The Passing Chronicles: 2021 Week 3

Dusty looks back at 6 plays from the Packers thrilling Week 3 victory over the 49ers

I legitimately don't know the last time I was that hyped up after a regular season win. We had some high-highs for most of the first half, then, for a while, it felt like we were all just slowly drudging towards a heartbreaking end, driven there by a big yellow flag. Instead, we saw Rodgers hit two huge throws and celebrate immediately after spiking it, because he knew what all of us knew: Mason Crosby wasn't going to miss.

We've got 6 plays from the passing game we're going to be looking at today. We're not going in chronological order, as we're going to be grouping some of these plays together. You ready to have some fun? I'm ready to have some fun.

Play 1: 2nd & 8, 6:12 remaining in the 1st quarter

We're going to kick things off by looking at the longest offensive play by either team on the day: a 47 yard pass to Marquez Valdez-Scantling [83]. I tend to group this into the Portland family (which I also relate to the famous Mills concept). In his book he put out this offseason on the 2020 Packers offense, the great Bobby Peters tags it as Over-Curl/Swirl. Whatever you want to call it, it's a two-high beater, and that's exactly what the 49ers were in. They come out in a Quarters shell, with the two safeties in the middle pinched and the two outside defenders responsible for the boundary. Allen Lazard [13] runs a vertical pushing route on the left, but the main action is between MVS and Davante Adams [17].

Adams is aligned on the right, while MVS is in the left slot. Adams pushes hard up the field and veers to the middle at about 10 yards of depth. He is able to gain enough depth to trigger the defender in that zone. He crashes on the dig/swirl route from Adams, which opens space for MVS. MVS has an angle on his defender, so when he veers to the boundary, there's no chance.

Great throw by Rodgers to put it on MVS, who is able to look the ball into his hands.

Finally, a shout-out to AJ Dillon [28], who is aligned just off the right side of the line. This is a long-developing route, so Dillon provides a nice chip on Arik Armstead [91] to help slow him down and ensure Rodgers has the time he needs to get the throw off.

Play 2: 1st & goal, 3:23 remaining in the 1st quarter

The Packers were the best team in the red/gold zone last year, scoring touchdowns on 76.8% of their trips into that hallowed area. Through 3 games, they're 14th in that area, scoring touchdowns on 63.6% of their trips. But that drop doesn't mean they've suddenly lost their creativity. This was a really nice design and call.

Davante Adams goes in jet motion before the snap, triggering the rotation of the defense. The slot defender - initially aligned over Lazard - rotates to the middle of the field while the defender in the middle of the field rotates to pick up Adams on the other side of the line. The outside defender on the left bumps in to pick up Lazard.

The problem, of course, is that Adams isn't running a jet sweep, and now they have no one left.

At the snap, Adams reverses field. Lazard runs a curl route into the body of the defender and Adams has nothing but green. Like taking candy from several large, sweaty babies.

Lazard is celebrating before Adams even crosses the line.

Play 3: 2nd & 14, 11:47 remaining in the 1st quarter

This takes place on the Packers 1st drive. One that started with such promise, but fell apart the closer they marched to glory. This play ends with a well-deserved holding call on Yosh Nijman [73], but there's a fun concept wrinkle that I wanted to make sure got some love.

I've talked about the Dagger concept quite a bit in the past, but here's a small refresher. Dagger is a well-worn, two-man concept. The inside receiver will run a vertical route, while the outside receiver will shadow the vertical release, then cut underneath on a dig route. The idea is that the vertical route from the inside will clear room, then the dig will capitalize on that room.

The Packers sell that, with Tonyan running the vertical route and Adams cutting underneath on the dig. Adams cuts right on Tonyan's hip, triggering a hard coverage shift from the 49ers. As soon as that happens, Adams cuts back to the sideline and flattens his route. 

If Rodgers had time in the pocket, he could have hit Adams out of the break and this would potentially have been a touchdown. Instead, he's running for his life as Nijman doesn't even protest the flag. 

Really fun variation on a concept the Packers are already well-versed in. Really looking forward to seeing this one again.

Play 4: 1st & 10, 0:37 remaining in the 4th quarter

Only 37 seconds left, eh? I bet you already know what this play is. I'm not going to spend a lot of time with this, but I did want to point it out because, conceptually, it fits into the Dagger bucket. The 49ers are playing it differently than they were on the previous play, which is totally expected given the circumstances. 

The 49ers are in a Quarters shell. So they're putting the roof on top of the offense, but there's still some room to work. Lazard runs a vertical route on the left, drawing the coverage from the boundary defender and causing the other safety on that side of the field to keep dropping deep. On the right side, Randall Cobb [18] runs a deep corner route while Adams runs a dig underneath.

