The Passing Chronicles: 2022 Week 10

Dusty takes a look at a couple plays from the Packers win over the Cowboys

Now that’s more like it. If you’re going to stop a 5 game losing skid, doing it at home against the Dallas Cowboys is a pretty nice way to go about it. 

I feel like we’ve settled into a nice little routine here in terms of what we’re looking at, and I feel like that has given me a better overall view of the passing game than I tend to have when I’m just looking at the film. I’ve always loved the marriage between numbers & film, but I had kind of gotten away from that, so it’s nice to have a foot in both worlds again.

It’s because of that expanded look at the passing game that I’m able to see some of the stark differences in the passing game from this week to past weeks. Aside from the obvious - only 23 passing dropbacks for Rodgers, his lowest of the season - there were also some other major differences in this game. Let’s look at the passing chart then get into them

The first thing to pop off the screen is the lack of throws behind the line of scrimmage (LOS). Rodgers had been targeting that area on 22%+ of his throws on the year (per PFF). In this game? Only 3 attempts (15%). If you move beyond the LOS, he targeted the three levels of the defense at about the same clip:

Short (0-9): 5 / 6 (83.3%), 65 yards (10.8 YPA)
Medium (10-19): 3 / 5 (60%), 31 yards (6.2 YPA), 1 TD
Deep (20+): 3 / 5 (60%), 120 yards (24.0 YPA), 2 TDs

The two drops in the medium section of the field means that Rodgers’ adjusted completion % was 100% when targeting that area of the field. Not too shabby.

The use of play action was also up. The increased use in shotgun - and defenses changing the way they defended the shotgun run - made play action less effective, and saw a declined usage from the Packers this season. Coming into the game, they had used play action on ~26% of dropbacks. Against the Cowboys, they pushed it to the extreme: they used play action on 47.8% of dropbacks. When using it, Rodgers was 9/11 (81.8%), 148 yards (13.5 YPA) and 2 TDs, with an Average Depth of Target (ADOT) of 10 yards.

Speaking of ADOT, this week was the highest of the year for the Packers, coming in at 11.9 yards. The time to throw was higher this week as well (2.81 seconds), but that was mainly due to the increase in play action. When targeting 20+ yards down the field, Rodgers was getting rid of the ball in 2.64 seconds, which is just a tick above his average for the year.

Packers had a marked increase in their under center usage this week: 52.5% of their plays were under center against the Cowboys. Coming into the game, they were averaging 24.1% of plays under center. 

An increase in under center plays, play action and more of a vertical passing game? Buddy, I hope Christian Watson is healthy every week.

Let’s get to a couple plays. But, before I do, a warning: we call this The Passing Chronicles, but we’re going to be looking at a run play today as well. Just trying to keep you on your toes.

Play 1: 3rd & 5, 9:39 remaining in the 1st quarter

Let’s get this out of the way now: this play ends with a drop by Christian Watson [9] on a comeback route on the right side of the play. That is wholly irrelevant to what we’re looking at here (but we will touch on it in a minute). Right now, we’re looking at a way the Packers have been using in an attempt to get free releases: motion.

One of the big issues the Packers have had on offense this year is that teams have discovered they can just roll out single-high coverages, bully the receivers off the line and the Packers didn’t have the horses to beat it. We’re seeing a resurgence of two-high defenses across the league, but not against the Packers. Single-high defenses can open up an offense to hit some shot plays, but the Packers haven’t been able to take advantage of that. That’s partially due to the whole “receivers getting mugged at the line and not ever being able to beat it under any circumstances” issue.

There are ways to try to work around that. If you know the defense is playing press man, you can run some switch-releases at the line. Roll out some bunch formations and have the two inside men run clear-out routes to provide a wall of protection for the inside receiver to release on a shallow crossing route underneath. That’s a great plan until your receivers are running into each other or falling down and blowing it up for your offense.

