The Passing Chronicles: 2021 Week 18

Dusty looks back on 4 plays from the Packers Week 18 loss to the Lions

Here we find ourselves, at the end of all things (or the regular season or whatever). It was pretty nice having a week of football that didn't really mean anything in terms of playoff implications. Sure, we didn't get to experience the highs of a thrilling victory to clinch a last-minute playoff spot, but we also didn't lose to the Jaguars and get knocked out of the playoffs entirely. I got to kick back, enjoy a game and not care a single bit about the outcome. The peak of relaxation.

Because of that, I have fewer plays to look at this week. I only have 4 plays, with 3 of those taking place in the 1st half. I didn't feel like doing a deep-dive on Jordan Love's appearance and the Packers kept the playcalling a bit close-to-the-best for the most part, so I'm opting to steer clear of that for now.

So let's get to it. The last Passing Chronicles of the 2021 regular season.

Play 1: 3rd & 10, 11:21 remaining in the 1st quarter

We're going to kick this off with a play that jumped out to me on a rewatch. It's also a play that Nagler asked AJ Dillon about on this week's Carry The G (which you should always be watching, because Dillon is an absolute delight).

They talked about it a bit in that clip, but let's dig in a bit more.

As I mentioned, it's 3rd & 10. The Packers are showing a 3X2 formation, with trips to the field side (as much as there is a "field side" in the NFL with the narrow hashes). The Lions comes out with 6 men on the line and 5 men standing within a yard of the sticks. Basically, a "we're not going to let you get the 1st down" defense. Tyler Davis [84] steps down to an in-line position and the defender over him screams down on the line. With no deep safeties, the Lions are in a Cover 0 look.

The Packers counter with a play that is, basically, "Get Davante Adams [17] in space and see what he can do." To the trips side, AJ Dillon [28] is the #1, Adams is the #2 and Equanimeous St. Brown [19] is the #3. Dillon pushes straight up the field then sets to block, EQ runs an in-breaking route and Adams runs a quick out. Rodgers gets the ball out quickly, Adams makes a man miss, Dillon has a nice block on the edge and the Packers pick up 11 yards and the 1st down.

The quick release from Rodgers gets the ball into Adams' hands with time to turn and put a move on the defender screaming down at him.

I don't know what the initial call was, but this was a check Rodgers made at the line. He didn't shout any instructions and the hand motions weren't subtle. In fact, he just pointed at the receivers and told them which routes to run.

"#2 run an out, #3 run a slant." Piece of cake.

Play 2: 1st & 10, 1:29 remaining in the 1st quarter

This Divide concept is something we've seen a lot from the Packers in the last half of the season. It's something we've visited quite a few times in this space, so we don't need to spend a ton of time on it. The core of Divide is a two-man concept with a short route underneath. Two receivers push vertically down the field for 12-20 yards, then split in opposite directions. I think of it like the Scissor concept but without the criss-cross action. They pair this with an underneath route.

They also like to pair it with an iso route on the opposite site. On this play, Davante Adams is the isolated receiver, running a slant. 

The Lions are in a two-high look pre-snap, but spin to a single-high defense post-snap, with one safety dropping down over Divide. 

The wide split of Adams gives Rodgers a clear view of the coverage to that side. Unless someone is sprinting underneath the slant, all he needs is for Adams to win on that route. Which he does, because his name is Davante Adams and it's a slant route.

Rodgers reads the Divide side during the dropback, then sets and fires to Adams on the slant when he hits his back foot.

Nice, clean footwork and a quick, accurate throw leads to a 13 yard gain.

Play 3: 1st & 10, 5:01 remaining in the 4th quarter 

We're going to skip ahead to the 4th quarter so that we can end on my favorite play of the day. But this one here? This one is good, too.

Jordan Love [10] is in the game and the Packers are down 27-22 with time running out in the game. The Packers dial up something they've gone to quite a few times this season: TE Screen. The tight end stays in to block, engages with the man across from him, then sheds the block and turns around while the offensive linemen leak down the field to block.

On this play, Josiah Deguara [81] is the TE in question. The Packers have an empty, mirrored stack look, with Deguara as the in-line TE on the left. St. Brown and Amari Rodgers [8] are the wide receivers to the outside of Deguara. At the snap, they fire downfield to clear the outside, then set up to block. 

The two linemen wash out their guys while St. Brown and Rodgers lock up their guys downfield. Deguara gets the ball in his hands with a nice lane and only one man to beat. Deguara makes the man miss then it's off to the races.

Nice timing on the release, great downfield blocking and good speed from Deguara ends up with the Packers picking up a 62 yard TD.

Play 4: 2nd & 6, 2:41 remaining in the 2nd quarter

We're ending today on a dream come true. When I tell you that I've been waiting for this play to surface ever since Matt LaFleur was hired, I promise you that's the truth. The play is Leak.

Leak plays off the PA Boot concept. PA Boot is the core passing concept in the wide zone system. It's something you've seen a thousand times and something I've talked about a thousand times, but let's run through it anyway.

PA Boot feigns the wide zone run by having the offensive line block laterally to the playfake side. The quarterback sprints out to meet the running back at the mesh point, then bootlegs out the other way, where he finds 2-4 receivers running parallel to the boot on different planes. There's typically a deep option, a middle option and a short option. In the diagram above, there's a 4th option, with the Y blocking down initially before releasing to the flat (a Slam route). You can see Dominique Dafney [49] working the Slam route on this instance of PA Boot.

Leak plays off of all of that. It looks like PA Boot, but instead continuing on the bootleg, the quarterback pulls up on a half-boot and looks back across the field.

The Y initially looks to block with the flow of the line, but then just keeps drifting down the line and eventually leaks out the other side. 

On this play, the Lions are in a single-high look. Lazard motions in pre-snap, which bumps the defense. You can see AJ Parker [41] motioning after he bumps in, signaling that the assignments have changed based on the new alignment. Parker is now the force player on the edge, while Derrick Barnes [55] picks up routes across his face. Essentially, that shift puts a LB on Lazard.

At the snap, Barnes reads his run key and takes a few steps toward the line. Lazard begins by looking like he's blocking down, then releases up the field. Barnes does a nice job recognizing and recovering, but he can't quite catch up with Lazard. Rodgers has time - thanks to Davis working as his personal protector after peeling off his split-blocking look - and hits Lazard for a 29 yard touchdown.

I wish we had gotten this sooner, but it was worth the wait. It's beautiful.


With the Packers on a bye week, I'm not entirely sure what I'll be doing in this space next week. Likely some kind of preview for the Divisional Round, but I don't know entirely what that's going to look like. Should be a ton of fun, though.


Albums listened to: Leif Vollebekk - North Americana; Noah Gundersen - A Pillar of Salt; The Zombies - Odessey and Oracle; Margot and the Nuclear So & So's - Not Animal; LN - So You May Find Me When I'm Lost; Quivers - Golden Doubt

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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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Comments (3)

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Fabio's picture

January 12, 2022 at 04:28 pm

Hi Dusty. Congratulations again for the excellent job you always do. A single thought. The 1st Play I think is one of those situations that we will not be allowed in the Play Offs

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croatpackfan's picture

January 13, 2022 at 02:36 am

Thank you Dusty for your lessons through this season. For me (I expect not only for me, but) it gives another look when I'm watching the game. It is of utmost help.

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PeteK's picture

January 13, 2022 at 10:14 am

Well, we know that Love can throw a screen pass better than Rogers at similar pts in their careers. The Leak play is a thing of beauty because it has so many layers of misdirection. We did get a bit lucky though because it went through the defenders hands and created a difficult catch for Lazard.

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