The marquee matchup in the NFL this weekend is the Packers Offense vs. the Buccaneers Defense. The Packers have the #1 offense in points per game and yards per play, are 5th in rushing, 1st in sacks allowed and pressure percentage, and they have yet to turn the ball over. The Buccaneers Defense is 8th in scoring, 2nd in yards allowed, 1st against the run, and 5th in pressure and sack percentage. So something has to give this Sunday in Tampa.
As these close matchups often do, this side of the ball will ultimately come down to those key situations in the red zone and on 3rd down. While the Buccaneers have used zone coverage on plenty of occasions this season with success, it’s in these critical situations where they like to play man coverage and bring pressure from the 2nd level. Unsurprisingly, the Todd-Bowles-led Buccaneers Defense ranks 3rd in blitz percentage.
The Packers, however, have thrived in these situations so far in 2020. Against the blitz, Aaron Rodgers has a 113.1 QB Rating. On 3rd down, where defenses tend to play more man coverage and draw up intricate pressure schemes, he has a staggering 142.1 QB Rating. While he deserves all the credit in the world for the way he has executed through the first 4 games of the season (he looks like he did in his prime), Matt LaFleur has done a tremendous job of calling plays that successfully attack aggressive man-blitz looks.
The below play was from Green Bay’s Monday Night win over the Falcons in Week 4. The Packers faced 4th-and-2, a high man-blitz tendency situation. Sure enough, the Falcons were playing man coverage here. In anticipation of this look, the Packers used a tight trips bunch formation, often used specifically to defeat man coverage. The way Atlanta matched up to the trips bunch is illustrated below.
Focus on Malik Taylor. The route combination called for him to release inside after the other two receivers in the bunch released ahead of him. This created traffic for his defender to have to fight through.
It looked like Taylor would be taking his route across the field. The defender responsible for him raced over the traffic and to the middle to try and beat him to his spot. Except Taylor would not be running a crossing route. Instead, he ran a Whip or “Burger” route (in-and-out), and broke back to the outside.
The result was an easy 20-yard gain. The Falcons rushed 5 here but the Packers’ offensive line handled it with ease. Rodgers had more than enough time to wait for the route to develop.
The Buccaneers will bring blitzes with their defensive backs that will result in faster and more aggressive pressure looks than what you saw from the Falcons above. However, we’ve seen the Packers and Aaron Rodgers handle blitz pressure well through their first 4 games of the season. And we’ve seen them consistently use route concepts that create traffic and generate wide open receivers against man coverage. They should have more than enough in their arsenal to have success against the Buccaneers Defense on Sunday.
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