The Passing Chronicles: 2020 Week 7

Dusty breaks down some passing concepts from the Packers Week 7 victory over the Texans

After a week in the darkness, the Packers did exactly what they needed to do: throttle a 1-5 Texans team. When the Texans finally scored a touchdown early in the 3rd quarter, the Packers immediately stepped on their neck with a 45 yard touchdown to Davante Adams (which we will be discussing later). That's what I wanted to see: get up, keep being aggressive and get the offense humming again.

Today we're going to be looking at 8 passing plays from this past game. It's going to be fun. Let's go!

Play 1: 2nd & 5, 12:34 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers tied 0-0

Jamaal Williams [30] starts in the backfield but shifts out wide before the snap. He is followed to the perimeter, which can tip-off that the Texans are in man coverage. There's a fun little conversation between defenders out there after the shift, where they basically say, "Yes, we are in man coverage. I am covering this man and you are covering that man." Always nice when the defense can help out with some pre-snap diagnosis.

The Packers run Mesh, with Williams running a drag under the drag/sit from Robert Tonyan [85]. The Packers usually run Mesh with dueling drags, but the sit route can help cause a little confusion in the defense; if the defense is expecting the route to continue across the field, they may widen their coverage, giving room to the receiver when he simply stops in the middle. Depending on the spacing, it can also help create a natural rub, but you have to be careful so it doesn't get flagged for offensive pass interference. 

With the Texans in man coverage, the defender over Williams gets a little bump through the middle while trying to stick with the route, and that's enough to spring him on the drag. 

Watch Tonyan on his crosser. He stops and barely clips the defender. Still, that stop/lean combination is pretty close to getting flagged for OPI. He doesn't alter his route after stopping, so that's likely what kept the flag from being thrown here. Still, that's close.

But none of that matters right now. Williams is sprung on the drag, picks up 17 yards, loses his helmet, pops up and does Jamaal Williams things.

Play 2: 3rd & 1, 11:31 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers tied 0-0

On 3rd & 1 in the red zone, the Packers hustle up to the line. Some defenders are still meandering to their spots at the time of the snap. Once again, the Packers break out Mesh, this time with Davante Adams [17] running the drag route from the left.

The defender over Adams is in man coverage, while a defender in the middle of the field drops back into zone and reads the eyes of Aaron Rodgers [12]. That defender steps up to pick up the route from Adams and avoid the oncoming drag route, but in doing so steps into the path of his own man. Adams catches the ball in space and easily picks up the first down.

But what of that pesky JJ Watt [99] on the edge?

Watt pushes forward at the snap, but never even engages Rick Wagner [71]. With it being 3rd & 1, he's expecting something short, so he's reading Rodgers and looking to bat the ball into the netherworld.

Rodgers sees him. So instead of leading Adams, he adjusts his arm angle and shoots it past the inside arm of Watt. Adams is able to reach behind and make the catch.

Play 3: 2nd & 8, 2:32 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers leading 7-0

The Packers are running three vertical-pushing routes, then running Adams on a crosser underneath. 

The defender over Adams falls back into a deep zone to pick up the route from John Lovett [45], while the other defender falls into a shallow zone and ends up drifting under Lovett.

In the middle, one linebacker blitzes, while the other falls back and picks up Marcedes Lewis [89] in the middle of the field. 

On the left side, the boundary is taken away by Marquez Valdes-Scantling [83] streaking straight down the field. What does that leave?

Everyone has fallen off, leaving Adams with free reign in the middle of the field. A deep-dropping defender picks up Adams after the catch and forces him out of bounds, but not before Adams is able to pick up 8 yards.

And how did Rodgers have the time to wait for Adams to get free?

Because Jamaal Williams does not mess around with blitz pick-up.

Play 4: 2nd & 2, 15:00 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers leading 7-0

I love this misdirection from the Packers. Out of a compressed formation, they play fake to the left - with the block under the line from Jace Sternberger [87] - then a big orbit-motion loop behind the line at the snap. All that movement serves to stretch the defense horizontally, drawing some defenders up to pick up the play fake and others over to pick up the end-around. 