The route of Cobb is important, because it triggers the key safety. Cobb draws the safety over him by pushing vertically, directly at his face. That causes the safety to flip his hips and play over the top. When he does that, it means he can't drive on the route from Adams. Meanwhile, the boundary defender passes off Adams once he cuts inside. There's no safety help, but the linebackers are in deep drops to take away anything deep in the middle of the field.

Fred Warner [54] is in the deep middle, and he's got his head on a swivel. You can see him look behind a couple times. The first time he looks back, he sees Adams cutting inside. He then takes another glance to get the route depth a little better lined up. Good awareness, but it still doesn't matter. Because sometimes, it just doesn't matter.

He's sooooo close, man. Rodgers puts just enough on the pass to get it over the desperate hands of Warner and into the loving embrace of Adams.

Absolutely perfect placement.

Play 5: 3rd & 6, 4:07 remaining in the 1st quarter

We're going to close out today by looking two plays running the same concept: one run in the 1st quarter, the next one run in the 4th quarter. Like most concepts, it's one that can go by several names. It is most commonly known as Double China, but I prefer to use its more charming and good-looking name: Dusty.

Dusty is a simple, three-receiver concept. The two receivers from the outside run shallow in-breaking routes, while the inside receiver runs a corner route over the top. The idea is to draw the defenders in-and-up, opening space for the corner route. On both of these plays, the Packers pair that concept with a Lookie route from Adams in the opposite slot. Lookie is a three-way option route, which means Adams can cook/eat the opposing defender any way he sees fit. It's a lovely use of his talents.

Rodgers is initially looking for Adams on the Lookie route. Adams wins the route, but Kentavius Street [95] drops off his spot at the line and falls right under the path of that route. Mr. Street, I have seen BJ Raji. You, sir, are no BJ Raji. Rodgers looks off from that route to the corner from MVS, but the safety to that side has dropped to the outside shoulder of MVS, so there's no angle. 

Rodgers does some Rodgers things and ends up hitting Adams just outside the goal line, setting up the touchdown we looked at up in Play 2.

Play 6: 3rd & 4, 13:36 remaining in the 4th quarter

Now we come to my favorite throw on a day filled with favorite throws. Same concept as above: Dusty with Adams on a Lookie in the opposite slot. This time Adams wins outside, but it doesn't matter because of what is happening with the Dusty concept.

The 49ers are in a single-high look. That safety is shaded to the trips side, but he is aligned on the inside shoulder of MVS. That means MVS will have the angle on the corner route out of the break, and Rodgers knows it. Rodgers hits the top of his drop, surveys the defense and let's rip a throw that brought with it a choir of angels (or the wail of demons, depending on your fandom). 

By taking that moment to survey the defense, he knew what he needed to do to beat it. The boundary defender initially stays on Tonyan, but he passes off responsibility to the inside once Tonyan declares his route. That allows the defender to drop under the corner route. Instead of a nice, easy throw to the back pylon, Rodgers has to have perfect placement on it.

Great playcall, great read and a perfect throw from Rodgers, put in a place where only his 6'4" receiver could grab it. And that receiver had a little something to say about it, too.


I went live with Ross Uglem immediately following the game, if you want to hear a couple of delirious men talk about this game in the immediate aftermath.


Albums listened to: Counting Crows - August & Everything After; Death Cab For Cutie - Transatlanticism; Father John Misty - Off-Key in Hamburg; Richard Swift - The Novelist; TV On the Radio - Dear Science; Eliza Hardy Jones - Because Become; Disasterpeace - It Follows [Soundtrack]; James Vincent McMorrow - Grapefruit Season; John Carpenter - Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998

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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 (4)

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LeotisHarris's picture

September 29, 2021 at 04:37 pm

"Rodgers puts just enough on the pass to get it over the desperate hands of Warner and into the loving embrace of Adams." The Evely boy, he makes the language dance, he does. Such a perfect description.

Thanks for another entertaining and educational read, Dusty.

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Matt Gonzales's picture

September 29, 2021 at 05:12 pm

As always, love both the cutups and your commentary behind them.

I also have my own play concept - it's called the Mason. When we play backyard football and have enough people for one kid to play center, I will put my 6 year old (Mason) at QB, and I set up slot left. The play consists of me jumping the snap, taking the ball, and running upfield on the right side. It also works when we send him back to punt (and since he's 6, he will sometimes punt on 1st or 2nd down, too, because 6).

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LeotisHarris's picture

September 29, 2021 at 05:31 pm

I laughed out loud, Matt! Oh the rites of passage of the little brother.

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fordguy's picture

September 30, 2021 at 05:00 pm

Of all the horrible officiating, thank god the RG didn't get a holding call on the first play at the 37 sec. in the fourth. I think would've changed the outcome in a bad way.

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