Welcome to the NFC North clinching edition of The Passing Chronicles! It wasn’t always pretty, but squeaking out a win against the Ravens in Week 15 sure feels better than, oh, I don’t know, losing to the Lions or getting shut out by the Saints in Week 15. I don’t know why I pulled those examples out of my head. No particular reason, really.
We saw some really fun, interesting things this week, so let’s get to it!
Play 1: 3rd & 4, 6:21 remaining in the 1st quarter
I said this would be fun and interesting, but this first play is merely interesting. I have already lied to you. I apologize.
This is a look we’ve seen from the Packers on quite a few occasions. My favorite was the 2019 Divisional Round game against the Seahawks.
Two receivers fake a slant/flat release – a route combination the Packers run a lot, and something we’ll be looking at later in this very column – then reverse course just before they cross paths, with the outside receiver running a sluggo (slant-and-go). Since it’s a concept defenses have seen a lot – and because it involves a rub/pick release from the receivers – they have different rules for playing it. In weeks 2-12, the Packers ran slant/flat an average of 2.5 times per game, so teams are used to seeing that specific release from them.
On this particular play, the boundary defender is playing deep over Davante Adams . When he sees the release, he immediately looks to jump over the potential pick from Allen Lazard  in the slot and pick up Adams on the other side.
So when Adams hits the sluggo, his man has no chance to recover. With the Ravens showing a single-high safety, the left side of the field is wide open. It’s beautiful until it’s not.
Rodgers looks like he’s expecting Adams to angle this route a little more towards the sideline, while Adams takes a more vertical route. Not sure exactly what happened, but the end result is an incomplete pass on 3rd & 4.
It’s a lovely concept and Adams always runs a terrific route (surprise surprise). They just couldn’t quite connect here, unfortunately.
Play 2: 1st & 10, 1:53 remaining in the 3rd quarter
PA Boot is one of the core passing concepts of any wide zone team, a bucket the Packers are firmly in.
Sell the hand-off on the wide zone run, then boot back the other way and find 3-4 receivers running parallel to the QB on different planes. It can be an extremely simple and effective play, but defenses have adjusted how they’re playing it so the Packers are looking for new ways to keep it effective. They’ve been looking for more half-boot concepts (where Rodgers will pull up short of the full bootleg and look to hit a counter), but they’re also tweaking the concept itself. Nothing major, but we’ve seen them change release points for receivers and mix in a few other elements to keep defenses off-balance.
On this play, Marquez Valdes-Scantling  goes in jet motion before the snap. At the snap, he accelerates and takes off on a wheel route up the sideline, while Adams runs a post from the outside position. Typically, the outside receiver to the boot side will run a vertical route (a Sail route, more often than not), but Adams takes this one to the middle. Since Rodgers is booting out, that throw to Adams is essentially off the table, but it’s there to help clear room for the wheel route.
They still tag their crossing routes into the concept, with Josiah Deguara  slicing under the formation and running a flat route, while Lazard runs the middle crosser.
The Ravens do a nice job covering this up and Rodgers has a rusher in his face, so he throws to Deguara in the flat for 6 yards.
The throw tends to go to the flat more often than not on this concept at this point, so the result is roughly the same. Still, I like that they’re trying new things with this concept. They’re looking to catch the defense off-balance and possibly conjure up a big play, while still keeping some of the key elements in tact to get an easy completion. PA Boot still feels like it’s being kicked around the labratory a bit, but I really like this look.
Play 3: 3rd & 9, 14:26 remaining in the 4th quarter
We’ve talked about Dagger a lot in this space, but there’s a perfectly good explanation for that: it’s a concept the Packers run a lot and it’s something they’re really good at. Dagger is a two-man concept, with the inside receiver running a vertical route and the outside receiver running a dig. The vertical route works as a clear-out route and the dig route works into the space created by it.
This play is a take on that idea, but with the inside receiver also running a dig. We’ve looked at quite a few follow concepts in this space over the years (has it really been years?), but I don’t know how many follow-digs we’ve looked at.
On the right side, MVS is the #1, Lazard is the #2 and Deguara is the #3 (counting from outside-in). Deguara chips and leaks into the flat, while Lazard and MVS push vertically up the field, both aiming at the inside shoulder of the defender to get inside leverage. The Ravens are in a two-high look pre-snap and stay that way post-snap, with both safeties fading deep into their respective zones.
The defender in the middle attacks the flat route from Deguara, leaving Lazard and MVS man-to-man with their defenders and a sea of green in the middle of the field.
Lazard drags his defender into the middle of the field and Rodgers fires to MVS on the follow. With no safety driving on it, it’s a (relatively) easy pitch-and-catch.
3rd & 9 turns into 1st & 10, and the Packers would score a touchdown a few plays later to push their lead to 28-17. (We’ll look at that play in Play 5.)
Play 4: 2nd & 1, 3:48 remaining in the 2nd quarter
We’re going to close out with a couple instances of the Packers running the Dragon concept (aka, Slant/Flat). We all know this concept. It’s a staple of West Coast Offenses, so it’s something we’ve seen in Green Bay for a very long time. I feel like it was the source of many improper words being used during McCarthy’s tenure, but it’s a solid concept when run properly.
In this case, it’s 2nd & 1 and the Packers are just looking to keep the chains moving and keep the drive rolling. They had a less-than-stellar start and found themselves down 14-7 with the 2nd quarter winding down. So they break out Mirrored Dragon (slant/flat on both sides of the field), with Tyler Davis  running a sit route from his in-line position on the right. Allen Lazard  is running the slant on the right, while Aaron Jones  is running the flat from the backfield. At the snap, Rodgers reads Patrick Queen  at the ILB position. Queen shuffles sideways, reading Rodgers’ eyes.
Since he’s shuffling sideways, that means he can’t recover to the flat, so Rodgers hits his back foot and throws to Jones, who picks up 3 yards and the 1st down.
Play 5: 2nd & 10, 12:58 remaining in the 4th quarter
We’re going to fast forward to early in the 4th quarter. The situation has changed, but the game is still very much up in the air at this point, with the Packers leading 21-17. They dial up Mirrored Dragon again, this time with MVS on the left slant and Winfree  on the flat. Josiah Deguara  is the in-line TE, and he’s running a hitch-and-go instead of a sit route. They’re trying to get the defense leaning with that. It doesn’t work, but it does tie up the middle defender.
The Ravens are in man coverage, so with no deep safety and the middle defender tied up with Deguara, Rodgers knows exactly where to go. Once Winfree’s defender clears the throwing lane, fire the slant route to MVS.
MVS does a really nice job with this route, pushing hard at his defender to eat up space, then planting his foot and breaking inside.
Rodgers hits his back foot and unleashes a bullet to MVS, who makes a really nice grab, gets upfield and stretches his way into the end zone.
Just a beautiful, beautiful play.
I got you Dusty. pic.twitter.com/DREmu6Scia
— Scottish Packers Fan (@ScotlandPackers) December 20, 2021
Has anyone done this yet pic.twitter.com/6CO0VPx5Cs
— sam. (@sammwichh) December 20, 2021
Albums listened to: Brand New – Daisy; mewithoutYou – Untitled; Okkervil River – Black Sheep Boy; Dinosaur Jr. – Where You Been; Blakroc – Blakroc; Camera Obscura – Let’s Get Out of This Country; Baroque Chamber Orchestra – 2021 Holiday Concert
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@example.com.
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