The Passing Chronicles: An Opening Shot (aka, Strike Blaze-Out)

Way back in Week 4, we watched the Packers get beat-up by the Lions in Lambeau on Thursday Night. This time, the two teams met on Thanksgiving at Ford Field. It saw the Packers put up 20 points in the 1st quarter in what would end up being a Packers victory. 

Jordan Love hit Christian Watson for a 53 yard gain on the first play of the day, and the Packers offense was off and running. This was such a fun game and I couldn’t wait to revisit it.

This week, we’re going to be looking at that first play of the game, so let’s stop wasting time and get into it.

We’re looking at the call itself and the responsibilities. As a reminder, this is how the Packers structure their calls (although not every section is used in every call):

  1. Motion/Shift
  2. Formation & Strength
  3. Formation Variation
  4. Motion
  5. Run Concept or Pass Pro
  6. Pass Concept

Playcall: Motion Gun Trio RT Clamp Y LT P18 Weezy Z Strike X Blaze Out

Here’s how that may sound when called in the game:

Motion: Motion

Just the word “Motion” to indicate that there will be a motion tag in the call, after the formation.

Formation & Strength: Gun Trio RT 

This is a 3x1 formation, with the TE in-line on the right and the X as the lone receiver on the left. The other two receivers are aligned off the line and split out wide.

Formation Variation: Clamp

This is an adjustment term for the Y and the strongside Z. This tells the Y to align next to the OT and off the ball, while it tells the Z to align 5 yards from the end of the line of scrimmage and on the ball.

Motion: Y LT

As you may have guessed, this just tells the Y to motion to the left. For this play, it puts him in a better position to make the block he needs to make.

Pass Pro: P18 Weezy

This is a 6-man, play action protection that works off the 18-19 Weak Y Sift run play. 18-19 Weak Y Sift is what I typically call “split zone”. It’s a single-back, zone-blocking play that blocks to the strong side, while the Y will sift/split under the line to block the backside EMOL (End Man On Line). 

On this play action concept, the H (running back) crosses the QB’s face as if he’s taking the handoff, sell the run with a step, then read inside-out for pass pro. If he isn’t needed, he will release to the flat.

Pass Concept: Z Strike X Blaze Out

I wanted to tackle the Strike concept at some point during this journey, as it has become a core play in the Packers passing offense. While Jordan Love doesn’t hit the Strike route here, it still gives a look at the idea, and has a couple other fun things going on.

Strike is typically a two-man, play action concept. The concept involves a vertical route from one side and a Strike (in-cutting) route from the other side. The idea is to draw the linebackers up with the play action, then hit them with the Strike route in the area they vacated.

This one is a little different. Part of that is the Blaze Out route instead of a straight vertical route. This sees the route opposite the Strike route running a deep out route.

The other part that is different is that the Packers have a Streak (vertical) route outside of the Strike route. 

(As always, I used Dan Casey’s Play Caller’s Club book as a template for the above image. It’s a really fun book to mess around with.)

The Lions are showing a single-high safety pre-snap and they don’t have a likely candidate to rotate back into a two-high look, so the assumption is that they’ll be playing a single-high defense post-snap.

At the snap, AJ Dillon [28] crosses Jordan Love’s face for the playfake, which brings Alex Anzalone [34] up to the line for the run, but Jack Campbell [46] stays planted in the middle of the field to defend against a pass behind him. As offenses around the league have increased their usage of play action, we’ve seen this tactic more and more out of defenses. 

Strike is a kind of bang-bang play. Quick playfake, plant and fire. But Campbell staying home throws that out the window.

Let’s talk about the reads here, because that’s really interesting. As I mentioned, this is typically a two-man concept, so the read is Strike to Blaze Out. With the additional route, I would assume the Streak would be an Alert. As we’ve talked about before, an Alert is not really part of the progression, but if the defense is showing a favorable look pre-snap or immediately post-snap, it becomes the only read. It’s usually a built-in shot that works as a runoff route for the other routes to work under, but you have the option to hit it if you get a good look.

It’s possible that the Streak from Christian Watson [9] is the #2 read in the progression, but it seems more likely that it’s the Alert, which would mean it’s something Love would dismiss out-of-hand if he didn’t like the look the defense was giving.

