The Passing Chronicles: 2020 Championship Round

Unless you're reading this by accident, that certainly was not the ending any of us wanted. And here we are, reflecting on yet another season that ends in heartbreak in the NFC Championship Game.

But that doesn't mean the game itself was completely devoid of joy or good concepts. Today, we look at some concepts and have a little fun. We talk about the why and don't dwell on the end result of the game.

You ready? I'm ready.

Play 1: 2nd & 10, 12:19 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers leading 7-14

The Packers are running Mirrored Smash Fade against a single-high safety. This is a concept the Packers run a lot. Curl routes on the outside, fade routes over the curls and a vertical route up the middle.

Against single-high, the vertical route up the middle is a way to hold that deep safety, helping to open the boundaries for the fade routes.

The Packers slightly alter the way they normally run this, due to the pressure the Bucs are showing pre-snap. They're showing a couple rushers on the three-receiver side so Rodgers is looking to get the ball out quickly if that happens. So instead of running Marquez Valdes-Scantling [83] vertically up the middle, the route turns into more of a crosser to the middle of the field.

The blitz comes from that side, but Aaron Rodgers [12] doesn't panic. He looks to the release of Davante Adams [17] and the safety drifts over to cap the fade. With the quick throw on the fade gone and the blitz coming, Rodgers comes back to Valdes-Scantling. Valdes-Scantling gets a free release to the inside and outruns his man on the crosser.

Rodgers puts the ball out in front and the Packers pick up 12 yards.

Play 2: 3rd & 3, 12:31 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers trailing 10-28

Sometimes you have intricately designed plays to get a guy open. And sometimes it's just as easy as having your guy beat their guy. This is the latter.

The Bucs show a four-man line with all three linebackers shading toward the strong side. That leaves Adams man-to-man in the slot away from the shift. He's running a slant, so he really just needs to beat his man to the inside. With the best release in the league, Adams does it with relative ease.

Rodgers is reading the end man on the line to make sure he doesn't drop under the route. He doesn't, so Rodgers fires to Adams.

Devin White [45] fades to the middle from his shifted position, but he's not screaming across the line. That gives Rodgers and Adams the patch of grass they need to pick up 10 yards and the 1st down.

Play 3: 2nd & 1, 3:56 remaining in the 4th quarter, Packers trailing 23-31

This week at Packer Report, I talked about the Mills concept and how it can attack the natural void in two-high coverages. Some of that carries over here. Even though the route of Robert Tonyan [85] ends up as a comeback route, he pushes hard down the field on his initial release. With Allen Lazard [13] pushing hard on the opposite side, the goal here is clear: widen the two-high safeties and hit the space in between. Vertical-pushing routes on the outside, vertical route from Valdes-Scantling from the left slot up the middle.

With the safeties getting wide with the outside releases, all that's left is the coverage on Valdes-Scantling. Sean Murphy-Bunting [23] is tight over Valdes-Scantling at the line, and he turns to run on the release. With the Bucs bringing pressure from the interior, the middle of the field is wide open.

With Murphy-Bunting's head turned in man coverage, Rodgers simply throws past his earhole.

Valdes-Scantling throws up some late hands, so by the time Murphy-Bunting turns to find the ball, it's already too late. Great concept against this coverage, nice late hands by Valdes-Scantling and a perfect throw from Rodgers.

Play 4: 3rd & 3, 14:15 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers trailing 6-7

We're going to take a look at a couple Transition Go throws from Rodgers to Valdes-Scantling. A go route is pretty standard on a lot of passing concepts. It can be a deep option, but more often than not it serves to help clear the field for everything else underneath. Because of that, Transition Go isn't a full concept; more like an alert based on coverage and release. Think of it as a quick-hitting play that takes place 20+ yards down the field. If Rodgers likes the pre-snap coverage and the inital release, he'll hit the top of his drop and throw a low-trajectory go route to the outside.

When quarterbacks throw routes like this, they like to have 4-6 yards on the boundary. That gives them room to throw over the top and to the sideline, and allow the receiver to drift underneath the ball and gain separation in the process.

Here, the Bucs have two safeties pinched tight to the middle of the field. From a pre-snap look, that tells Rodgers that he has Valdes-Scantling man-to-man on the outside with Carlton Davis [24]. Rodgers knows the deep side of the field will be open, so it's down to the release.

Valdes-Scantling gets a nice initial release, but Davis recovers and gets a good horizontal push on him. That puts Valdes-Scantling tight to the boundary, not allowing for the 4-6 yards Rodgers would like to have.

Instead of throwing over the outside shoulder and allowing Valdes-Scantling to drift, Rodgers throws inside. Valdes-Scantling gets over the top of Davis and is able to angle in to make the catch.

Davis tries to make a play on the ball, but it's out of his reach. Valdes-Scantling keeps his feet and waltzes into the end zone.

