The Passing Chronicles: 2022 Week 13

Dusty takes a look at the Packers passing game in their Week 13 victory over the Bears.

In a season like this, there always end up being two factions of fans: the ones that say “keep winning, no matter what,” and another side that says, “winning now kills your draft status, so just stop winning.” It’s an oversimplification, of course, but that’s how an opening paragraph tends to go.

I can see both sides. But here’s one thing I do know: if you’re rolling into your rivals’ stadium with a chance to take the all-time NFL wins record with a win? Buddy, you go for that win with everything you’ve got. And the Packers did exactly that, with some strong, consistent running from AJ Dillon and yet another big game from Christian Watson.

Let’s dig into the passing game a bit.

The first thing I noticed was the decrease in throws behind the line of scrimmage (LOS). It’s something I’ve talked about a lot in this space, and with good reason: of quarterbacks who have played at least 20% of their team’s snaps, the only QB who has targeted the area behind the LOS more than Rodgers this season has been PJ Walker (per PFF). On the season, Rodgers has targeted behind the LOS on 22.2% of his snaps. What makes this week so stark is that Rodgers targeted this area on 43.8% of his attempts against the Eagles. This week he targeted that area on 16.1%, which is right around where Jalen Hurts and Tom Brady have been on the season.

One of the reasons for this is the RPO game. As they’ve done in recent years, they’ve relied heavily on their RPO game. Over their previous 8 weeks, they’ve called an average of 12.9 RPOs per game, with Rodgers using the Pass option 37.9% of the time. By the nature of how the Packers run their RPOs, the vast majority of those pass attempts are behind the LOS. Against the Bears, they dialed up 10 RPOs, and Rodgers handed off on every single one of them. So this reduction in throws behind the LOS doesn’t mark an offensive shift, so much as Rodgers liked the run option on those calls better than the pass option.

To go along with that, Rodgers saw his Average Depth of Target (ADOT) climb back up into double-digits, a week after seeing it dip back into the single digits. Rodgers’ ADOT was 10.6 yards against the Bears, with middling results. He had 4 attempts 20+ yards down the field, and was 0/4 on those throws. The wind certainly played into this to some extent, the most notable of which was a deep shot fluttering behind Cobb late in the flight of the ball.

Rodgers did some nice work from 0-19 yards, going 13/20 (65%) for 170 yards (8.5 YPA) and a TD. Factoring in a couple of drops, his adjusted completion % in this area was 75%.

All the cries to run more plays from under center have been awfully quiet over the last few weeks. That’s because the Packers have fallen more in-line with what we’ve come to expect from this LaFleur offense, and that’s a trend that continued against the Bears. The Packers ran 60.3% of their plays from the shotgun (39.7% from under center, for those who don’t want to do math). 

Alright. Enough of that. Let’s look at a couple plays I really liked.

Play 1: 2nd & 10, 2:46 remaining in the 1st quarter

Last week when I ran through Jordan Love’s attempts, we got a good look at the Curl/Dig combo. They went to that well multiple times in the 4th quarter against the Eagles. It’s a way to get the quarterback a nice, easy read and attack the middle of the field.

For whatever reason, we haven’t seen much of that combo this year. They must have feel like they’ve found something, because we saw it multiple times against the Bears, this time with Aaron Rodgers [12] under center.

They’re running this one from shotgun with 11 personnel out of a 2x2 look. They’re running a version of Smash on the right and Curl/Dig on the left. Robert Tonyan [85] is running the curl from his in-line TE position, while Allen Lazard [13] is wrapping around on the dig. Rodgers hits the top of his drop, drifts slightly to his right, then hits Lazard between the two linebackers.

From his look at the initial drops by the linebackers, Rodgers knows he has Lazard on the dig, but it comes down a matter of time in the pocket. Yosh Nijman [73] has a wide release at RT, and Al-Quandin Muhammad [55] angles to the inside shoulder. Nijman recovers, but Muhammad has enough leverage to push Nijman back into the face of Rodgers.

