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X's & O's: "It's A Trap!" Williams' INT

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X's & O's: "It's A Trap!" Williams' INT

Regular Cheesehead TV reader (and all-too-infrequent commenter) "Paul Ott Carruth", a former player and coach who wishes to remain anonymous, breaks down different aspects of the Packers and their opponents from an X's and O's standpoint. Today he looks at Tramon Williams' interception against the Chargers and gives us some general thoughts about the defense.

No, Admiral Ackbar was not in command of the Packer defense on Sunday vs. the Chargers.  Although, judging by the performance of the defense you might wonder if the “force” was with them.  I’ll speak more about the overall performance of the defense in a little bit, but first, I’d like to touch on the interception by Tramon Williams.

Brian Billick mentioned that Capers mixed up his coverages and blitzes and he is correct.  Billick mentioned that this interception was the result of a trap. It certainly was, but what made this coverage any different from most other coverages?  Trap coverage is a result of a combination of things.  First, pre-snap alignment.  Second, the type of coverage typically found from the type of pressure being sent is different.  What does that mean?  Let’s go to the diagrams.

Diagram 1

This diagram shows exactly what happened in the play.  The Chargers end up in a 3 x 1 formation following motion from the #3 receiver from the defensive right to the left.  This left Gates as the lone receiver on the backside.  To the front side of the play, the Chargers are running off any under coverage in hopes of getting that #3 receiver open to the flat.  The call by Capers was fantastic and the disguise by Woodson was great.  Woodson is initially aligned closer to the line of scrimmage than is Williams.  To Rivers this indicates some type of off man coverage in which the defenders will run with the receivers man for man.

Naturally, as the ball is snapped, Woodson bails deep but he bails over the top of Tramon to leverage the #1 receiver.  Matthews runs up the seam with the #2 receiver and then breaks off his coverage.  Hawk also drops to the seam/flat area.  Notice how the #2 receiver is open on the skinny post after Matthews breaks off his coverage.

Why didn’t Rivers hit that guy?

Well, if he would have had time he would have and it would have been 6 points.  Additionally, if he had believed the Packers were in some sort of Trap coverage he would have hit that throw but the fact is that by pre-snap alignment and disguise he anticipated something else.  If you expect a guy not to be open based on your pre-snap read it is common to disregard that man.

The Packers executed a firezone but not in the traditional sense.  A firezone is designed to get safe pressure by not giving up the big play as is commonly seen vs. pure man pressures.  This firezone is different.  Traditional firezones cover the seams, 3 deep zones and the intermediate middle (see Diagram 2), and give up the flat areas (blue shades).

The basic structure of a traditional firezone is 3 under and 3 deep.  Tramon’s firezone came from a 4 under-2 deep structure.  In this type of firezone, the flats, seams, and 2 deep zones are the areas covered while the intermediate middle is voided.

The other weak area is the deep middle.  In this case, Matthews broke off his coverage.  I don’t know why, but typically, the seam players are supposed to run with any vertical threat because the seams are a weak area.  If Matthews would have kept running with the #2 receiver that would have been a mismatch and had Rivers perceived the coverage as 2 deep and had time to throw the ball, it could have resulted in a big gain or touchdown

Green Bay sends 5 rushers as is expected in any firezone.  Here they send Zombo, Bishop, and Shields in addition to the two defensive linemen.  They overload and pressure the single receiver side.  Due to the pressure, Rivers has a limited amount of time to get rid of the ball.  Even though the pressure doesn’t get home it does its job by forcing the quicker throw.  The pressure and coverage were perfect for the situation and the Packers capitalized.  This is a great example of how a blitz and coverage are supposed to work together.

More Defensive Thoughts

Yes, the defense gave up 38 points.  Yes, the blitz didn’t seem to do much.  But let’s have a little perspective.  First, the defense scored twice.  Second, they forced 3 turnovers, 1 to clinch the game.  Third, they were playing a good offense.  Ask any team in the league if they’d like to have Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates on their team.  Those are two top tier players in the league.  Philip Rivers, although turnover prone, is a proven winner.  Maybe he doesn’t have a championship to his name but he’s no slouch.  Their offensive line is pretty good and their running backs are okay.  The fact they put up 38 points doesn’t shock me.

