The 2022 Call Sheet: 4th & short

Dusty talks about 2 concepts that worked for the Packers on 4th & short and reaches into the Lions playbook to steal a few for 2023

Our end of the down & distance portion leads us here, to 4th & short. As you might imagine, this is a pretty short section of the call sheet, as it’s not a common occurrence. In 2022, the Packers went for it on 4th & short 1.47 times per game, tied for 3rd highest in the league with the Eagles and Browns. But, where the Eagles had the magic “we’re just gonna shove Jalen Hurts forward” play (leading to a 80% conversion rate), the Packers didn’t do that. On the season, they converted on 36% of their 4th & short plays, 31st in the league. I’m a big fan of the aggressiveness to go for it as often as they did, but there are certainly some things they needed to improve on.

They passed the ball on 52% of their 4th & short opportunities, 11th highest in the league. They converted 6 of their 12 rush attempts (50%), but only 3 of their 13 pass attempts (23.1%). In terms of just number of passing attempts, the Packers were 3rd in the league behind the Cardinals and the Lions, and both of those teams were much better at converting 1st downs on passes in this situation (Cardinals converted 57.9%, Lions converted 55.6%).

With that in mind, it should be no surprise that it’s slim pickings for successful concepts. Still, we’re going to give it a shot based on what the Packers did, but we’re also going to take a look at a few plays the Lions had success with in the passing game, just to see what we can steal.

Much like I did with 3rd & short, what we’re going to look at here is not the yards per attempt, but rather the 1st down conversion rate. With limited plays comes a limited sample size, so just bear that in mind.

Since they averaged 1.47 of these situations per game, we’re just going to round up to 2. Good? Good.

Alright. Let’s do it.


PA Boot (1 time, 100%)

Like I said, we’re working with a limited set of data here. Running it a single time in this situation in 2022 doesn’t mean it will work every time or anything, but, much like I did with this concept last week, I’m leaning a bit on what I think the trend will be going forward.

This is a staple concept in LaFleur’s offense, but I don’t think the Packers ran it a single time on 3rd or 4th down in the first 3 years. This past year, we started seeing it show up on these later downs. As defenses find ways to defend this concept - and start to emphasize ways to slow down play action concepts in general - it makes sense for a play action concept like this to find new life in situations where a defense is really keying in on stopping the run. Force those linebackers commit in a way they have been trying to avoid doing on early downs, then attack that aggressiveness. 

I expect that trend to continue in 2023, making this concept a highly effective one on 4th & short.


Wide Zone/WR Screen (1 time, 100%)

I’m tying this into the above concept. If we’re going to lean on a Wide Zone play action concept in the passing game, we might as well use a Wide Zone RPO look, too. Base everything off that core Wide Zone concept; something that is central to the offense, but also effective and something that looks like our pass concept.

If we have numbers/leverage to the passing side, rise up and throw it. If we don’t have an advantage to the passing side - or if we like our angles in the running game - hand it off.

One thing I have on my call sheet - in bold and highlighted - is a note that says NO END AROUNDS.

I mentioned above that I wanted to look into what the Lions were doing within their passing game to see what we can steal. Let’s do that now.

The Lions have had a really fun and creative offense in the Dan Campbell era, and that was really driven home in 2022 with Ben Johnson at Offensive Coordinator. They have some great pieces and Johnson has found a lot of creative ways to use them. They were my favorite short yardage/Red Zone team to watch this past year, so it only makes sense that we steal something from them. The plays below all came on 4th & short this past year.

We’ll start with something that looks a lot like Strike/PA Bang Dig - a staple in the Packers offense - but with a slight twist. We have the vertical route on one side and dig from the other, but they’ve added a pin-down curl in the middle to further muddy the waters for the linebackers. (It really is more like the Yankee concept if we're getting into it, but that's just getting in the weeds for the sake of getting in the weeds.)

Next up is this fun high-low concept on the outside, with the outside receiver slightly pushing in before releasing to the corner, and the motion man releasing to the flat. That slight bend from the outside receiver makes it look like this could be a Hank situation (Hitch/Flat combo, where the hitch is intended to work as a pick for the flat route), causing hesitation from the defense and giving a free release to the corner.

It’s not exactly stealing, I guess: the Packers showed a similar look (with different releases) against Miami this past year.

Lastly, the Lions have shown a nifty little Y-Leak Flat that I have fallen deeply in love with. They’ll motion a man to the flat, pair that with a High-Cross look, then have the TE chip-and-release down the line away from motion. With defenses trying to sift through the mess - and the QB fully committing to looking hard to the motion side - it can spring the TE wide open.

They found success with it in the Red Zone, as well.

An absolute work of art, man. I am absolutely stealing this. If I had Matt LaFleur's phone number, I would be texting him these clips every single day. I have to assume that's the only reason he hasn't given me his phone number yet.


And so we come to the end of our down & distance sections of the call sheet. But don’t worry; we’re not quite done yet. Over the next few weeks, we’ll build out some additional situational sections of the call sheet. We’ll have sections for Red Zone (high and low) as well as some concepts we may look to dial up if we’re in need of an explosive play. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little series so far, because I know I’ve had a blast digging in every week.

If you feel like going back through the rest of the series, I’ve collected links for all of them below.

The Introduction
1st & 10
2nd & long
2nd & medium
2nd & short
3rd & long
3rd & medium
3rd & short

Albums listened to: Margo Guryan - Take a Picture; Oasis - (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?; Garbage - Garbage; PONY - Velveteen; Foo Fighters - But Here We Are


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 (6)

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SoCalJim's picture

June 07, 2023 at 03:34 pm

Great job, Dusty! That Lions’ play looks like money!

2 points
splitpea1's picture

June 07, 2023 at 03:41 pm

Wow, those last two TE plays from the Lions ARE beauties. Yes we should be stealing them and I nominate Kraft for the job.

No end-arounds? Maybe that play would have worked if we accounted for the safety (who seemed to know what was coming right away) and used a shiftier runner than Lazard. The Packers probably showed it on tape before and that's why it was diagnosed and stopped in such short order.

5 points
croatpackfan's picture

June 07, 2023 at 03:47 pm

Dusty, pure gold. Thank you again!

3 points
SoCalJim's picture

June 07, 2023 at 05:26 pm

Great, an ALL CAPS troll. Just what we need, SMH.

2 points
TKWorldWide's picture

June 08, 2023 at 04:15 pm

And, just like magic, it’s gone! And not missed one iota.

1 points
jont's picture

June 08, 2023 at 01:05 pm

"no more end arounds"

From your mouth to God's ear. I hate this play no matter what the game situation. So much time behind the line going back and forth with too much ball handling by guys who otherwise never even fake a hand-off. When it works (once a year) everyone cheers, but there are no style points in the NFL. Just get the yard.

And I'll make my pitch again for Love keeping it-- a sort of wildcat outside zone run. Not often, though, I am very much opposed to exposing a QB to hits because we know running QBs don't last in this league.

0 points