Photo credit: Christian Peterson/Getty Images
On Sunday, after shockingly falling behind to the New York Jets 21-3 in the first half, the Green Bay Packers mounted a furious comeback to win the game 31-24.
Comebacks are total team efforts because the defense has to limit the opponent’s score from increasing while the offense attempts to chip away at the lead.
It’s also extremely important during a comeback to steal the momentum during key moments, otherwise there’s the risk of the game getting out of hand. Against the Jets, things almost got completely away from the Packers with 3:12 remaining in the first half.
After the Packers kicked a field goal to cut the lead to 21-9 with 3:12 remaining in the second quarter, they attempted an onside kick, which wasn’t successful. That gave the Jets the ball at their own 48 yard line. The Jets were in great shape to add at least 3 more points, and maybe 7, in a two-minute drill before the half ended. If they did, the game would probably have been out of hand and the lead would be too demoralizing.
But, the Packers were able to swing the momentum and mount a comeback. I’ll break down two key plays that made that possible.
Play One: A Good Pass Rush is a Defensive Back’s Best Friend
A good pass rush helps out defensive backs and makes them look great. Just remember back to Super Bowl XLV and Howard Green and the Nick Collins pick-6.
Right at the two-minute warning, Tramon Williams was able to intercept an errant Geno Smith pass. This accomplished two very important things. First, it prevented the Jets from scoring more points, which were in field goal range. Second, it gave the ball back to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense with almost two minutes remaining in the half. That’s just enough time to drive for points.
So, what happened during the play that led to the interception?
The Packers weren’t in any exotic defense. They were in their base 3-4 to counter the Jets’ 13 personnel package. They had a single-high safety while sending five pass rushers. Because they were sending five rushers, they had to have man-to-man coverage across the board.
The key to the play was Mike Daniels getting home to hit the quarterback. Once he hit Smith, he lofted a duck, which fell safely into the waiting hands of Tramon Williams. Truthfully, the man-to-man coverage wasn’t all that great, so it’s extremely fortunate that Daniels disrupted the throw because receivers were open everywhere. A laser to the outside shoulder would have setup first and goal. See the GIF below for the the play break down.
Play Two: Third Down Conversion to the Middle of the Field
After Williams intercepted the ball, the Packers had 1:52 and three timeouts to at least get into field goal position. They did one better and went 97 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 21-16.
There were many important plays during that drive, but one really sticks out to me. It was a 3rd and 10 conversion from Aaron Rodgers to Davante Adams with 0:23 remaining.
What was remarkable about this play? Several things.
First, the Packers caught the Jets in an exotic blitz package. They sent five pass rushers, and one of them was the slot cornerback on a blitz. To allow the slot cornerback to blitz, the Jets needed to drop a defensive end into coverage. He was responsible for the running back in the middle of the field. Also, the free safety needed to rotate down to cover the slot receiver who was left by the slot cornerback.
The Jets played man-to-man across the board with a single-high safety. During the two-minute drill, the defense makes covering the sideline a premium, because out of bounds is a free timeout, and will happily give up short routes in the middle of the field. That’s why they were okay with the defensive end dropping in pass coverage and letting the slot receiver squat in front of the free safety.
The Packers used a high-low concept, but they didn’t attack the sidelines that the Jets were guarding. They let rookie Davante Adams find space between the cornerback and the strong safety in the middle of the field. It was a deep enough route to gain a first down and move the chains, and it was a nice run after the catch to move the ball closer to the end zone. It also shows the developing chemistry between Adams and Rodgers, and the two-minute drill is the place where those relationships and created and tested.
Going back to my original point in play one above, a good pass rush is a defensive back’s best friend. In the play below, the Packers did an okay, but not good, job in pass protection. Derek Sherrod did a nice job. My biggest complaint is DuJuan Harris got destroyed in pass protection, but Rodgers was still able to get rid of the ball in rhythm. It was a quick-hit concept, so the pass rush didn’t fully get home to disrupt the throw. See the GIF below for the break down.
Two plays later, the Packers were in the end zone. The comeback was well in force.
Don’t underestimate this momentum swing. If the Packers weren’t able to turn the ball over and score before the end of the first half, they probably don’t win this game. And, this comeback has the potential to define the season. If they would have folded, the season may have been rocky for quite some time. But, since they won, they have something positive to build upon moving forward.
Every season has a few key moments, and someday when we look back at 2014, this turn of events may be one such moment.
I believe the GIFs embedded above to be fair use under the premise of being short clips of the original broadcast that are transformative for news reporting, commentary, critique, illustration, and teaching purposes.——————