The Passing Chronicles: 2022 Week 7

Dusty takes a look at how the Packers attacked the middle of the field in their week 7 loss

Listen man. I get it. Life in the land of beer and Cheeseheads isn't very pretty at the moment. Maybe you want to be here and maybe you don't. The most important thing is that I want to be here, so I will be spending some time with the passing game. I hope some of you decide to join me. 

Today, we're going to be talking about a single concept - or at least a single area of attack - and the three different ways the Packers tried to pry that window open. 

There's time for that later. As we have been doing all season, let's start by looking at the overall passing game. Dear Reader, it is bleak.

Rodgers overall numbers are bad - 5.5 YPA on the day - but they're even worse if you take out the final "drive". When the Packers got the ball back for the final time, they were on their own 18 with 23 seconds remaining and no timeouts. At that point, Rodgers was 21/33 (63.6%) for 147 yards (4.5 YPA). That's a remarkably inefficient day. The first play on the final drive was a 28 yard strike to Sammy Watkins in the middle of the field, followed by a 19 yard completion to Robert Tonyan that kicked off a lateral-fest.

The passing chart is about what we've come to expect so far. A little more green in the middle of the field (which we'll get to shortly), but a lot of horizontal attacking plays. After a week 6 that saw Rodgers pushing the ball down the field a little more, we saw a return to living in the short area. Overall, 28.6% of his attempts were behind the line of scrimmage and 48.6% were between 0-9 yards (per PFF). That means that 77.2% of his passes were within 9 yards of the line of scrimmage. He completed 77.8% of them (GOOD!), but averaged 5.4 YPA (BAD!). With all that, it's no surprise that his ADOT (Average Depth of Target) fell back to 5.5 in this game. Right after I had been praising him for pushing it a bit more. This is my fault if you really think about it.

One last thing I'll say before we get to the plays: Rodgers completed 65.7% of his passes this week, but his adjusted completion % was 84.8%. Packers receivers accounted for 5 drops in this game, which gave them a 17.9% drop rate; their highest of the season. (The second highest was 13.3% against the Jets in week 6). It's true that Rodgers hasn't been his usual self this season - he sailed throws to Amari Rodgers and Sammy Watkins in this game - but there have been a multitude of issues across the offense. (For what it's worth, the accuracy issues have become more prevalent after Rodgers' injury, so I believe the thumb is to blame on some of the inconsistency there.) The drops are certainly an issue, but there are also multiple plays every week of guys running the wrong routes, or miscommunications between the QB and WR.I hoped this would have been cleared up by now, but it hasn't yet. I will keep hoping, even if that hope fades a little each week. "They still have time to clean this up," I will shout into the void, forgetting what the words even meant.

Enough of that. To the plays!

Today, we're talking about a concept we're all familiar with here: Drift/Strike.For the uninitiated, this is a two-man concept designed to attack the middle of the field. It's paired with play action, with a vertical route on the playfake side and a dig from the other side. The idea is to draw up the linebackers with the play action, then hit the dig behind it. It's a lethally effective play when it's working.

The problem is that it hasn't been working for the Packers over the last couple weeks. It had been the best play for the Packers this year, but teams have started taking it away by simply deciding not to honor the play fake. The linebacker away from the play action has been staying home and fading to the middle of the field, taking away the window on the throw to the dig. Instead of running it the same way over and over again and hoping for a different result, the Packers are looking for ways to keep this concept effective. Let's look at three ways they tried that against the Commanders.

Play 1: 1st & 10, 11:00 remaining in the 1st quarter

I've got the playbook page above, but let's set ourselves a little with a pre-snap picture. This is what they're trying to do with Drift:

You're trying to move the legion of linebackers up and to the playfake side, then hit the dig behind it. The vertical route on the opposite side of the formation is meant to keep the boundary clean: it's never a real option. The QB has the option to throw that as an Alert - if he likes the match-up and things are perfect - but it is rarely thrown. 

But, like I said, teams know the Packers are looking to hit this, so they're making a point to clog the throwing lane on the dig. So what do they do here? They release Robert Tonyan [85] on a drag route from the left, making this a delayed Drive concept. They're looking to pull the linebackers up with the playfake, then continue to draw their attention away from the dig by running a shallow drag route over the line. 