So the Packers have started using more of this motion release. It’s limiting in that you can only run it with a single receiver on each play, and your route tree is somewhat limited depending on the motion. That’s a long way of saying that it’s not something you can count on all the time, but it’s a nice thing to break out occasionally, depending on what you’re trying to do.

On this play, the Packers are looking to get Allen Lazard [13] on a dig route in the middle of the field. It’s a common look for them, but they’ve had all kinds of issues getting it open. 

Enter short motion.

Lazard starts outside, then motions in pre-snap, dragging Trevon Diggs [7] with him. The ball is snapped as Lazard is slowing down. But, since he hasn’t come fully to a stop, Diggs is shading outside, giving Lazard a free release to the inside.

Lazard pushes vertically into the body of Diggs, then breaks to the inside at the top of the stem to create separation on the route. 

The ball goes to Watson on a one-on-one match-up on the outside, but I like this look. Those middle dig routes can be a source of easy, efficient yardage, but the Packers receivers have had issues this year in getting open in that spot as of late. I'm looking forward to more of this going forward.

For what it’s worth, I don’t blame Rodgers for throwing to Watson on this at all. Watson eats up space in a hurry, which turns the boundary corner to carry the vertical route. Rodgers sees that and throws the comeback to the sideline, while Watson curls back inside. I think that’s just a feel thing: with the defender on the inside, throwing to the boundary allows for more separation, as it would take the defender a beat longer to get there. Likely just a small miscommunication based on leverage.

Play 2: 2nd & 8, 5:47 remaining in the 2nd quarter

Here’s our running play, but we’ll be focusing on the wide receivers. That still belongs here, right?

The Packers are in 12 personnel (1RB, 2TE, 2WR) in a condensed look, with Lazard and Watson as the receivers. Both are aligned on the right side in a tight split.

Josiah Deguara [81] is initially aligned as the in-line TE to the right, but he motions to the left pre-snap, shifting the linebackers over. He then abruptly comes back to the right as Rodgers snaps the ball, getting the Packers to a nice power run look.

There are no pulling linemen on the play, but Deguara helps lead the way as the lead blocker around the end. The Packers need to seal the edge to open the outside, and they do that by asking Watson and Lazard to pin-down from the outside, and they do a fine job with that. Lazard ushers DeMarcus Lawrence [90] into the backfield, while Watson is able to crack down on Jayron Kearse [27].

Micah Parsons [11] is able to elude the block from Yosh Nijman [73] and get over the top, but Deguara is able to engage and kick-out to provide a lane for Jones to cut back into.

Nijman has a tough assignment on this. He’s trying to release up to the second level and seal Parsons to the inside. If he’s able to do that, that leaves the outside completely open and Deguara is able to lock onto Diggs on the outside. The motion from Deguara bumps Parsons in enough for create a more advantageous angle, which is great! However, Nijman’s first step is to the inside, which allows Parsons the ability to get outside of the block. Nijman makes contact, but only glancing contact with the inside shoulder of Parsons.

It ends up being a 7 yard gain on 2nd & 8, but it could have been a whole lot more. Were it not for Lawrence and the athleticism of Parsons, it likely would have been a huge gain. Game of inches & timing, man.

Man, I’m salivating over a run clip. What am I becoming? Have I always been this?


Albums listened to: Massage - Still Life; Soft Kill - Canary Yellow; Girlpuppy - When I’m Alone; First Aid Kit - Palomino

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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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Comments (3)

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croatpackfan's picture

November 16, 2022 at 11:25 pm

Thanks, Dusty. Keep that good work. I like your articles. It helps a lot to learn every time more about the football and complexity of it.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

November 17, 2022 at 02:57 am

Your articles are always enjoyable and informative.

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T7Steve's picture

November 17, 2022 at 02:30 pm

Finally found this Dusty, been looking for it. Your run play shows how hard it is against a top defense to get everything right, but a good play design can still provide an acceptable outcome. The longer this line can play together the more possibilities will arise.

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