The Passing Chronicles: 2022 Week 4

Dusty takes a look at 4 passing plays from the Packers win over the Patriots

Listen man. It started real ugly, but a win is a win is a win. Let's take a quick look at how the passing game looked as a whole, then dig into a few plays.

By the time the dust had settled, Aaron Rodgers' numbers started to look a little more in-line with what I had expected. In week 4, he was getting the ball out quickly and attacking more than he had been over the first three weeks. His 2.35 average time to throw was quickest in the league this week, while his intended air yards of 8.8 ranked 11th (both numbers per NFL Next Gen Stats). Per Pro Football Focus, he targeted the area behind the line of scrimmage at the exact same clip as he did in week 3 (28.6%), but he also pushed the ball more than we've seen so far. Through the first 3 weeks, Rodgers was targeting 10+ yards down the field on 23% of his throws. In week 4, he targeted that area on 45.2% of his throws. On last week's Pack-A-Day Podcast, I talked about how I anticipated a little more of a bombs away approach from the Packers in this game and we got it. Blind squirrel, etc.

Now to the 4 plays we're looking at this week.

Over the last 2 weeks, we looked exclusively at the Packers use of the Drift/Strike concept. While there were some nice uses of that this week as well, I didn't want to fall into a rut and just create "Strike Corner" or something like that. So today we're just going to look at 4 plays I liked. Sometimes this space will have a nice, cohesive theme and other times it will just be me throwing random plays in your face. I'm nothing if not inconsistent.

Play 1: 1st & 10, 9:52 remaining in the 2nd quarter

This is something the Packers showed quite a few times last year, but they didn't quite have the speed to threaten with it. The main jet/wheel man on this play in 2021 was Amari Rodgers. And, while I still like Amari Rodgers (perhaps the lone voice crying in the wilderness at this point), he's not a guy with elite speed. But Christian Watson [9]? Ohhhhhhh buddy.

Let's start here: Watson goes in jet motion before the snap. Generally, the jet motion man settles down in the flat after completing the fake, basking in the glow of a job well done. He has influenced the defensive front and will now simply hang out in the flat as a checkdown if necessary. It's something the defense has seen a lot of. The defense knows that the jet motion man settles in the flat. What this twist presupposes is, what if he didn't?

Once the ball is snapped, Watson takes off on a wheel route up the sideline. He is being being followed across the formation by Myles Bryant [24]. With Romeo Doubs [87] running a post from the right, that tells Aaron Rodgers [12] that he'll have Watson man-to-man with Bryant on the outside, and Watson will have a head of steam.

Bryant stays with Watson pretty well, but, since Watson releases up the seam on a side with a vacated boundary, there's plenty of room. Rodgers hits the top of his drop and throws a ball to the outside. He's looking for Watson to drift to the outside as a way to gain separation.

Watson stays up the seam and tries to track the ball late to no avail.

Don't be surprised to see this again in the not-too-distant future.

Play 2: 2nd & 19, 9:24 remaining in the 3rd quarter

With 9:47 remaining in the 3rd quarter, the Packer are trailing 10-7. They're facing 2nd & 19 from the 20 yard line. 

The Packers come out in 12 personnel, with a Quads look (4 eligible receivers on the right, one on the left). The Patriots are showing a split-safety look before the snap and the Packers have a nice call dialed up against it. On the right, they're running a Smash Fade look from the outside, then sending Robert Tonyan [85] up the middle of the field from his in-line TE spot. On the left, Doubs is running a vertical route. The thought is that Doubs will tie up the safety to his side, while the vertical-pushing Smash Fade concept on the right will tie up the safety to that side, which will pry open the middle for Tonyan.

At the snap, Rodgers checks the backside safety. He is turned to the sideline. That tells Rodgers that he's likely looking at a true split-safety look, which will put Tonyan against a linebacker up the middle of the field with no safety help over the top.

When he hits the top of his drop, Rodgers checks the frontside safety, then rips a throw to Tonyan over the middle of the field.

A perfect call, perfectly executed.

Play 3: 3rd & 3, 6:17 remaining in the 4th quarter

We're getting down to the wire, man. Packers are down 24-17 with time ticking away in the game and facing a crucial 3rd & 3 at the Patriots 13 yard line.

They come out in 11 personnel, with trips to the left and Doubs isolated on the right. They're running a shallow Cross Country Dagger concept with Tonyan and Randall Cobb [18] from the #3 & #2 spot (basically, Tonyan clearing room for a shallow in-cutter from Cobb), with Allen Lazard [13] running a stutter-and-go from the outside. But Rodgers seems to like the man-to-man match-up on the outside. The defense is leaning heavily toward the trips side, and also Doubs is towering over Jonathan Jones [31].

At the snap, Doubs takes an outside release with Jones in good position over the top and to the inside. Rodgers doesn't waste any time: he takes a couple steps, loads and throws to the back-shoulder and away from the inside coverage.

Doubs turns, secures the catch and backs into the end zone. Tie ball game.

