The Passing Chronicles: 2021 Week 14

After a bye week that saw us doing a little self-scouting and building a call sheet, we're back talking about some plays from yet another Packers win. A win that, combined with the Cardinals loss, puts the Packers at 1st place in the NFC with 4 games remaining. Not too shabby.

Today we're looking at 6 plays, so let's stop talking about it and get down to looking at them.

Play 1: 2nd & 4, 8:58 remaining in the 2nd quarter

Dagger (vertical route from the slot paired with a dig from the outside) has been one of the most consistent concepts for the Packers this year. They've been calling it roughly twice per game this season. On those plays, Rodgers is completing 78.9% of his passes for 11.9 yards per attempt.  

On this play, they pair Dagger with a Curl/Flat concept on the left with Josiah Deguara [81] and Davante Adams [17]. I love the way Deguara runs this. He goes in motions before the play, slicing under the line. He accelerates at the snap and looks to be running a wheel up the sideline. Instead, he rounds off on a flat route. 

The curl from Adams works as a bit of a pick (a legal one, I might add) and Deguara is wide open in the flat.

Rodgers hits Deguara once he hits his third step. The boundary defender is pinching toward Adams so there's a lot of room on the boundary. Deguara gets north and picks up 25 yards.

Play 2: 4th & 2, 6:04 remaining in the 2nd quarter

In this area of the field, you're just looking to create a little bit of space. One misstep is all you need sometimes. 

This concept looks like a WR screen to Adams on the left, with Marquez Valdes-Scanting [83] and Allen Lazard [13] as the blockers and Adams sprinting underneath at the snap.

Lazard aims for the inside shoulder of his man while MVS aims at the outside shoulder of his man. It looks like they're pinning inside and giving Adams a clear path to the outside. After the initial beat, MVS releases on a fade while Lazard releases on a slant. The defender over MVS holds his ground, but the defender over Lazard shades too far outside. 

When Lazard cuts back on the slant, there's no one there. Easy money.

Play 3: 1st & 10, 0:52 remaining in the 2nd quarter

Due to certain things we will not speak about in this space, the Packers found themselves down by 10 points with less than a minute remaining in the 1st half. They would get the ball to start the 2nd half, so a score here would be huge. The Packers come out in a 2X2 set with MVS and Adams on the left side. It is, essentially, a post/wheel, but with the wheel coming 9 yards down the field. MVS runs a post from the outside, while Adams cuts on an out route before wheeling up the field. 

The Bears are in a single-high look and the boundary defender carries MVS to the safety. That leaves Adams on the boundary with no deep help over the top. With 0:52 left in the first half, Xavier Crawford [21] sees the initial cut by Adams and reacts, trying to get in position and make the tackle in-bounds. 

When Adams cuts upfield, Crawford is in no position to recover quickly and the deep safety has been removed by MVS.

The deep safety reacts and flies over the top, but he's too far to make it to the sideline. Rodgers drops this ball in a bucket, Adams cuts inside and the Packers pull to within 3.

Play 4: 1st & 10, 6:37 remaining in the 3rd quarter

Drift is a concept that works off the PA Boot motion. It's something the Packers weren't really able to get right until midseason last year, but they've been feasting on it all year in 2021. They dial up Drift about once every-other game. When they run it, Rodgers is completing 77.8% of his passes for 14.6 yards per attempt. 

At its heart, it's a simple concept. You can dress it up a bit, but it's a two-man concept: vertical route on one side, dig route from the other. The action up front looks like a wide zone run, so the defense reads those keys. When the fake is complete, you'll often see the quarterback give a half-turn to sell the bootleg off the play action. That gets the defense moving on the PA Boot routes. Then the QB spins around and fires on the backside dig. You're basically throwing two fakes at the defense then hitting them when they're still reacting to the previous fake.

The Packers run this one a little differently. Rodgers and AJ Dillon [28] are in shotgun. The fake involves Rodgers sticking the ball into the stomach of Dillon and drifting with him to sell the mesh point. It's an action you'll see more with zone read than with PA Boot. Still, it works. The second level of the defense is drawn up by the fake, leaving room in the middle for Adams on the dig.

I'm a big fan of the switch vertical release on the other side instead of the standard single vertical route. Something to keep an eye on going forward.

Play 5: 3rd & 8, 3:35 remaining in the 3rd quarter

This is a concept we saw for a touchdown against the Rams in Week 12 as part of the deluge of angle routes. 

