The Passing Chronicles: 2022 Week 16

Dusty takes a look at a couple plays from the Packers victory over the Dolphins

What is this that I am feeling? Is that hope?

Prediction models are notoriously volatile and tend to differ quite a bit from model-to-model. With that being said, pretty much every site I’ve checked has the Packers with a range from 28%-36% to make the playoffs. Football Outsiders has them currently sitting at 36.3%, which is a 28.1% increase from the previous week. 

Yes. I think it’s hope. A wise man once posited that it's the hope that kills you, but you don't have to believe him if you don't want to.

Enough of that. There is a time and a place for those conversations, and this place is for neither of those things. This place is for looking at the passing game.

To the passing chart!

That deep interception mucks it up a bit, but, overall, that’s a pretty-looking chart. Aaron Rodgers was able to effectively attack all levels of the field. Only 18.4% of his attempts came behind the line of scrimmage (LOS), his lowest rate since the 16.1% mark he had in week 12 against the Eagles, and below his season average of 21.8% (a mark that leads the league, per PFF). 

When targeting between 0-19 yards, Rodgers was 15/22 (68.2%) for 140 yards (6.4 YPA) and 1 TD. There were two drops in that area of the field, so his adjusted completion rate was 77.3%. 

Despite the lack of targets behind the LOS, Rodgers Average Depth of Target (ADOT) was 9.2. That is largely due to where his targets came. He had 11 attempts from 0-9 yards and 7 attempts from 10-19 yards, with 3 of the 10-19 yard targets coming in at 11 yards. He was peppering the intermediate area of the field, and he was shredding the Dolphins with it.

Now, let’s look at a play or two. We’re going to start things off with a run play, but don’t worry: we’ll tie it back to the passing game.

Play 1: 1st & 10, 10:56 remaining in the 1st quarter

This is the first play of the game. Randall Cobb [18] motions to the left as the iso receiver and he is followed by Xavien Howard [25]. The Dolphins are in a single-high look. At the snap, Howard gives Cobb a free release to the inside and is shadowing the outside shoulder. If this were a pass play, Howard would use this technique to funnel Cobb to the single-high safety. That’s our first piece of information.

Our second piece of information is the release of Bradley Chubb [2] as the end man on the line (EMOL). The Packers are running Wide Zone from 11 personnel. Chubb is lined over the offensive left. At the snap, he takes a step straight up the field, then angles down the line on the backside pursuit. What he does on this play doesn’t really matter, but his pursuit does.

Initial release is vertical, then jogs down the line horizontally. The initial release is the key here.

So what did we see from the Dolphins? Single-high against an isolated receiver on the left and Chubb as the EMOL to that side. Howard gives a free release to the inside and Chubb’s play key leads him down the line after an initial step that leads him up the field. File that away.

Play 2: 1st & 10, 9:06 remaining in the 1st quarter

This is the first play of the second drive. Packers are running Wide Zone out of 12 personnel, but this time they put a slant tag on the backside of the play.

Let’s talk about RPOs for a second, because I don’t devote a ton of time to them in this space. An RPO is a Run/Pass Option. The offensive line blocks it as a run and the quarterback has the freedom to either hand the ball off to the running back or throw the ball to a wide receiver. Since the offensive line is pushing downfield for their run-blocking assignments, the ball needs to come out quickly or the offense will get flagged for ineligible man downfield.

The entire name of the game is to create an advantage for the offense. Put another way, you’re trying to make the defense wrong no matter what they do.

There are two ways the quarterback can read the defense to determine whether they should run or pass.

