The Passing Chronicles: 2023 Week 12

A very happy Thanksgiving Day win to you and you and you.

With each passing week, the offense continues to show improvement. On top of the good stuff we’ve been seeing from Jordan Love, we’ve been seeing better offensive line play and more consistency in the down-to-down operation by the offense. It’s been really fun to watch.

Speaking of Jordan Love, let’s look at his passing chart.

My word that’s beautiful. Isn’t that beautiful? A nice, even passing attack, efficient to all areas of the field. 

Love had a positive CPOE (Completion Percentage Over Expected) of +7.3%. PFF has his Adjusted Completion Percentage at 82.1%: the second-best mark of the season. Love’s best Adjusted Completion Percentage this season came against the Rams at 87.5%. One of the main differences between those games? Against the Rams, Love’s ADOT (Average Depth of Target) was 7.5 yards, his 2nd lowest ADOT of the season. Against the Lions, Love’s ADOT was 10.8 yards, his 3rd highest ADOT of the season. 

Love’s top ADOT games came against the Saints and the Steelers. Against the Saints, Love had an ADOT of 12.6 yards and an adjusted completion percentage of 57.1%. Against the Steelers, Love had an ADOT of 11.3 yards and an adjusted completion percentage of 67.6%. To repeat here, against the Lions, Love had an ADOT of 10.8 yards and an adjusted completion percentage of 82.1%. 

In this game, Love was ripping the ball and ripping it consistently, effectively and accurately. Deep ball accuracy continues to be an issue for him, and is certainly something we’ll be monitoring for the rest of the season. But he was lights-out in the short-to-intermediate area all game. Complete control of the offense. It was a thing of beauty.

Love did some really nice work in the play action game against the Lions. The Packers have had issues getting their play action game off the ground this year, for reasons entirely too wordy to fully explore here. They were able to get it rolling against the Lions. On play action passes, Love was 10/13 (76.9%) for 150 yards (11.5 YPA) and 1 TD. 

Overall, another very good performance from the passing game. Still some things that need to be improved on, but this was a great showing on a national stage against the NFC North division leaders.

Let’s look at a few plays.

We’re going to kick things off with a little “illusion of complexity.” These first two plays feature the same basic concept, but run out of completely different looks. The concept is Middle Read Dagger. The original concept - Dagger - is a two-man concept, where the inside receiver runs a vertical route and the outside receiver runs a dig route behind him. The idea is that the vertical route will clear space for the dig underneath. In Mike Holmgren’s 1997 playbook, the vertical route is simply listed as “Clear.”

As we all know, there is nothing new under the sun, particularly in football if the concept is effective. It will be updated and dressed up a bit, though. That’s something we’ve seen quite a bit with the Dagger concept. It’s simple and effective, but there can be multiple ways to run it and different ways to use it to attack. Middle Read Dagger is a good example of that.

In Middle Read Dagger, the “clear” route will change depending on the safety alignment. If the defense has two high safeties, the route will bend to a skinny post, splitting the safeties. If the defense has a single high safety, the route will break on a deep dig route. 

If the entire idea behind the “clear” route is to create room, it makes sense for it to stress the safeties so they can’t drive down on the dig route. The best way to do that is to alter the route based on the safety alignment. It can also give you another benefit, particularly against two-high: you have the ability to take a shot to that route as the receiver splits the safeties. That’s really only on the table if the safeties react in a specific way, but it’s still something that is theoretically on the table.

Alright. To the plays. Again, the first two will be Middle Read Dagger, with both of them coming against a two-high safety look. You may be asking, “Hey Dusty, why did you just spend a bunch of time on what that route can do if you’re only going to show us the one way they ended up running it?” And my answer will be, “Because I often spend a lot of time on nonsense that I don’t need to, and you should know that by now.”

Play 1: 1st & 10, 10:38 remaining in the 2nd quarter

The Packers are in 11 personnel, with Jordan Love [10] in shotgun and AJ Dillon [28] set to his right. They’re showing a 3x1 set initially, but Christian Watson [9] goes in jet motion before the snap, technically making it a 2x2 look when the ball is snapped. Jayden Reed [11] works as the Clear route, while Watson wraps into the dig route off jet motion. 

(One fun little wrinkle on this one against two-high is Romeo Doubs [87] running the deep curl. That can influence the safety on his side and potentially opening a lane for a post over the top from the clear.)

On this play, the two safeties fall back on Reed and the Lions are dropping their linebackers extremely deep, taking out the throw to Watson. However, the linebackers dropping so deep means there’s plenty of room underneath for Dillon, so Love calmly works to his checkdown.

Dillon picks up 7 yards before there is even any contact. It ends up being a gain of 22 because of some nice run after the catch ability from Dillon. He leaps over one man, absorbs the hit from another - while he’s in the air - then leans forward on the contact that takes him down.

Aaron Jones is really hyping up Dillon after the play, and he’s right to do it. Great play from Dillon.

Play 2: 2nd & 5, 7:40 remaining in the 2nd quarter

Where the last play was 11 personnel with jet motion, this one is entirely different. The Packers are running this from a static formation, under center, out of 12 personnel. They have a heavy, YY Wing look on the right with Tucker Kraft [85] and Ben Sims [89]. On the left, Watson is the inside receiver and Doubs is the outside. 

