Packers Playbook, Part 6: The Bat Defense

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Packers Playbook LogoIn our sixth part of this series, we are going to take a look at the Green Bay Packers’ variation on their dime defense, the “Bat.” This seemed to become Dom Capers’ 2012 version of the Psycho, but with six defensive backs rather than five. He replaces a lineman with a linebacker, creating a level of confusion but maintaining the speed of the dime.

Explaining the Formation

The Bat is to the Dime as the Psycho is to the Nickel. It is a 1-4-6 personnel package that aims to create another level of confusion and flexibility. As we said with the Psycho package, the defense can hide their pass rush intentions a little bit better when any of the four linebackers can blitz or drop into coverage.

To be honest, there really isn’t a lot of new information to add about the Bat that wasn’t covered in the previous Psycho and Dime posts. You’re generally going to see this package in long yardage situations and late downs. The defense is looking to force a quick throw (or sack) and prevent a long completion.

Capers probably started using this formation with more prevalence last year because of his group of defensive backs. The addition of Casey Hayward in conjunction with the hybrid abilities of Charles Woodson gave Capers reason to get them both on the field. He also didn’t quite have the strength of five linebackers that the Psycho requires.

The Bat Defense in Action

We’re going to return to the Week 5 game against the Indianapolis Colts, but this time we’re fast forwarding to the fourth quarter, when the Colts are up 22-21. (Sorry to open up old wounds.) There’s 5:03 left in regulation, but the Colts are backed up on their own 7-yard line with 3rd-and-9 to go.

Breaking Down the Play

Once again, the Colts come out in an 11 personnel grouping (1 RB–1 TE–3 WR), but this time with their receivers in a 2×2 set. Andrew Luck is in the shotgun, and it’s clear their intentions are to throw the ball for the first down.

Capers naturally responds with a speedy dime package, but goes with the Bat for some extra aggressiveness so close to the goal line. It’s a Cover 1 look with Morgan Burnett as the single high safety. Jerron McMillian plays the other safety role, while Tramon Williams and Sam Shields take the outside receivers. Charles Woodson and Casey Hayward are each in their most natural positions – close to the line and heads-up on the inside receivers.

Erik Walden is the added outside linebacker in this formation, yet the most intriguing part of this setup is what Capers does with Matthews and Perry. His two strongest pass rushing backers are lined up on the same side to really cause the offensive line some havoc. And if that weren’t enough, Capers uses Mike Neal as the lone defensive lineman to also take advantage of his pass rushing prowess.

Take a look at what happens at the snap:

bat

We’re going to focus primarily on the line of scrimmage, since that’s where all the excitement is happening. The secondary is locked up in man coverage underneath Burnett’s safety umbrella, while D.J. Smith takes care of spying the running back.

Prior to the snap, though, there are seven potential players that could end up rushing the passer: two cornerbacks, three outside linebackers, a defensive lineman, and an inside linebacker. This is something Luck and the offensive line have to figure out or face the consequences. Will the cornerbacks both drop with their man? Are any of the linebackers going to drop into zone coverage?

With Neal, Matthews, and Perry all loading the weak side of the formation, it was a natural choice to slide the protection to the right. However, they might have helped themselves further by having the running back block right, as well. Instead, they end up with one too few blockers in the face of the blitz.

Even though the offensive line slides their protection to the right on the snap, Mike Neal does his job by shooting the A gap and tying up both the center and left guard. (If you watch closely, Neal actual gets a little grab on the center’s jersey to keep him from helping out the right guard.) Capers has once again overloaded a specific side of the line and wins the numbers game.

The right guard and right tackle take on Matthews and Perry, but no one is left to block Casey Hayward coming on the corner blitz. In fact, the Colts’ tight offensive formation helps the Packers work this corner blitz to perfection. Hayward can set himself up in press coverage position and still be at a good distance to rush the quarterback.

Andrew Luck actually has just enough time to make his read, set his feet, and get the throw off, but that’s about it. A little more on target and it could have been a conversion. However, there is a difference between throwing under pressure and having a clean pocket, and accuracy is definitely one thing that can suffer from an imminent threat.

So once again, like the Psycho package, we see a defense that creates confusion by virtue of its flexibility. It’s a perfect package to use against a rookie quarterback like Luck and an offensive line that was already having trouble with protection assignments. The Packers ended up with four sacks, five hits, and 18 hurries on the day thanks to this type of exploitation.

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Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for AllGreenBayPackers.com. You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski

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  • Ron LC

    This has been a great series Chad. Reading each with great interest. Definetely feel more informed thanks to you.

    Great Work!

  • jeremy

    These are a great read. A few on the Offense would be interesting if you are up for it.

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