The Passing Chronicles: 2023 Week 11

Dusty takes a look at the passing game then breaks down some plays from the Packers win over the Chargers

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better summary of the last two weeks than this:

Don’t get me wrong: it still hasn’t been perfect over these last couple of weeks, but it has certainly been a much better functioning offense than what we saw through most of the first half of the season. There are still occasional issues with receivers running the wrong routes or breaking at the wrong depth, but they’re getting rarer; they are not the ever-present plague they were early on. 

As the offense has gotten more consistent, we’ve seen Jordan Love play better as well. Imagine that! The deep ball still needs some improvement (crossing my fingers for that), but his decision-making/timing has been good, and he’s been great on the second-reaction plays when he has needed them. The middle of the field, off-platform dart to Dontayvion Wicks this past week was a thing of beauty.

Let’s look at the passing chart for this week.

Those are some good numbers, man. Love went 27/40 (67.5%) for 322 yards (8.1 YPA) and 2 TDs. He turned in a positive CPOE (Completion Percentage Over Expected) of +1.0%. The good thing about these numbers is that none of them came in garbage time: Love needed to be effective in the passing game for the Packers to win and he was able to do that. PFF has his adjusted completion % at 80.6%, which is even better! It was his second best adjusted completion % of the year (behind the 87.5% against the Rams).

You can see from the chart that he mainly targeted the edges of the defense and did most of his damage when targeting within 0-10 yards of the line of scrimmage. When he had to push it deeper, he was effective in that area, too. His ADOT (Average Depth of Target) of 7.6 yards reflects that. Pepper the short area and take the shots when they’re dialed up. 

The reason for this approach is rooted in how the Chargers like to play. They want to keep everything in front of them. They can be aggressive, but they want to force you to be perfect down the field. Like a lot of other defenses the Packers have faced this year, the Chargers were dropping their linebackers and looking to take away the middle of the field. LaFleur did a good job at dialing up stuff to take advantage of that, and Love executed well more often than not.

Let’s look at some plays. We’ve got 4 this week, but I’m thinking of it in terms of two sets of twos. 

Set 1

Play 1: 1st & 10, 1:17 remaining in the 1st quarter

This is the missed deep shot to Romeo Doubs [87] up the left side. A shame, because it looked beautiful right up until the moment that it didn’t. The Packers go under center play action out of 12 personnel and are looking for a deep shot. 

Jordan Love [10] takes the deep drop, sets then throws deep to Doubs. Doubs is bracketed off the line, but he gives a little stutter around the 15 yard mark, causing the inside defender to drop off. When the Packers run their Strike/PA Bang Dig concept, they will often have that dig route break at around 12-15 yards. That little move gets rid of the inside defender.

Unfortunately, Love hangs the ball up a bit too much and it ends up as an underthrown deep shot that Doubs can’t come up with. Sadly, a somewhat familiar refrain this year. (I am hoping it improves, but the season is flying by. We’ve seen some hints here and there, but nothing consistent yet.)

But that’s not what we’re here to focus on. The Chargers have 4 men at the line and 3 linebackers behind them. After they determine that it’s a playfake, the middle LB drops back to the middle of the field while the other two fan out to pick up the flats. The boundary DB away from the shot side releases the route to his side to the inside safety, since it’s pressing inside. (If that route were to go vertical to the outside, the boundary DB would pick it up.)

Love takes the shot to Doubs - which was the right move - but, when they reviewed this on the sideline, I’m sure they saw these drops and saw Christian Watson [9] wide open on the deep curl away from the shot.

The result of this play was an incomplete pass, but it’s not a worthless play.

Play 2: 1st & 10, 2:25 remaining in the 3rd quarter

This may sound familiar, but the Packers have Love taking a deep drop off under center play action out of 12 personnel. The Chargers defense is aligned slightly different, but, based on what the Packers had been seeing, they anticipated roughly the same coverage look. Boundary DBs will drop off with the routes up the seam and the linebackers will spot-drop, with the inside most LB dropping to the middle and the other flaring out to the flat.

