Packers Xs and Os Film Session: Game-Winning Touchdown

Photo credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

On Sunday, the Green Bay Packers completed a remarkable fourth quarter comeback to beat the Miami Dolphins 27-24 with only 3 seconds remaining on the clock.

The final drive was certainly high drama, including crucial 3rd and 4th down conversions, TJ Lang’s game-saving fumble recovery, a fake spike clock play, and a touchdown with almost no time remaining on the clock.

The Packers were facing 1st and goal with 6 seconds remaining in the game. A field goal would do no good, so they had to get into the end zone. Everything was on the line.

When teams have everything on the line, they really show their true colors. They choose a play they like and think will be successful. They let their playmakers go out and make plays without any leashes or restrictions.

I’m sure by now that you’ve seen the game-winning pass from Aaron Rodgers to Andrew Quarless several times. But, let’s take a closer look at it because it really shows a lot, especially excellent clock management, play calling strategy, and play making ability. It shows trust cascaded from coach to quarterback to tight end.

The GIF below shows the touchdown pass to Andrew Quarless. Exciting stuff! I still get some shivers while watching it.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind
Credit: NFL Game Rewind

At first, it seems like a simple quick completion. However, there’s so much more to it.

Six seconds on the clock is enough time to run two plays if the first play ends quickly. Essentially, the quarterback has to quickly scan the field, find an open receiver, and zip him the ball. If the look isn’t there, or if the receiver isn’t open, quickly throw the ball away before the clock expires to get one more play.

That’s a lot to get done in less than 6 seconds. But, Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers know what they’re doing. They can design a play to give them the bulk of this information pre-snap and while the clock isn’t running.

So, what goes into an endgame strategy? How is the information collected pre-snap? Well, if a team is good at clock management and has the killer instinct, the following do:

1)  The quarterback has to know first and foremost if the defense is playing man-to-man coverage or zone. This will dictate which routes will work and who will be open. Many times, the quarterback drops back and watches the routes develop, and how they’re covered, to make the coverage reads. Defenses often disguise their coverage pre-snap, so the best way to tell is watch the routes unfold. However, the Packers didn’t have this amount of time. So, they sent a tight end split out wide to see if the defense was in man-to-man or zone. If the defense was in zone, the widest cornerback would cover the tight end because he was the widest receiver. If they are in man-to-man, the Sam linebacker would split out wide. When the Packers split Andrew Quarless out wide, they had their answer: the Dolphins were playing man-to-man because the linebacker followed. More importantly, they got their answer while the clock wasn’t running.

2)  After Aaron Rodgers got his coverage information, he called a play at the line of scrimmage that would work against man-to-man. However, it had to be a very quick play to preserve time for another play if this one didn’t work. The route concepts were quick-hitters, with three of the four receivers making their breaks on the goal line. The shorter the routes, the less time comes off the clock for the play to develop. If the pass was knocked down by a defender or dropped, there would be time remaining. If the pass was caught, it would be a touchdown.

3)  Based on the man-to-man coverage match ups, Aaron Rodgers determined pre-snap where he was going with the ball. He didn’t have time to sit back and scan the field to see who was open. He had time to make one read and throw the ball. He’d either throw the ball to the receiver to make a play, or throw it away over the receiver to stop the clock. Either way, it had to be quick. Rodgers determined he was going to throw the ball to Andrew Quarless regardless. The route concepts on the boundary side were in-and-out breaks, with the widest receiver breaking out. Quarless had been “in Rodgers’ ear” all game about how he could beat the Sam linebacker in coverage. So, Rodgers decided to let Quarless make a play while the game was on the line by throwing him a back shoulder fade. Either Quarless would catch the ball for a touchdown, or the Sam linebacker would knock the ball down for an incompletion with time remaining on the clock. It was a high percentage play.

The next GIF shows the play design. It was an excellent play call for an endgame scenario. And, as you can see, it worked perfectly with the game-sealing touchdown.

