The Passing Chronicles: 2020 Week 8

Dusty breaks down some passing concepts from the Packers Week 8 loss to the Vikings

It's always more fun to write these after a win, but there are always interesting things going on, even in a loss. In this space we approach all games the same: what did the passing offense do? What worked, what didn't and why?

So let's get to it.

Play 1: 4th & 1, 9:09 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers tied 0-0

With the wind howling around Lambeau - combined with a Mason Crosby who was less than 100% - the Packers were more aggressive than normal on 4th down. Matt LaFleur has been aggressive on 4th down this year, but under normal circumstances he likely would have trotted out the field goal unit here.

The Packers bring out PA Bootleg on this play, with Marcedes Lewis [89] and Davante Adams [17] setting up the deeper levels, while Robert Tonyan [85] releases under the line and into the flat. Jace Sternberger [87] is part of a two-TE set on the left side. He fakes a block down the line, then releases on a Slam route to the left, following the flat route from Tonyan.

The defense flows with the bootleg, so Sternberger simply drifts with Aaron Rodgers [12] and finds a nice soft spot to sit in, keeping an eye on the interior of the defense. He drifts enough to keep away from the linebackers without drifting over the boundary defenders.

Nice play by Sternberger to settle into an open space, and a good throw from Rodgers to make sure the ball isn't batted by the free rusher.

Play 2: 2nd & 12, 12:55 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers tied 7-7

This was a concept the Packers ran a lot against the Falcons in Week 4. In that game, Jamaal Williams was on the receiving end of a lot of these. Due in no small part to this concept, Williams caught all 8 of his targets in that game for 95 yards. Here, the Packers use AJ Dillon [28] in that role.

The core concept is pretty simple: slant from the boundary, sit from the slot, receiver from the backfield releases to the flat underneath. If the defense falls back with the slant/sit, throw the flat for easy yards.

On this play, I also want to talk about the routes on the other side. The Packers are running slant/flat on the right, with Adams on the slant and Darrius Shepherd [82] on the flat. The defense reacts to Adams on the slant. 

Dillon has room in the flat, so Rodgers makes the easy throw and sees Dillon dip under a tackle attempt and pick up 16 yards.

Really nice run after the catch from Dillon.

Play 3: 1st & 10, 9:00 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers tied 7-7

Remember that concept we just talked about? I hope you do, or we're all going to have a lot of problems here.

The core concept looks the same: slant/sit/flat on the left, slant/flat on the right. Play #2 was just a couple plays before this, so it's fresh in the minds of the defense. The defender over Adams reacts strongly to the slant, jumping to the inside to take it away. But Adams doesn't continue on the slant. Instead, he cuts back up the field.

Adams beats the defender over the top, but the timing is just a little off. Hard to tell if the wind catches this or if it's just an overthrow. Whatever the reason, it's an incomplete pass. Still, I really like this counter to a concept they had just run recently, and have run quite often over the last few weeks.

Play 4: 1st & goal, 6:57 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers tied 7-7

Down on the goal line, the Packers use a pre-snap shift to get them the coverage they want. They roll out a stacked look on the left, with Adams under Shepherd. Adams shifts in before the snap, changing the coverage. Because of the shift, Kris Boyd [29] picks up Shepherd from the outside, while Jeff Gladney [20] picks up Adams. 

Shepherd runs an in-cutting route, while Adams immediately releases to the flat underneath. That route combination causes a little bit of traffic for Gladney, allowing Adams a free run into the flat and an easy TD. Really nice manipulation of the defense to get the match-up they wanted.

Play 5: 2nd & 17, 9:04 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers trailing 21-14

We saw something similar to this in Week 3 against the Saints. The Vikings appear to be in a Quarters shell here. The Packers send two deep comeback routes on the boundary, then have Tonyan simply run through the middle and drift over the right. 

Adams runs his route directly between two of the deep defenders. When he curls back to the line, it draws both of them up, opening up Tonyan over the top. The deep defender in Tonyan's zone carries him across the field, but he's playing so far over the top that Tonyan has plenty of room to work with.

Really nice route combo against this defense. Tonyan does a great job at running down the ball, then turning his body to shield it from the ground.

Play 6: 2nd & 1, 10:25 remaining in the 4th quarter, Packers trailing 14-28

The Packers run a little jet motion with Ervin, releasing to the flat under a vertical route from Marquez Valdes-Scantling [83] on the boundary. The Packers run a lot of jet motion, and generally have the jet man just kind of drift into the flat after completing the motion. It can be a way to stretch the defense horizontally to open routes over the top. But you have to show a willingness to throw to the jet man every now and then to get defenses to respect it.

The Packers are never looking to throw anything deep here. Keep an eye on the release from Valdes-Scantling: after a nice initial burst, he throttles down and looks to make a block to help spring Ervin.

With the defender crashing the edge, Ervin gets a free release to the flat and Rodgers gets him the ball in space. It's not a huge gain - 7 yards on 2nd & 1 - but it's something for defenses to consider going forward. If they show a willingness to throw to the jet man in the flat, defenses will have to account for that to try to limit the damage, which can open up routes over the top.

Play 7: 3rd & 9, 8:25 remaining in the 4th quarter, Packers trailing 14-28

It's no secret that the Packers have been running some variation of the All Go HB Seam Vertical concept at least once every game this season. They've been running it out of different looks, with different personnel. And, while they haven't hit the HB up the seam yet, they've had some decent success with it.

