The Passing Chronicles: 2021 Week 6

Dusty takes a look back at 7 plays from the Packers victory over the Bears

I'm going to go ahead and apologize in advance. This week is insane at work and I simply don't have the time to sit down and write like I usually do. So we're getting 7 plays today, but we'll be spending a little less time with each of them than I would like. Maybe you're into the whole brevity thing. In that case, you're welcome.

Play 1: 2nd & 4, 13:35 remaining in the 1st quarter

The Bears were really crowding the line in this game and stationing a single-high safety deep. Like a lot of teams, they're stacking pressure looks at the line to have the threat of pressure, without always bringing pressure. It can be a way to generate pressure with 4 men, while dropping the rest into coverage. Confuse the line, make them account for all the rushers, then drop some out and overload a side with others. It's not a new idea, but it is something that seems to be more prevalant this year.

The problem with doing this is that you're dropping defenders from the line at weird angles. We saw how offenses can benefit from this against the Steelers, with defenders dropping from the A gap into a hook zone, only to see Randall Cobb cut inside to a wide open space.

This week, the Packers attacked those looks with follow concepts from the trips side. On this play, Randall Cobb [18] is running a shallow crossing route from the inside, while Allen Lazard [13] and Davante Adams [17] run short, in-breaking routes from the outside. This is read inside-out; first Cobb, then Lazard, then Adams. The overriding idea is that, if the first route isn't open, it will have opened up room for the route from the slot. And, if that route is covered, it will have opened up room for the route from the outside. The beauty of it is that it can be read quickly, so it can go to any receiver out of a three-step drop. Typically this goes to the slot route, which is what happens here.

The inside defender follows Cobb and the mugging LB drops into the middle. With Cobb off the table and Lazard with inside leverage, the throw goes to Lazard out of the slot.

I want to take a minute and look at the footwork from Aaron Rodgers [12]. The initial dropback is straight back, with Rodgers looking down the middle of the field. One-step, two-steps straight back, not telegraphing where he's going. That third step is a load step, where he's setting and firing. He doesn't turn his feet to throw to Lazard until that hop into the third, at which point it's too late for the defense to do anything about it. 

With the slot cleared and no LBs reading to buzz under the throw, Rodgers fires that sucker into a nice window for 13 yards.

Play 2: 3rd & 7, 15:00 remaining in the 2nd quarter

The defense is playing back on 3rd & 7, but the Packers come back with the same general idea. This time Robert Tonyan [85] is the inside receiver running the shallow crosser. With no simulated pressure at the line, this read is a little easier. Can Tonyan get inside leverage on the defender. Roquan Smith [58] is the man in coverage, and he starts the play aligned on Tonyan's inside shoulder. At the snap, he jumps over to an even alignment, and the decision is made. 

Tonyan cuts quickly. Smith recovers well, but Rodgers has perfect placement on the pass and Smith can't undercut it.

Play 3: 3rd & 1, 6:56 remaining in the 3rd quarter

The Packers come out in a heavy look on 3rd & 1. 13 personnel (1 RB, 3 TE, 1 WR), with the lone WR being Adams in a condensed split. They're in I formation, with Josiah Deguara [81] as the upback and Aaron Jones [33] as the deep running back. They're balanced up front, with a TE attached to either side of the line. 

The Bears are loading up to stop the run. The deepest defender is 5 yards off the line. The Packers are up 10-7 and the Bears want to hold them to a field goal attempt.

The Packers go play action and run a high-cross down the field. They're looking to draw the defense up with the play fake, then put that single-high safety in conflict. It's not much of a playfake - likely because Rodgers doesn't want to completely sell it and turn around to a defensive line selling-out to stop the run - but it's enough to draw the second level of the defense up a step. They fall back well under the high-cross, so Rodgers moves off of that option. But Jones in the flat? Ah buddy, that option is perfect.

The defense recovers well, but Jones releases quickly and has a nice angle on the briefly-pulled-up linebackers. Rodgers flips it out to Jones in the flat, who has outflanked the defense and rumbles to the tune of 10 yards. Nice call and a good read by Rodgers to immediately get the ball to Jones in space.

