The Passing Chronicles: 2021 Week 5

Dusty looks back at 7 plays from the Packers victory over the Bengals

This game featured a bevy of missed kicks and drama and Davante Adams going supernova, but we're not here to talk about any of that. No, today - like all days - we're looking at some passing concepts from this past weekend. We'll be rolling through 7 plays, including the 16 yard pass to Randall Cobb to set up the merciful game-winning field goal. Let's get to it.

Play 1: 1st & 10, 1:15 remaining in the 1st quarter

We're kicking things off by visiting an old friend of ours: Slant/Flat. If it helps you make peace with the concept, you can refer to it as Dragon. If you can't find yourself excited about something called Dragon, congrats: you're already dead.

Dragon is an old West Coast staple. In Green Bay, we saw more than our fair share of it in the Mike McCarthy era. And that would have been fine, if he didn't insist on always forcing Richard Rodgers to run the flat route. (Richard Rodgers is a perfectly fine player but if you want someone to catch a ball in the flat and turn upfield to gain yardage, he's not your man.) It can be an incredibly useful concept against man or zone coverage. By my count, the Packers ran Dragon 5 times this past weekend, making it tied for their most heavily used passing concept of the week (the other being PA Boot). And it did well. On the concept, Aaron Rodgers [12] was 4/5 for 37 yards (7.4 YPA) and a touchdown.

Davante Adams [17] is on the outside running a slant, with AJ Dillon [28] on the flat route from the backfield. Marcedes Lewis [89] is running a sit route in the middle of the field. Bengals bring a defender up before the snap, aligning outside of Dillon. At the snap, Dillon flares to the flat while Lewis runs to the middle and sits. The Bengals are in man coverage, meaning Adams is man-to-man on the outside against his defender. Rodgers reads it, waits for the flat defender to clear the window and fires a strike to Adams on the slant.

Adams is able to bend up the field and over the underneath coverage to find more room to run and picks up 17 yards. Nice and clean.

Play 2: 2nd & 10, 12:00 remaining in the 2nd quarter

We're going to leapfrog a play to get to another instance of Dragon; this one down in the once-cozy confines of the Gold Zone. The Packers ruled this land last season, scoring touchdowns on a league high 76.8% of their trips. This season? Not so much. They're scoring touchdowns on 55% of their trips, 27th in the league. There they are, sandwiched between the Titans and the Jets in red zone TD scoring percentage. It would be nice to see that tick back up, but red zone scoring can be fickle from year to year. I have faith that they'll increase their scoring %, but they had another rough outing against the Bengals. 

But on this play? They were heroes, just for one play. (I'm very sorry.) 

Same thing as the previous play, but the names have changed. Allen Lazard [13] is running a slant from the outside while Robert Tonyan [85] is running a sit route from his in-line position. Dillon is still the man running the flat from the backfield.

There appears to be a miscommunication somewhere, as the slot defender breaks inside and no one breaks outside. The slant/sit are covered up, but the flat? Wide open, buddy.

Rodgers gets the ball out to Dillon on the edge, who tiptoes the sideline for the first receiving touchdown of his career. Rumble, young man. Rumble.

Play 3: 3rd & 12, 14:18 remining in the 2nd quarter

Bengals are in a pinched two-high look, showing a Quarters shell. The Packers counter with a Scissors concept paired with a deep crosser, which can be a nice way to attack this coverage. The two outside receivers push vertically up the field, then split 15-20 yards down the field, typically with a post/corner combination (though the Packers go with a dig from the outside in this case). The inside man to the trips side pushes vertically to the middle of the field, making sure to run across the face of the deep defenders pinched in the middle. 

Let's take a step back. What are they doing with all of this? The post/corner combination puts the boundary defender in a bind, because there are two men pushing directly at him. He splits the difference, but he can't stay with both once they split, so he needs help to pick them up. The deep route to the middle occupies another deep safety. The late split on the post/corner makes it hard for a safety to drive on the in-cutting route, and the deep route to the middle makes it impossible for the other safety to drive on it without getting beat deep.

Any time you're working with concepts to stress the rules of a defense, the defense needs good communication to pass it all off. If they don't do it well, you can get a wide open man. Which is what happens here.

