Packers Playbook (Hobbjective Analysis): Week 4 vs. New Orleans Saints All Green Bay Packers All the Time

If you don’t listen to “Tuesday’s with Aaron” (hosted by Green and Gold’s Jason Wilde), I highly recommend that you do so (it’s free on itunes to boot).  One thing that always surprises me is how much Aaron Rodgers remembers about each specific play; not only does he remember the blocking assignments and routes, but he also remembers the context, the past tendencies of the defense and historically how’s it’s worked for the Packers in the past.  This week, he detailed the first touchdown play in the game versus the Saints and how James Jones stole a touchdown from Jermicheal Finley.  As it’s often hard to follow Rodgers when he’s describing a play on the radio, I have decided to diagram this play with what Rodgers stated (so presumably this is about as accurate of a play analysis as I can possibly do)


The Situation: The score is tied 0-0 in the 1st quarter with 9 minutes left to go.  The Packers are in the red zone with 2nd and 10 after LB Scott Shanle ripping the ball out of TE Jermicheal Finley’s hands on first down wiped out a potential touchdown. So far, both Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees have had their way with the opposing defenses and it’s pretty obvious that the Packers offense is going to take another shot at the endzone.

Pre-snap: The Packers are in a 3-1-1 formation (3WR-1TE-1RB) with WR James Jones (89) aligned out wide to the left and TE Jermicheal Finley (88) inline to LT Marshall Newhouse (I’ve left the numbers off the picture for offensive linemen simply because there isn’t enough space with them all packed together; the line consists of the regular starters of LT Marshall Newhouse, LG TJ Lang, C Jeff Saturday, RG Josh Sitton and RT Byran Bulaga).  WR Greg Jennings (85) is in the slot to the right while WR Jordy Nelson (87) aligns out wide to the right.  QB Aaron Rodgers (12) is set out of the shotgun with RB Cedric Benson (32) to the right of him.

The Saints defense responds with their base 4-3 personnel: 4 defensive linemen (2 DT-2DL), 3 linebackers, 2 cornerback and 2 safeties.  Pre-snap it appears to be a pretty vanilla defense, both corners are about 3 yards in front of the receivers out wide and one safety has aligned on top of WR Jennings (who strangely as the slot receiver is given about 5 yards of open space) No defender motions or moves once set (honestly, I have nothing to write about after the insanity of a Dom Capers defensive formation).  Overall, a very standard personnel and formation.

At the snap: The Packers decide to go with a passing play with RB Benson staying back to block.  The initial route assignment are a curl (4 route) for WR Jones, a post (8 route) for TE Finley, a corner (7 route) for WR Jennings and a out (5 route) for WR Nelson

Pass protection:  The Saints add LB Shanle into the pass rush to make a 5-man rush, but luckily the Packers have 6 blockers.  The Packers decide to leave both LT Newhouse and RT Bulaga out on an island, which is actually pretty surprising considering how many sacks both tackles gave up in the previous game against the Seattle Seahawks.  This time around however both tackles do their job and direct the defensive ends out of the play.  In the middle of the line, the Packers have 4 blockers to 3 rushers (DT Brodrick Bunkley, DT Sedric Ellis, LB Shanle); LG Lang handles DT Bunkley one on one while C Saturday blocks DT Ellis.  Initially RG Sitton blocks LB Shanle before passing him off to RB Benson and then goes to double team DT Ellis with C Saturday.

At the scramble:  With so many blockers up front and both tackles moving their defenders past the quarterback, QB Rodgers steps up in the pocket to buy some more time, but as the pocket begins to collapse, QB Rodgers is forced to escape to his left, nearly getting sacked by DL Will Smith in the process.  At this point, the receivers are supposed to break off their routes and help their quarterback by getting open.  I’ve diagramed the general direction where they decide to go once they see their quarterback is in trouble.   WR Nelson doubles back from his out route and heads back towards the quarterback where there is a large empty space. WR Jennings appears to maintain his original route, either he is a decoy on this play or he doesn’t see the pressure on Rodgers (which is possible since he’s on the opposite side of the field and he’s in the process of doing a double move).  TE Jermicheal Finley appears to have slipped by the defense and ends up all by himself in the endzone (he starts waving his hands), considering that he’s already as open as he possibly could be, he continues his original route as well.  WR Jones takes perhaps the oddest route by going around the two defenders covering him and then running in parallel (but in front of) TE Finley (I’m not sure why Jones wouldn’t also run towards the center of the field as it is open and he’s already going in that direction).  QB Rodgers manages to keep the play alive and throws the ball to TE Finley, only to have it “intercepted” by WR Jones right in front of TE Finley’s eyes

Conclusion: Something that I had never considered is during a scramble drill, receivers are supposed to break off their routes and find an open spot to help their quarterbacks, but since it’s not designed into the play, it’s surprising that this doesn’t happen more often where two receivers end up in the same place (which is a big no-no as two receivers often means 2+ defenders, which increases the odds of getting intercepted).  Rodgers mentioned the Jones had “stolen” another pass in the 2010 post-season against the Falcons, and I seem to recall one of Jordy Nelson’s first touchdowns going along the same situation.  This does beg the question; how much of a precision offense is the Packers?  Are the Packers just as good winging it?  I think one of the reason’s why the Packers offense is so special is because they can score when the play is executed perfectly, but they can also score when all hell has broken loose.