  1. Pre-Snap Read. The quarterback looks at the defense before the snap - often with the use of motion - to make his decision. In this scenario he is looking at the cushion/leverage to the pass side of the field, or he is looking for a numbers advantage. If the Packers have 3 men to the passing side and the defense only has 2 men, he will choose to throw it. Under this method, you’re basically seeing where the defense is allocating their assets, then choosing the option that includes fewer of those assets. Pre-snap read RPOs are usually horizontal attacks, typically within 3 yards of the LOS and moving toward the sideline (flat routes, bubbles, hitches, etc.).
  2. Post-Snap Read. The quarterback reads a defender - a “conflict” defender - after the ball is snapped to determine the decision. If the defender steps up into the run fit, throw the ball. If the defender drops back into coverage, hand the ball off. Post-snap read RPOs are usually vertical attacks, typically moving toward the middle of the field (slants, glances, etc.).

If you want a bigger look at RPOs as a whole, I took a comprehensive look at the Packers 2021 RPO package this past offseason.

As I mentioned in that piece, Rodgers does not like throwing post-snap reads. He tried it against the Broncos in 2019, Von Miller blew it up, and I think he has hated them ever since. You’ll get an occasional post-snap read from Rodgers, but they’re rare.

This play here has the hallmarks of a post-snap read, but it’s a pre-snap determination, likely based off film study and the first play we looked at today. My thought is that they saw this tendency on film with the Dolphins throughout the year, then used the first play to confirm. 

It’s a wide zone run to the right, with a backside slant tag. Dolphins are showing a single-high look. Allen Lazard [13] is the iso receiver on the left, with Chubb as the EMOL and Howard head-up over Lazard. Based on the previous look - and, again, likely some film study coming into the game - the Packers have a good idea of what they’re going to see from that side. Chubb is going to release vertically and then angle down the line and Howard will give Lazard a free release to the inside.

Marcedes Lewis [89] goes in motion from left-to-right, which not only removes a defender from that side, but also tells Rodgers the type of coverage he is seeing.

With all that information, Rodgers decides to throw this ball before the snap. It’s a pre-snap read off an RPO that typically uses post-snap, but it’s a pre-snap read that was made with a lot of information. 

Everything works like a dream. Rodgers rises up, fires the ball past Chubb - whose vertical release gives Rodgers just enough of a throwing lane to hit a slant - and the Packers pick up 11 yards.

Last thing on this. You can see Rodgers put his hands up to his helmet before the snap. That’s the “can” call. Some offenses will call that “kill”. Basically, you come up to the line with two plays, with one being the primary and the other the secondary. Based on the defensive alignment, Rodgers liked the second call better, so he indicated that he wanted to go with the second one. He threw the first one in the “can”.

Albums listened to: Nilufer Yanya - PAINLESS; Alvvays - Blue Rev; Titus Andronicus - The Will to Live; Pixies - Doggerel; Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Cool It Down


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 (6)

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LeotisHarris's picture

December 28, 2022 at 06:11 pm

Thanks, Dusty. It's always a pleasure see these plays through your eyes; helps me to better appreciate the reality TV version that is an NFL broadcast.

5 points
Since'61's picture

December 28, 2022 at 08:02 pm

Nice job as always Dusty. Thanks, Since '61

5 points
NJMagic's picture

December 28, 2022 at 08:50 pm

Awesome insight as always, love learning the concepts behind the plays.

Q: that can't be Ahmed, he plays running back. Is it X. Howard? #25

Doesn't make a difference, just curious.

1 points
DustyEvely's picture

January 03, 2023 at 03:02 pm

You're absolutely right. That'll teach me to rush through one of those. I fixed it in both the text and the video labels. Thank you!

0 points
croatpackfan's picture

December 29, 2022 at 07:35 am

Thank you Dusty. I already learned a lot about concepts and execution in football. And I'm keen to learn more. Please continue with this articles.

2 points
T7Steve's picture

December 29, 2022 at 08:05 am

I had never liked the RPO because I thought the line had to pass block regardless. I now know different. Thanks.

This is where the great Ds have been able to bait Rodgers (and other great QBs) by giving these looks and knowing his tendencies by using their own film study. I hope (since he's smarter than me) that he switches up during a game to sample what they're going to do, like on the first run play shown. Always love setting up the D for the counters by doing what they expect a couple of times.

2 points