The Passing Chronicles: 2020 Week 9

Dusty breaks down some passing concepts from the Packers week 9 victory over the 49ers

Given how last year went, seeing the Packers walk off the field in Santa Clara as winners was terrific, regardless of the circumstances. Kyle Shanahan had Matt LaFleur's number in their last two match-ups, so it was a good game to get the monkey off LaFleur's back, if nothing else.

Along with the win, the Packers put some fun stuff on tape from a passing concept perspective. Today, we're going to walk through 9 plays from this past weekend and break them down a bit. You ready? I'm ready.

Play 1: 2nd & 10, 7:55 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers leading 7-0

We'll start off with something I always love seeing but don't get a chance to talk about a ton: the hot route. The reads are not always this easy, but this is the general idea behind a hot route: if the defense blitzes, that means the space behind that blitzer is free. When this happens, the quarterback and receiver will respond by the receiver altering his route to run into the space vacated by the blitzer, and the quarterback getting rid of the ball quickly to avoid getting sacked. Again, it's not always that simple, but that's what we're looking at here.

Given the pre-snap defensive alignment, Robert Tonyan [85] is uncovered off the right side of the line. There is a defender walking up to the line, so it's possible that he - or one of the other defenders on that side of the line - will drop back under Tonyan at the snap.

The safeties aren't playing very deep, but they're deep enough for Aaron Rodgers [12] to know he can get the pass away if the rush is coming. It's just a matter of whether anyone is falling back under Tonyan at the snap.

Everyone on that side of the line rushes at the snap, so Tonyan looks back immediately and Rodgers hits him. It's only a 5 yard gain, but it's better than being sacked.

Play 2: 2nd & 8, 0:11 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers leading 7-3

Davante Adams [17] is lined up in the slot with Marquez Valdes-Scantling [83] lined up wide on the boundary. Valdes-Scantling is running a go route, while Adams is running a shallow out-breaker. Based on pre-snap alignment, Adams is matched-up on a linebacker, and Adams has the easy outside leverage. Rodgers knows where he is going before the ball is even snapped.

Rodgers' back foot hits and the ball is out to Adams. The boundary defender rallies to the ball as soon as Rodgers starts his throwing motion and makes the tackle after a 4 yard gain.

It's fun to imagine a version of this play where Rodgers pump fakes to Adams then goes to Valdes-Scantling in the space vacated by the boundary defender.

Play 3: 3rd & 8, 9:41 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers leading 7-3

We've got ourselves Mesh out of a compressed formation with Davante Adams in the backfield. He doesn't line up there very often - if I'm not mistaken, it was his first snap out of the backfield all season - but I always get excited when it happens. It can create some nice mismatches and it can also create good opportunities to get leverage on a defender from the middle of the field. On this play, Adams is covered by Dre Greenlaw [57] - a linebacker - out of the backfield. 

Adams is open, but the Packers need 8 yards and Greenlaw puts himself in a good position to make the tackle short of the sticks. With pressure off the left side, Rodgers escapes to the right and finds an open Tyler Ervin [32]. Rodgers gets the throw away, but Jimmie Ward [20] comes flying down from his safety position to make the stop 1 yard short of the sticks. 

Play 4: 4th & 1, 9:11 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers leading 7-3

After the previous play, the Packers are facing 4th & 1 and they decide to go for it. The call is a sprint-out to Adams in the slot. He's really the only option on this play. With the 49ers defensive backs playing tight to the line of scrimmage and the safety aligned to the opposite side, the Packers have the match-up they want. Clear out the boundary with Valdes-Scantling, give Rodgers extra protection in the form of Marcedes Lewis [89] and bank on Adams to win his match-up to the outside.

Adams wins his match-up thanks to a nice release off the line of scrimmage - surprise surprise - and Rodgers throws a perfect pass to the outside shoulder of Adams. 

Jamar Taylor [40] fights as hard as he can, but between the release and the throw, he really never had a chance.

Play 5: 1st & goal, 7:05 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers leading 7-3

Here is a fun concept that went for a touchdown to Marcedes Lewis. Play fake to Aaron Jones [33] up the middle, selling that portion with the under-the-line, split-zone block from Robert Tonyan. That brings the defense up towards the middle of the line.

They pair that with the fake of an end-around to Valdes-Scantling to the left. That draws the eyes of the defense over to the left and also drags the boundary defender on the right all the way across the formation.

That leaves one man on the right: Big Dog, who fakes the block on the edge then simply disengages and releases to the right.

He's all alone on that side of the field and Rodgers simply lofts a pass for the touchdown.

Great job on the deception and misdirection for the easy touchdown.

