The Passing Chronicles: 2023 Week 1

We’re back! Not only are we back, but we’re kicking off the season with a big win over the Bears. Hard to get much better than that. 

As we do every year, we’re going to use this space to look at how the Packers passing offense did in the last game, then dig into a few plays. From a numbers perspective, how did Love do?

From an EPA perspective (Expected Points Added), he did great! Love had 0.546 EPA per play, good for the #1 spot of the week. For some perspective, Patrick Mahomes had the best EPA in the league last season at 0.302 EPA. SO that 0.546 EPA is totally unsustainable but for this week? This week we live like kings, bubba.

His CPOE (Completion Percentage Above Expected) of -5.5 was not good, and it’s certainly reflected by just watching the game. There were plays that were on the table that he just missed. His eyes seemed to go to the right place, but his spotty accuracy was an issue on Sunday.

Let’s see the passing chart:

Fairly equally peppered across the field within about 10 yards. A handful of deep shots, but the only one they were able to hit on was the Leak call to Musgrave (which we’ll be digging into below). 

Per PFF, Love was pressured on 6 dropbacks (20%). On those dropbacks, he was ⅓ for 37 yards and 1 sack.

The Bears only brought 5 blitzes and Love did pretty well, going ⅗ for 43 yards and 1 TD.

Love had an aDOT (Average Depth of Target) of 10.6 yards, which I really liked to see. While he did his fair share of shorter throws, he wasn’t shy about pushing the ball downfield. 

Overall, the numbers show about what I thought: he looked comfortable in the offense, but it was not a particularly sharp performance. It’s not fair to put all of that on him, but he certainly is not without fault. It’s the kind of performance you’re good with right now: uneven, but it also came while drubbing a division rival. Take some notes away, clean up the things you need to clean up, but it came in a win and not a loss. I’ll take that in week 1.

Let’s get to some film.

Since it’s the first week, we’ll start off with a basic concept, but have it build to some fun stuff. We’re talking Wide Zone and PA Boot. Cool? Cool.

Play 1: 2nd & 7, 9:28 remaining in the 4th quarter

I’m sure you’ve heard it a thousand times: wide zone is the engine at the center of this offense. That’s not really as true today as it was a couple years ago, but it’s still something you’ll see every Sunday and the action up front is what helps to drive some of the main play action passing concepts. 

On its face, it’s a simple concept that has been around for years. Hall of Famer tackle Anthony Muñoz described zone blocking like this (taken from Tim Layden’s excellent Blood, Sweat and Chalk):

Zone blocking, you’re on a track, like a railroad track, with your buddy, or all your buddies on the offensive line. If a defensive lineman or a linebacker crosses onto the track, your job is to take him and move him…Let’s not see where the defense wants to move to; let’s dictate where they go by where we move along that track and then use their movement against them to create seams.

I love the imagery of moving on a track; it’s a perfect description of what that action looks like.

You can run this from shotgun or under center. The clip I picked here is the only time I saw them running it from under center in this game.

The line is moving laterally to the left. On this run, the aiming point is typically the outside leg of the playside tackle, but, given the nature of the blocking, gaps can open up along the front during the process of blocking, so the running back needs to be looking for cutback lanes.

On this play, Josh Myers [71]  gets beat, causing AJ Dillon [28] to have to try to cut back inside to avoid the tackle in the backfield. Not the best result, but I feel like this gives you a good look into terms of the blocking up front.

Play 2: 2nd & 2, 7:34 remaining in the 1st quarter

Here is the main passing play off Wide Zone: PA Boot to Sail. The QB releases back at an angle to fake the handoff, then boots out the other way to a Sail concept. Sail is a flood concept that is made up of 3 routes: a deep corner (Sail) route, an intermediate crossing route and a flat route. Three routes all running parallel to the boot of the QB on different planes. 

The idea is simple. Get the defense flowing to the run, then boot out the other way.

Personally, I don’t love this concept in this area of the field. It’s a concept that thrives on space, with the corner route running off the deep coverage for the other routes to operate effectively. 