The other difference here is that the Packers are running this off play action, with Dillon as the single-back. Love and the offensive line do a good enough job selling run to pull up the linebackers, opening a nice patch of green for Doubs.

Jack Campbell [46] tries to drop back under the pass, but Love is able to rip this over his head. Between Campbell dropping and Kerby Joseph [31] driving down, this ball has to be on the money, and Love does a great job putting in a spot for Doubs to make the catch.

Play 3: 3rd & 1, 3:13 remaining in the 1st quarter

Before we get out of here, I also wanted to bring up this play. Because it’s fun and I like fun.

Down in the confines of the low red zone, the Packers come out in shotgun, 11 personnel. Two receivers stacked to the left and Watson isolated on the right. Pre-snap, Watson shifts down to insert under the line, with Love pointing out to Watson who he needs to block. But it’s all a ruse!

As Love fakes to Dillon, Watson gives a little shove to the man across from him, pushes vertically then releases to the back pylon. 

From the left, Reed is running a drag route (at full speed, I might add) while Samori Toure [83] runs a dig route as a follow. 

Meanwhile, Tucker Kraft fires out to block Aidan Hutchinson [97], then disengages and releases to the flat. (“Disengages” is being kind. Kraft tosses Hutchinson aside like a child.)

With the Lions bringing pressure and the only coverage defender on the right side being taken into the end zone by Watson, Kraft has a ton of space to work with. 

Love tosses the ball up to Kraft, who makes the catch and waltzes into the end zone for his first career TD.

A really nice playcall against the perfect coverage in a big moment.


As always, I got a chance to break down some plays from this game with John Kuhn. We talked about Love's performance and touched on some nice pass pro from Patrick Taylor. Always a blast talking to John.


Albums listened to: Sufjan Stevens - Seven Swans; Rosie Thomas - Only With Laughter Can You Win; The High Strung - Moxie Bravo; The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely; Anathallo - Canopy Glow; Marvin Gaye - What’s Going On

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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].

6 points
 

Comments (7)

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LambeauPlain's picture

November 29, 2023 at 03:54 pm

Thanks, Dusty. Love's completion chart was indeed a thing of beauty.

I think the Packers match up competitively with the Chiefs.

Both teams are weak at the run game...on O and D. Chiefs defend the run similar to the Packers...poorly. Neither runs the ball well. What a gift if AJ could go. But if Rhyan can start at RG, AJD's style of running gets more potent. JRJ is just not getting it done run blocking between the tackles where Dillon needs to go to get positive yards.

Both Teams are led by their Pass games. The wildcard here is Love and his receiver's steady improvement over the last 4 games. Both teams have solid pass D. Could be an aerial battle and a lot of fun!

Also good news for the Packers D...the Chiefs turn the ball over. That can help equalize the Packers bend and frequent breaking shortcomings.

If the Packers can defeat the Chiefs, Jordan Love is going lead a lot of NFL stories.

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Bitternotsour's picture

November 29, 2023 at 04:30 pm

The even nature of the units on the field is complicated by the chiefs having superior coaching at every level. barry couldn't get a job coaching linebackers at KC.

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T7Steve's picture

November 30, 2023 at 08:31 am

Thanks again, Dusty!

Can you tell me the average down and distance the Packers did play-action where they were 10 of 13?

Will the pay-action become less effective if the running game is ineffective or nonexistent?

The guys above are saying we're equal with the Chiefs in the running game. I thought the Chiefs were living off the run this season and doing it at a good clip. Have I been misinformed or didn't interpret the info correctly?

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DustyEvely's picture

November 30, 2023 at 07:49 pm

I pulled the 10/13 number from PFF, but after some independent charting, I found that Love was actually 8/9 for 146 yards on play action (I believe they counted some RPOs as play action).

Based on those numbers, Love's ADOT off play action was 11.7 yards.

So, studies have shown that you don't necessarily need to be a good running team in order to maintain an effective play action game. It's an older study, but it still seems to hold true more often than not. It's less about being a great running team and more about a willingness to run out of certain looks and committing to that with the entire operation (o-line first steps, RB, QB, etc.). I do think defenses are starting to commit fewer resources to the run, but, for the time being, play action can still be effective as long as you're able to sell the run.

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T7Steve's picture

December 01, 2023 at 06:36 am

Very interesting, Dusty.

Maybe PFF uses off duty social media fact checkers to get their numbers.

If Ds are starting to cheat on the run D I sure hope we can start to make them pay and help Love a little more. Actually, it helps everyone if they can start running more effectively.

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PeteK's picture

November 30, 2023 at 08:35 am

Interesting comparison MVS vs Watson.

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SicSemperTyrannis's picture

November 30, 2023 at 12:27 pm

Yes indeed! As soon as he was drafted I started taking note of that. I was always a fan of MVS, and perplexed that losing him got no mention in the press, lost in all the other changes.

#9 came in and was instantly an improvement; better catch % and a more complete route tree. Hopefully his lull is over and he's just now heating up!

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