If I had told you that Davante Adams would not be on the field and Aaron Jones would only rush for 69 yards against the Saints, what type of offensive performance would you have predicted for the Packers? Probably something similar to any of their two performances against the 49ers last year, right? 37 points later, most of us were caught completely by surprise. Aaron Rodgers looked like the 30-year old version of himself, and Matt LaFleur had a great approach that he attacked with relentlessly.
The Packers weren’t able to get much going on the ground on Sunday (26 rush, 98 yds, 3.8 avg). But the running game did enough to serve a purpose. LaFleur clearly had the game plan of getting the Saints’ defensive front moving sideline to sideline. And Green Bay’s passing game was the beneficiary.
The Packers running game is based primarily on zone runs, and especially, outside zone. The Saints did a decent job of not getting burned in the running game, as we predicted. However, they really could not help themselves against the Packers’ play-action off of outside zone runs.
Green Bay’s first big play saw both motion and a play-fake to the right side, with outside zone movement up front. The Saints Defense flowed hard with it.
But Rodgers kept the ball on a bootleg. The result was that he didn’t have a defender anywhere near him.
He had the time and space to deliver a perfect ball to Allen Lazard, who had a step or two on the nearest defender.
This was just one of many play-action boots that Green Bay used on the day. It worked almost every time. Aaron Rodgers had the time to make some easy drive-sustaining completions as well as some big plays. The Saints’ pass rush was completely neutralized.
It wasn’t just on bootlegs that LaFleur was able to buy Aaron Rodgers time with his play design, though. The below play was one of the best designs of the night. Watch the route concept here first.
The Packers started with a 2×2 formation and ended up with 4 receivers releasing to the same side of the field. The route concept put cornerback Marshon Lattimore in conflict, leading to a wide-open Jace Sternberger for 23 yards (we’ll save the breakdown of the route combination for another day). Instead, let’s focus on the run action at the line of scrimmage. If you couldn’t tell initially, this was a play-action look as Rodgers faked the shovel pass to the motion man. The Packers also pulled the right guard to sell the run.
The Saints D-line was held by both the play-fake and the pulling guard, creating a clean pocket. This gave Rodgers the time to wait for his routes to develop downfield and find a wide-open Sternberger.
If you give Aaron Rodgers time in the pocket, it doesn’t matter who he’s throwing to. He’s going to do some damage.
Many, including myself, have been critical of Green Bay’s front office basically making the decision not to improve the 2020 version of the team through free agency and the draft this offseason. But so far in year 2 under LaFleur, we’re seeing a team whose offense looks much more comfortable. Aaron Rodgers is throwing the ball as well as he ever has, and LaFleur is relentlessly attacking opposing defenses with concepts that either target their weaknesses or play off of the Packers’ strengths. If Green Bay can get anything out of their defense this year, they might end up with even better results than their surprising 13-3 season in 2019.
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