Of all the ways to win a game, this isn’t one I’d like to see repeated often. Still, we’re not here today to talk about controversial wins. We’re here today to talk about passing concepts. Over the last few weeks, we’ve started to see more of Matt LaFleur’s playbook being opened up. More and more we’re seeing concepts that play off of previously set up tendencies. This week is no different.
Green Bay is 5-1 and the offense is showing some really fun looks. It’s a good time to be a Packer fan.
Play 1: 1st & 10, 11:02 remaining in the 4th quarter, Packers trailing 13-22
We kicked off last week with a screen to Marcedes Lewis . That play itself was run to play counter to tendencies the Packers have set up over the first 4 games. This week, we’ll start off with something that plays off that screen to Lewis. Things are connecting. It’s all happening.
Much like last week. this play involves Lewis crossing under the line at the snap. He pauses at the end of the line and the defense is staying home, looking for him to release. Combine that with Jake Kumerow  crossing under the line, and it holds a couple defenders to that side of the field, rather than crashing the play action to Aaron Jones .
Aaron Rodgers  throws the screen to Jones and the Lions play it well, stopping him for no gain.
The play in and of itself was not successful, but it gives yet another look for the defense to worry about. They’ve now seen a screen to the tight end on the left and a screen to the running back on the right. Combine that with some of the deeper levels they’ve already set up off similar looks and the Packers are making it harder and harder to key in on their tendencies. A failed play isn’t always a failure. I try to focus more on the process than the results, and I like the process here.
Play 2: 1st & 10, 8:56 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers trailing 13-16
I’m a huge fan of sneaking receiving options out through unconventional release points. That’s what we get here when Darrius Shepherd  releases through the line on a crossing route.
Shepherd goes in motion before the snap and he isn’t followed. The defense shifts, indicating zone. That’s perfect for this play, as it can really work well when sending the receiver streaking through zones.
He’s running a crossing route into an area of the field vacated by a go route from the outside and a deep crossing route from the slot.
Shepherd makes himself small and the linebackers react to the play action, pulling them up and over. Jarrad Davis  being influenced by the play action is key here, as Shepherd is running directly behind him. Davis tries to recover, but that’s a tough ask for him to pick up a streaking Shepherd.
It’s nicely drawn up, but the boundary defender sees the crossing route and starts breaking on it right as Rodgers is getting ready to throw. Rodgers could have thrown this, but Shepherd would have been blown up. By the time he tries to move to another read, pressure has gotten through and he is sacked. Which is a real shame, as Kumerow is open on the deep crosser.
The boundary defender is drifting back as Rodgers is getting ready to throw. If he drifts another step, Rodgers lets this rip. It’s a really nice play design, but the reaction from the boundary defender forces the ball to be held.
Play 3: 1st & 10, 14:48 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers trailing 10-13
Speaking of sneaking through the line, here’s Marcedes Lewis  running a corner route through the line.
Remember when I said zone coverage worked well for the last play? Well, the Lions are in man coverage here and that works perfectly in this situation. Why is that?
Simple: it’s the personnel. Darrius Shepherd is not going to be threatening defenses with his in-line blocking ability, so defenses don’t have to respect that. But Marcedes Lewis is a different animal. Lewis is well-known for his blocking ability, so when he lines up as the inside man of a two-tight-end alignment, defenses are going to pay attention to that. The set-up to this is a lot like the Vitale Cheese Wheel I talked about last week: set up a defense expecting a run, then hit them down the field with the man defenders are expecting to be acting as a blocker.
Lewis’ man is looking for a block against a run and is angling for Lewis’ inside shoulder. Instead, Lewis runs downfield. With the safety looking at the deep crossing route from Kumerow on the right and Darius Slay  looking at Marquez Valdes-Scantling  in the flat after the jet sweep motion, Lewis has a pretty big area to run to down the field.
It looks like Rodgers could have led Lewis more towards the sideline and allow him a chance to pick up some yards after the catch, but he throws a little behind Lewis. Possibly unintentional, but possibly because he was worried about Slay dropping under the corner route. Whatever the reason, it picks up 25 yards.
