Revisiting 2019 - Week 16: Taking Control in the Twin Cities

The Packers rolled into Minnesota on a 3 game winning streak, sporting a shiny 11-3 record. The Vikings were coming off a two-game win streak, having just beat-up on the Los Angeles Chargers. Which is impossible, because I didn't think it was legal for a visiting team to win in California.

Anyway, this was a hugely hyped Monday Night game. I know I was nervous going in, but the Packers emerged with a 23-10 victory and sitting in the driver's seat of the NFC North Division Title. And, while the final score looked convincing, it wasn't truly put away until late. I wanted to look at 3 plays that helped secure the win.

Play 1: 3rd & 8, 8:32 remaining in the 4th quarter, Packers leading 17-10

The Vikings are down 7, facing 3rd & 8 from their own 35 yard line. They're looking to convert and keep the drive going to try to tie the game. Kenny Clark [97] had other ideas.

Clark is aligned over the inside shoulder of Brian O'Neill [75], while Za'Darius Smith [55] is aligned over the inside shoulder of Riley Reiff [71]. At the snap, Smith attacks Pat Elflein [65] while Clark swims over both Josh Kline [64] and Garrett Bradbury [56]. With Smith occupying Elflein, there's no one else available to help against the wrecking ball that is Kenny Clark. Clark turns the corner against Elflein and Kirk Cousins [8] doesn't have a chance. Not a single chance in the world. Clark picks up a 6 yard sack, forces the punt and gets a little dance in.

Play 2: 2nd & 9, 6:54 remaining in the 4th quarter, Packers leading 17-10

On the following 1st down, Aaron Jones [33] ran up the middle for 1 yard. And then, on 2nd down...

The Packers come out in a 2X1 formation and the Vikings are showing a single-high safety to the 2 receiver side. Allen Lazard [13] is in the slot while Davante Adams [17] is on the outside. They're both running routes to the middle of the field, with Adams following Lazard. I've talked about what that following motion can do, but let's revisit that here because this is a great example.

When you follow while spaced apart like this, you're looking to create a pocket of space. With play action, the hope is that the linebackers will pull up, which they do. With Lazard and Adams both running in-cutting routes, they should be able to get inside position. Again, they do that. So all that is left at this point is reading the safety. If no one else drops back, you've got a single safety against 2 routes to the area. He can't defend both of them. If the safety hangs back from the slot route, throw to the first receiver. If he fades with the slot route, the outside route is open.

The safety fades with Lazard, opening up space for Adams on the follow route. Eric Wilson [50] is sitting back and reading Aaron Rodgers' [12] eyes, but Rodgers is able to sneak it past him. Now, hang with me for a second here.

I wrote this when I was extremely tired, so it's possible that this is all in my mind. I have watched the above gif hundreds of times at this point. You can see Rodgers' vision shift slightly as he is throwing the ball. It's extremely small, but it's also extremely important. Harris is sitting back and reading Rodgers' eyes. In the video above, you can see how his backpedal changes direction based on what he is seeing from Rodgers. Instead of following the route of Adams, Rodgers stares over Harris' right shoulder, holding him to that spot. As Rodgers throws, he shifts his vision to look at Adams, at which point Harris can't do anything about it.

Again, it's small, but that ability to stare at Harris instead of where he was throwing helps keep the lane to Adams open. The Packers picked up 18 yards on this play.

Play 3: 1st & 10, 6:01 remaining in the 4th quarter, Packers leading 17-10

On the very next play, the Packers hand the ball off to Aaron Jones [33]. The blocking up front is good. Corey Linsley [63] gets a really nice block on Armon Watts [96] and Elgton Jenkins [76] helps Linsley out with a shoulder bump to Watts before he releases to the second level. 

Billy Turner [77] and Bryan Bulaga [75] seal off Jaleel Johnson [94] on the right side. There's a gap in the middle and Jones heads towards it, but it starts to close so he continues around the edge.

Ah, the edge! This hinges on three key blocks: David Bakhtiari [69] removes Everson Griffen [97] by blocking him to the perimeter. Marquez Valdes-Scantling [83] locks up Xavier Rhodes [29] on the outside. After the shoulder bump, Jenkins releases to the second level and contacts Kentrell Brothers [40]. It's not a huge block, but it's enough to alter Brothers' lane and ends up knocking him back into Anthony Harris [41], the last line of defense.

That gives Jones a nice lane to run through and once he clears the falling Harris, he's in the clear, rumbling 56 yards for a touchdown and helping to put the game out of reach.

If you're wanting to relive this Week 16 victory a little more, you're in luck! I wrote about that here. The Packers used a lot of follow routes this game, so prepare yourself to read even more words on that.

Albums listened to: The 1975 - Notes On A Conditional Form; Carly Rae Jepsen - Dedicated Side B


Dusty Evely is a film analyst for Cheesehead TV. He can be heard talking about the Packers on Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter at @DustyEvely or email at [email protected].

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Bearmeat's picture

May 27, 2020 at 08:26 pm

Fantastic as always, Dusty. I always learn when I read your stuff. Thanks. This, along with winning in CHI in week 1, and the Divisional round win, were my favorite moments from 2019.

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Johnx's picture

May 28, 2020 at 03:22 am

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