've seen the Packers trot out this same formation and run a wheel, an out and a screen. After hitting that big touchdown of a screen to Aaron Jones to take the lead, the Packers find themselves up 7 points, facing a 3rd down that could ice the game. So what do they do? Why, motion in the running back to be the under man in a stack look, of course. This time they'll be looking to attack Ben Niemann [56].

The Chiefs still have that screen play in their minds. Watch Niemann's first step: he drifts in and towards the line. Jones runs a quick out and there's no way Niemann can react in time to stop Jones. The Packers pick up 8 yards and ice the game.

As a summary: we just saw the Packers run out this same look and run 3 different routes off of it. Jones or Williams is a mismatch on most linebackers anyway, but add in stuff like this and it makes it extremely difficult to defend. 

There was also at least one other moment that featured the running back on a linebacker, but it wasn't out of a stack look. So it doesn't quite fit, but I do like it.

Play 5: 2nd & 10, 3:26 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers leading 7-0

We're going to look at a couple unrelated plays before we get out of here. Well, I say "unrelated," but they're still plays that feature plays designed - and thrown - to running backs, so I guess they're not totally unrelated. Distant cousins, perhaps.

This article is quickly becoming Mesh Central, and I'm not upset about it at all. I've covered the concept on numerous occasions, so I won't get into it here. I wrote about it in a little more depth this offseason, so feel free to read that here. The general idea is to run dueling drag routes then run an in-breaking route behind it and into the space created by the action of the drags.

You can see that action here, but it's combined with the Drive concept. Drive is an old West Coast concept, pioneered by the late, great Bill Walsh. Drive takes a drag route then runs a dig route behind it. It creates a high-low read and can put the linebacker in a bind. Do they fall back under the dig or crash the drag? 

So we've got the classic mesh action in the middle - complete with the dig behind it - but we're adding in a second drag route under the mesh action. It's Mesh/Drive, and it creates a ton of confusion in the middle. 

Meanwhile, Aaron Jones is matched-up outside on Anthony Hitchens. All the action in the middle of the field ties up the bulk of the defense, leaving Jones on an island with Hitchens. Which seems mean. Hitchens sees the initial cut on the slant, bites, and is immediately burned. With no safety help, Rodgers just goes up over the top. Were it not for Jones running out of bounds, this would have been a relatively easy 60 yard touchdown. Instead, they settled for a relatively easy 50 yard gain.

Let's explore one more thing on this look. The question is why does Hitchens bite on the slant? The obvious answer could be, "Because he thought it was a slant and he thought he could make a play," but it may not be as easy as all that. Hitchens can likely see the mesh occurring at the line, but the dig would be outside of his vision. The Packers run Mesh a lot, and they like to run it with an in-cutting receiver from the outside running over the mesh. At that depth, Jones could be running a shallow post over the mesh. He could be responding to the route of Jones as it relates to the larger concept. Routes aren't run in a vacuum, and Hitchens knows that.

So it's not necessarily just the slant he's jumping: he's jumping a route that has been set up within a concept that has been run a dozen times this year.

Before we move on, I wanted to go back to my comment about there being a ton of confusion in the middle:

From this angle, you can really see how many defenders are preoccupied with the Mesh/Drive in the middle. 

With or without the sluggo (slant-and-go) from Jones, I love this concept. 

Play 6: 3rd & 1, 14:05 remaining in the 4th quarter, Packers tied 17-17

Let's close this out with the touchdown to Jamaal Williams. The throw is an all-timer - we'll get to that - but I wanted to look at the play itself. 

Rodgers' first read is to his right. He's looking at the slant/flat with Williams on the slant and Graham on the flat. Graham pushes up to bump off Williams' defender, but the Chiefs fall back into zone and seamlessly pass of assignments. Rodgers lingers on the right, looking for Graham to box out after the flat route. He does, but pressure comes in and forces him to flee the pocket. And then...well...

