The Passing Chronicles: 2023 Week 9

Dusty looks at the passing game & breaks down a few plays from the Packers win over the Rams

A win! Do you remember those? The last one was on September 24th, so I’ll forgive you if the details are a bit fuzzy.

We came here for a purpose, so let’s get to it. We’re here to look at the Packers passing game, so let’s start where we always do: with Jordan Love’s passing chart.

If you didn’t see the face at the bottom, you could look at this and easily envision it as an Aaron Rodgers chart. A completion percentage of 76.9%, CPOE of +6.5% and the majority of the targets outside the numbers. Both the completion % (76.9%) and adjusted completion % (87.5%) were Love’s best marks of the year.

The line did a nice job keeping Love upright this week. Per PFF, Love averaged 2.90 seconds to throw (his second-longest time to throw this year, just barely behind his 2.93 mark in the week 3 win over the Saints), yet was only under pressure on 22.6% of his dropbacks.

Overall, I like what I saw from Love this week. There are still some issues with accuracy that have been flaring up (the miss to Christian Watson looms pretty large), but, in a rainy game, I thought he looked pretty good. 

Over the last couple of weeks, it seems like there has been a shift in how the Packers have been operating. One of those things that has changed has been Love’s approach to the deep ball. Going back to training camp, there has been an emphasis on putting more air under the ball. It feels like we’ve seen more of the “I’m gonna drive this ball” approach to Love over the last couple of weeks, and the results have been better. There is still a little ways to go in terms of it looking great, but it seems like it has allowed him to play in a way that he is more comfortable with. I’ve enjoyed seeing the shift and I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes over the rest of the season.

Let’s get to the film. We’re going to look at two plays today, both highlighting how the Packers are looking to attack the way defenses have been playing them in the middle of the field.

Play 1: 2nd & 4, 5:49 remaining in the 3rd quarter

This year, we’ve seen a lot of defenses spot-dropping their linebackers in the middle of the field. It harkens back to a simpler way of playing defense, and it can be an effective way to take away the middle of the field. There are still ways to attack the middle of the field, of course - we’ve seen Love work in some no-look passes in an attempt to anchor the linebackers in place - but there’s another solution to this problem: target outside the numbers.

Targeting outside the numbers typically leads to harder throws - the ball has to travel more yards in the air, giving the defense more time to react - but if a defense is intent on taking away the middle of the field, that can lead to a little more space outside the numbers than they might normally see.

This first play is something I tag as Sail. It’s a concept we have typically only seen off play action boot, but the Packers have also been working this into their dropback game a little more this year. It consists of a deep route (typically a Go or Deep Corner route), an intermediate route (typically a crosser) and a flat route. Three routes running parallel to each other on different planes.

The Packers get to that here from a stack look and motion. Christian Watson [9] is running the deep route from the top of the stack, Dontayvion Wicks [13] is running the intermediate route (an out route, in this case) and Josiah Deguara [81] is running the flat route off motion.

Watson and Wicks push vertically at the snap. We have seen the Packers run a version of Dagger out of this specific look many times (earlier in this very game, as a matter of fact). That concept is designed to attack the intermediate middle of the field. With the linebackers dropping deep, it’s a tough concept to get to work. 

Sail? Sail can work nicely.

Deguara works as the flat control, holding a defender shallow. Watson’s deep route takes the deep safety and the boundary defender with him. That leaves a nice little window for Wicks.

Wicks breaks to the outside and Love delivers the ball right on the numbers. Packers pick up 18 and a 1st down.

Play 2: 1st & 10, 5:06 remaining in the 3rd quarter

This is the very next play and the Packers find another way to attack spot-dropping linebackers: just weave your way through them.

The Packers are in 12 personnel, with Luke Musgrave [88] and Tucker Kraft [85] aligned tight on the line in a YY Wing look on the right (Musgrave is aligned inside and Kraft outside). Romeo Doubs [87] is wide to the left, with Dontayvion Wicks [13] aligned slightly inside. 

The Packers use Wicks on “cheat” motion, quick-motioning out pre-snap and releasing vertically up the left sideline. Doubs releases on a deep over route from the left. Those two routes remove the boundary defenders.

Musgrave releases from his inside position of the YY Wing alignment and makes his way across the field. With the spot-dropping linebackers, he just weaves his way between them, emerging over the top of the linebacker to the left. That linebacker turns to pick him up, but not before Musgrave is already even. Love has enough time in the pocket to wait for Musgrave to uncover, then goes over the top for a 25 yard gain.

I really like the delayed route from Kraft on this as well. Block out initially, then break to the middle. If the middle is vacated due to the route of Musgrave, there should be a nice little pocket of space for Kraft. A nice design against this Rams defensive look, and the line did a nice job giving Love the time he needed.

Play 3: 2nd & 7, 3:46 remaining in the 4th quarter

I cover it in this week’s Packers Playbook, but this was such a fun play that I wanted to make sure it lived somewhere else, as well. 

