The Passing Chronicles: 2023 Week 10

Dusty takes a look at the passing game from the Packers week 10 loss to the Steelers

The Steelers have a way to make a messy game out of every match-up, and we certainly saw some of that this past week. While the Packers offense seems to be cleaning up some of the mistakes we had been seeing (wide receivers running the wrong routes, etc.), they certainly had their moments of struggles. 

This week, those struggles happened in the Red Zone. After starting off in the top 5 of red zone offenses this year (in terms of scoring TD rate), they have fallen all the way down to 27th in the league, scoring TDs on 46.9% of their trips to the red zone. They’ve only scored TDs on 23.1% of their trips over their last 3 games. 

They actually moved the ball well this game overall. They had 399 total yards, their best of the year (just barely edging out the 391 they had against the Rams in week 9). They had their most yards passing the ball (283) and third most running the ball (116). They just couldn’t get the ball across the goal line (which, as I understand it, is important). 

Let’s look at Jordan Love’s passing chart.

A much more balanced chart than what we saw last week. Love coming in (once again) with a negative CPOE (-6.9%), low completion % (52.5%) and 2 INTs, but a deeper dive paints him in a slightly nicer light. 

We’ll start with the INTs, because those are pretty easy. The second one came with 3 seconds left in the game, the Packers on the 16 yard line and 7 Steelers defenders standing on the goal line. There are other things that could have been potentially done to give the receiver a better shot, but that’s a tough situation no matter what you dial up on the play sheet. That’s an INT but I’m certainly not going to ding him for it from a decision-making/accuracy standpoint.

The 1st one I could go either way on. On the one hand, a throw a little more to the back pylon gives Christian Watson a little more room to go get the ball, so that’s on Love. But Watson also gets squeezed to the sideline and Love puts it in a spot where Watson has a chance to go up and make a play and Watson doesn’t. Could have been better for both parties involved, but it doesn’t strike me as a huge red mark on his game or anything.

On Love’s 40 attempts, PFF has 2 marked as dropped, 2 marked as throwaways and 2 marked as batted at the line. Overall, they have his adjusted completion percentage at 67.6%. Not too shabby with an ADOT of 11.3 yards.

Dig a little deeper and it looks a little better. When kept clean, Love had an adjusted completion % of 68.0% with a YPA of 6.2. When under pressure, he had an adjusted completion % of 66.7% and a YPA of 9.5. 

The much maligned deep ball? Finally some good numbers. When targeting 20+ yards down the field, Love was 5/8 for 168 yards, 1 TD and 0 INTs. After an extremely rough season pushing the ball downfield, it was nice to see some signs of life in that area. We still saw some accuracy issues pop up so it's not like the deep ball was perfect, but it's better than what we've seen so far. As I talked about last week, we're starting to see Love put the deep throws on more of a line than what we had been seeing through the first part of the year, so I don't think the improved deep numbers are an illusion.

Overall, I feel some optimism after this game. Not that the Packers are a contender this year or anything like that - I’m not a lunatic - but some of the things that have plagued them this year seem to be fading away and they were able to create some explosives in the run game and the pass game. I don’t believe everything is magically fixed, but I do believe that there are signs of life in this offense that we haven’t seen much of this year. And that’s a fun thing to see.

Hope is a dangerous thing for a man like me to have, but I have it.

To the film.

Play 1: 3rd & 16, 4:21 remaining in the 2nd quarter

There aren’t many good answers on 3rd & long, and 3rd & 16 certainly fits into that realm. The Packers are looking to go big here, running three vertical routes and a couple chip-and-releases from the outside. They’re in 11 personnel in a Quads formation (4 men to one side), with Luke Musgrave [88] as the nub TE opposite the Quads look. Aaron Jones [33] is the in-line man to the Quads side. 

The chip-and-release gives the Packers a couple things here: since they’re going empty and looking deep, it gives some help to the tackles to slow down the rush from the edges. The release portion gives Love some checkdown options in the event that none of the deep routes open up. 

They’re running a Scissors concept with the #1 and #2 receiver out of Quads and running Jayden Reed [11] on a deep vertical route across the field from the #3 spot. 

The Steelers overload the coverage to the Quads side, as well they should. They have two deep safeties, with the safety away from Quads playing a few yards shallower than the safety over the Quads. With it being 3rd & 16, that safety is looking to drive on intermediate crossers and fall under deep crossers. 

Reed releases vertical at the snap, pushing towards the middle of the field. Once he declares vertically over the safety, the safety falls under the route. But the protection holds up front and Love likes what he’s seeing, so he throws deep to Reed for the TD.

This is what the coverage looks like as Love is starting his delivery. Yes, he’s bracketed, but the safety doesn’t release until Reed is even with him, so Love knows Reed will be able to gain separation with the ball in the air.

