The Packers entered Week 7 against the Raiders with a banged up receiving corps. Luckily for them, they also entered with Aaron Rodgers as well as Matt LaFleur’s refreshing approach to the passing game.
This first of Aaron Rodgers’ 6 touchdowns on the day came from a great play design. Focus on tight end Jimmy Graham as well as the cornerback, safety, and linebacker to his side. Given the initial alignment of the cornerback over Graham and the safety over wide receiver Allen Lazard, this looked to be zone coverage.
Graham motioned inside. When the alignment of the Raiders did not change, this confirmed that it was zone.
Now to the route combination. The Raiders were playing cover-3, meaning the cornerback to that side was responsible for his deep third of the field.
What’s a great way to beat cover-3? Have your outside receiver run a post to occupy the cornerback and take him out of that deep third. Then have a second receiver from the same side of the formation run a route to that vacated zone. Here, the Packers did indeed run a post with Lazard.
They could have run that second route with Jimmy Graham. However, the defender who would have matched up to his route in zone was the safety. That isn’t so big of a mismatch given the fact that Graham isn’t exactly a burner anymore. So Graham ran a flat route. This occupied the safety, who was the flat defender.
With the flat defender occupied by Graham, that left the linebacker accounting for running back Aaron Jones’ corner route to the deep 3rd vacated by the cornerback. Had Graham run, say, a crossing route to the other side of the field, the more athletic flat-defending safety would have been ready to defend Jones’ route. With Graham occuping the safety, the Packers instead got a better athletic mismatch with Jones on a linebacker.
The sky cam shows a great angle of how the play unfolded.
Jones made quite an adjustment on this ball. It is such a huge advantage to have a running back who has receiving skills like Jones in the passing game.
This next play, a 59-yard pass in the 2nd half, was another great play design. The Packers were in “21” personnel (2 RB, 1 TE). Rodgers ran a play-action boot-stop. Look at the route combination. Jimmy Graham was running a deep crossing route. Marquez Valdes-Scantling ran a corner-post.
What you can see is that all of the initial action is going from the offense’s left to right. Rodgers’ boot action, Graham’s deep crossing route, and Valdes-Scantling’s route all appeared to be flowing in the same direction.
This got the deep safety moving in the same direction as the rest of the offense. Except Rodgers was utilizing a boot-stop, so he could throw back across the field. And Valdes-Scantling was running to the post, not the corner. The result was another big play through the air for the Packers.
Rodgers’ deep passes are just long hand offs, aren’t they? He’s overrated though…
What you’re seeing out of this Packers Offense is that they are less predictable than they had become in recent years under Mike McCarthy. They don’t just run 11 personnel, put Rodgers in shotgun, and run one slant-flat route combo after another. Instead, they incorporate more motion, more personnel sets, and a wider array of formations to keep the defense off balance.
It appears that Green Bay has finally surrounded Rodgers with a good running game and a good defense. If he continues to get more comfortable in LaFleur’s passing game, look out NFL.
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