Quality Control: Packers Low Red Zone Concepts in 2021

Dusty takes a look at a few of the Packers passing concepts used in the Low Red Zone in 2021

Last week we looked at some passing concepts the Packers had success with in the High Red Zone. Today? Today we’re digging into the Low Red Zone.

As a reminder, the Low Red Zone is the area between the goal line and the 10 yard line. As such, all the passing concepts in this area will be quick. They’re all going to be 1-3 step drops, because there’s no sense in anything else. Why have a 5 step drop concept when there’s not enough room on the field to support the route depth?

Like I did with the High Red Zone concepts, I’ll provide Yards Per Attempt (YPA) here, but it doesn’t mean a whole lot. The average yardage is much less important than overall success in this area.

So let’s get to it. Here are a few of the Packers top TD scoring passing concepts from the Low Red Zone in 2021.

Spot (5 attempts, 2.0 YPA, 2 TDs)

This is a nice, quick-hitting concept that can work extremely well in the Low Red Zone, especially with Aaron Rodgers pulling the trigger. It’s a three-man concept, consisting of a corner route, a snag route and a flat route. It allows the QB to read the coverage/leverage in that area quickly, which gives him the opportunity to get rid of the ball quickly. It’s a concept born out of the great Sid Gillman’s passing offense: an offense based in geometry and a combination of horizontal and vertical stretches. 

(The above image is a page from the Packers 1997 playbook.)

If you want to get into the Spot concept a little more, I wrote about it after the Packers/Jets preseason game this year

The Packers rarely used Spot outside of the low red zone. On the season, they dialed this concept up 13 times, with 5 of them coming in this area.

The fun part? They scored 2 touchdowns off this concept, with neither one of them going to the concept side itself.

Against the Rams, Randall Cobb is aligned in the backfield and ends up breaking off Taylor Rapp on an angle route as part of the backside concept.

Against the Ravens, AJ Dillon was lined up wide opposite of the concept side but motions across the formation and runs a flat route under Spot. That leaves Davante Adams isolated on the backside against a head-up defender. Rodgers never even looks to the concept, opting to take the throw to Adams. Adams wins and Rodgers puts the ball on the outside of Adams for a walk-in TD.

The other three attempts are below. The first attempt takes place on 3rd & 9. Rodgers initially looks to the concept side, but moves off pretty quickly (Aaron Jones is open in the flat, but Rodgers likely isn’t confident in that picking up the conversion, so he moves off). He ends up throwing to Cobb on the left late in the play, but they can’t connect.

In the second clip, Cobb is running a stick-nod route from the backside. Rodgers likes the match-up and throws, but the throw is just out of reach. (Looks like Cobb got hooked a little.)

The third clip is the only one that goes to the concept in this entire bunch. Marquez Valdes-Scantling is running the corner route as the under man in a stack look. He has outside leverage on his defender and the boundary defender is pulled up by the flat route, so Rodgers lofts it over the top. The throw isn’t quite to the back pylon, and MVS can’t haul in the pass.

Hank (4 attempts, 0.8 YPA, 2 TDs)

Also known as Curl/Flat, this is a quick-game staple of the Packers (and is also something they liked to tag on to their RPO game in 2021).

As the name suggests, it’s pretty simple. It’s a two-man concept, with the outside receiver in the combo running a curl/hitch route while the inside receiver runs a flat route. In the confines of the low red zone, the curl route can act as a natural pick. A linebacker from the inside may be scrambling to run with the running back out of the backfield to the flat, only to run into traffic created by the curl route.

Though the concept accounted for 2 TDs in this area, only one of those came on a throw. That was this nifty little flat route off the misdirect motion from Davante Adams against the 49ers. Poetry in motion, man.

The other TD came from the legs of Aaron Rodgers against the Rams. The Packers are running Hank on the left side, with MVS on the curl and Adams on the flat (you could classify this as Dragon if you really want, but with MVS giving a stop at the top of the route, I’m throwing that route as a curl). To add to it, Randall Cobb is running a corner route over the top.

But instead of reading the concept, the Packers have a playfake/read-option for Rodgers. Rodgers puts the ball into the belly of Dillon, looks at the edge, then pulls and beats Jalen Ramsey to the front pylon.