The Packers counter by running two deep curl routes, looking to take advantage of the hole in the coverage. The Chargers change things up slightly, with the LB (Eric Kendricks [6]) dropping deep and carrying Dontayvion Wicks [13] deep to the middle. 

When Kendricks turns to the middle, Love throws to Wicks in space for a 27 yard gain.

Whips that sucker right past Khalil Mack [52], too. Nice looking throw.

Set 2

Play 3: 1st & 10, 8:21 remaining in the 2nd quarter

Another under center play action look, this one out of 11 personnel. The Chargers are operating out of a 2 high shell with 5 men at the line and 2 linebackers behind them. The Packers are faking the run to the left, taking a beat, then coming back to the left to attack. They’re releasing Wicks on a vertical route, then releasing Luke Musgrave [88] up the field after disengaging from a block and following that with Aaron Jones [33] from the backfield.

The vertical route from Wicks takes away the boundary DB and from there it’s a simple match and match-up problem. If the Chargers don’t take one of their 2 LBs to scream over the top of Musgrave, that puts the linebacker at the line (Tuli Tuipulotu [45]) on Musgrave off a delayed release.

Tuipulotu stays with Musgrave well off the line, but there’s still room for Love to go over the top with this one. Not only does he have the mismatch with Musgrave, but Tuipulotu isn’t fully committing to carrying Musgrave down the field: he’s half-turned and looking back at Love and Jones.

Love takes the “sure thing” instead, checking it down to Jones in space. Unfortunately, the throw is a little behind Jones and it hits the ground. 

Even if the ball is put to the inside and Jones brings this in, it’s likely a gain of no more than 5 yards given the fact that Tuipulotu is driving down on this as soon as Love releases it. 

Play 4: 1st & 10, 11:24 remaining in the 4th quarter

It was open and it was almost beautiful, so LaFleur dialed it up again, this time out of 12 personnel. Once again, the Chargers are operating out of a 2 high shell with 5 man at the line and 2 linebackers behind them. Watson is now the receiver to the playside and they run him on a deep vertical route, clearing the boundary. AJ Dillon [28] is the running back releasing to the flat after the playfake. Tuipulotu is, once again, the defender over Musgrave.

Musgrave blocks and releases and Tuipulotu is sold a little more on the playfake this time, so he is caught off-balance when Musgrave disengages, creating a ton of separation for Musgrave. Musgrave wheels up the boundary to find nothing but beautiful wide open spaces.

And Love sends this a little too far. Musgrave is able to get a hand on it, but it would have been a spectacular catch. If just a little is taken off the throw, we’re looking at a huge gain. Instead, we’re left to talk about a nice playcall against a perfect look and dreaming of what could be the next time.

Albums listened to: Anathallo - Floating World; Phoebe Bridgers - Punisher; Explosions in the Sky - The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place; Genevva - Late Bloomer; Andre 3000 - New Blue Sun




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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PeteK's picture

November 21, 2023 at 06:40 pm

Progress and without a running attack. I predict( please, hope) a Musgrave 40 yarder and Watson, Reed 60 yd bomb before the season is over. Bucs, Gents, and Bears are not good against the pass.

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splitpea1's picture

November 21, 2023 at 08:07 pm

As usual, all I can do is nod my head in agreement...we're getting there.

It will be interesting to see how the offense adjusts to the absence of Musgrave; probably more chain-moving types of routes/throws to the other three TEs, which might be beneficial for us learning to put together long drives. Even Deguara, who has missed some blocks (and some subsequent playing time) lately, has caught everything thrown his way.

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T7Steve's picture

November 22, 2023 at 08:11 am

Thanks again Dusty.

What I can't believe is that we can't get a running game going against those lite fronts? Why are they daring us to run, and we aren't able to do better than 2.8 YPC? Amazing they fell for the play action at all.

Still love the plays starting from under center though. They're getting this stuff working and just need it to click.

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Shawn's picture

November 29, 2023 at 02:49 am

You have given very useful information. Keep it up and keep blogging. I look forward to reading your next post.

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