It's worth noting that, if the defense had sprinted out to take away Jones, Deguara is curling into a space just off the line to work as a throwback option.

Play 4: 1st & 10, 6:12 remaining in the 3rd quarter

On the very next play, the Packers are looking at 1st & 10 from the 11. They dial up another play action concept. It's one I covered at length a couple weeks ago, and one we're likely going to see a lot of going forward, as the Packers work more on their half-boot game. It can go by many names, but it's called Drift in the Kyle Shanahan system, so that's what we'll call it here. It's a concept exclusively run from play action. It's a vertical route from one side and a dig from the other. The idea is for everything to look like a wide zone run, then the quarterback flips quickly and hits the backside dig while the second level of the defense is reading the run. When the offense is humming, this is easy money.

The Bears are a good defense and have linebackers capable of recovering quickly from the playfake, so they fall under this concept pretty well. It actually looks like Rodgers is looking for Lazard on the seam route rather than Adams on the dig route, which is something I don't know that I've seen before from them. Still, the defense falls underneath and Rodgers can't hit either of those two options. So he turns, once again, to Jones in the flat.

Jones doesn't immediately run to the flat. He pulls up in pass protection after the playfake, looking to pick up Tashaun Gipson [38] on the edge. Gipson pulls up, Jones pulls up, and they kind of shadow each other for a second before Jones turns around to work as the checkdown option.

Jones gets the pass, makes Gipson miss, then races to the end zone. Good initial defense from the Bears, but the line holds up well and Jones turns in a tremendous individual play.

Play 5: 2nd & 10, 2:20 remaining in the 3rd quarter

We talked about the Dragon concept against the Bengals last week. I don't know if this quite fits in, but it's close enough. Slant/flat. Curl/flat. Same family as far as I'm concerned. (I paint with a pretty broad brush when grouping concepts.) The difference here is where the flat route comes from. Typically, the flat route on these concepts will come from the backfield or from the in-line tight end. This time? This time it comes from Amari Rodgers [8] on the jet sweep. 

If anyone here believed I would let this week go by without mentioning Amari Rodgers catching a pass as the jet sweep man, you were lying to yourselves.

Having the flat route come from the jet motion does a couple things. As I've mentioned before, the jet motion man typically settles into the flat behind the line of scrimmage after completing his motion and functions as the checkdown man. On this play, Rodgers bends slightly up the field. That changes the angle defenses are usually looking for out of that man. The other thing it does it allow that route to get a head of steam. It's not someone starting from the backfield and turning; it's coming from a receiver running under the line. That allows him to get to the edge quicker.

Aaron Rodgers puts this in a perfect spot, allowing Amari Rodgers to catch the ball in-stride. Equanimeous St. Brown [19] has a tremendous (and perfectly timed) block from the outside, allowing Rodgers a nice path up the sideline. Nice design/timing and this play picks up 14 yards.

Play 6: 2nd & 10, 7:15 remaining in the 4th quarter

Compared to the previous week, Davante Adams had a pretty quiet game. Not that 4 catches for 89 yards is anything to sneeze at, but when you just roasted the Bengals for 206 yards, 89 yards seems pretty quaint.

The Packers are running a Smash concept. It's an old West Coast concept, typically credited to the late Packers coach Lindy Infante (although Infante claims he took it from the 49ers). It's a two-man concept, with outside receiver running a short route - typically a curl, but an in-breaker in this case - while the inside receiver runs a corner route over the top. If the boundary defender falls underneath the corner route, hit the short route. If he breaks down on the short route, hit the corner route. Easy as lyin'.

Rodgers gets a pre-snap tell, using his cadence to get the defense to declare their nefarious intentions. Eddie Jackson [4] is sneaking toward the line pre-snap, but shows a backpedal to the middle of the field on the hard acount, with the other safety rotating to the line. This tells Rodgers that he'll be seeing a single-high safety. In the broader picture, that means he has Adams against press-coverage from the slot on a route that will be running away from the deep coverage. 

Adams beats the jam at the line - because he is Davante Lavell Adams - and the boundary defender breaks on the in-cutter from Jones, so Rodgers hits Adams on the corner route.