What concerns me is how they put those 38 points up.  14 of those points came from apparent busted coverages or poor technique.  That’s a problem that needs to get fixed in a hurry.  It reminded me of the game the Packers played in Minnesota a couple of years back when Al Harris and Charles Woodson were playing two different coverages (I believe it was cover 2 at the time), and the Vikings hit a deep shot.  Al and Charles looked confused.  Ryan Leaf could have been quarterbacking the Chargers on Sunday and he would have made those throws.  For a defense this far in to the Capers system this is a highly concerning.  We’re not talking about rookies making these mistakes.  We’re talking about veterans who’ve played a lot of snaps in this system.  If it doesn’t get fixed soon, the Packers will lose one of these shootouts.  And believe me, there will be a time when the Packers don’t score 30 plus points on offense.  New York and Detroit could be those times.  The other 24 points I can live with to a certain extent.  Again, San Diego’s offense, in terms of personnel, is the best one we’ve faced this year other than Brees and company.

The one item that continues to linger is the 3rd and long defense.  That should be a distinct advantage for Green Bay regardless of pressures or coverage calls.  Opponents are getting open too easily.  I’m not sure if it’s technique or miscommunication but it’s something and it needs to get fixed in a heartbeat.  Championship defenses get off the field in those situations and the Packers are not getting off the field consistently enough.

In yesterday’s game I questioned the decision to not bracket Gates more.  He was the mismatch for the Packers and they had no answer for him.  Bishop couldn’t cover him except for the tipped ball.  Woodson did marginally better (the pass interference call was baloney….you know which one I’m talking about).

Overall, I thought Capers mixed coverage with pressure well but the coverage mix could have been better.  More bracket of Gates and less on Jackson would have been nice.  However, give the Chargers some credit.  When Gates and Jackson were covered, Rivers used Tolbert in the passing game and it paid off.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (27) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Ryeguy812's picture

I think in that Vikings game you mention it was Al Harris and Derrick Martin, where Harris was already screaming at Martin before the play was even over when the Vikings WR (Berrian?) scored

packeraaron's picture

That's exactly what it was. Brutal.

packsmack25's picture

I disagree that Ryan Leaf would have made those throws. He's far too drunk.

PackersRS's picture

Actually, he's far too weak from radiation after removing a huge brain tumor out of his brain.

packsmack25's picture

I thought the tumor was benign? Also, he doesn't drink anymore(or at least says he doesn't), but I can never resist a drunk Leaf joke.

PackersRS's picture

Benign or not, it's never fun having a tumor taken out of your brain, I don't think. Pathetic QB and a spoiled brat most of his life, I just don't like when people bash a guy in his condition...

Ebongreen's picture

Bishop was able to cover Gates deep okay, such as on Peprah's interception, but on out-breaking routes AG was beyond his ability and speed. DB doesn't have the change-of-direction to hang with Gates on those, or the catch-up speed to make it up after falling behind. OTOH, Gates is a perennial Pro Bowler for good reason - if you're going to fail at a mismatch, that's a reasonable one on which to fail. Gates got his, but counting the seven points the Packers got from Peprah's pick it's a wash.

The busted coverages and 14 virtually uncontested points… yeah, that's bad. No excuses or comments to add.

As usual, AR's the difference. Virtually mistake-free quarterbacking every week is a huge luxury; I wish he'd throw the ball away a little more often rather than taking the sacks he's taken in the last couple of weeks. But that is truly nit-picking - he's playing so uncommonly well that he's earned the latitude to do what he feels is best.

redlights's picture

It's nitpicking until he gets another concussion. Two words: Checkdown and Throwitaway. :)

CincyPackFan's picture

we blitzed so much without success yesterday, doesn't that just 'waste' the guys who blitz and don't get through? wouldn't it be better to drop into coverage more and go for more picks? Or were we still forcing Rivers to hurry more (although i didn't see it!)

NoWayJose's picture

Those blitzers aren't wasted when they dont get home. They affect how Rivers plays.

Capers wants the quarterback to always be uncertain of what he's seeing. If you sit back in coverage predictably, the quarterback will take his time to fit throws in. When the blitz is on, the QB might "feel" pressure, even when its not getting home quickly. This makes him feeled forced to take quick action, and hopefully make a bad decision or rushed throw.

packeraaron's picture

Good points NoWay.

As I wrote in my Woodson post this morning - all three INTs came on plays where the Packers sent 5 or more guys. All of Rivers' touchdown throws came on plays where Capers sent only 4. Just because the blitz isn't getting home doesn't mean it isn't working.

MarkinMadison's picture

You have to send pressure to force a decision before the QB diagnoses the defense. See the whole discussion about the #2 receiver above. Start with the sentence, "Why didn't Rivers hit that guy?"