Love hits his drop and reads the Strike, but sees Campbell there, so he knows he’s not throwing the Reed. Strike is not like a lot of split-field concepts where the QB will read on the dropback, then transition his footwork to the progression on the other side of the field during the dropback. Since it’s such a quick-hitter, the QB hits the top of his drop as if he’s throwing the Strike. If that isn’t open, he will reset and move to the next read.

Since Strike is a concept designed to attack the middle of the field, Love’s eyes are already looking to the middle. Once he sees that Campbell is in the throwing lane to Reed, Love checks the safety and sees him bailing to pick up the vertical route from Romeo Doubs [87]. Now there’s truly no safety to that side, so Love looks to Watson and finds him streaking wide-open down the field.

With a looper coming around the left, Love doesn’t properly set, load and fire, but he’s able to get enough on the ball for Watson to go up and make a play.

As we mentioned in the protection section, Tucker Kraft’s [85] job is to sift under the line and block the EMOL on the left, while Dillon’s job is to read the rush inside-out, pick up if he needs to and release to the flat if not needed. With Anzalone rotating to the edge, Kraft pauses for a second, seemingly not sure who to pick up. Anzalone ends up dropping off and Kraft works back to the inside, leaving Dillon to pick up Kerby Joseph [31] off the edge. Dillon does a tremendous job, stoning him and keeping the pocket clean for Love.

Kraft works a little too far inside and he can’t pick up the twist up the middle, but he’s able to get enough contact on Alim McNeill [54] to shove him slightly wide of Love.

It’s not a perfect representation of how the Packers tend to run Strike, but it’s a good enough look to see the mechanics while also getting to look at a huge opening play in a divisional match-up. It was a no-brainer in terms of what play to look at this week.

If you want to go back through the rest of this series, I thought I'd gather all the links up here. Hope you're learning half as much reading this as I am writing them.

Week 1: Gun Trio RT Open 2 Scat H Choice Buffalo
Week 2: Motion Sink LT Zoom Z Fly P19 Waggle Z Dagger
Week 3: Shift Gun Trips RT G Open H D 3 Scram Z Shot Bow
Week 4: Gun Dyno RT 2 Jet Coco Stitch
Week 5: Bunch LT FK 19 Keep LT
Week 7: Shift Crush LT Z Insert 12 Dos Shield
Week 8: Shift Gun Crush RT Z RT 365 Shield Return
Week 9: Motion Gun Trips RT F Behind FK Mirror Swinger Y Cross
Week 10: Motion Gun Crip LT Open F Counter 2 Jet Coco Swab
Week 11: Motion Gun Bin RT Z Fly 2 Jet Y Surge Z Dagger

Albums listened to: Son of the Velvet Rat - Ghost Ranch; Gileah Taylor - Slow Parade; Billie Eilish - HIT ME HARD AND SOFT; Beth Gibbons - Lives Outgrown




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)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Ya_tittle's picture

June 05, 2024 at 05:18 pm

Can't believe the terminology, though I guess it becomes second nature to these guys.

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GB@Germany's picture

June 06, 2024 at 12:47 am

One of the very best situations the whole season. Maybe just behind Jerry Jones face after the pick six in Dallas.
After seeing so many stalled first drives with loads of penalties, this one was an unbelievable start. This play might even be the reason CW was in double coverage so often when on the field.
Great pick again!

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T7Steve's picture

June 06, 2024 at 07:32 am

Thanks Dusty. For some reason I was able to fly through this one. Almost like I'm finally catching on. So, I figure something went over my head and I'll ask about it after I catch it during the re-read/watch.

At that part of the season, I remember thinking Love was having a hard time connecting on his deep passes like this one. I even remember bitching that this could easily have been a TD if he hadn't thrown it short and Watson had to hold up. Turns out it was a rubber necking TE that forced him to just unload off platform. I bet Kraft watched this play and leaned in the classroom (like Dusty's teaching us) and the rest of the guys got more dialed in to start to make Love look like an MVP for the rest of the season.

The games prior to this, a drive like this would most likely have ended in a field goal attempt.

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