Jackson is able to get enough of a hit on Adams to knock him to the sideline, but it still ends up as a 41 yard gain.

And when I say Adams beats the jam at the line? I mean he destroys the jam at the line.

Play 7: 1st & goal, 4:39 remaining in the 4th quarter

We end today with an old favorite: Mesh. But today it is a favorite for multiple reasons. Yes, it's always a fun concept and I love it, but this one ends...well...iconic.

It's a classic Mesh, with the two dueling drag routes, Deguara sitting over the top, and a high-low, corner/flat combination on the left. The read on Mesh typically starts with the vertical route, then goes to the mesh point (drags/sit), then to the flat as the checkdown. Rodgers looks to be following that here, looking for Adams on the corner route. The safety to Adams' side has inside position and keeps it, falling under the corner route and taking that away. He stays on that a beat too long, and, by the time he moves to the middle of the field, he starts feeling the heat in the pocket, so he bails. He appears to have Deguara on the sit route in the middle, but bails all the same.

Why doesn't he throw to Deguara? Maybe he's not sure Deguara is going to flash into the throwing lane. Maybe he's concerned that, by the time Deguara slides over, the pass rusher off the edge will hit his arm. This is how the picture looks when Rodgers works back to the middle:

Whatever the reason, Rodgers bails to his right, keeping his eye on Deguara. Deguara does his part, shadowing Rodgers on his fade to the sideline.

Alec Ogletree [44] keeps his eyes on Rodgers. So when Rodgers pumps to Deguara, Ogletree respects it and hesitates. That gives Rodgers all the room he needs on the boundary.

Rodgers gets the room, finds the front pylon and puts a dagger in the hearts of the Bears.

And, of course, punctuates it with the quote of this young(ish) season:


Albums listened to: Soccer Mommy - Color Theory; Starflyer 59 - Vanity; Ester Drang - Infinite Keys; John Carpenter - Halloween Kills Soundtrack; David Bowie - Low; Sufjan Stevens & Angelo De Augustine - A Beginner's Mind

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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 (8)

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Philarod's picture

October 20, 2021 at 03:28 pm

Another terrific article, Dusty!
It's amazing how many things (in the NFL) happen in split seconds and in very tight windows.
Your breakdowns of both the design and the execution is wonderful!

6 points
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LeotisHarris's picture

October 20, 2021 at 06:02 pm

Certainly no reason for you to feel you slighted your readers this week, Dusty. You just gave us another wonderful article filled with detail and insight. Thank you.

6 points
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Nordom's picture

October 20, 2021 at 08:34 pm

Anyone else notice the safety, Eddie Jackson, in play #6 against Adams? Just comes flying in trying to make a big hit, and he does get a piece of him, but kind of bounces off. He looks up to see the results of his handiwork...and sees Adam still sprinting off to the races, and bows his head in shame. Mr. Jackson, I also sometimes wonder why NFL players insist on trying to constantly land so many big hits instead of just wrapping up, especially on plays like these where the offense has clearly already gotten a big gain and what you really need to do is make sure the other guy doesn't make it to the end zone rather than necessarily limit every single possible yard. Trying to blow up a play before it reaches the first down marker is one thing, but this I just don't understand.

4 points
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Matt Gonzales's picture

October 20, 2021 at 09:44 pm

Looks like Jackson tripped himself up a bit trying to make the tackle more than him launching himself...

I do agree too many players (DBs especially) are poor tacklers, but that's not quite what I'm seeing here. Adams has enough momentum that Jackson was never going to be able to square up on him with anything more than an arm tackle.

2 points
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Savage57's picture

October 21, 2021 at 05:50 am

One of the best featured articles on CHTV

4 points
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PeteK's picture

October 21, 2021 at 10:15 am

Hopefully, Love is practicing on copying Rodgers's foot work.

1 points
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Spock's picture

October 21, 2021 at 11:15 am

Dusty, if this is your "condensed" version of your column on a heavy work week I'm beyond impressed. Great column (as usual) and always a learning experience for me to read. Great work!

1 points
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jlc1's picture

October 22, 2021 at 11:24 am

Another great post Dusty not just for what you showed us but as another example of your great writing style. Clarity and levity, pretty rare. Thanks.

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