Photo credit: Rex Arbogast/AP
Last Sunday, the Green Bay Packers thoroughly beat down their rival Chicago Bears 38-17. In doing so, they built up much needed morale, but also silenced many of the naysayers.
In the last week, following a very disappointing offensive performance against the Detroit Lions, I read and heard several complaints about the Packers’ offense, including:
- Aaron Rodgers lost his mojo.
- The Packers only play in the 11 personnel (1 RB and 1 TE) and are too predictable out of it.
- The Packers don’t have a tight end that can stretch the field.
- Mike McCarthy can’t game plan and doesn’t have any creative looks.
I’m sure there are more, but on the Packers’ third play of their opening drive, they simultaneously provided evidence that the naysayers were incorrect. That’s right, one play.
The play in the GIF below was Aaron Rodgers throwing a deep ball to a wide open Richard Rodgers for 43 yards. Richard Rodgers is supposedly a slow tight end who can’t stretch the field.
Overall, it was a nice play. Let’s take a look at what went in to it all. See the GIF below and my description that follows.
First, you’ll notice that the Packers came out in their 12 personnel, which hasn’t been something they have done much this year.
Next, the Packers clearly did their scouting homework. Mel Tucker is the Bears’ defensive coordinator, and he doesn’t run the old Bears Tampa 2 defense as much as their former coach Lovie Smith did. Tucker has shown his tendency to play cover 1 and cover 3 over derivatives of a cover 2. So, the Packers put in a play that is very good at beating a cover 1 or cover 3.
The play call was a double tight end streak to challenge the free safety in the middle of the field. The high-low concept kept the wide receivers low to occupy the cornerbacks. The streaking tight ends would would challenge the single safety who would be present in a cover 1 or cover 3.
Defenses adapt on the fly, so seeing two streaking tight ends would require a linebacker or the strong safety to carry one of the tight ends vertically while the deep safety covers the other vertical. This would be true in either a cover 1 or a cover 3.
However, the Packers had the perfect play call to beat the Bears’ defense.
They called a play action pass. The fake hand off to Eddie Lacy would influence the linebackers and strong safety to draw them in, giving the tight ends just enough time for the tight ends to streak deep without any appreciable coverage.
In the first GIF above, you can see how one of the linebackers attempted to re-route Andrew Quarless to his help, but that failed and Quarless was able to run free down the hash mark.
The other tight end, Richard Rodgers, was also uncovered as he ran freely down the hash mark. He had no linebacker or strong safety carrying him vertically. Maybe this was a busted coverage.
At this point, there are two verticals attacking a single safety. The advantage goes to the offense.
The play was aided by Aaron Rodgers’ mobility because he had to break the pocket. When he did, the scramble drill was on, and Richard Rodgers changed his route away from the middle off the field and moved towards the sideline. Early in the route, Richard Rodgers was expecting the ball along the hash mark, but broke the route when Rodgers broke the pocket. When he did that, he created more space between himself and Andrew Quarless, making an impossible coverage scenario for the deep safety with no other vertical help.
So, in one play, the Packers were able to silence the critics. They did have offensive creativity that was executed by tight ends bringing a vertical threat. Aaron Rodgers threw a pinpoint accurate throw off his back foot while under pressure, which takes a lot of mojo to do. McCarthy still has a few tricks up his sleeve and can call some creative plays. Maybe Richard Rodgers will be okay as the starting tight end after all.
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.——————