With the speedy Valdes-Scantling running across the face of the single high safety, that leaves Adams one-on-one with his man, running over the linebackers who have been pulled up to the line and spread horizontally. Adams destroys his man at the line and finds a ton of green grass. By the time the dust has settled, Adams has picked up 36 yards.

Beautiful play design and a tremendous release by Adams off the line.

Play 5: 1st & 10, 2:38 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers leading 14-0

Ah, the backside slant off play action. Simple. Beautiful. Effective. Play fake to the right to draw the defense right, then a quick turn to hit the slant behind the pulled-up linebackers.

Play action works like a dream. While the linebackers are scrambling to get back in position, Rodgers sets and throws to Adams, who has gotten inside position on the boundary defender.

Those dudes bit hard on the play fake and had absolutely no chance to recover.

Play 6: 2nd & 1, 0:18 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers leading 14-0

Matt LaFleur managed the clock beautifully at the end of the first half. The Packers got the ball on their own 31 with 2:38 remaining. In the next 2:20, they drove 68 yards to the Texans 1 yard line, and still had a timeout in their pocket. The timeout was huge, because it helped keep the threat of the run as a viable threat in this situation. 

The threat of the run allowed the Packers to be able to effectively pass off play action. Malik Taylor [86] and Valdes-Scantling are on the left side, firing off to block at the snap. 

The motion from Adams draws a defender away from the left. At the snap, Rodgers fakes the handoff to Williams, then bootlegs out to the left. There's a free rusher in his face, but Valdes-Scantling and Taylor disengage from their blocks and release to the outside, with Taylor releasing underneath. 

Taylor has created plenty of space on his route, so Rodgers has a nice target. He throws it past the free rusher and the Packers head into the locker room with a 21-0 lead.

Play 7: 3rd & 5, 7:29 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers leading 21-7

On 3rd & 5, the Packers go back to a concept that worked earlier: three vertical routes with a crosser underneath. The sides have been flipped, but the rest should look pretty familiar. The routes clear out the middle and the right boundary. Adams gets a clean releases and just outraces his defender into all the space created for him.

A nice, easy catch for Adams in space leads to 9 yards and a 1st down.

For Rodgers, it's not quite so nice and easy. The Texans overload the left side, bringing more rushers than the Packers can block. Williams looks to pick up one, while another shoots the gap inside of where he is set up. That gets a free rusher against Rodgers off the left and pressure from the right against Wagner. 

But Rodgers is a slippery fella. He steps up, sheds a sack attempt and throws a leaning, off-balance, pinpoint dart past a rusher sliding to cut off his escape.

Easy as lyin'.

Play 8: 3rd & 4, 4:51 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers leading 21-7

Here's the big play. The big tuna. The big Kahuna. And so on, and so forth.

The Texans had just scored a touchdown to bring the game to 21-7. A Packers response here would help keep the game out of reach. Facing 3rd & 4 at the Texans 45 yard line, the Texans came out with a single-high safety and everyone else tight to the line. Eric Murray [23] is playing over Adams on the right side of the field. With Darrius Shepherd [82] breaking out at the sticks, Rodgers knows he has Adams man-to-man with Murray on a go route from the slot. 

While the single-high safety steps down at the snap and keeps his eyes on the clear-out/crosser combo on the left from Tonyan and Valdes-Scantling, Adams cooks Murray at the line and streaks down the field. 

Rodgers knows what he has with Adams, but he still checks the coverage/release as he's backing away from center. From there, he takes a look down the middle of the field. This look down the middle of the field does a couple things: it can help hold the safety in place, but it is also used to take a kind of post-snap snapshot of the defense. You've done your pre-snap read as your first snapshot, so the look down the middle of the field works as a follow-up snapshot. Are the pieces moving like you thought they would? Is a lineman backing out into coverage? Is the box safety backing up to give a two-high look up top? Is the single-high safety buzzing over the top? There are a hundred things going on post-snap, but this can help the quarterback determine if what he thought was seeing pre-snap is actually what the defense is doing.