The other two attempts came against the Cardinals. In the first clip, Tonyan catches the ball in the flat, but not enough traffic was created by Equanimeous St. Brown on the hitch route and Tonyan is brought down short of the goal line.

The second clip has Rodgers moving after the playfake and trying to hit Cobb on the curl, only to have the ball batted down by the defender in his face.

Mesh (5 attempts, 3.0 YPA, 2 TDs)

Since Matt LaFleur started as coach (and even earlier than that, really), Mesh has been a staple concept in the Packers offense, and they have been extremely good at it. They have been able to vary up the way they run it – be it personnel, alignment, additional route tags, route depth, release point, etc. – and have found some nice success with it. You can find the deep dive I did into the Packers usage of Mesh in 2020 right here

Those numbers took a bit of a dive this year. With the rise of two-high safety usage across the league, the way this concept is deployed will likely need a long, hard look in the offseason. At the heart of Mesh is the dueling drag routes that cross in the middle of the field. Against two-high looks, those routes cross and exit right in the alley for the safeties. The Bucs absolutely killed this concept in the 2020 NFC Championship Game, and it hasn’t really recovered.

Still, it’s a concept that makes a lot of sense in the low red zone. With the defense more tightly compact, having a concept that revolves around crossing routes to get the defense crashing into each other is a nice pick.

Much like Hank, the Packers scored 2 TDs on this concept in 2021, but only one was through the air. That honor goes to Aaron Jones against the Ravens. The running back isn’t the primary read on Mesh, but the pocket starts to break down so Rodgers drifts left & Jones bends up the field.

The other TD they scored is likely a bit more memorable. It starts with Rodgers not being able to find an open receiver, and ends with him loudly declaring ownership over the Chicago Bears.

 

The other attempts are not quite so pretty. Two late, high throws (one that resulted in an interception against the Saints), and a throw that saw two receivers in the zone, but the ball thrown too wide for either.

I do want to bring up one honorable mention here. The Low Red Zone cuts off at the 10, but the Packers did score a TD off Mesh from the 11, off virtually the same look as the Ravens TD above.


That’ll do it for today. What we looked at today accounted for 24.1% of the Packers passing snaps in the Low Red Zone in 2021. While I didn’t show the rest of the 44 snaps here, I looked at them myself and had a couple lessons I learned:

  1. It’s really hard to score touchdowns
  2. It helps to have an elite improviser at QB for when everything starts to break down

I think this will do it for our look at situational concepts. The last 4 posts have been spent on explosives and red zone packages. Next week, we’re going to get back to deep dives into specific concepts. So next week, buckle up for an in-depth look at how the Packers ran the Stick concept in 2021.


Here’s where we are with the series so far:
Deep dive into the Packers RPO game
A look at the mechanics of PA Boot and the key variations
How the Packers generated explosive passes in 2021
How the Packers may look to generate explosive passes in 2022
A few top TD concepts from the Packers in the High Red Zone


Albums listened to: Basement Revolver – Embody; Daughter – Not to Disappear; Wilco – Cruel Country

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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 (7)

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LLCHESTY's picture

June 22, 2022 at 06:00 pm

Good stuff as always Dusty, though it would be fun if you included one run a week for us old schoolers! At the end as a bonus maybe?

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Oppy's picture

June 23, 2022 at 12:54 am

Chesty, don't look now, but you have a stalker!

Have you met CailyJane?

....creepy

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LLCHESTY's picture

June 23, 2022 at 06:27 pm

No I haven't, is that one of the spammers that pop up on here?

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Oppy's picture

June 23, 2022 at 11:54 pm

It looks like Jersey Al and the boys nabbed her.

She had basically copied your post and slightly changed the wording, then posted it in three different comments sections (I'm assuming to give her profile the appearance of being an actual sports fan) before starting to post links to who-knows-what. :)

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LLCHESTY's picture

June 24, 2022 at 06:09 pm

Well that's something new, sorry I missed it!

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PeteK's picture

June 22, 2022 at 07:30 pm

Thanks, Dusty, tough sledding when passing in tight spaces.

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Lphill's picture

June 23, 2022 at 05:35 am

Great work Dusty always informative.

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