The Passing Chronicles: 2021 Week 2

Dusty takes a look at 5 plays from the Packers victory over the Lions in Week 2

The Packers pick up their first win of the season, and oh what a win it was. After a bit of a rough 1st half from a defensive perspective, they clamped down and pitched a shutout in the 2nd half. On top of that, I was able to attend the game with a few good friends.

Just a tremendous night overall. Not much better than hanging out with good people while watching the Packers beat a division opponent. There are still some things to clean up on both sides of the ball, but there was plenty to be encouraged about.

We're looking at 5 plays today. We'll kick things off with one of the touchdowns to Aaron Jones, then look at a series of 4 plays that were spread throughout the game. You ready? I'm ready. Let's boogie.

Play 1: 2nd & 10, 0:14 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers leading 21-17

To the shock of absolutely no one, this was one of my favorite plays of the evening. And why wouldn't it be? The Packers got a TD off the Mesh concept; a beautifully designed Mesh concept run in the confines of the red zone, no less. We've talked about this a lot in the past, but there are many ways to run Mesh. The core of it has two dueling drags, crossing around 3-6 yards. From there, the world is your oyster. You can play games over the mesh point of those drag routes - generally a sit route or an over route - and include a flat route and a vertical route. In the LaFleur era, we've seen them make good use of this concept.

On this particular play, they're running Mesh, but they're also essentially running a flood concept to the right. The Packers have trips to the left, and they send all of those receivers to the right. Randall Cobb [18] is running a drag, Davante Adams [17] is running an over route and Allen Lazard [13] is running a stop route, sitting right over the chaos of the mesh point. When the Packers run Mesh, they almost always have either a sit route or an over route. I don't know that I've ever seen them run both of those routes from the same side. 

Along with those routes, Aaron Jones [33] is releasing from the backfield and to the left. The idea of all of this is to get defensive bodies flying around and following the routes to the right, then sneak Jones out into the vacated space on the left side of the field.

It works beautifully. Jamie Collins [8] is picking up Jones in man coverage, but all the natural chaos of the mesh/flood routes - combined with the single jab step from Jones to the right - gets Collins leaning the wrong way, then has a lot of chaos to fight through. Collins never gets bumped, but Jones has a good angle and beats Collins to the pylon. Really nice Mesh variation run at the perfect time.

From here, we're going to look at 4 plays that are all tied together. 

Play 2: 1st & 10, 10:36 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers trailing 0-7

Packers with a single back, trips formation to the field side and Marcedes Lewis [89] as the in-line, backside TE (get used to this set-up). The widest defender on the TE side is angled in, reading the play. He appears to be reading the right side of the line. That side of the offensive line blocks down at the snap, with the right guard getting up to take on a linebacker at the second level. Lewis blocks the widest man on the line. Since that man is aligned inside of Lewis, Lewis blocks down.

That action triggers the defender, who pinches in towards the middle and looking for the potential cutback.

Play 3: 2nd & 12, 6:36 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers trailing 0-7

Later that same drive, Packers are in shotgun with a single back, trips formation to the field side and Robert Tonyan [85] as the in-line, backside TE. Jones goes in motion before the snap and Rodgers seems like he's looking to throw to Jones on the left behind blocking. Generally, when the offense throws that, they're looking for a numbers advantage. The Lions shift with the motion, showing a 4-on-4 match-up on that side. If the numbers are even, the advantage goes to the defense (because the ballcarrier can't be a blocker), so it generally isn't thrown.

The wide defender to the TE side is looking at the line. Between the fake on the WR screen and the right side of the line looking like they're settling in for pass protection, the defender drops back into his zone. 

While all that is happening, Tonyan is blocking the wide man on the line. Since that man is aligned outside of Tonyan, he blocks out. Tonyan disengages, turns, and Rodgers flips him a pass on the TE screen as the right side of the line leaks out to block.

With that defender falling back into his zone, the blockers are able to advance on him and get a nice angle. Tonyan cuts underneath the blockers and picks up 19 yards.

Play 4: 1st & 10, 15:00 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers trailing 14-17

First play of the 3rd quarter. Packers with a single back, trips formation to the field side and Marcedes Lewis [89] as the in-line, backside TE. The right side of the line blocks down, triggering the movement from the wide defender. Just like Play 2, he pinches in, looking for the cutback.

Play 5: 2nd & 7, 15:00 remaining in the 4th quarter, Packers leading 28-17

And, finally, the 1st play of the 4th quarter. Which looks almost exactly like Play 3. Packers are in shotgun with a single back, trips formation to the field side and Robert Tonyan [85] as the in-line, backside TE. Jones goes in motion before the snap and Rodgers seems like he's looking to throw to Jones on the left behind blocking. Once again the Lions shift with the motion, making the numbers on the WR screen 4-on-4. The wide defender sees the right side of the line setting up in pass protection, so he drops back into his zone.

Once again, Tonyan disengages and Rodgers flips the ball over to Tonyan. Not quite as much room this time, but it still picks up 11 yards and the 1st down. They would score a TD 4 plays later to officially push the score out of reach.

Here's the last thing I want to bring up on this particular play. I have long been in love with how Rodgers throws a screen. He does such a great job of setting his feet and selling the quick throw, then twisting back to throw the screen without having to reset his feet. On this play, he also adjusts his arm angle to fit the ball past a defender.

It's a small thing, but that hard set to one side really helps to sell the fake, and being able to twist and make the throw - instead of shifting or resetting - allows him to get the ball out before the defense can fully discover his intentions.


In addition to actually being at the game, it was great seeing the Packers offense looking a little more like the Packers offense we came to expect last year. Like I said at the top, there were still some things to clean up, but, overall, they showed some really promising signs. Yeah, it was against the Lions, but the team as a whole looked more in-sync than they did in Week 1


Albums listened to: St. Vincent - The Nowhere Inn; Sleigh Bells - Texis; William Fitzsimmons - Ready the Astronaut; Dinosaur Jr. - Sweep It Into Space; The Besnard Lakes - The Besnard Lakes Are the Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings

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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].

7 points

Comments (7)

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jont's picture

September 23, 2021 at 04:00 pm

These explanations and videos are always interesting.
Keep them coming!

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splitpea1's picture

September 23, 2021 at 04:34 pm

Play 1: The Packers sure made that one look easy; perfectly executed. I think that might be a little more difficult to pull off against SF, though, as it would likely to be either diagnosed earlier or chased down.

Be interesting to see what kind of successful plays you come up with next time against SF--hopefully about 4 that gets us in the end zone.

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PeteK's picture

September 23, 2021 at 05:01 pm

True, LB was lumbering, but it would still be a nice gain against a faster defender. Lazard plays a key roll in delaying LB.

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PeteK's picture

September 23, 2021 at 04:51 pm

There was a time when Rodgers had trouble with that throw.

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LeotisHarris's picture

September 23, 2021 at 06:54 pm

It's always a pleasure to read your work, Dusty. Thank you!

6 points
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Packer_Fan's picture

September 23, 2021 at 07:19 pm

Great article.

In these first two games, I am not seeing alot of spreading the ball around to other receivers. And I am not seeing a lot of the crossing patterns that were so successful last year.

Another web site highlighted they haven't used Cobb enough. And I agree. And finally, it seems to me that Rodgers should put more air under the long balls to MVA.

4 points
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VinceL's picture

September 24, 2021 at 10:59 am

Excellent as usual, Dusty!

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