The Passing Chronicles: 2022 Week 11

Dusty digs into the passing game from the Packers Week 11 loss to the Titans

The good vibes didn’t really last that long, huh? After a win against the Cowboys that felt like it could have been a turning point for the season, we all got to witness a loss to the Titans on Thursday Night. But we’ll always have that Cowboys game, I guess.

In looking at the passing game, we saw the Packers fall into quite a few of the same traps we’ve seen all year. After a Cowboys game that saw them going under center 52.5% of the time, they went back to their shotgun heavy ways (76.3%). We also saw an increased usage of play action against the Cowboys (an unsustainable 47.8%), only to see it fall back to earth this week (20%).

I say “the same traps,” but there are certainly reasons behind those differing approaches. As much as it feels like those numbers could be pointing to Rodgers taking the reigns to the offense away from LaFleur, a deeper dive into the numbers tells a slightly different story.

Through the first 6 drives (which spanned the first 3 quarters of the game), the Packers were under center on 64.1%, which is about what it was from 2019-2021. On drives 7-10, the Packers ran 20 plays and were in shotgun in all of them. 

Why the change? That answer is likely found in the run game (in addition to the 10 point deficit). We all know that the Titans run defense was good going into the game - #1 per Football Outsiders DVOA - and they were getting Jeffery Simmons back for the game. It was going to be tough sledding, but we also know that the Packers found success with an under center run game against the Cowboys. Well…that didn’t work against the Titans.

Over the first 6 drives, the Packers called 16 run plays: 7 from shotgun, 9 from under center. The results? NOT GREAT.

Shotgun: 6.3 YPA
Under Center: 0.6 YPA

What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing but expecting different results. If the Packers went under center at a 64% clip over the last 3 drives, they would have been asking for failure.

Alright man. Before we get too carried away, let’s look at the chart.

Once again, we’re seeing throws behind the line of scrimmage reduce a bit (15.2% on the day, when they had been 25%+ for most of the season, per PFF), while the ADOT (average depth of target) is once against in the double digits (10.2 ADOT), which makes that the 3rd straight week they eclipsed 10 ADOT (they had not done it a single time through the first 8 weeks of the season). That’s encouraging.

After being (essentially) perfect when targeting 10-19 yards down the field against the Cowboys, Rodgers struggled in that area of the field against the Titans. He was 6/12 for 101 yards and 1 TD. He missed a couple throws in that area (one of which we’ll touch on later). 

Overall, not a great performance from the pass game. There did appear to be fewer mental errors from the receivers, which was encouraging, as that had been one of the biggest issues with the offense up until this point. With the line solidifying a bit, I think this passing offense could be an issue for defenses going forward…if it weren’t for the busted-up thumb from the QB that is impacting his accuracy.

One really good thing, though: Christian Watson looks like a monster. He’s impacting the game every time he steps on the field. He’s so good already.

Alright. Let’s get to some plays.

Play 1: 1st & 10, 14:54 remaining in the 3rd quarter

On this play, we’re going to talk about motion as a way to get a nice release on a dig route. We talked about it a bit last week, but this conversation is slightly different. Last week we talked about a short motion inside as a way to avoid a jam from the defender. The Packers had multiple issues getting off jams, so that motion was a way to get a free release with inside leverage.

Today we’re kind of talking about it again, but not really.

The Packers are running a Dagger concept on the right side. Dagger is a two-man concept, with the inside receiver running a vertical route, while the outside receiver runs a dig behind it. The idea is to have the vertical route clear out the middle, then run the dig into the vacated space.

It’s a concept that is used across the league, but I love how the Packers get to it here. Christian Watson [9] is running the vertical route from the right side, while Samori Toure [83] is running the dig. Since the Titans are in a two-high coverage, Watson bends the vertical route directly up the middle of the field to split the deep coverage.

However, Toure is not aligned outside of Watson at the snap. He goes in motion as the jet man pre-snap, then releases up the field at the snap. Typically, the jet motion man will either settle in the flat to work as the late checkdown, or run a wheel route up the boundary. 

On this play, Toure releases on the wheel, pushing directly at his defender. Once the boundary defender finally flips his hips to carry the route vertically, Toure cuts inside on the dig and into all the space created by the speed of Watson.

It’s a slightly longer-developing way to get to the concept, but it works like a dream.

However, Rodgers also has the option to throw away from the concept, and he had a one-on-one match-up with Allen Lazard [13] on the left, and he reads that first. The defender is playing off-coverage, and turns to carry the vertical route upfield as Lazard advances. That leaves a nice cushion on the out, so Rodgers takes that throw for 9 yards on 1st & 10.