The Packers are up 13-3 late in the 4th quarter against a Rams offense that hadn’t been able to do much of anything all day. The game was effectively over, but this play drove the stake deep in their chest.

It’s a really fun play that works well in the Packers system, so I was very much looking forward to the day when they would run it. And lo, that day was this past Sunday.

The Packers come out in Pony Personnel, with Aaron Jones [33] and AJ Dillon [28] on the field at the same time. Jones is initially lined up in the right slot, but he motions behind Love before the snap. At the snap, Jones flares out to the left and Dillon flares out to the right.

The two outside receivers are pushing vertically and the Rams are showing a split-safety look.

Love fakes a throw to Jones, then turns to fake a throw to Dillon. The fake to Jones pulls the defensive end out, while the fake to Dillon pulls the linebackers out of the middle. Meanwhile, the vertical routes from the receivers pull the safeties to the boundary.

All that movement completely clears the middle of the field for Musgrave, who is running a block-and-release.

Musgrave catches the ball, then veers back to the inside to evade the closing safety.

Absolutely beautiful. I tried my hand at diagramming this by hand and was reminded, once again, just how terrible my handwriting is.

(I sketched this up in The Play Caller's Club Field Diagram Notebook: a fun little book I picked up in the offseason that makes me feel like I know what I'm doing.)

Unfortunately, John Kuhn was unavailable this week, but I still did my level best to put out a good Packers Playbook this week. I took a look at the touchdown to Luke Musgrave by looking at how the Rams defended a similar play earlier in the game, then I looked at a well-blocked end-around.

Albums listened to: The Beatles - Now and Then; George Harrison - All Things Must Pass; Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson - Summer of Fear; Taking Back Sunday - 152; The National - First Two Pages of Frankenstein; The Mountain Goats - Jenny From Thebes; Tiny Skulls - Songs From Some Depressing Movie




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 (9)

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MainePackFan's picture

November 08, 2023 at 07:01 pm

Awesome as always Dusty. Thank you!!

5 points
T7Steve's picture

November 09, 2023 at 07:48 am

Wow Dusty! Could this be a trend? Can you look back? Because I haven't noticed it so blatantly till this week on the passing charts.

Could you make a color on the chart for passes you, or someone considered drops?

ALL the incompletions were to JL's left! Only one to left center (which I think was a drop by the rookie). Let's get his eyesight checked (or checked differently). I'm very predominantly left eye dominate so I have more trouble gaging depth to my right side without corrective lenses. I've passed all my driving exams and can still drive legally without glasses at over 65 years of age, but couldn't pass my inspection certification tests, or even come close, without corrective lenses. It could easily be a depth perception thing. Kids unconsciously compensate for that all their lives till someone notices it on an eye test. Plus, poor eyesight is considered to be a weakness by kids (and probably scouts), so some kids try to hide it. The speed of the NFL is such that something he could overcome earlier wouldn't show up till now.

By the way, when your playbook first came out this week (without Kuhn) I couldn't get it to work. It seems to be working now so I'll indulge. Thanks!

-1 points
T7Steve's picture

November 09, 2023 at 11:00 am

Someone just pointed out to me that it's his mechanics. Not getting his feet and hips right before throwing. That makes more sense. He's more easily set up for his throws to the right.

Seems Tom C. should be able to point that out to him. Even Rodgers said he caught himself getting into bad habits and watched old games and found what had changed and what to do to fix it before he had his last two MVPs.

0 points
PeteK's picture

November 09, 2023 at 09:48 am

Seems to be more misdirection plays. Hope for more Dillon as lead blocker.

3 points
jlc1's picture

November 09, 2023 at 10:34 am

The TD to Musgrave - how often does a QB turn their back on the play downfield as Love did there? Just looks really unusual to me.

0 points
Minniman's picture

November 09, 2023 at 01:06 pm

It had the desired effect though - confuse the LB’s - but, yeah, it looked a bit wooden.

1 points
DTowleJr's picture

November 09, 2023 at 10:41 am

Now that the Packers used Play #3, they are going to have to put that on the back shelf for a while. That was absolutely a thing of beauty, and very well executed. This gives me, as a fan, hope that the offense is coming together and getting on the same page. Most encouraging is that I see the growth that we were promised was coming. As this group grows together, more positive plays like this will be the norm and not the fluke. Go Pack Go.

1 points
jont's picture

November 09, 2023 at 02:32 pm

You mention throwing outside the numbers. GB does a lot of this, and the flanker screen is a common play (aka, smoke, bubble).

The Steelers have active linebackers who close fast, and I am hoping the Packers run the fake screen off of it and break one of the blocking wide-outs up the sideline where Love can hit him intermediate to deep.

1 points
T7Steve's picture

November 09, 2023 at 02:35 pm

I like your thinking. That could also help clear the middle like his double screen fake did.

0 points