Play 4: 3rd & 6, 11:34 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers trailing 0-13
Defender follows Jimmy Graham  on the shift, indicating man coverage. Which is perfect, because Matt LaFleur’s goal is just to be an agent of chaos on this play, and man coverage ensures maximum chaos. There are criss-crossing routes releasing from the bunch formation on the right and Valdes-Scantling crossing into the madness from the left. This would be tough for zone coverage, but man coverage sees everyone trying to stay with their assignment while the world explodes around them. It’s thrilling.
The release from the bunch formation is hard enough for Kumerow’s defender. There is one receiver in his way on the break, another receiver crossing under Kumerow – putting a defender potentially in his path – and, lastly, Valdes-Scantling dragging from the left.
The initial release creates space for Kumerow. As the defender tries to catch up, he finds Valdes-Scantling in his face, crossing directly underneath him. He tries to avoid Valdes-Scantling but it causes him to fall.
With everyone in man coverage, no one was able to stay with Kumerow. Kumerow’s not the fastest or quickest man, but he had a ton of room to work with. His legs started churning after the catch and he was able to pick up 7 yards and the first down.
Play 5: 1st & 10, 10:01 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers trailing 0-13
I have talked many times about the Mesh concept, so let’s not get into that. (I wrote a bit about it for Play 6 last week so you can check that out if you’re feeling froggy.) Here, we have a bit of a double-mesh. The initial mesh features Lewis from the left and Allison from the right. Instead of carrying his drag route across the field over Lewis, Allison fades up the field, setting up the second mesh, this one featuring Graham running a dig route from the left.
The goal is to either get Allison open on the deep crosser or get the safety to commit to the crosser and manufacture a window on the dig route. In this case, the single-high safety reads it well and starts breaking on the crosser from Allison, leaving Rodgers to throw to the window to Graham on the dig route.
It looks like Allison is unsure whether to cut under Graham or go over the top. As a result, Allison’s route up the field is delayed. He and Graham run into each other and the pass falls incomplete.
Great timing from Rodgers on this. Everything is set up perfectly. Lewis drags the defenders out of the middle, Graham gets the defender on his outside hip and the safety drifts to pick up Allison. It’s all great, until it isn’t.
Play 6: 2nd & 8, 2:00 remaining in the 4th quarter, Packers trailing 20-22
Let’s end this with another Mesh look, shall we?
This is more of a traditional Mesh in the middle, with Kumerow and Valdes-Scantling crossing in the middle of the field. What I like about this one is the route from Jimmy Graham running a go route from the left side. The initial push clears room for a clean release for Kumerow. Beyond that, LaFleur likes to run the Mesh concept with a receiver pushing downfield then curling over the mesh point, trying to capitalize on the free space in the middle created by the mesh point.
Instead of doing that, Graham does a nice job of shedding his defender and streaks down the field. With the rest of the defense fighting to pick up their men in coverage, Graham has a couple steps on his man and nothing but green space in front of him.
However, that is not Rodgers’ first read. Allen Lazard  pushes up the field and gets on the outside hip of his defender. Running an out route, that’s exactly what he needs to do. Rodgers sees it and gets the ball out. Lazard was able to create separation at the top of his route and the Packers pick up a relatively easy 15 yards.
Still, keep the route of Graham in mind. The Packers are not-so-slowly building up their Mesh variations, so we’re sure to see that one again.
Inspired by Mason Crosby’s Lambeau Leap, I decided to spread my wings a bit and break down a special teams play.
After the FG, Crosby curls around the end. Bradley  keeping an eye out. They make eye contact, give waves, then Bradley gives the point. Nice boost to complete the Leap.
Keep an eye on JK Scott. Leaps in a different spot. Props to the fan seeing him mid-jump. Nice adjustment. pic.twitter.com/NxOgZIAv5P
— Dusty (@DustyEvely) October 15, 2019
Albums listened to: Hawkwind – Hawkwind; Tangerine Dream – Stratosfear; Turnover – Peripheral Vision; Julien Baker – Tokyo [Single]; Big Thief – Two Hands
Dusty Evely is a film analyst for Cheesehead TV. He can be heard talking about the Packers on Pack to the Future or Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter at @DustyEvely or @All22Talk or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.