The Passing Chronicles: 2020 Week 2

Here we are, talking about a Packers win in which they put up 40+ points. Is this Week 1? Because surely they didn't go 2-0 while going for more than 40 in each game, right?

Oh right! They did that! And, while Rodgers had 12 fewer dropbacks then he did in Week 1, the Packers did a lot of fun stuff through the air this week. They utilized a lot of crossing routes and variations of the Mesh concept. Which makes sense, knowing that the Lions like to play a lot of man coverage.

The Lions tendency to play man lends itself to a lot of mesh and crossers. For Mesh, the act of running two drags at each other from opposite ends of the line creates a mesh point in the middle of the field, causing defenders to either run into each other or change the path of their pursuit. Either way, it creates space.

For crossing routes, you get the benefit of getting inside position on a defender then simply running away from them across the field. That gives the receiver an opportunity to gain more space between himself and the defender as he makes his way across the field.

So today, we're going to be looking at 8 plays that fit that description. I had originally planned to break these up into groups - Mesh and Crossers - but I felt going in chronological order made more sense, because there is some stuff they run early in the game that sets up some later concepts very nicely. 

But hey. Enough of my yakkin'. Whaddaya say? Let's boogie.

Play 1: 3rd & 8, 8:26 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers trailing 0-7

Last week we looked at this exact play, but run from the other side. Same personnel and same routes, just flipped. 

Allen Lazard [13] is in the front of the bunch on the right, pushing straight up off the line. Robert Tonyan [85] and Marquez Valdes-Scantling [83] run crossing routes underneath the route from Lazard, with Valdes-Scantling on the shallow crosser. The effect isn't quite as comical as it was in Week 1, but the result is the same: the route from Lazard helps to spring the crossing routes underneath. Valdes-Scantling is the widest man in the bunch, and his man defender simply can't fight through the routes from Tonyan and Lazard. Valdes-Scantling hangs onto the ball this week and the Packers pick up an easy 15 yards.

Play 2: 2nd & 5, 14:10 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers trailing 3-14

Here is our first look at Mesh, with Aaron Jones [33] and Marcedes Lewis [89] running the dueling drag routes. We also have Lazard firing out at the snap for a deep dig from the left while Valdes-Scantling fires out for deep curl under the dig. 

The motion before the snap tells Aaron Rodgers [12] that Jones is man-to-man with Jamie Collins [58]. That motion also puts Jones outside of Lazard on the left. When Jones cuts on the drag route, Collins can't fight through the route of Lazard. Easy completion to a playmaker in space for 22 yards.

Play 3: 1st & 10, 13:05 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers trailing 3-14

Here we have a little Mesh variation. Jamaal Williams [30] and Tyler Ervin [32] initally break on the drag routes, before pivoting back to the sideline. Meanwhile, Davante Adams [17] works the curl over top of the mesh point.

The idea is to get the defense to think they know what they're seeing, get them leaning, then run something counter to that. You can see the boundary defender playing over Ervin and mirroring his move on the drag. The Packers are trying to sell it enough to get him to crash the drag route, but it never happens. Rodgers throws to Ervin out of the break to the outside, but the defender is able to come back and make the tackle. 

Picking up 4 yards on 1st & 10 isn't terrible. And, even if it didn't work out too well here, it's a wrinkle in a concept they run a lot, so now it's something defenses will have to be aware of when preparing going forward.

Play 4: 2nd & 6, 12:20 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers trailing 3-14

Not quite as staggered a bunch look as we have seen in the earlier version, but the overall idea is the same: push out vertically against the defense with the two inside receivers, while the widest receiver in the bunch - Lazard, in this case - runs a crossing route underneath. 

Lazard gives the defender a little jab-step to the outside off the line. It's not big, but it forces the defender to take a shuffle-step towards the boundary. Even though the defender is able to get underneath the vertical-pushing routes, that little jab step gives Lazard the initial space he needs, then he just outpaces him across the field. 

Play 5: 2nd & 6, 10:35 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers leading 24-14

This is a play action bootleg concept and doesn't quite fit in with the rest of the crossers, but I felt it was close enough to include here. Plus, I wanted to praise Tonyan for a bit.

Ervin goes in motion before the snap, clearing the right side of the field. You can see how tightly the Lions are packed near the line.