After that look down the middle of the field tells Rodgers that the safety is not buzzing over the top, he knows he has Adams over the top. All that's left to do is hit that back foot and let it rip.

The throw is a little behind, but for a good reason: when a guy is that open, you'd rather err on the side of throwing it a little short than a little long. If it's short, the receiver can adjust. If it's long, it's incomplete. 

Adams makes the catch and high-steps into the end zone. Huge play in a huge moment.

On his appearance on the Pat McAfee Show this week, Rodgers ran down what he saw pre-snap and immediately post-snap on this play. I took the audio from that clip and ran some of it under the play.


I always love talking about passing concepts, but it always feels a little nicer talking about them after a win. I have a bunch of plays I didn't end up using here, so you can find those in this handy-dandy Twitter thread.


Albums listened to: Anathallo - Floating World; Call Me Constant - The Sun, The Moon, The Dark, The Dawn; The Black Angels - Death Song; The Verve - A Storm in Heaven; Jeff Tweedy - Love is the King; Lera Lynn - On My Own; Chad Lawson - You Finally Knew


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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5 points

Comments (6)

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ShooterMcGee's picture

October 28, 2020 at 04:07 pm

I have 2 questions regarding MVS route running- in the clip you highlight his out route is very rounded, is this a correct way to run an out? I have heard scouts/coaches criticize young receivers for this very thing.
He also dropped a pass on another out route where he turned inside towards the middle of the field before breaking out. The ball was a little high and outside for which some people claimed it was a poor throw. I think he ran a bad route. Have you ever seen an out route run by turning inside? It looked so odd to me but how/why would he turn the wrong way? It gave the defender time to close, it stopped his momentum, yet he still should have caught the ball.
Thanks Dusty

3 points
Wildcomet's picture

October 29, 2020 at 11:01 am

The rounded off out routes are definitely an issue; I was always taught out/in routes should break as close to a right angle as you can quickly run it. Rounding them off can be faster but also easier for the corner to ID and can throw off the timing.

The second route you described sounds like an intended whip route; it's meant to be like a hook immediately followed by running horizontally in the opposite direction. The goal is to get the DB to jump the hook then get free running away by from it, but it's a difficult route to run well.

I feel like MVS has improved some at running crossers and slants, but the routes requiring sharper cuts and stop/starts still seem difficult for him.

0 points
Barazinho's picture

October 28, 2020 at 05:36 pm

It still seems like MVS opens up the field for other receivers, just by sprinting down the field. He took 2 on the Adams crosser, and on the TD (where Rogers wonders why the safety is "double weak") - he stays on MVS' side. NO did a lot of doubling of MVS, which took him out of the game but let Lazard feast, and the offense work in general. He still has faults (the likely route errors), but you can definitely see the purpose of a big fast guy who made some deep plays early in the year and is still considered to be a threat.

2 points
Wildcomet's picture

October 29, 2020 at 10:33 am

I agree. There's definitely room for improvement in his game, but he's still young and as a 5th round pick if his biggest contribution right now is being threatening enough to draw coverage AWAY from an elite wideout like Adams then he's doing alright. He's not getting catches, but he's racking up a good number of unofficial assists by drawing coverage deep to open up the underneath routes. He just needs to take advantage when his number is called; some team will decide to take their chances with him deep to double Adams or crowd the LOS and that's when he needs to be ready to make them pay.

0 points
Leatherhead's picture

October 28, 2020 at 05:58 pm

Really well done. I'd like to add that we threw 34 passes...16 to Adams, 7 to all other WRs, 6 to TEs and 5 to the RB. We gained over 280 yards and scored 4 TDs. There were no sacks and no pressures.

2 points
veteranviewer's picture

October 28, 2020 at 10:14 pm

Thanks Dusty.

2 points