Zeke's picture

Not to discount the two interceptions (without which they may very well have lost the game), but Charlie Peprah's explanation for why he didn't go down after the second interception ("I was making my buddy from high school's dream come true!") is concerning, and maybe explains some of the blown assignments in the back end. Someone needs to sit him down and tell him that the smart play in that situation is the safe play, no matter what the Magic 8-ball tells you. Idiot.

NoWayJose's picture

"Charlie Peprah’s explanation for why he didn’t go down after the second interception (“I was making my buddy from high school’s dream come true!”) is concerning . . ."


redlights's picture

I was okay with this run because he wasn't in heavy traffic immediately; and he was running time off the clock. I knew that as soon as traffic got heavy he'd go down or out of bounds.

Hadn't heard about his high school buddy, though. It just seemed like less risky than Shields.

packeraaron's picture

I agree redlights - he even said once he saw the lineman coming he just let him usher him out of bounds rather than try to cut back for the potential score.

As for his buddy, you can read about it in Ty Dunne's piece here:

Zeke's picture

Not to nit pick this to death as a win is a win is a win, but there was no upside to returning that ball even one yard. SD had no timeouts and there was less than a minute left, so there was no need to run clock. Its the guy he doesn't see that strips him from behind that is the problem, or he gets his clock cleaned a la Sam Shields and ends up being unavailable due to injury.

That being said, he did have two picks and a touchdown, which is two more picks and one more touchdown than I had, so I guess all's well that ends well.

Clark's picture

Do you think they should leave Peprah in run support and let Morgan roam the field? Peprah appears to be out of position a lot.

packeraaron's picture

That's actually what they did for a good part of the game, using Peprah up by the line and letting Burnett play center field.

Clark's picture

I think peprah was playing too close to the link. He wasn't over the top when Jackson ran across the field and Tramon had underneath coverage.Not many coverages will be called where there no safety help. I think that's why Tramon was fussing. Same thing on the td where he didn't get back to his man. The INT cover up a lot, but this still concerns me.

Clark's picture

Here is some allegory. Yesterday, the beloved Nagler was whining about the Packers running behind Newhouse. I commented to him that you do things for reason than maximizing that specific down. THat you do that to a.) Help Newhouse in the pass game and b.) to set up boot action to Rodgers's strong side. Less than a Q later, the Packers PA left, Boot right for about 80 yards. This defense played well enough to win and managed to score 2 TDs and nearly 3.

packeraaron's picture


<em>I'm really surprised how much they're trying to run behind Newhouse. Get Starks behind Sitton and Bulaga.</em>

Then I even complimented him:

<em>As @_Mark_S smartly pointed out - that's why they set up that run to the left side: to boot Aaron to the right later in the game.</em>

How is this whining?

BrianD's picture

In the game where the Packers blitzed on the greatest percentage of defensive snaps, they also allowed the most points given up by the D all year. Obviously there's way more to it than that (correlation =/= causation, Rivers, mismatches, backup safeties, etc.) yet it's something to think about.

PackersRS's picture

I was also very surprised that Capers couldn't adjust to the Charges figuring out that they could work the Packers to death on shallow crosses by Gates.

Came away with the impression we played cover 2 man with Bishop on him almost every 3rd and medium, till Capers switched Bishop to Woodson, to no effect.

Mojo's picture

Paul Ott brings up a good point regarding the Capers system. Most of the secondary has been around long-enough and should not be making this amount of assignment gaffes. I know Collins is out, but is it possible the group back there are not the sharpest tools in the shed. I was expecting improvement from the secondary and the whole D considering most are veterans with an extra year in the system, instead they're regressing.

I will take slight exception to POC's contention a good part of the D's poor performance can be explained by how good the SD offense is. I've seen the same performance all season long by the Pack D. It can't be by chance we've played all the world-beaters on O during the first half of the season.

Anyway, I enjoy POC's X&amp;O's and feel my day hasn't been wasted as I've learned something.

BTF's picture

Love these articles and this ones conclusions are bang on the money for me. The secondary does have issues (hopefully fixable) but is not quite as bad as some would have you believe.

Was slightly frustrated with our coverage of Gates during the game but on calmer reflection he's a match up nightmare for most teams if not all..

petr's picture

Thanks very much for these articles. What I really like about the scheme is that it is so interchangeable: which players can potentially rush the QB, who can jump routes and who can cover. Capers could call this same formation but just change the playcall slightly to have about 6 different possibilities from it. Eg: Firezone 52, Matthews rushes and Hawk replaces him in coverage. Firezone 21: Woodson rushes, Matthews replaces Woodson in coverage. Firecover38: Woodson jumps route, Williams covers deep etc.

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