Adams and Lazard push vertically from the boundary, while Randall Cobb [18] runs the vertical route. Once Adams gets to 15 yards of depth, the boundary defender passes off the routes to another safety and a deep-dropping cornerback who started at the line. Both defenders follow Lazard on the post, leaving Adams open in the middle. 

With Tonyan and Dillon releasing to the flat, the shallow/mid defenders are pulled out of the middle, leaving a nice, clean lane for Rodgers to hit Adams in the middle of the field.

Adams plucks the ball out of the air and picks up 34 yards. 

Play 4: 1st & 10, 9:44 remaining in the 2nd quarter

So many of these concepts have movement/releases that can allow me to put them into several buckets, depending on what I'm seeing at any given moment. My first feeling on this play was that it was an All Go offshoot, with the running back releasing through the line instead of up the seam. After all, the two routes on the outside have that diverging feeling; as if they're splitting at an angle in order to open the seam. Yes. Yes it is All Go.

But no. Usually on All Go, the outside receiver continues vertically up the sideline. He's running a dig here, following the action of the slot route. No, this isn't All Go. It's Dagger. I'm certain of it.

But no. No, that's not Dagger. Not really. That slot route bends too deep and across the face of the rotating, single-high safety. That's not Dagger. How could I be so blind?! The vertical route on the other side. The deep crossing route with a dig behind it. The running back releasing under the vertical route. It might as well have smacked me in the face. That's Y Cross. As I live and breathe, that's Y Cross.

My main point here - besides rambling for no apparenty reason - is that a lot of concepts can look like other concepts. Pieces are adopted and molded to attack the defenses in different ways. Concepts don't always fit nicely into one specific, unique box. Finding the true core concept can sometimes be tricky, but there's another important point to remember: not a lot of people care.

Y Cross is an old Air Raid concept (with roots in BYU's West Coast system), run to perfection by the mad genius combination of Hal Mumme and Mike Leach. As you can see in the above image, the crosser can alter his route in a number of different ways depending on the defensive look. But the above image doesn't quite do this justice. In the creation of Y Cross, the only route that was the same every single time was the flat route from F. Everyone else? In true Air Raid fashion, every other receiver had a number of options on their routes, depending on defensive leverage, movement, etc. "Read Grass," they say. It could really look something more out of Tiger Ellison's spread offense than anything.

We're way off track here, man. Let's get back to it. As drawn up - at its most basic - Y Cross has a vertical route to one side, a deep crossing route from the opposite slot, a dig behind the crosser and some flat releases. That's it. You can't get me running down the Tiger Ellison rabbit hole. No sir.

The Packers run this using motion we've seen a lot of: a WR screen look to Davante Adams on the right. The idea is that it's a release the Packers do a lot of, so they're trying to trigger the defense to crash it then run past it. The Bengals play it well here, so those routes don't immediately spring open.

The crosser runs across the face of the rotating single-high safety, taking an underneath linebacker with it. The dig works in behind it, but the second level of the defense is dropping deep; the linebacker who had just carried the crossing route falls under the dig.

You are lost. Hope is gone. But you must go on. And do the next right thing.

What is the next right thing? With the defense dropping under the deep routes, that's means there's room underneath. So Rodgers dumps it to Dillon.

Dillon catches the ball and finds a single linebacker convering on his location. Dillon angles to the middle of the field and finds wide open fields.

By the time Dillon is taken down, the Packers have picked up 13 yards.

Play 5: 3rd & 6, 4:42 remaining in the 2nd quarter

Now we'll look at a play that looks very close to Y Cross, but it seems to fit more the mold of Middle Read Dagger to me. Sometimes the difference of those concepts is six of one, half dozen of the other, but we're here all the same. The main difference between them is how the slot route attacks. Against two-high coverage, the route will bend on a post route to split the safeties. Against single-high, it will round off and hit a bit more shallow; more of a dig than a post. The idea is to make the deep coverage wrong. The route from the outside is a dig, following the slot receiver and hoping to find a cleared-out middle of the field.