One thing on this particular play: look at the defense away from the boot side. There are a couple defenders just kinda hanging around, but the bulk of the defense pulled away from that side real quick. Just stick that in the back of your mind for a minute. 

From this angle, you get a good look at the blocking. It should look real familiar.

Play 3: 2nd & 3, 12:24 remaining in the 3rd quarter

One counter to a concept just isn’t enough. With defenses finding ways to defend against wide zone while also taking away PA Boot, there needs to be a counter to a counter. That’s exactly what the Packers did here.

With the Bears bailing to take away the crossers of PA Boot and staying soft away from the boot, the Packers dialed up a beauty: a throwback screen to Aaron Jones.

Fake the run, boot as if you’re running PA Boot, then have Love turn and hit Jones across the field, where he has three offensive linemen looking to ram into some defenders.

On PA Boot, the running back typically just kind of plays out the string on the run and drifts to the flat anyway, so this action from Jones doesn’t draw much attention from the defense.

By the time the dust had settled, the Packers had picked up 51 yards.

Play 4: 1st & 10, 14:21 remaining in the 4th quarter

But one counter isn’t enough, man. Not by a long shot. With this being a core passing concept, there are a number of variations to PA Boot in the Packers playbook. This one just happens to be my favorite. By my count, they have run it twice in the LaFleur era. I have been begging them to run it more, and then they break it out in week 1. 

It’s called Leak (Y-Leak if you’re nasty), and it’s a half-boot variation. Fake the handoff, start the boot action, then pull up on a half-boot. The action on this concept runs on the other side of the field from the boot, so the half-boot is necessary for the QB to put his foot in the ground and get in a good position to chuck the ball to the moon.

The idea is to get the TE blocking down with the run. Then, when the QB starts his boot motion and the defense starts reacting to that and looking to defend the crossing route, the down-blocking TE simply “leaks” out the other side. Lose yourself among the confusion of the defenders and, ideally find yourself wide open away from the entire defense.

This design works perfectly. Well, except for the part with the snap. If the snap isn’t fumbled or if Musgrave is able to stay on his feet, this is a 41 yard TD. Instead, it’s a 37 yard gain. I’ll take it.

Shout out to Tucker Kraft [85] for staying on his block and giving Love enough time and space to launch this sucker. And shout out to Love for getting the ball in the vicinity of Musgrave. With a guy who is that open, it’s always better to underthrow than overthrow.

Hyped to be back for another season. All things feel new and uncertain, but there’s an energy to this season that I’ve really been enjoying. Here’s to hoping that keeps rolling.

If you haven't already, check out the Packers Playbook video I did with John Kuhn this week for this very fine website. We walked through two of the above plays, and also took a look at the Aaron Jones TD reception off an angle route.

Albums listened to: Sparklehorse - Bird Machine; Slowdive - Everything Is Alive; Noah Gundersen - If This Is The End; Olivia Rodrigo - Guts


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].

6 points

Comments (3)

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splitpea1's picture

September 13, 2023 at 03:40 pm

Good stuff here. That was really a fantastic job by Kraft on Play 4, and it was the key to its success. Also a good job by Dillon on Play 1 turning nothing into something. A lot of fans are down on his performance, but sometimes he didn't get a lot of help upfront. He's a change of pace and a complementary back, not a substitute for Jones.

3 points
SicSemperTyrannis's picture

September 17, 2023 at 11:51 am

Agreed that there's NO sense in being down on #28. Use him for what he's good at, which is a power runner behind power blocking. If you're going to refuse to give him that, use him as a blocker.

1 points
T7Steve's picture

September 14, 2023 at 02:28 pm

Glad I found this Dusty! I was worried I'd missed you. Thanks.

Too bad almost everything I see there's a missed block by Myers mentioned. First play of the game was not a good start.

Dillan chipped to help Kraft on that play then hit the free rusher. He had a better game than I thought as Splitpea1mentioned above.

Thanks again Dusty! Always helps my learning curve to watch your chronicles. Can't wait to watch you and Kuhn with the playbook.

1 points