The Passing Chronicles: 2020 Week 4

Dusty breaks down Robert Tonyan's big day in the Packers win over the Falcons

A quarter of the way through the season and the Packers are 4-0. Hey! That means they're undefeated! Not too shabby. Not too shabby at all.

The Packers went into this game without Davante Adams. They went 4-0 during a stretch without him last year, but there is cause for concern anytime you're missing your #1 wide receiver. Rodgers spread it around - 7 players saw at least 1 target - but Robert Tonyan was the star of the show, catching all 6 of his targets for 98 yards and 3 touchdowns. And, while Jamaal Williams bested him in targets (8) and catches (8), Tonyan ended up with 3 more yards and 3 more touchdowns.

I wanted to spend today looking at all 6 Tonyan targets to see what the Packers were doing to get him open.

I'm going to try something slightly different with the format today. Instead of posting the video then writing everything below, I'm going to start each play with a bit of an overview, then dig in a little more after the video. Let me know what you think and if I should continue doing this going forward.

Play 1: 2nd & 10, 13:28 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers tied 0-0

The Packers run Tyler Ervin [32] on jet sweep motion before the snap, then three vertical routes to the jet sweep side. Jace Sternberger [87] pushes out toward the sideline while Robert Tonyan [85] runs a deep crosser. The idea is to split the defense, then run Aaron Jones [33] on a vertical route up the seam in between them. It's something the Packers have run quite a bit of this year. And, while they had good success with it last year, they've not been able to hit the seam route yet this year. One of these days they're going to hit it, but it was not this day.

The safety caps the seam route, but the play action draws up the linebackers while Reggie Begelton [84] clears the left side of the field with an out-and-up. Jaylinn Hawkins [32] is initially drawn up on the play fake, but wheels around to pick up Tonyan on the crosser. He turns back to face Aaron Rodgers [12] and falls off. Rodgers hits Tonyan for a nice 27 yard gain.

I can't let this play go by without talking about how much I love the two TE on one side of the line, both releasing vertically. I have precisely no stats to back this up, but I feel like the inside TE on that formation gets open 95% of the time.

Play 2: 3rd & 14, 2:34 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers leading 7-3

Malik Taylor [86] pushes out and runs a vertical route from the outside, Jamaal Williams [30] runs to the flat and Tonyan releases vertically from his in-line position. There are a mass of Falcon bodies at the line and a bit of confusion takes place. Shocking, I know.

Taylor pushes his defender down the field while Williams drags his defender to the sideline. That leaves Tonyan with a free release up the seam. Foyesade Oluokun [54] realizes his mistake and tries to pick him up, but there's no chance. Tonyan angles away from the safety and Rodgers hits him over the top for a touchdown.

Play 3: 1st & 10, 1:26 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers leading 13-3

It looks like the line is blocking for the run, so I'm going to call this an RPO (Run/Pass Option). There's a one-on-one match-up on the outside and the edge defender is pinching in pre-snap. 

Rodgers reads the edge defender. He crashes at the snap, so Rodgers throws to Tonyan in the flat under the route/block from Taylor. Oluokun runs with Tonyan and makes the tackle for a 3 yard gain.

Play 4: 1st & goal, 0:50 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers leading 13-3

Marquez Valdes-Scantling [83] runs a post route from the left, while Williams runs a flat route underneath. Meanwhile, Darrius Shepherd [82] runs a curl from the right slot. That gets Tonyan isloated on Deion Jones [45], running under the face of the single-high safety. 

There are 5 defenders essentially standing in a line at the 2 yard line. To get the crosser from Tonyan open, they need to move two of those defenders from the left, which is exactly what they do. Valdes-Scantling pulls his defender into the end zone, while Williams pulls his defender to the flat. Rodgers hits his back foot and uncorks a perfect pass to Tonyan for the touchdown.

Play 5: 3rd & 3, 5:24 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers leading 20-9

It has been a couple of weeks, but we have another variation of Mesh gracing us with its presence this week. Aaron Jones [33] and Taylor work the drags, spaced roughly 5 yards apart. I love the curl over the mesh point from Shepherd out of the bunch. He's able to stick right on Taylor's hip on the release, breaking off on the curl while Taylor continues across the field. That kind of follow/break can cause confusion and breakdowns in the defense. It didn't work here, but we saw a similar idea end up in a touchdown against the Giants last season.

Back to the play at hand. Mesh generally carries a shallow horizonal route under a deeper route on the same side. That typically is a flat under a corner route. On this version, the Packers don't have that. Instead, they have two vertical routes on the outside, breaking to the corner.

Tonyan beats Jamal Carter [35] at the line with a really nice inside release after an initial step to the outside. Carter decides it's in his best interest to try to tackle Tonyan. Not a terrible decision: take a 5 yard penalty to save a touchdown.

The problem was that the line held up well enough for Tonyan to be able to get up and watch a wide open touchdown. 