We've seen Rodgers struggle with the timing of the back-shoulder pass with younger receivers in the past. Not saying that Rodgers and Doubs have the same connection as he did with Jordy Nelson or anything, but this was an encouraging sign, and also a big play in a big moment.

Play 4: 3rd & 1, 4:04 remaining in overtime

Speaking of a big play in a big moment...

3rd & 1 at their own 44 yard line. Each team had a possession in overtime at this point. And, while the Packers defense was able to register a stop on the first possession, their run defense was looking fairly porous in the second half. Giving the ball back here would allow the Patriots to be able to run their preferred offense while still allowing enough time for them to score the winning points. A conversion here would be huge. Indeed, the conversion here was huge.

The down and distance matters quite a bit here. At 3rd & 1, the Patriots are looking for a run and are aligned as such. They have a single-high safety, allowing for maximum bodies in the box. Ja'Whaun Bentley [8] is the ILB in the middle of the field. Even pre-snap he's leaning a bit over his skis, looking for the run.

For their part, the Packers are leaning into it. While they're in 11 personnel, they're showing a heavy run to the right, with both Marcedes Lewis [89] and Lazard stationed on that side, with AJ Dillon [28] as the lone running back. The Packers have a stack look on the left, with Cobb as the front man and Doubs as the under man.

The routes on the outside are both vertical-pushing, meant to help the middle clear. The Packers go heavy play action to aid in this as well. The idea is to wall off the outside with the routes and draw up Bentley on play action to free up the middle for Cobb. All Cobb has to do is to get inside leverage on his defender and win over the middle. His defender is playing head-up over over him, but the Patriots defensive backs had been physical all day, so Cobb would have to work.

At the snap, the heavy play action draws up Bentley and Cobb muscles his way to the inside; he drives into the body of his defender, then disengages and flattens out to create separation.

Rodgers hits Cobb in the middle of the field for 11 yards. Over the next 6 plays, the Packers would gain 32 yards, bleed all but 4 seconds off the clock then bring in Mason Crosby for the game-winning field goal.


A win doesn't have to be pretty to still count as a win. Yes, the Packers have looked a little rusty and are still clearly figuring out what works. Still, it feels like they're heading in the right direction, and it's always better to bank wins when you're doing that than to rack up losses. The offense still feels like a work in progress - there are key concepts from the last few years that we've rarely seen so far this year - but I have a feeling it's going to feel like a much smoother operation sooner rather than later. It hasn't always been pretty, but I like what they've been showing so far.


Albums listened to: Pixies - Doggerel; Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Cool It Down;Miya Folick - 2007 EP; The Tallest Man on Earth - Too Late for Edelweiss;Iron & Wine - Lori EP

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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 (8)

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LeotisHarris's picture

October 05, 2022 at 04:21 pm

Thanks, Dusty. It's reassuring to know you see paw-sah-tives that go unnoticed by goobers like me. There was a post a few weeks back where someone mentioned the back-shoulder pass had gone to live on a farm in Kansas. Both clever and sad, I thought. Enjoyed your breakdown of Doubs catch, and the others.

Also, thanks for the Tallest Man cover of Pink Rabbits. Nice. Sounds almost as forlorn as Berninger.

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DustyEvely's picture

October 05, 2022 at 11:28 pm

Thanks man.
I love The Tallest Man on Earth so much. Not quite as in love with this covers album as some of his other stuff, but his take on Pink Rabbits and Blood Bank are worth the price of admission alone.

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PeteK's picture

October 05, 2022 at 04:27 pm

You positive words at the end puts me at ease.

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PackyCheese500's picture

October 05, 2022 at 04:30 pm

This just in: Odell Beckham Jr. WANTS to join the Packers and Aaron Rodgers...what say we sign him (if, of course, the tests on his knee and his physicals say that he's ready to play). When he's cleared I say we sign him. We could get him for cheaper, and we have about 8m in cap space.

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croatpackfan's picture

October 06, 2022 at 03:49 am

Why to sign Beckham? With what money? It is early season, who know why we would need those "about 8m" later in the season.

We have at least 2 exciting rookies we can produce a lot of wins with them, just need to develop them through the season. And Bickham needs to learn pretty complicated play book, I'm not sure he is willing to...

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LLCHESTY's picture

October 06, 2022 at 04:00 am

There's a lot of similarities between the Rams and Packers systems and OBJ looked pretty damn good for the Rams in the playoffs last year. The only question I have about signing him is health but it's a pretty big question.

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LLCHESTY's picture

October 06, 2022 at 03:58 am

Thank you for including the pass charts Dusty. This chart looks so much different, and better, than last week. I went back and found 3 from last year to compare to last week's chart and this one looks a lot closer to those.

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LLCHESTY's picture

October 06, 2022 at 04:20 am

One of the real positives for me is it looks like LaFluer has(finally) learned his lesson about making a 250 lb RB run at an angle to the line of scrimmage on short yardage plays with Rodgers in shotgun. I also said I'd throw out of it the first time he was under center to really add a hesitation. It wasn't the first time they ran short yardage with Dillon lined up where he should be but that completion was exactly what I was hoping for and should really pay dividends when more of those situations come up. So glad to see this change!

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