Here’s the play:


Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s


20 thoughts on “Packers Playbook (Hobbjective Analysis): Week 4 vs. New Orleans Saints

  1. Well done, I usually get lost with the x’s and o’s but your article kept me in there. Looked like Finley fell down or had to dive for that ball, wonder if he would have caught it without Jones being there.

    1. Based on the fact that Rodgers was throwing it to Finley plus the fact that Finley didn’t have any defenders around him (until Jones came around at least), it’s a good bet he would have caught the ball. I would say that if Rodgers hadn’t had to scramble left Finley would probably have had a touchdown

  2. This is the kind of analysis (along with the previous stat-packing) that makes this the best Packer site out there.
    Keep up the good work guys.

  3. This play also had the weirdity of the camera shadow going across AR’s head right before the snap.

  4. I love these breakdowns too. Good stuff.

    Jones made the move he did because that is the direction rodgers took. as a WR when the QB scrambles you move with him. To continue to the center of the field would have created a throw in which rodgers would have to throw a cross body throw, late in the play, against the grain of the defense on the run.

    AR has the ability to make that throw but it is extremely risky. how many picks has Woodson had over the years baiting rookies into that throw. as the play progresses and AR is outside of the pocket the DBs have to decide if they are going to stick to their man or commit to stopping rodgers. JJ did everything right.

    Also, it is hard to tell what happened to finley on that play. did he trip, did he dive? if he dove that is awful. run through the ball just like JJ did. as a receiver never stop your feet. trust your speed and hands and run through the ball. if finley dove he was just making a relatively routine catch much more difficult.

    1. Interesting point, but presuming that Jones’ target it to get open as fast as possible the route he took is probably takes the longest to develop (scramble drill wise). I hadn’t thought about Rodgers throwing against his body though so good point.

      I think the reason for Finley diving is cause he slipped by the defense and sat in the soft spot cause he was all alone. After he sees Rodgers scramble he has to build up his momentum again and therefore has to dive to make the catch.

      1. I agree w/ Fire that receivers are taught to go in the direction of the qb, and depending on the situation, come back towards him in the event of a scramble. Since Rodgers is rolling left, it would’ve made a much tougher throw had jones not changed direction. There is no guarantee that jones would have escaped his man in the middle. By turning to get behind the defender, JJ is forcing coverage to quickly decide either to pursue the wr (turning their backs to the line of scrimmage & giving the qb space to run) or to lose sight of the receiver and sacrifice close coverage.

        Even in the absence of a broken play, in some offenses a receiver’s route can alter mid-play depending on what he sees the coverage do after the ball has been snapped. So it’s important qb & wr’s are making the same reads not only pre-snap, but also during the play.

  5. Great job. I really liked seeing the routes drawn in to get an idea of the play call.

    1. Sorry I realize what the confusion is, it’s actually a out, I just drew a dig on accident. Nelson actually changes direction at the scramble so he has to be on a out route in the beginning.

      1. After further review I think it’s an in-and-out route, or something like that, it’s a quick in, then there’s that change of direction.

  6. It’s times like this, you have to wonder what exactly is a blown coverage in one’s eyes?

    By default; the quarterback is suppose to stay in the pocket, the receivers and backs are suppose to challenge each other on the routes.

    With almost ALL NFL Qb’s with a degree of mobility in the NFL, the Pocket really doesn’t exist almost except for the first 3 seconds. So I guess you can call it the Bubble.

    All Receivers once the bubble pops can run the most odd routes just to get open and for the secondary, it’s really hard to plan for that cept for spur of the moment.

    I think in a sense that’s what is the real weapon against Cover 2 Defenses like Chicago with a passing game. Since if you have a Linebacker in a Zone, but yet Receivers running around in odd ways away… well then who are you suppose to cover?

    Maybe they have a default rollout route if it happens but it’s interesting to think about when QB’s like Aaron get out of the Pocket and simply resort to playground football in a sense.

    1. Agreed, my question was really how come we don’t see more instances where two receivers end up running similar routes in similar locations. Using your example of the Tampa 2 (Cover 2 only implies that the two safeties each have a deep half, not that the MLB is covering the gap in coverage), and let’s say both OLB’s either cover the flats or rush the passer, there’s now a huge space in the middle left open. In a 5 receiver set, why wouldn’t all or at least a lot of the receivers decide to go there during a scramble drill?

  7. Great post and outstanding comments.

    It seems to me that the DB playing off Jennings is a result of his injury. They knew (by then) that Jennings is having difficulty with sharp cuts, and is no threat on a stop-n-go.

    As for Finley, watching the game I thought he tripped. I still do, and I think he would not have caught the pass if AR had gotten it beyond Jones. Jones made the play succeed, he had what has to have been his best day as a Packer overall.

    1. I think I would have to disagree, the reason that Finley is so open pre-scramble is because the safety is so worried about Jennings that he’d rather leave a tight end by himself than let Jennings go up against a corner. Perhaps this was designed and someone else blew their assignment on Finley, but either way the fact that Jennings has a cornerback and a safety on him would seem to suggest that they still respect Jennings. It also doesn’t have to be a stop and go route, Rodgers loves to just fire the ball out before the WR makes a step, or maybe Jennings runs a slant to the middle.

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