Rodgers never looks at the rush and never takes his eyes off of Jack Sanborn [57]. Rodgers holds Sanborn in place to ensure the window stays open, navigates slightly to his right to give himself a clean throwing window, and delivers the ball to Lazard.

Beautifully done.

Play 2: 3rd & 4, 2:38 remaining in the 2nd quarter

The Packers went down 10-0 in the 1st quarter and were desperately attempting to play catch-up. Now, with less than 3 minutes left in the half, they found themselves down 16-3 on the Bears 40. It’s too far for a field goal attempt, and 4th down attempts - especially on a windy day - can be a little dicey. If the Packers wanted to pick up points before the half, a conversion here would be big. (Great analysis, I know: a 1st down is better than not a 1st down.)

The Packers roll out an old favorite: follow-slant on the left, with smash fade on the right. They go empty in 11 personnel in a 3x2 formation. 

This follow concept is simple. It is read inside-out and the QB makes the decision based on how the defense reacts. One thing the empty spread gives you is a simplified look at the defense. Based on the pre-snap read, the Bears are showing a Cover 2 Man look (two-high safeties, man-to-man coverage at the line). 

Samori Toure [83] is the #3 receiver on the trips side, running a “now” slant. Since this is read inside-out, Toure would be the first read on this concept. Pre-snap, Josh Blackwell [39] is aligned to the inside of Toure. The Bears are in an overload front, with Taco Charlton [97] as the lone man on the offensive left. Blackwell is lurking behind Charlton, looking like he may come on a blitz. 

Because of that alignment, Rodgers has decided that he’s going to Lazard before the ball is snapped. If Blackwell comes on a blitz, there’s a chance that Charlton drops off the line to take away the slant, leaving a clear throwing lane to Lazard. If Blackwell doesn’t come on a blitz, he’s aligned inside to take away the slant, leaving a clear throwing lane to Lazard.

At the snap, Blackwell drops into coverage and Rodgers hits Lazard on the follow for 7 yards and the 1st down. They end up scoring a touchdown 6 plays later to bring the score to 16-10 going into the half.

Two steps and the ball is out, giving the defense no time to react.


Albums listened to: Fleetwood Mac - Fleetwood Mac;Wild Pink - ILYSM;Manchester Orchestra - A Black Mile to the Surface; Lord Huron - Strange Trails; Phoebe Bridgers - Copycat Killer; Zola Jesus - Okovi; Granada - Let That Weight Slide Off Your Shoulders

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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 (4)

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croatpackfan's picture

December 07, 2022 at 03:29 pm

Thank you Dusty.

One observation on that pass to Lazard in the 1st Q. Last week some posters (and I believe as well as you) complaining that Love's pass was little behind Lazard. The throw from this week from ACR looks to me as even more behind Lazard. Both passes were catchable and Lazard caught both.

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Akryius's picture

December 08, 2022 at 12:15 pm

You should probably get your eyes checked. The pass from Rodgers hit Lazard right in his chest. If he leads him any more, the LB knocks it down or possibly picks it off. Lazard had to turn his body completely around to catch the ball from Love. Go back and re-watch the play. They aren't even close.

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T7Steve's picture

December 08, 2022 at 07:08 am

Win out. It won't matter about the playoffs as much as how fun it is to be the spoiler for a change.

Please explain in more depth the RPO? Does Rodgers call that before the snap? If not, the line can't shoot out of their stance for a run block any more than they can on a play-action. I guess you have to game play if your line can't dictate the LOS and do whatever they want. I just would like to see more designed run with pulling and cross blocks with a little fullback help at times.

I know I still live in the past, but I love executing what the D knows you're going to do and can't do anything to stop it. That opens a whole new world of other options you can do.

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DustyEvely's picture

December 09, 2022 at 08:12 am

The RPO is called before the play. It's called as a run play with a pass tag attached to it. No matter what Rodgers ends up doing, the line is blocking run all the way: that's why RPOs need to be quick-hitting plays from a passing perspective.
There are a couple different ways to read RPOs, depending on the pass tag. A QB can either read pre-snap or post-snap. Rodgers is almost exclusively reading pre-snap, based on the number/leverage of defenders on the pass tag.

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