Now, to the left. The Packers are running a spacing concept and Aaron Jones initially shakes loose on a curl, but Rodgers is still looking for Graham on the box-out. Even if pressure didn't force Rodgers to flee, Tyrann Mathieu [32] crashes on Jones quickly. Given where Rodgers is set up, it would have been tough to complete that pass. 

I also took a few minutes to make a video breaking down a play where the Packers used a Texas concept. Texas was created by former Packers Head Coach Mike Holmgren as a way to combat Tony Dungy's Tampa 2 defense. It's a really fun concept and I loved breaking it down.

Albums listened to: Tool - Fear Inoculum; Brian Fallon - Sleepwalkers; Kate Nash - Yesterday Was Forever; Chad Lawson - A Grave Mistake; Petal - Magic Gone


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].

8 points

Comments (15)

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Lare's picture

October 31, 2019 at 03:59 pm

Sure beats watching the same old plays from the last 10 years being run over and over again.

5 points
DustyEvely's picture

October 31, 2019 at 08:46 pm

Contrary to popular belief, McCarthy changed things up quite a bit over the last couple years of his time in Green Bay. If you looked at 2016 vs. 2018, you would have seen a very different looking offense. The plays themselves weren't really the issue: it was how they were being run and who they were being run with.

1 points
Minniman's picture

October 31, 2019 at 05:29 pm

Many thanks Dusty - very informative analysis.

.....from these you can see how a W against a good D is crafted.

Great planning by MLF to isolate and attack the LB's (and skill execution by the whole offense - Linemen and TE's are critical to this success).

1 points
LeotisHarris's picture

October 31, 2019 at 06:46 pm

Thanks so much for this, Dusty. I look forward to reading The Passing Chronicles each week.

0 points
Diego's picture

October 31, 2019 at 07:02 pm

Thanks Dusty.
Great analysis. Appreciate the long hours producing this article.

1 points
Packer_Fan's picture

October 31, 2019 at 07:05 pm

Dusty, I sure enjoy these film studies. Shows why the Pack is so successful. Even without Adams. Splitting out the RB's wide and actually using them is paying off big time. It is fun to watch the games and see how this works out. Wasn't that way last year. I just hope that with Adams back, it opens up the offense even more.

1 points
GLM's picture

October 31, 2019 at 07:07 pm

There was a time, there, during the game where it looked like the KC defense had our offense figured out. They were blitzing quite a bit from their dime package, and it was working.

The way our offense adjusted, and found a way to make plays is really impressive, to me.

Great win by the Pack.

1 points
Lphill's picture

October 31, 2019 at 07:26 pm

What no McCarthy backwards toss for a 5 yard loss?

2 points
SterlingSharpe's picture

October 31, 2019 at 09:49 pm

I'm so excited to see this offense when Davante is back.... could it go up another level even?

1 points
albert999's picture

October 31, 2019 at 10:48 pm

He’ll be back after tha bye.....or at least I believe that’s the smartest move!

0 points
Cartwright's picture

November 01, 2019 at 04:57 am

I'm learning more about football reading these pieces. The film breakdown makes you feel like a player in the room with his coach studying game film. Nice job.
Wouldn't mind seeing a breakdown or two on our special teams play and why we aren't blocking very well. I don't get why it's not happening.

0 points
bodei1newbie1's picture

November 01, 2019 at 04:42 am

thanks for all the passing chronicles it helps me a lot to understand , keep it up and thanks againd

1 points
Sol's picture

November 01, 2019 at 05:23 am

Dusty thanks with your expert break down of plays, you can really see just how much of a team sport football really is. It seems that they are always looking to match 4.4 speed against 4.5 speed, to create opportunity.
The down field blocks was some of the best I've seen from the Pack for a long long time.

Go Pack

1 points
MarkinMadison's picture

November 01, 2019 at 06:54 am

Dusty - Thanks for investing the time in the multiple angles, pauses and graphics. Very nice work.

0 points
Handsback's picture

November 01, 2019 at 09:15 am

Dusty, also add my thanks to the film breakdowns. I find it encouraging that MLF has made the Packer's RBs into pass catching weapons.

0 points