At the snap, Rodgers fakes the handoff and rolls to his right. Tonyan occupies the middle level of the concept and is picked up by single-high safety who has rotated down to pick him up. The safety drifts to the sideline, anticipating Tonyan to continue across the field, as this is what typically occurs in this concept. Tonyan looks at the safety and adjusts his route. He peels off, makes eye contact with Rodgers and drifts into a open space. 

Really nicely done by Tonyan to recognize the coverage and adjust his route.

Play 6: 3rd & 2, 5:25 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers leading 31-14

This is the crown jewel this week. Just an absolute beautiful piece of playcalling that deserves all the love and accolades it can get. Because it is perfect. Perfect in every way.

So far today, we have seen two crossing concepts, both run from the same pre-snap bunch look (albeit from different sides of the formation). The Lions were ready for it. And it looks the same at first. From the left, we have the two inner receivers pushing vertically, while the outside receiver in the bunch releases underneath on a crossing route. The Lions have prepared for this. It looks like they are in zone coverage to be able to cover the crossing route without getting knocked off by the vertical pushing routes. You can see the inside defender reading the initial routes and then breaking on the crosser from Lazard. Since he's on the inside, there's no traffic to run through.

But LaFleur - trickster that he is - anticipated this and ran a dueling drag from the other side with Valdes-Scantling. They gave the crosser look from the left, but it's really more of a mesh concept. The defender sees Valdes-Scantling late, and stops to give him a bump.

I believe there's a miscommunication with the Lions at this point. The defender to the bunch side peels off to pick up the drag from Valdes-Scantling, while the defender who initially aligned over Valdes-Scantling continues carrying the drag across the field. Lazard would be running free, but there's one more trick the Lions came up with.

Collins starts the play over Corey Linsley [63], but drops back into a middle zone, reading Rodgers the entire way. If the Packers are going to keep killing the Lions with shallow crossers, dropping a linebacker into that area is a good way to combat that. Rodgers knows Collins is there, and holds Collins there with his eyes and his feet.

Instead of following Lazard across the formation with his eyes, Rodgers looks over the right shoulder of Collins, drawing him over. To further sell it, Rodgers sets his feet as if he's throwing to Collins' right. At the last minute, Rodgers shifts and flicks the ball to Lazard, streaking behind Collins.

The Lions were looking for a way to combat the crosser that the Packers had thrown at them from that exact same look, only to find the perfect counter and a terrific bit of quarterbacking from Rodgers. Beautifully done. 

Play 7: 1st & 10, 3:27 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers leading 31-14

Another play, another mesh. Tonyan is running the drag to the left, and he does a good job holding off. There's a beat where it looks like he's thinking of lowering his shoulder into the oncoming defender, which would be offensive pass interference. He doesn't, and continues on his merry way across the formation. This is where it gets a bit baffling. From this angle, it looks like Tonyan is wide open on the drag to the left, and it appears as though Rodgers is looking right at him. And yet Rodgers doesn't throw to Tonyan and ends up scrambling for 4 yards. So what gives?

From this angle, it looks like the throwing lane isn't open. Rodgers looks at Tonyan, but Da'Shawn Hand [93] has stopped rushing the passer and is just laying in wait for an opportunity to bat the ball. Rodgers appears to see him and pulls it down rather than risk a batted ball. At this point in the game (up 31-14 late in the 3rd quarter), the only way the Lions would have a shot to get back in the game would be to force some turnovers. Smart play by Rodgers to pull this down rather than risk a big turnover.

Play 8: 3rd & 6, 8:41 remaining in the 4th quarter, Packers leading 34-21

The film on this play started late, so I apologize for the abruptness of the start of this. The start of this play seemed to take the Lions by surprise as well, since they seem to be scrambling at the snap. The reaction by the defense is a bit odd, seeing as how the ball was snapped with a mere 4 seconds left on the play clock.

Lions are in man-to-man again. You know this song by now. Sing with me.

The defender responsible for Jones is trying desperately to fight through some traffic, but he is unable to. A quick throw to Jones in the flat picks up 9 yards and a first down.


The Packers came in with a nice gameplan against this defense and executed it at a high level. I absolutely loved seeing some of the wrinkles on these concepts.