Play 6: 1st & 10, 2:00 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers leading 14-3

We had so much fun with that touchdown, so let's look at another. Jet motion from Ervin pre-snap and a deep route pushing at the middle of the field from Jace Sternberger [87] off the end of the line. With the second level of the defense settling into their zones, Sternberger pushes hard at the safety in the middle, drawing the attention from him.

That puts Valdes-Scantling in a favorable match-up with a safety. Valdes-Scantling pushes hard at the outside shoulder. Once the safety turns to run to the outside, Valdes-Scantling cuts back inside towards the middle of the field. There's no help underneath and the move from Valdes-Scantling gives Rodgers plenty of room to put the ball.

Really nice concept against this defensive alignment that ends up in a touchdown.

Play 7: 2nd & 9, 8:07 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers leading 21-3

Packers using motion to get favorable match-ups. Just a couple of years ago, it feel like there may have been cries of witchcraft around this. Yet, Dear Reader, I promise you no dark arts were involved in this play.

Adams goes in motion before the snap. The 49ers have 7 men in the box, and they don't even shift during the motion. Adams simply releases into the flat where there are no defenders.

Darrius Shepherd [82] provides a block on the boundary, so Adams cuts underneath to pick up 8 yards. The Packers scored a touchdown on the next play to push their lead to 28-3.

Play 8: 3rd & 4, 15:00 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers leading 7-3

We're going to close with a two-play sequence that occur more than a quarter apart.

The Packers trot out their bunch crossers look and run a dueling drag from the other side to create a Mesh. Meanwhile, Adams runs a stutter-and-go as the lone receiver on the outside. Emmanuel Moseley [41] bites hard on the stuttger from Adams. With the defense in a Quarters look and the safety to that side playing up and looking at the underneath routes, Adams is open on the double-move.

This particular play sees Valdes-Scantling getting open across the field as the middle of the defense gets tied up. Valdes-Scantling drops the pass and the Packers punt on the next play.

It's also worth mentioning that the throw from Rodgers on this is insane.

Play 9: 3rd & 7, 11:47 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers leading 21-3

Now we're into the 3rd quarter. The Packers trot out Mesh, with Adams running a stutter-and-go on an island on the outside. Just like the previous play we looked at, the 49ers are in a Quarters look and the safety to that side is pulled up. 

Rodgers pump-fakes on the stutter, helping to draw up both defenders. Then he hits Adams over the top for a 49 yard gain. Beautifully done.

Really fun week for passing stuff this week. In addition to this article, I released a short video looking at the Davante Adams touchdown and how it played off a concept the Packers have been running quite a few times over the last two seasons.

I also have a bunch of concepts that I drew up and put into a Twitter thread. 


Albums listened to: Paul Simon - Graceland; Fleetwood Mac - Rumours; The Gaslight Anthem - The 59 Sound; Rage Against the Machine - Evil Empire; Outkast - Skankonia; Sea Oleena - Weaving a Basket; Nothing - The Great Dismal


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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veteranviewer's picture

November 11, 2020 at 05:44 pm

thanks dusty

2 points
Leatherhead's picture

November 11, 2020 at 06:16 pm

These breakdowns of the passing have really grown on me.

Other than Adams, we’re playing with young, economical people at the skill positions. We are a top offense, and a top passing offense with this formula. The plays work if they’re executed.....and if Rodgers has time.

3 points
PatrickGB's picture

November 11, 2020 at 11:03 pm

Thanks for the insights.

2 points
Thegreatreynoldo's picture

November 12, 2020 at 02:50 am

On the Adams Sprint Out, that's really pretty darn good coverage. I would credit a great throw spot on the money rather than Adams beating the defender off the line.

I'd be interested in a passing chronicles that features players failing to execute properly. I do remember a few meshes where the players weren't tight enough to fulfill the function of the concept.

2 points
HighPlainsDrifter's picture

November 12, 2020 at 03:02 am

Dusty, your analysis continues to impress every week. This is possibly the best breakdown article presented on the internet. Thank you.

3 points
bodei1newbie1's picture

November 12, 2020 at 04:54 am

this is great keep it up and thanks

3 points
PeteK's picture

November 12, 2020 at 09:15 am

The TD pass to Lewis is a thing of beauty. The miss direction and possibilities off that must have the D very confused. Thanks, Dusty

1 points
Minniman's picture

November 12, 2020 at 01:34 pm

Thanks again Dusty, to me this series goes a long way to understanding what the Packers look for in their skill position players. They seem to me to definitely prioritize sure hands and route awareness over YAC..... and with Rodgers accuracy why wouldn’t they!

0 points
sdfdsfdf's picture

November 12, 2020 at 01:42 pm

-1 points