The Passing Chronicles: 2020 Week 3

Dusty goes to the film to break down some passing concepts in the Packers Week 3 victory over the Saints

Another week, another win. A man could get used to this.

Last week we looked at a lot of mesh/crosser concepts that the Packers ran against the Lions. This week, they came in with an entirely different gameplan. I don’t believe I saw a single mesh concept run, which is rare for this Packers team (going back to the beginning of last year, I believe they ran at least one instance of Mesh in every game).

Coming into every week with a gameplan specific to the opponent? Brother, sounds like they’re playing my song.

I’ll be covering their extensive use of play action bootleg over at Packer Report this week. In this space, we’ll take a look at 7 plays I really liked.

Play 1: 1st & 10, 9:45 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers tied 0-0

The Packers are looking to take a shot here. They’re running Allen Lazard [13] on a deep route up the left seam and Marquez Valdes-Scantling [83] on a deep route up the right seam. The Saints are in a Cover 3 shell, so the Packers are trying to get the single-high safety to commit to one side or the other, then take a shot on the side he shades away from.

The safety crashes on the route of Lazard, which opens up Valdes-Scantling.

Unfortunately, pressure is coming up the middle as Aaron Rodgers [12] hits the top of his drop and he is not able to wait the extra half-second he needs to get rid of the ball. Instead of breaking the pocket and trying to make something happen, he quickly takes the checkdown to Aaron Jones [33] in space. Jones makes something happen and picks up 12 yards.

The delayed rush comes from Demario Davis [56]. He stays near the line to read the play action, keeping an eye on the crossing Marcedes Lewis [89] after the fake. When Lewis continues across the formation to block, Davis rushes through the open area.

The quick checkdown not only picks up some nice yardage, but it also allows Rodgers to avoid taking a hit. Nicely done.

Play 2: 2nd & 10, 8:57 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers tied 0-0

Jamaal Williams [30] shifts from his position in the backfield to a stack formation in the slot before the snap. He is followed by Alex "Fabio” Anzalone [47], signaling man-to-man coverage. The wide man to that side is running a curl to the boundary, setting up a Smash/Fade as Williams runs a fade route over the top. The front man in the stack is running an in-breaking route, which helps to part the Red Sea for Williams.

With the safety aligned to the opposite side of the formation, Rodgers knows he has Williams matched-up with a linebacker and no safety help.

Unfortunately, the slot blitz gets to Rodgers before he can get rid of the ball. He tries to spin away from the rusher, but he can’t get free.

Good concept against the coverage, but the pressure just hits too quick.

Play 3: 1st & 10, 15:00 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers trailing 13-17

We now hit a series of 3 consecutive plays on the Packers opening drive of the 2nd half. The Packers had just relinquished the lead going into the half. With the ball in their hands to start the half, a good drive resulting in points would be a terrific response.

The Packers come out in 21 personnel - 2 RB, 1 TE, 2 WR - in a 2X1 look. (I should add that I call it 21 because Tyler Ervin [32] is in the game and he is still listed as a RB. You could call this 11 if you want.) Allen Lazard [13] is running a deep curl to the middle of the field while Valdes-Scantling runs a deep crosser over the top. The idea is to draw the safety in the middle of the field down on the curl, then run the deep crosser over the top.

To round things out on this one, Ervin is running a deep curl on the left boundary.

Malcolm Jenkins [27] drops back and under the crosser from Valdes-Scantling, while the underneath linebackers drop under Lazard. Rodgers hits the top of his drop, doesn’t see anything open and tries to go over the top to Valdes-Scantling, but the ball falls incomplete.

Play 4: 2nd & 10, 14:54 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers trailing 13-17

Packers come out on 2nd down in 21 personnel with a little window-dressing in the form of some Ervin jet sweep motion. The alignment is different (1X1 this time) and it’s essentially a two-man route, but the idea is the same: run a mid-crosser under a deep-crosser to try to hit something deep. Lazard is running the mid-crosser from the left, while Valdes-Scantling is running the deep crosser from the right.

Chauncey Gardner-Johnson [22] rotates back to help pick up the deep crosser from Valdes-Scantling, so the deep shot is likely gone. However, the play action draws the linebackers up towards the line, which means no one is under the mid-crosser from Lazard. Lazard gets inside position on his defender and finds a lot of room to run. He just can’t haul in the pass.

Play 5: 3rd & 10, 14:50 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers trailing 13-17

Now it’s 3rd down and the Packers are looking at potentially going three-and-out to start the 2nd half. Not great, Bob. So what do they do?

Why, the same thing they did on 1st down, of course. Deep curl from the right, deep crosser over the top and a deep curl on the boundary out of 2X1 alignment.