The main concept is Wolf, a two-man concept that is basically the Smash/China concept, but with the underneath receiver running an out-breaking route instead of a curl or in-breaker. The idea behind it is the same: you're looking to create a high-low read against the defense. If the underneath defender drops under the corner route, throw the underneath. If he drives on the underneath, throw the corner. What I like about Wolf - particularly in this area - is that it changes the window for the corner route. When running Smash, the ball needs to be to the back pylon, so there's little margin for error. With Wolf, the out-breaking route drags the underneath defender to the sideline, which means the window opens on the corner route out of the break.

This week - just like last week - they pair this with an angle route from Dillon out of the backfield. 

It's 3rd & 8 on this play and Rodgers ends up throwing underneath to MVS for 6 yards. When watching live, this was one of those "why didn't he throw to Dillon" moments. If you look at how the defense is reacting, it would have been a walk-in touchdown if the ball went to Dillon. So what happened?

The Bears show late pressure up the middle. Rodgers sees it just before the snap, which changes what he can do. At this point he doesn't know how the middle of the defense is going to react (there is a safety camped in the middle), so he reads Wolf. But he reads Wolf knowing he has to get the ball out quickly because there's going to be a free rusher in his face. 

He takes a three-step drop from shotgun and sets to throw. During the drop he sees the boundary defender sitting with depth, so he throws to MVS.

Better to get the ball out quickly and give your guy a chance rather than forcing something or taking a sack.

Play 6: 1st & goal, 4:36 remaining in the 4th quarter

We'll end with a really slick RPO, and the last Packers touchdown of the game. The Packers come out in a heavy, single-back look. Lazard shifts in before the snap and sits under the 2TE side to give the Packers more power at the point of attack. Get a bunch of double-teams, bully the line and ram Dillon headlong into it. Not a bad strategy, really.

Adams is the lone receiver split wide, isolated on Jaylon Johnson [33]. With the Bears stacking the line against the run, that leaves no other defenders on that side of the field. True isolation. Totally alone. Jaylon Johnson alone with his thoughts oh-and-also Davante Adams.

Johnson is angled in, looking to take away the slant. Adams' initial release is on the fade, drifting to the outside and looking back over his shoulder. As soon as Johnson drifts with the fade, Adams cuts back on the slant and Rodgers puts it between the numbers.

The safety stays in the middle for a beat to take on Dillon in the hole, so he never really has a chance to fall under the slant.

The route itself is just silly.


Albums listened to: FUR - When You Walk Away; Dear Euphoria - This Night Will Flee; Jim Croce - Photographs & Memories; My Lucky Day - All Shimmer in a Day; Fleet Foxes - A Very Lonely Solstice

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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].

6 points

Comments (7)

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Brockrice99's picture

December 15, 2021 at 03:12 pm

On Davante Adams and Allen Lazard TD's their off the line moves were absolutely beautiful, hard to defend beauty like that.

6 points
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splitpea1's picture

December 15, 2021 at 07:52 pm

I LOVE Play#1. It seems almost impossible to defend if all parties execute correctly. No wonder the Packers like it so much.

Play#3: What perfect ball placement by AR, as the OL gives him plenty of time to deliver the strike.

4 points
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LeotisHarris's picture

December 15, 2021 at 06:55 pm

All the emotions reflected in Johnson's body language after Adams torched him filled my mean-spirited-bear-hating heart with joy. The disappointment and futility of an entire franchise so accurately depicted by one man. Beautiful.

Great stuff as always, Dusty. Thanks.

2 points
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relleum61's picture

December 15, 2021 at 07:31 pm

The beauty of the slant TD to Adams is the way he set Jackson up for failure on the very route Jackson was primed to defend. Just pure poetry. Lazard's TD was a testament to play action, Lazard's reputation as a blocker and the scheme of bypassing the block for the route to combine for a wide open opportunity. This play was a gorgeous depiction of "the illusion of complexity."

4 points
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PeteK's picture

December 16, 2021 at 09:43 am

I agree REll, the play action to Jones causes the LB to attack the line of scrimmage leaving the lane open for a pass to Lazard.

1 points
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Johnblood27's picture

December 16, 2021 at 03:19 am

On play 4 drift, love how Dillon just cleans up the DE for Nijman!

The TD plays in this series show how much this offense has improved in polish since the start of the season. Early on those plays were just a little off. Practice at full speed with all of your teammates does matter. that said, it is a marathon not a sprint and the team seems to be in good position down the stretch thanks to a lot of guys stepping up for injured teammates this season.

3 points
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PeteK's picture

December 16, 2021 at 09:51 am

The TD pass to Adams is a testament to Rodgers's greatness. The combo of touch/strength to get the long pass there in time between to closing defenders is just amazing. Most QBs seldom make that throw , but Rodgers does it with regularity.

2 points
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