The Passing Chronicles: 2022 Week 2

Dusty takes a look at a few passing plays from the Packers win over the Bears

Welcome back! This week we have a win to talk about. I am of the opinion that a win is always better to talk about than a loss. Hot take, I know.

I've settled into an article format that works for me, but - at the behest of a comment from last week - I'm going to try something new this week and see if it shakes out. We're still going to be looking at plays, but we'll try to add a bit more context into the overall passing performance. That likely means looking at fewer plays in this space overall, but with a little more information. I don't know exactly how this is going to go, but let's give it a shot.

We'll start with Aaron Rodgers' throw chart from Next Gen Stats:

Only two attempts 20+ yards down the field, but both of them were completed, which is a nice upgrade from week 1. If we dig a bit deeper into Next Gen Stats, some of the numbers don't look all that different from week 1. His average time to throw this week was 2.57 seconds: identical to his week 1 time. His average intended air yards were 4.8 yards, which is actually lower than week 1 (5.7 yards). On average, he threw 5.7 yards short of the sticks in week 2, down from 2.4 yards short of the sticks in week 1. 

If we look at Pro Football Focus' numbers on time to throw attempt, the number is slightly higher in week 2 (2.39 average time to throw in week 2 vs. 2.37 average time to throw in week 1).

Still, the numbers overall were much better in this game. So what gives?

Volume, for starters. Rodgers had 38 dropbacks in week 1 and 29 dropbacks in week 2. That doesn't sound like a lot, but when the game isn't going well overall and you have to throw more, the results aren't going to be great, and the numbers will reflect that. A higher volume of bad numbers is never good.

The other big one is how Rodgers fared under pressure. Per PFF, he was under pressure on 27.6% of his dropbacks against the Bears (vs 28.9% against the Vikings). In this game, Rodgers did pretty well under pressure: 3/4 for 59 yards. Against the Vikings, he was 2/7 for 15 yards and an INT. 

Long story short, the main difference was in how Rodgers handled pressure. The success of the running game didn't force Rodgers to throw as much as he did in week 1, and he performed better under pressure.

One last point that will lead us into the film: play action. On play action in week 1, Rodgers was 5/7 (71.4%) for 57 yards (8.1 YPA). In week 2, Rodgers was 8/11 (72.7%) for 116 yards (10.5 YPA) and a TD. 

Hey...speaking of play action...

Play 1: 2nd & 6, 13:30 remaining in the 1st quarter

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece over at Packer Report about the Packers use of the Drift/Strike concept in 2021. (It was inspired by a Kevin Clark article on Matt LaFleur over on The Ringer. If you haven't read that yet, you absolutely need to.) The idea is simple: it's a play action concept that is designed to bring the linebackers up to the line, then hit a dig behind them. It had primarily been an under center concept, but they started using more shotgun in 2021.

On their first drive, the Packers come out in 12 personnel shotgun, with Aaron Rodgers flanked by Josiah Deguara [81] and Aaron Jones [33]. At the snap, all the motion up front mirrors a wide zone run. The dancing bears up front release on their track to the left. Deguara releases to the right to block the backside. Jones release across Rodgers' face and opens his arms to take the handoff. The linebackers flow to the run action, leaving the middle of the field wide open.

Christian Watson [9] clears the left side, Sammy Watkins [11] gains inside leverage on the release and never gives it up, and Rodgers delivers a strike for 14 yards.

Play 2: 1st & 10, 1:26 remaining in the 1st quarter

A little later in the same quarter, the Packers have the same concept but get to it in an entirely different way. Where the first play was 12 personnel out of shotgun, this time they're in 11 personnel under center, with Jones as the lone RB. Another main difference here is the release of the offensive line. The first play had them showing a wide zone run, while this one is more of an inside zone look: more attacking forward and running downhill, as opposed to attacking horizontally.

They throw a little eye candy at the defense with the Watson jet motion, but the underlying concept is the same: clear out the left with a vertical route and break a dig over the pulled up linebackers.

Rodgers does a great job with his feet: turns to sell the playfake, then immediately flips back, sticks his foot in the ground and fires a rocket to Watkins out of the break. Watkins has a little more room to run on this one, and he ends up with 24 yards.

Play 3: 3rd & 8, 6:05 remaining in the 2nd quarter

We'll finish up with one of my favorite plays of the night: Randall Cobb [18] on an angle route. It's still a close game at this point (Packers leading 10-7), and the Packers are facing 3rd & 8 at the Bears 22. Sure, a field goal would be nice, but a TD pushes it to a 10 point lead. A conversion here is huge.

The Packers come out in 11 personnel, but the alignment is a little wonky. Aaron Jones is the #3 receiver in the bunch on the right and Cobb is in the backfield. The Packers are running Spot on the right, which is something they usually reserve for the low red zone. 

The Bears come out in a two-high look and are playing four-over-three to the Spot side. That doesn't bode well for success to that concept.

But devoting so many resources to the concept side mean there are weaknesses elsewhere. Before the snap, Cobb motions from Rodgers' right to his left. The coverage strength is still on the right, so the Bears don't go through a bunch of checks. Instead, Roquan Smith [58] simply shifts over. That tells Rodgers that he likely has Cobb man-to-man with Smith. 

Cobb breaks hard to the outside, gets Smith flat-footed, then cuts back to the inside. Rodgers finds him and the Packers pick up 9 yards and the 1st down. The Packers would score a touchdown 2 plays later.

Rodgers checks to make sure there's no funny business going on in the middle of the field. He checks the middle before coming back and finding Cobb.

Nice read by Rodgers and a tremendous route by Cobb.


Albums listened to: Lissie - Carving Canyons;Death Cab for Cutie - Asphalt Meadows;Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot;Big Star - #1 Record

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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 (3)

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Johnblood27's picture

September 21, 2022 at 11:29 pm

Oh NO!

It's Randall Cobb, Again!!!

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 22, 2022 at 02:21 am

Providing the AR's throwing chart on a weekly basis would be a great idea. Thanks for the play break downs.

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Spock's picture

September 22, 2022 at 10:39 am

Always enjoy these breakdowns, Dusty. I like the throwing chart breakdown as well.

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