The Bengals show single-high before the snap, with the only difference post-snap being who is playing the single-high safety. The shallow defender drops off to pick up Cobb on the flat while the deep boundary defender picks up Adams on the vertical pushing route. Because that defender is fading back, he's not in a position to drive on the cut from Adams.

The route from Lazard drags a defender away from the middle while pushing the safety back, leaving a nice space in the middle of the field for Adams.

Rodgers hits Adams for 15 yards.

Play 6: 2nd & 10, 4:10 remaining in overtime

We saw an Amari Rodgers jet wheel last week, and this week we're getting an Allen Lazard jet wheel. What a time to be alive. I mentioned this last week, but, if he doesn't get the ball on the hand-off/pitch, the jet motion man will typically just kind of hang out in the flat after completing the motion, working as a late checkdown and basking in the knowledge of a job well done. It seems like they're starting to put an emphasis on bending that route up the sideline in an attempt to catch the defense flat-footed.

The release of the wheel and the vertical route from Tonyan looks like the All Go release (but, once again, without the RB seam route portion). The defense reacts, backing up and protecting against the deep shot. With all that space opened, the Packers instead run a TE screen to Marcedes Lewis [89], who releases after selling an initial block.

Lewis releases with plenty of space, jukes a grown man into the grave, then finishes strong on the sideline for a gain of 20.

And the Packers sideline erupts.

Play 7: 3rd & 16, 2:09 remaining in overtime

That Lewis play put the Packers on the Bengals 41 yard line. With time winding down, the Packers needed a few more yards to feel even decently okay with a field goal attempt. In their next 2 plays they lost 6 yards. They now sat at the Bengals 47 yard line facing 3rd & 16. They needed as many yards as possible, so what did they dial up? Give me Dagger, with Adams on the opposite side of the field.

The Bengals are showing two-high safeties pre-snap, but they spin to single-high at the snap, with one safety dropping down to double-team Adams. That clears the left boundary.

Allen Lazard runs a deep crosser from the right slot, taking him across the face of the single-high safety. The vertical push causes the safety to flip, and Lazard carries a defender with him. That clears the middle

Cobb runs a dig route behind the route of Lazard. Cobb gets inside position on his man off the line and creates additional space on the cut. With the shallow flat routes drawing defenders out of the middle, there's a nice lane for Rodgers to throw.

A defender peels off Adams and converges on Cobb, but he can't quite get there in time.

Trey Hendrickson gets pressure on Rodgers and hits his arm on the follow-through, but it's not enough. It's never. Never. Never enough.

Cobb comes up 1 yard short of the sticks, but it sets up Mason Crosby for a 49 yard game winner. Which he nails. 3rd time is a charm, right?

Albums listened to: Tool - Lateralus; The Beatles - Revolver; Pixies - Bossanova; Phosphorescent - Muchacho; Escondido - The Ghost of Escondido; Chevelle - Wonder What's Next ; Nada Surf - The Weight Is a Gift; Joseph Bishara - Malignant Soundtrack; John Carpenter - Halloween Soundtrack (2018); Goblin - Suspira Soundtrack




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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PeteK's picture

October 13, 2021 at 05:03 pm

"Jukes a grown man to the grave" Hahahaha. Rogers has the Midas touch on his throws.

3 points
Rebecca's picture

October 13, 2021 at 05:14 pm

My two favorite plays of the game. Lewis plowing through Bengals’ defense and Crosby making the winning field goal. That pass to Cobb across the middle, the catch and collision with the defender to set up the winning shot was so awesome! I jumped up and down like a 4 year old! Another great passing concept lesson. Thank you Dusty!

3 points
LeotisHarris's picture

October 13, 2021 at 06:29 pm

Seven plays, a near-trip down the rabbit hole, a Mike Leach sighting *and* a Bowie reference? What a time to be alive indeed, Dusty. Thanks for another fun and enlightening read, and the earworm.