The play also only took 3 seconds off the clock, so they had plenty of time to execute another play if this one didn’t work.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind
Credit: NFL Game Rewind

The next picture is also very telling. It shows just how quickly Aaron Rodgers had to get rid of the ball to save on time. He didn’t waste time to get the laces right, so he threw the ball without the aid of the laces. (Also note that he was so R-E-L-A-X-E-D that he didn’t even bother to buckle his chin strap.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind
Credit: NFL Game Rewind

In the end, this was an excellent play design and play call. It worked to perfection, not only because they scored the necessary touchdown, but they also had time on the clock for another try if they needed one.

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.


Jay Hodgson is an independent sports blogger writing for and

Follow Jay on twitter at @jys_h.


10 thoughts on “Packers Xs and Os Film Session: Game-Winning Touchdown

  1. Alright, I’m sorry everyone, I tried my hardest to NOT bring up this dimwit, but I honestly thought that this was the time that Bayless was actually gonna cut the crap and give Rodgers the due credit. He had made so many excuses up to this point that I honestly thought this was the time he had officially run out of them and would concede once and for all.

    And of course… not only did he not give him credit, he blatantly called out everything Rodgers did as stupid, lucky, or that someone else deserves the credit for the drive.

    I was at an absolute loss for words. I mean, there truly are people out there that will be willingly ignorant (dumb on purpose) to get what they want. My only possible explanation is that Brainless will do anything to get one more viewer. He may even be trying to get Rodgers to come onto his show.

    Watching this drive, as a tape study here on this post, as a rewatch, or seen live, was in every way a thing of beauty, as Jay Hodgsen here so beautifully pointed out.

    I guess what I’m trying to say that it’s because of loyal fan sites like this one I can actually share a smart opinion and have intelligent conversations. It’s a great alternative to watching the smart-alike truly special kind of stupid characters that somehow get a job on television.

    Thank you guys.

    1. “Skip Bayless” is not a sports commentator. “Skip Bayless” is a command, or at least a strong suggestion.

    2. Skip Balless is just a guy hired to piss off everyone. He does his job very well because the more controversial things he says the more you people listen to him. I personally don’t listen to him but surely I hope nobody here believes that he actually believes the things he says? lol It’s all for money and ratings and Skippy is a cash cow.

      He is no different than Ali, Howard Cosell, Andy Kauffman wrestling women only lol, Howard Stern, Simon Cowell, Charles Barkley etc. Having a guy you hate or that says stupid or controversial things is really really good for ratings. Skip is just a poor man’s version of the guys mentioned above.

    3. Skip only has one testicle and was born with a micro penis. He is an angry man and takes it out on whomever he can.

  2. Great breakdown, as always!

    Looking at the top of the screen, it appears as if Jordy would have been open for a pass in the back corner of the endzone if needed. Obviously, there was no way Rodgers would even look in that direction, but interesting nonetheless.

    1. Thanks, Chad. When I wrote the piece, the NFL hadn’t yet released the coaches film, so I couldn’t see the exact ending point where Jordy finished his route. My gut tells me it might have been the smash concept to the field side. Jordy was probably open in the back, but the corner squating the flat may have close the throwing lane. It’ll be interesting to go back and watch the coaches film.

  3. Thanks for this. I didn’t know about the laces. That was some key info I didn’t know until I read this. That only adds to how special this play was. Shows to me that Rodgers knew exactly what he needed to do to get two plays off if the first one wasn’t successful. He was obviously in control every second of that drive. Just glad he’s on your team instead of the Bears or Vikings.

  4. Fantastic breakdown of the play! Rodgers has been criticized a lot lately for only trusting Cobb and Nelson, so it was great to see him throw to Quarless, who had the most favorable matchup. Perfect read. Perfect throw. A-Rodg made it look easy.

  5. Helps to have a QB who in addition to his running and incredible accuracy also had over 1,300 on his SAT’s and went to UC Berkeley.

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