If you want to be nit-picky, you can say that the throw should be a little more to the back pylon: give Reed the chance to run under it instead of forcing him to come back to it. It’s a valid nit to pick, but it’s in a place where his receiver has a chance to make a play and his receiver makes a play. I’ll take it.

A play that has the ability to drive home some flaws while still celebrating a touchdown? That's like a coaches dream, man.

Play 2: 3rd & 3, 11:22 remaining in the 3rd quarter

This is just a really fun, creative way to spring open one of your playmakers. The Packers are in 11 personnel and start in an empty, 3x2 look, with Aaron Jones lined wide on the right. After a little confusion, the Steelers put a LB - Mark Robinson [93] - on him. The Packers motion Jones in before the snap and Robinson follows, signaling that this is likely man coverage. Which is exactly what the Packers want. 

At the snap, the Packers run every from the bunch on the right over to the left, while Jones releases to the line to the left. The release from the bunch clears out the side, putting Jones out in space against a cleared-out side of the field. It basically has the effect of a screen without actually releasing any blockers.

Robinson ends up blitzing on the play, but, if he was trying to stick with Jones in man coverage, he’d have a lot of trouble weeding through all the traffic created by the bunch routes. 

It’s a beautiful design that ends up going for 12 yards and picks up a 1st down. It would have gone for even more, if not for the intelligent play from Elandon Roberts [50].

Play 3: 2nd & 9, 10:00 remaining in the 3rd quarter

This last play we’re looking at doesn’t have the greatest ending, but it’s a fun design. So, in this space, we celebrate it. Or I celebrate it, anyway, because I’m a sucker for a screen that has another option on it.

The ending of this play is a screen to Jones on the right, but the Packers use “cheat” motion to package another concept with it. Before we dive too deep, let’s pause for a second. “Cheat” is the new motion that we started seeing a lot of this year. It’s a short, same-side motion that can mess with defensive checks and can also allow a receiver to get up to speed laterally before the snap. “Cheat” was the name given to it by Kyle Shanahan earlier this year - “because it’s cheating” - so that’s the name I’m rolling with.

The Packers are in 11 personnel in a 2x2 shotgun look, with Jones offset to Love’s left. Before the snap, Reed quick-motions from his outside spot on the right and runs a crosser to the left. On the left side, Dontayvion Wicks [13] and Tucker Kraft [85] are pushing vertically and basically just looking to create a wall.

On the right, Jones delays out of the backfield before releasing to the right and under the blocking of two offensive linemen.

Love is looking at Reed across the field first. If he likes what he’s seeing there, he can throw it. That gives him the option of throwing to a full-speed wide receiver running across the field and into space as his first read. If he doesn’t like it, that’s fine, but it gives him a favorable initial option, while influencing the linebackers in the middle of the field to stay away from the screen side. It also is a built-in delay for the QB while he waits for the screen to get set up.

Like I said, the ending to this isn’t great. Reed is followed across the field so Love throws the screen, but Roberts gets around the block and it’s stopped for no gain. But a poor ending doesn’t mean the journey was worthless. This is a really fun idea, so I hope we see it again.

As always, I got a chance to walk through some plays with John Kuhn. This week we talked about what Jayden Reed gives this offense, then capped it by talking a bit about the nature of a game script. The game script question is one I've had kicking around my brain for years, so I absolutely loved hearing his answer.

Albums listened to: Noah And The Whale - The First Days of Spring; Lana Del Rey - Ultraviolence; Cat Power - Cat Power Sings Dylan: The 1966 Royal Albert Hall; Christian Kjellvander - Hold Your Love Still; Lee Gallagher & The Hallelujah - The Falcon Ate The Flower 




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].


2 points

Comments (4)

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PeteK's picture

November 15, 2023 at 05:16 pm

If blocking improvement continues, this offense could look dangerous before the season is over.

2 points
T7Steve's picture

November 16, 2023 at 06:52 am

Thanks Dusty.

On your adjusted passing %s you didn't ding him for balls batted at the LOS. That's a good play by the D that's been blocked well, I'll grant you, but isn't it on the QB to choose and find the proper throwing lanes? More so the shorter the QB?

1 points
Coldworld's picture

November 16, 2023 at 08:35 am

It depends on the circumstances to a large extent. Pressure, penetration and anticipation by QB, defender and even targets all play into it.

I haven’t watched the all 22 to judge those myself, so I’m not going to opine on those specifically, other than to say that, overall, the performance by Love would have been enough to win that game absent the inadequate performance of the D in the first half.

That’s the first step to winning with a QB. That’s a good sign. Expecting a first year starter to win in spite of the team is a low odds proposition. If Love were able to repeat that performance each week, then we can start to win with him, if other facets don’t drag us down.

2 points
Bitternotsour's picture

November 16, 2023 at 09:42 am

that Cat Power record is fantastic.

0 points