I'll just leave this here:

3 points
Since'61's picture

October 13, 2021 at 10:07 pm

Great job Dusty!! I appreciate your efforts to share these plays with us. Thanks, Since '61

3 points
Fabio's picture

October 14, 2021 at 03:45 am

Hi Dusty
I greet you and as always I congratulate you for these discussions on games which, for those who do not understand much like me, are always a source of learning.
Seeing the shows of this week, I wanted to know what you think of my reflections that I now express on the vision of AR.
Game 1:
Single Adams Free Receiver - AR launches on Adams.
Game 2:
Until AR rotates his body to the left, the only free Receiver is Dillon - AR throws at Dillon.
Game 3:
Tonyan is free for a short yard gain, Adams and Lazard are both open (with DA free from marking and AL with possible help from safety) play is 3:12 and is clearly set to try to make a big payoff (hence Tonyan can't be a first choice) - AR casts on Adams.
Game 4:
It is a first down so it does not require a forcing of the game.
AR appears initially directed towards AL and Tonyan. In my opinion he loses a time reading about Tonyan in the center (or fears for the help in the coverage of the LB). Tonyan and Dillon open receivers
- AR casts on Dillon safely for a good profit.
Game 5:
It is a third down of medium length.
Here AR immediately looks at DA at the start and follows him to the end.
When the ball is released, there is DA free, AL free (for a probable big gain if not a TD) and Tonyan free.
In my opinion here is his confidence in looking for Davante in the thirds - AR launches on DA
Game 6:
It's a second and long in extra time. it is not essential to necessarily go for a large gain.
At the moment of the release of the ball the only free one is Big Dog.
The pocket seems to hold up well and AR might as well wait to see if anyone clears deeper, but the game is probably set up either for AL in the first option, or (in case of cover) for a TE screen - AR flips for Big Dog
Game 7:
It is a third and
long in extra time so there is a risk that in the event of an incomplete or a 4th down (probable) or you risk not seeing the field again.
At the start, the free man looks like Lazard who pushes safety deeply by freeing the center (possible solution, but difficult at that moment)
At the moment of the decision on the launch, AL are free (on the very long and with Safety of possible help) and Cob in the center (empty) - AR casts a spell at Cob.
In conclusion, excluding game 5, I do not seem to have seen AR particularly set on a defined player, but quite surgical in reading also in relation to the game situation.

I salute you and I hope to hear your opinion on the matter.
PS I think it would be nice once to investigate all the incomplete things that happen in the game to see if the choices were right or not.
Greetings from Italy

3 points
Since'61's picture

October 14, 2021 at 10:49 am

Good post Fabio, I see the plays pretty much the same as you.

These plays are consistent with Rodgers career in that he rarely makes a bad decision with where he throws the ball. He sometimes makes an inaccurate throw but rarely a poor decision about who he throws the ball to.

This is proven by his incredible TD to Int ratio, his completion percentage and his career QB rating which is the highest ever.

Always good to hear from you. Stay well. Thanks, Since ‘61

0 points
Fabio's picture

October 14, 2021 at 02:58 pm

I salute you since '61.
The doubt I have is to understand if in every game our receivers open constantly or not.
From what I see I don't think so, and I think it's a big problem.
In this case, it is normal for a Q to turn to its most reliable WR in time of need.
If it were the other way around then AR would have real faults.
The sporadic episodes where AR chooses DA and fails, with other free WR, I don't think are significant ...
Greetings from Italy

0 points
Since'61's picture

October 15, 2021 at 11:00 pm

Fabio - none of our other receivers are as good at getting open as Adams is. It’s between Cobb and Jones for next best at getting open. Tonyan, Lazard and MVS either need to be schemed open or Rodgers needs to throw them open.

I think what happens is Rodgers looks at the match ups pre-snap and sees that Adams has the best matchup. Jones will usually be next best especially if he’s matched up with an LB.

Some schemes will leave Dillon wide open as we saw in his TD reception and run against the Bengals. There will be times when this happens with Tonyan and Lazard as well.

Rodgers is going to look for his best matchup first. And in the case of Adams he knows that Adams is likely to win a contested catch even against a good CB. Thanks, Since ‘61

0 points
Fabio's picture

October 16, 2021 at 01:50 am

Same thought I have since '61.
The problem is that if others are constantly freeing themselves late, the Q's trust in them drops dramatically ..... and how can you then say he is wrong ??
PS when I look at Tampa sometimes the GOAT is found with at least two free solutions ....
Greetings from Italy
We feel like the Bears

1 points