Like most weeks, I draw up a lot of plays but I don't use them all here. So if you want to see more passing concepts from this past week, I put them up on Twitter:

 


Albums listened to: Cat Stevens - Tea for the Tillerman 2; Fenne Lily - BREACH; Gillian Welch - Boots No. 2: The Lost Songs Vol. 2; Photo Ops - Pure at Heart

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

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].

11 points

Comments (15)

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

September 23, 2020 at 03:54 pm

Great stuff, thanks for the breakdowns Dusty!

+ REPLY
7 points
7
0
Charvid's picture

September 23, 2020 at 04:39 pm

This is really, really good content. I have followed this site for 5+ years and have notice how much more sophisticated the analysis is. I don’t always like change, but this is superior work! Thank you.

+ REPLY
9 points
9
0
jeremyjjbrown's picture

September 23, 2020 at 04:53 pm

This is amazing. Thanks Dusty.

+ REPLY
6 points
7
1
Bear's picture

September 23, 2020 at 05:08 pm

Thanks Dusty appreciate your work and all the time it takes you to break this down!

+ REPLY
4 points
4
0
splitpea1's picture

September 23, 2020 at 07:35 pm

Is it possible that you can do a defensive edition of The Passing Chronicles once in a while? Some of us are having trouble figuring out what the Packers are trying to accomplish on defense at times, and your expertise would be welcome.

+ REPLY
7 points
7
0
DustyEvely's picture

September 23, 2020 at 09:25 pm

It's a good idea and would be a lot of fun. I go with the passing game because I really want to dig in and I have limited time. I'll see if there's a way I can dig in on that side, if only occasionally.
I blame my job for holding me back.

+ REPLY
3 points
3
0
splitpea1's picture

September 24, 2020 at 11:01 am

Thank you--just once in a while would be great! I would think the defense would be a little easier to dissect than the offense, anyway.

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0
Packer_Fan's picture

September 23, 2020 at 07:58 pm

Acme Packing had a similar article showing one drive where 4 or 5 plays with the mesh concept, crossers and bunching. Each play had different personnel groupings and ran a variation of plays that were successful. This article and that shows how the Packers are getting WR's open and making it difficult for man defenses to stop the Packers. Oh how good this is for the Lions have played man against the Packers for years and made it difficult to win games. It will be interesting to see how others teams will change their strategy to stop the Packers and how LaFluer counters them.

+ REPLY
3 points
3
0
DustyEvely's picture

September 23, 2020 at 09:26 pm

Oh yeah! Peter Bukowski wrote that article over at Acme Packing Company and did a great job.

+ REPLY
3 points
3
0
veteranviewer's picture

September 23, 2020 at 08:15 pm

This is the stuff you can't see on TV and even in the all 22 it is difficult to parse because of the speed of the play. Truly eye opening.
Thanks Dusty.

+ REPLY
4 points
4
0
Unglued's picture

September 23, 2020 at 08:40 pm

It's so nice to see us beat man to man via the scheme. The last years with McCarthy, it was our Achilles heel. It was all on the receivers to beat their man. Half the time Rodgers "protect the ball" approach resulted in throw away, or needing a pin point pass into tight coverage to move the ball.

+ REPLY
1 points
2
1
CoachDino's picture

September 24, 2020 at 01:07 am

Or holding onto the ball until they finally came open enough for him to trust an attempt.

Great stuff. It's why national analysts might have name recognition but can't hold a candle to a local guy focused on 1 team or even a handful compared to the 32 teams National guys cover. You can't deliver quality content that way. Great Job Dusty and Cheeseheadtv.

+ REPLY
3 points
4
1
mnbadger's picture

September 24, 2020 at 08:14 am

thank you for helping educate me. I'm slowly learning how to understand route trees and the speed of the game through the eyes of the QB. So much precision required by all 11. Decisions are made in milliseconds. I played OL, I just had to keep the other big uglies off my qb. GPG

+ REPLY
2 points
3
1
Spock's picture

September 24, 2020 at 08:18 am

Dusty, I always love, love, love these types of articles because it helps me tremendously to better understand the concepts and what MLF's "Illusion of complexity" really means. Great Stuff!!

+ REPLY
1 points
2
1
Minniman's picture

September 24, 2020 at 12:06 pm

Also explains why MLF probably didn’t necessarily want a rookie WR this year. This is sophisticated route running by everyone and it looks like it needs every player to be on the same page and to achieve their route goal to be effective.

+ 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.