Play 5: 2nd & 10, 8:31 remaining in the 4th quarter, Packers trailing 23-28

Let's look at another Transition Go that looks pretty similar to the first one. Bucs come out in a pinched, two-high look. Jamel Dean [35] is lined up over Valdes-Scantling on the outside. Much like Davis, Dean gets a horizontal push on Valdes-Scantling, once again not allowing for the 4-6 yards between himself and the boundary.

Rodgers takes the same approach as he did on the above play: throw inside and get Valdes-Scantling to angle over the top come back to the ball.

Unfortunately, Rodgers is just a little off this time and isn't able to make the catch.

Play 6: 2nd & 8, 2:29 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers trailing 0-7

We're going to close out with two instances of the All-Go HB Seam we've seen from the Packers a lot this season. Last week, we saw them hitting the backside slant to Adams on a couple of occasions (play 7 & 8 in my article last week, if you're interested). Rodgers is looking for the same thing this week, and it looks like he has it. Well, it looks like he has it before the ball is snapped.

Lazard goes in motion before the snap and it appears as though Murphy-Bunting is following him across the formation. That would open a void on the backside and open a throwing lane to Adams on the slant. 

But it's a trick. A nasty, filthy, beautiful trick.

At the snap, Murphy-Bunting falls off his pre-snap motion and falls back into a zone under the slant, while the other Bucs LBs shift over to pick up the routes to the flood side. Rodgers sees Murphy-Bunting and pulls the ball down. By the time he comes back to the vertical routes, Jason Pierre-Paul [90] has already beaten Billy Turner [77] and closes on Rodgers.

Rodgers has Aaron Jones [33] as a checkdown option in the flat, but he has no time to work to it.

Play 7: 1st & 10, 11:52 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers trailing 10-28

I am an happy(ish) person by nature, so I wanted the last play of the day to be a good one. End on a high note. It is, once again, All-Go HB Seam, but run differently than what we just looked at. Beyond the outcome of this one being better, this particular way to run it is my favorite version of this play. We haven't seen it a ton - only once or twice during the season - but I love the thought process behind it.

As I'm sure you are well aware, the Packers run a lot of WR screens off RPOs. Like, a lot.

Have a numbers advantage in bunch? The outer receivers block out and drop the inside receiver back on a bubble. Quick throw under blocking.

Defenses have seen this a lot, so what do you do? Set up something that looks like that, then hit them over the top.

Packers are in bunch look and have a three-on-two advantage. The release from the inside receiver makes it look like a quick screen, but instead the Packers hit them with the All-Go HB Seam.

The Bucs play this pretty well, but they're still at a numbers disadvantage. Dean passes off Valdes-Scantling and falls into the flat. The safety to that side is looking at the vertical releases from Marcedes Lewis [89] and Jamaal Williams [30], so he stays deep. That gives Rodgers a nice area to hit Valdes-Scantling.

The safety hasn't been pulled to the middle by Lewis, so Rodgers throws a little short to make sure Valdes-Scantling doesn't get blown up.

An absolutely beautifully designed play that I will love every time I see it.

A huge - HUGE - thank you to everyone who has stuck with me all year. Again, the season didn't end like we had hoped, but I had a blast writing about passing concepts here at Cheesehead TV, and you all were a huge part of that. 

Like most offseasons, I don't really know what I'll be doing. I'm planning to gather up some of my favorite concepts of the year and group them together into a series of posts. So instead of seeing All-Go HB Seam scattered throughout the season, we'll pull them all together into a big review. Maybe I'll dive into the defense. Maybe I'll try to dive back into the world of game-scripting. I don't know for sure, but I'll be around, and I hope you will be, too.

Thanks again for a beautiful and heartbreaking season. Can't wait to do it again.

Albums listened to: The Cure - Disintegration; The Smiths - The Queen is Dead; Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill; Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures; The Verve - Urban Hymns; Common Children - Delicate Fade; Manchester Orchestra - A Black Mile to the Surface; Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country




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].


5 points

Comments (5)

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Rebecca's picture

January 27, 2021 at 04:32 pm

Excellent analysis Dusty! I liked the different angles shown. It helped me see the blocking, blitzes and route trees.

3 points
PeteK's picture

January 27, 2021 at 04:38 pm

I pay careful attention to the run plays , but can't see the whole field on TV, so thank you very much. It's amazing how Rogers makes some very difficult throws look easy; glad that he'll be here for at least two more years. Cure ,Smiths, Joy Division, Verve- all excellent albums.

4 points
LeotisHarris's picture

January 27, 2021 at 07:16 pm

Thanks for this final instalment of TPC, and for all your great work this season. Much appreciated.

4 points
Thegreatreynoldo's picture

January 28, 2021 at 02:38 am

If I could write articles like Dusty has been doing, that's what I would do.

3 points
Philarod's picture

January 28, 2021 at 08:01 am

Your thorough articles are much appreciated, Dusty!

2 points