Oh, and in case you were curious about that touchdown against the Giants:

Play 6: 3rd & 1, 3:34 remaining in the 4th quarter, Packers leading 30-16

We'll finish up with my favorite of the bunch, for a few different reasons. Let's set it up first then really get into it. Last week at Packer Report, I talked about all the play action bootleg the Packers ran against the Saints. In fact, let's look at an example from last week.

We won't get too deep into it, but I do want to talk about the core concept here, because it's important. There are different ways to run this, but the central idea of PA Bootleg is to play fake one way to get the defense moving up-and-over, then bootleg the other side where you generally have 2 or 3 routes at different levels. On this play, play action draws the defense up-and-over and Sternberger gets a free release to the flat. That's PA Bootleg in a nutshell. The Packers ran some version of this core concept of this at least 6 times last week.

Now, for this week.

You've got some of the hallmarks of PA Bootleg here. Rodgers fakes the handoff and looks to be starting a bootleg to the right, where he is tracing the crossing route from Sternberger. The defense bites up on the play fake and shifts with Rodgers on the start of the bootleg. (I fully acknowledge that the play fake and bootleg are going to the same side in this one, so that makes it slightly different from what we saw last week.)

Meanwhile, Tonyan fakes a block from the right side. Instead of releasing back to the flat on a Slam route - as we will sometimes see in this concept - Tonyan releases down the line and to the opposite side of the field

Instead of continuing to roll out, Rodgers pulls up and fires to Tonyan. Tonyan is wide open because the Falcons are looking for the movement on the PA Boot that the Packers ran so many times just a week prior to this. Really nice counter to one of their core concepts.

Here's why I love this so much.

For starters, this was on 3rd & 1. Sure, the Packers were up 30-16 with less than 4 minutes left in the game, but a 1st down is a 1st down. This particular 1st down forced the Falcons to burn their final timeout, then the Packers proceeded to run the clock down under the 2 minute warning before punting to the Falcons. Not necessarily a huge moment, but burning a minute-and-a-half off the clock is always a good thing when you're up multiple scores late in the 4th quarter.

The other thing I love about this is that now this is on tape for the 2020 season. The Packers showed 6 slightly different variations of PA Boot in the previous week, and now they have shown an effective counter to that. This isn't anything fancy and it's something the Packers ran last season, but this is a new year with new personnel. It's just another thing that defensive coordinators will have to account for, which can help open back up the core concept and other little wrinkles.

Overall, I'm a huge fan of this play, but I'm also a huge fan of what this play means going forward.

This gets us to the bye week! It's been a really fun season. I'm not sure what I'll be doing next week, but I'm hoping to get something up. Hope you're digging these so far. Can't wait for the rest of the season.

Albums listened to: Starflyer 59 - Leave Here a Stranger; Tool - Fear Inoculum; Van Halen - Van Halen; Mark Hollis - Mark Hollis; Phoebe Bridgers - Punisher; String Machine - Death of the Neon; Thom Yorke - Suspiria




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].


8 points

Comments (9)

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Nordom's picture

October 08, 2020 at 02:12 pm

That last play was gorgeous.

4 points
Bearmeat's picture

October 08, 2020 at 02:43 pm

Man. MLF has defensive coordinators heads spinning. Our players aren't physically dominant on offense anymore (Rodgers, Bakh, Adams and Jones notwithstanding), but MLF is putting them in positions to be succesful and using human nature against their opponents. Let them try to stop what we ran over and over next week. We'll just throw a little wrinkle in and make it look the same, but do the opposite.


Like the new format, Dusty.

6 points
fansince1959's picture

October 08, 2020 at 04:31 pm

Great stuff but doesn't it give "aid and comfort" to the enemy?---let's not make it easier for them

-1 points
Coldworld's picture

October 08, 2020 at 06:01 pm

I’ve wondered that but I imagine that they have plenty of time spent doing the same. Personally, really appreciate the insights.

1 points
DustyEvely's picture

October 08, 2020 at 08:30 pm

I'll go ahead and say that whatever I cover here only scratches the surface of what most teams look at when it comes to their scouting reports.

2 points
4thandinches's picture

October 08, 2020 at 11:30 pm

I really appreciate these articles. There's so much more going on than you can follow at live speed. Thanks so much for taking the time to break it down for us and sharing your expertise Dusty! Hopefully there'll be more Big Bob tds to breakdown in a couple more weeks!! Go Pack!

2 points
LambeauPlain's picture

October 09, 2020 at 10:16 am

I like it Dusty! Keep em coming! I love your breakdown of the PA bootleg.

1 points
michael562's picture

October 09, 2020 at 02:39 pm

Love your work, keep it up. Love the new way, also.

1 points
jlc1's picture

October 14, 2020 at 08:15 am

I don't recall a flag being thrown on the play where Tonyan gets tackled and then gets up to catch the pass.

0 points