It doesn't work to open the dig this time (Rodgers eventually comes back to Tonyan late in the play for 6 yards), but I like that they're looking to create a little more misdirection up front.

Play 2: 2nd & 4, 10:11 remaining in the 1st quarter

This one feels like cheating a bit. Drift is strictly a play action concept, while this contains no play action. Still, the overall idea is the same - move the LBs to attack the middle - so I'm lumping it in here. The fact that there is no play action on this doesn't bother anyone but me.

The Packers are in 12 personnel in shotgun. They start in a 3x1 heavy look, but Allen Lazard [13] motions before the snap to give a 2x2 look. They're loading up on the right side, with Robert Tonyan [85] and Tyler Davis [84] there to sell the run. In a shotgun run, the running back will often cross the face of the QB and continue to that side of the line, so AJ Dillon [28] being aligned to Rodgers' left and the Tonyan/Davis combo on the right has the defense thinking about a run to the right side. The motion from Lazard finds a defender following him, telling Rodgers that he's likely looking at man coverage. That puts the LB across from Dillon man-to-man with Dillon. From there, it's just a matter of moving the LB out of the throwing window.

The action on this is line slant/flat from a different alignment. Dillon flares out to the flat. All Rodgers needs to do is wait for the flat defender to clear the window, then fire on the dig behind him.

Again, no play action, but you're still looking to attack the same area. Nicely done.

Play 3: 1st & 10, 0:08 remaining in the 3rd quarter

We'll close out with the cleanest version of Drift on the day. Packers are in split-back shotgun in 12 personnel. Josiah Deguara [81] is set to Rodgers left while Dillon is set to Rodgers' right. They're selling a run to the left - with Marcedes Lewis [89] as the in-line TE to that side - with Deguara blocking the backside edge. A little criss-cross action in front of Rodgers to give a little eye candy to the defense, then hit the dig.

The key to the play is the linebacker on the dig side. His job is to pick up Deguara out of the backfield. When Deguara releases to the right, that triggers the LB, who widens to pick up Deguara off the end of the line. By the time he gets his eyes back to Rodgers, Lazard is getting ready to break and Rodgers is already in his throwing motion.

The dart from Rodgers splits two defenders and allows Lazard to pick up 17 yards.

As I mentioned at the top, the offense is pretty ugly and I don't know that there's an easy fix at the moment. But moments like these? This is what gives me hope. One of their core concepts isn't working, so they look for ways to improve it. We all know that coaches are not packing it in or anything, so it's not like we're learning something we don't already know. Still, it's heartening to see things like this.

I don't know if I fully believe that this team can turn it around this season, but I want to believe.

Albums listened to: Carly Rae Jepsen - The Loneliest Time; Tegan & Sara - Crybaby; Taylor Swift - Midnights; Plains - I Walked With You A Ways


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].

5 points

Comments (5)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
LeotisHarris's picture

October 26, 2022 at 03:39 pm

Thanks, Dusty, for continuing to view the carnage after I'd long since looked away. I appreciate your work. I agree, it's bleak.

Sadly, using the word "attack" to describe anything about this offense is a huge reach. Even a writer as gifted as you can't put lipstick on this pig. It's more like the Packers sheepishly asked permission to use the middle of the field, and when they were told they couldn't, shrugged and sat down.

3 points
Coldworld's picture

October 26, 2022 at 04:10 pm

It just shows how bereft of ideas we are and how poorly we use the pieces that we do have both in terms of opportunity and what we ask them to do when they do get a snap.

2 points
PeteK's picture

October 27, 2022 at 08:15 am

Thanks, there is some hope. The O line shuffling will have some growing pains, but it might just work. There's an abundance of parity in the NFC this year.

2 points
croatpackfan's picture

October 27, 2022 at 10:05 am

Only to say again. Thank you Dusty!

1 points
jlc1's picture

October 27, 2022 at 05:07 pm

I know this is the Passing Chronicles but.....these plays are all "selling" the run. Does anything good happen when they do deliver the promised run? Or do they not "sell" the run because nobody believes it or cares?

0 points