They ran a variation of it against this week. The ball ended up going to Adams on a double-move on the left, but we have the familiar motion on the right side.

St. Brown and Valdes-Scantling release vertically on the right, while Tonyan releases off the line and looks like he's running up the seam, only to curl back.

Like I said, the ball goes to Adams here, but watch how the defense reacts on the right. They're looking for 3 vertical routes, so they peel off and allow Tonyan to sit alone in an ocean of space. I love all the little wrinkles in this concept: gives defenses a lot to look out for every single week.

Play 8: 4th & 3, 2:54 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers trailing 14-28

The Packers have run a lot of this crossers concept so far this year. They had the most luck with it against the Lions in Week 2, but they trotted it out against the Vikings in Week 1, as well. They like to run this out of a bunch look: the two inner-most receivers push up the field before releasing across the field, while the outer-most receiver simply runs underneath. The more vertical-pushing routes create a natural rub, allowing the underneath release to have a lot of room in the middle.

The Vikings are looking for it, so they play the underneath crosser well. However, this concept still gives a follow-concept in the middle, with the deeper routes breaking at slightly different times.

The underneath crosser is covered up here, but Equanimeous St. Brown [19] finds room on the follow and Rodgers hits him for a 12 yard gain on 4th & 3.

Play 9: 4th & 9, 8:21 remaining in the 4th quarter, Packers trailing 14-28

Another 4th down, another look at the crossers. But wait! It's not crossers!

Packers run this out of bunch and the initial releases all look like they're running the same concept we've seen a dozen times at this point. The defense has seen it and is looking for it, but it doesn't end up being the same concept.

The two inner-most receivers end up veering toward the sideline, while Adams runs a pivot route back to the sideline. The defense bites on the initial move, opening up the sideline. Rodgers throws to Tonyan. And, while a flag is initially thrown for defensive pass interference, it is ultimately picked up, rendering this an incomplete pass and a turnover on downs. Such is life.

Like most weeks, I mark up a lot of plays but don't have room to put them all in a column, so they all go into a Twitter thread. If you want more passing concepts, here ya go.

Also, if you want an example of just how strong the wind was this past weekend, check out this following throw. Rodgers puts it out in front of Ervin, only for the ball to end up behind him and at his feet.

Albums listened to: Tom Waits - Alice; Julien Baker - Turn Out the Lights; Mercury Rev - Deserter's Songs; Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes; Matt Berninger - Serpentine Prison; Sigur Ros - Kveikur


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].

2 points

Comments (10)

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Coldworld's picture

November 04, 2020 at 03:48 pm

Thanks Dusty. The reminder of the effect the wind can have even on a short throw makes me all the more impressed at Rodger’s passing and also frustrated our defense didn’t force Cousins to throw more.

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Lphill's picture

November 04, 2020 at 05:53 pm

Thanks Dusty , the only positives from the game.

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canadapacker's picture

November 04, 2020 at 10:09 pm

The more that I rewatched the game and including the above great analysis - the more that I thought that AR was off both on his reads and a lot of his throws. The throw to Dillon was spot on and he tightroped the sideline for a nice gain. The throw to Ervin was low and behind and he only got 7 yards as he couldnt turn upfield. Besides the miss to Sternberger there was a caught pass to Tonyon who had to dive for it - AR usually hits the guys in stride but he has not been hitting these the last 3 games. It is hard but it is important to focus on one a different receiver and see what is happening not just where the ball is going. Play it over again and watch a different receiver - just to see if the correct read was made. On the throwaway to Adams in the 4 th quarter on the right sideline somebody was clearly open in the middle. Adams is good but the Vikes game plan was not to let him beat them and that had to mean that other guys were open. I lover our receivers and it is not because they are not getting open. PS that St Brown drop was a hard ball to catch - pros need to catch it but it was a hard catch - not a typical drop.

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jannes bjornson's picture

November 05, 2020 at 01:36 am

Wind gusts up to 40 mph

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canadapacker's picture

November 05, 2020 at 04:19 pm

Yes on some throws But

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nygary's picture

November 04, 2020 at 10:52 pm

Good job with article. But Gute missed out on getting help for the D line and that will be there demise. I find it hard to believe there was nobody available to help stop the run. Our playoff life will be very short this year.

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Leatherhead's picture

November 05, 2020 at 08:41 am

You find it hard to believe that somebody would trade us a DL that we could afford?

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Minniman's picture

November 04, 2020 at 11:55 pm

Thanks again Dusty. The effort that you go to is extraordinary and a real highlight to read.

Looking at the last extra clip (the curve ball one) - I was more impressed with the hustle and positioning of Eric Kendricks. Ervin is actually lucky that he didn’t even get close to catching that ball, he was just going to get smashed.

Kendricks’ hustle from the point that Rodgers committed to that pass was rather interesting. He attacked the first 5 paces like his life depended on it to get to the cover position (like a sprinter out of the blocks) which allowed him to then just time his run to the hit. Impressive.

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Packer_Fan's picture

November 05, 2020 at 05:38 am

I wasn't able to watch this game, but I am seeing Rodgers not as sharp with his passes as early in the season. And he is missing open receivers. And the last example, the shallow receiver had a better chance of getting the first down if Rodgers threw it to him and and led him well. Are you seeing it the same way?

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Leatherhead's picture

November 05, 2020 at 08:44 am

This was a hard wind and he completed 2/3 of his passes. Several of the incomplete were throwaways and a few could have been caught. That we got 3 TDs and 291 yards in the air on a day like that is a testimony to how good our passing game is.

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