A shame it didn’t end up going to Toure, but I really like that release. Really hoping we’ll be seeing it again in the coming weeks.

Play 2: 3rd & 12, 9:29 remaining in the 4th quarter

We’re going to talk about an old favorite in this space: Mesh. Known to some as the perfect concept, it’s an old LaVell Edwards concept that become the bedrock upon which the Air Raid system was built. It’s a concept that has not treated the Packers well over the years, but I always love seeing it. The core idea itself is a powerful one, but there are a lot of variations you can throw at it. That’s what we’re looking at here.

If you’ve followed me at all, you know this concept, but let’s review. Mesh is built around two drag routes crossing each other in the middle of the field. From there, you can go wild. It is typically paired with a route that breaks over the mesh point of those drag routes (a curl or a dig, more often than not). It will also usually have a vertical route from the outside and a checkdown.

The Packers roll out a nice variation here, and it breaks my heart that it didn’t end up hitting.

Robert Tonyan [85] and Lazard are on drag duty, with Tonyan working as the under man and Lazard going over. Watson motions to the right pre-snap and ends up as the #3 receiver in the trips set. With Tonyan/Lazard crossing, you’ll typically see a curl route over the mesh point from that release.

That is absolutely not what Watson is doing. He takes off directly down the middle of the field, driving three deep defenders back. Sammy Watkins [11] releases on a vertical route from the right side, but he ends up running a deep dig route under the release of Watson. Think of the Dagger concept we just looked at, paired with Mesh.

So you have the deep defenders sagging back on Watson and the underneath defenders spread to the sideline with the drag routes and you have a wide open middle of the field. And there’s Watkins - the much-maligned vet - breaking into all that wide open space. There’s a single defender in the initial throwing lane - a deep-dropping LB - so Rodgers has to make sure not to telegraph the play and have the LB slide underneath it.

It’s all so beautiful, man. Rodgers is able to slide away from pressure in the pocket and step into the throw.

And the throw just misses. There’s no real reason that I can gather. Everyone seemed like they did what they were supposed to do. They all appeared to be in the right spots. Unless there’s something I’m missing, it was just an errant throw. Rodgers does have the LB in the middle to contend with, but it’s something he’s done thousands of times in the past. Look at him, hold him, then hit the receiver in the open window.

After the heavy under center approach against the Cowboys, I had mused that maybe - just maybe - Rodgers thumb was on the mend. After a few of the throws against the Titans, I don’t think that’s the case. Pair that with a cold evening and the consistency in the passing game just wasn’t there.

I hope the offense is able to fix itself between now and the end of the season (for the sake of watchability more than anything), but the sun's getting real low.


Albums listened to: Weyes Blood - And In the Darkness, Hearts Aglow; Smashing Pumpkins - Atum Act 1; Sobs - Air Guitar; Loney Dear - Atlantis; Nine Inch Nails - The Fragile

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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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Rarescope's picture

November 23, 2022 at 05:18 pm

And here I thought a statistical fact based article about the Packers could be written without the use of the tired cliche definition of insanity analogy. Oh how wrong I was. That horse has had flies on it for weeks now Dusty.

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Pantz_Burp's picture

November 23, 2022 at 05:25 pm

Horse flies Rare? :)

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LeotisHarris's picture

November 23, 2022 at 05:41 pm

Really, Rarescope? If you're going criticize any writer, especially a writer as talented as Dusty, it's a best to cast a critical eye on your own work first.

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Rarescope's picture

November 26, 2022 at 09:55 am

I’m not a writer dude, and Dusty certainly knows his stuff… But anyone who does call themselves a writer should know better than to rely on cliches to make a point - especially when it’s already been used over and over again recently on the forum you are being published on.

“What Is a Cliché?
A cliché is an expression that was once innovative but has lost its novelty due to overuse.“

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Pantz_Burp's picture

November 23, 2022 at 05:25 pm

Thanks for the wealth of info and angles Dusty. I one, P- Burp figured something important out! #12 doesn't have a hurt thumb...someone on the staff, ANYONE...needs to tell him to just use the laces when throwing. (as evidence, see exhibit A...your first picture of the article)

Yeah, that justed happened...

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LeotisHarris's picture

November 23, 2022 at 05:49 pm

Thanks for the insights once again, Dusty. I always enjoy your work,

The track list on the NIN album is filled with appropriate titles for this Packers season. Maybe just a playlist including; We're in this Together, Somewhat Damaged, Where is Everybody?, Into the Void, Even Deeper, and The Way Out is Through.

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Rarescope's picture

November 26, 2022 at 09:58 am

I would thing that just the entirety of The Downward Spiral would have sufficed.

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