I say it’s the same, but there are differences. For starters, the players are different. Darrius Shepherd [82] is running the deep curl while Lazard is running the deep crosser over the top.

The personnel grouping is also different. They’re in 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR), with Malik Taylor [86] running the deep curl on the boundary instead of Ervin.

There is one other major difference here, and that is the down and distance. Instead of 1st & 10, the Packers are facing 3rd & 10. So this time the deep curl isn’t just a deep curl: it’s a deep curl at the sticks for a team that is desperately trying to pick up a 1st down and extend the drive.

When Shepherd curls at the sticks, the deep safety in the Saints Quarters shell coverage crashes on him instead of falling back into a deep zone. The boundary defender does the same thing. That allows Lazard a free release over the top with plenty of room to roam. Rodgers hits Lazard with a perfect pass over the top for a 72 yard gain.

It’s a really fun sequence that leads to a big play in a big moment.

Play 6: 1st & 10, 5:55 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers tied 20-20

The Packers used play action a lot this past weekend, so I wanted to bring up one play that showed what they were able to accomplish with it.

We’ve got a go route from Valdes-Scantling on the right, a crosser from Jace Sternberger [87] on the right and Robert “Big Bob” Tonyan [85] crossing under the line and releasing into the right flat.

The play action out of shotgun draws the defenders up and to the offensive left. It’s not much, but it gets them biting a couple steps up and away from the right. That gives Tonyan a free release under the line and a lot of room to move. A simple throw to Tonyan – around the unblocked Trey Hendrickson [91] on the edge – gives the Packers a relatively easy 16 yards.

Play 7: 1st & 10, 15:00 remaining in the 4th quarter, Packers tied 27-27

I love this one because it shows how Matt LaFleur is combating the way defenses are playing some of his concepts. Over the first two games, the Packers had been trying to hit the running back on a vertical route up the seam on multiple occasions. It’s a concept that worked well for them last year, but they haven’t been able to hit it yet. Defenses are looking for it, so they’ve been rotating a deep defender over to cap the route up the seam.

We see the similar motion here: run a mid-to-deep in-breaking route to occupy the middle, a deep route to the outside to occupy the boundary hit them up the seam out of the backfield. Once again, the defense is looking for it and they cap the seam route with a deep defender.

The Packers are still looking to hit that seam route, but they have something in the tank in case the defense caps it: they have the jet sweep motion man sit in the flat. With two vertical routes on the outside, that leaves room to operate in the flat. The defense adjusts to the vertical route, so Rodgers checks it down to Ervin in space. Malcolm Jenkins [27] does a great job covering the boundary route while keeping his eye on the flat, and he comes back to make a great tackle, so the Packers only pick up 5 yards.

Still, I love seeing how LaFleur is putting these little pieces into his offense to further stress defenses who are working to stop some of his core concepts.


Every week I have a handful of plays that don't make it into my articles. So, if you're looking for more passing concepts to look at from this past week, you may enjoy this Twitter thread I put together.


Albums listened to: Sufjan Stevens - The Ascension; Deftones - Ohms; Lydia Loveless - Daughter; Action Bronson - Only For Dolphins; Fleet Foxes - Shore

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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].

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Comments (7)

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PackEyedOptimist's picture

September 30, 2020 at 04:33 pm

Great analysis as always! Thanks Dusty!

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Minniman's picture

September 30, 2020 at 04:42 pm

Nice play from Aaron Jones in that second film to cut a tight line off Bakh’s shoulder on that check down positioning. He took the outside rush away from the edge defender which meant Bakh only had to concentrate on him shooting the internal gap. Not sure if that was by design or fortune, but it helped that play.

Great work on these articles! They really help to understand the strategy behind MLF’s coaching.

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PatrickGB's picture

September 30, 2020 at 05:02 pm

Thanks, I missed some of these plays when watching it live. It’s good to relook at them with an explanation of what is going on. Love it.

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Lphill's picture

September 30, 2020 at 06:42 pm

Thanks Dusty , and imagine all this success with no Davante Adams !

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Archie's picture

October 01, 2020 at 07:26 am

MM = checkers

MLF = chess

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

October 01, 2020 at 09:28 am

Kudos Dusty!

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JohnnyLogan's picture

October 01, 2020 at 10:56 am

I know it's called "The Passing Chronicles" but I'd rather see a breakdown of our D to understand why it's so inept. What do Lowry and Lancaster contribute?... where are our safeties?... what are P. Smith and Gary doing in coverage?... It's fun to analyze this offense, but more productive to figure out how we'll beat KC in the SB, that is if we manage to stop Seattle or San Francisco in the playoffs.

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