The Passing Chronicles: 2023 Week 18

Dusty takes a look at the passing game from the Packers week 18 win over the Bears

It’s been a wild season, man. We started out saying, “we would like to have an answer on Jordan Love by the end of the season,” and now we’re looking forward to a playoff match-up against the Cowboys. Who would have thought that was even a possibility in the midst of that 4 game losing streak. After their week 7 loss to the Broncos, the Packers sat at 2-4 and I was prepping my “there are still interesting things to watch every week, even if the Packers have nothing to play for” speech.

Overall, it has been a really fun season and I’m thrilled we get to spend at least one more week with this team.

To the passing chart!

A beautifully efficient chart. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve mentioned the lack of targets to the middle of the field and how that was a product of the gameplan against those specific defenses. It was nice to see him back to targeting the middle. Per PFF, on throws to the middle of the field past the line of scrimmage (LOS), Love was 15/17 (88.2%) for 151 yards (8.9 YPA) and 1 TD. Not bad.

Love also turned in his highest CPOE (Completion Percentage Over Expected) of the season at +13.2%. I mean, even the normal stats are great. He was 27/32 (84.4%) for 316 yards (9.9 YPA) and 2 TDs. PFF doesn’t have any drops listed for his receivers in this game, but he had 2 would-be TDs that hit his receivers in the hands - off absolutely bonkers throws, I might add - but since they were knocked around by defenders I guess those don’t fit into the “drop” bucket. I get it, but it would have been really cool if they’d been able to come up with those catches.

We’ve been looking at Love’s blitz numbers over the last few weeks and we were right to do it, because he was going up against some extremely blitz-heavy lunatics. To his credit, Love had been shredding the blitz. This week? Love was blitzed on 14.7% of his dropbacks. On those dropbacks, he was 5/5 for 40 yards. And, contrary the high ADOT (Average Depth of Target) Love had been posting against blitzes recently, Love turned in an ADOT of 2.7 yards when blitzed this week. That tells me that they knew they were unlikely to face many blitzes against this Bears team, so they didn’t get cute with it. It’s a minor part of the game, so, when they bring the heat, just check it down and move to the next play.

Overall, a masterful performance from Love. He was in complete control the entire game. He was calm in the pocket, knew where to go when the first read wasn’t there and tossed in some absolute heaters into the mix for good measure. It’s been so much fun watching him this year.

We’re going to get to a few plays, but I’ve got a little set-up to do first, so stick with me for a couple minutes.

I’ve talked at length about the Packers use of Play Action Bootleg in the past, so we won’t get into that at length here. Still, we’ll set the stage because all the plays we’re looking at play off of that. (If you want a decent crash-course into PA Boot, I dug into it in Week 1 of this season.)

Play Action Bootleg (PA Boot) is something that has been around forever and has been the key passing concept since Matt LaFleur rode into town. It’s a natural constraint to the Wide Zone run play, which is where this system finds its roots.

Get the defense pulled toward the line on the run, then boot out the other way and throw past them. The effectiveness dipped a bit last year, but the Packers (and other teams) have found ways to keep it alive.

While the core concept is diagrammed above, there are numerous variations to this in terms of route tags and half-boot concepts. My favorite of the variations is Leak (which the Packers ran in Week 1, and I wrote about in that piece I linked above). It’s a half-boot concept designed to sneak the TE under the linebackers to leak out the opposite side.

In this game, the Packers used the PA Boot motion but mashed it up with principles from another favorite concept of mine: All Go RB Seam.

I tend to shorten it to “All Go” these days, and for good reason: it’s a concept that has seen a lot of changes over the years, most notably that the RB is not always sent up the seam. One of the modifications the Packers had made to that concept over the years was to get rid of the seam route but pair it with a crossing route from the other side. So the vertical routes were there for a shot, but they also helped to clear room for the crosser.

This week, the Packers took that idea and upgraded that idea to include the RB that was the part of the playfake to work back to the boot side. Typically that RB would carry out the fake away from the boot, but now the Packers are having him delay the release back under the other routes, working as a kind of Slam route.

Now that I have effectively bored you all with diagrams, let’s look at a few plays.

Play 1: 1st & 10, 11:14 remaining in the 2nd quarter

On this play, the playfake goes left and Love boots to the right. The vertical routes are covered up well and the linebackers do a good job of fading with the crosser, so Love throws it to Malik Heath [18] in the flat, coming from his job as a slicer under the line.

Only a 2 yard gain, but it’s a fun look. If the pressure didn’t break down on Love’s face, he would work back to Aaron Jones [33] on the slam route in the middle of the field. Jones does a good job drifting into the space that’s available to him, simply floating behind the chaos.

Play 2: 1st & 10, 12:57 remaining in the 4th quarter

This is the big 59 yard gain to Jayden Reed [11]. Same concept, slightly different on the details. All the routes are the same, but this time it’s out of shotgun and it’s a frontside boot. Love doesn’t turn to boot away from the fake: he gives a little fake as Jones crosses his face, then continues on to the left.

As Love is booting out, he sees the boundary defender falling down to pick up Tucker Kraft [85] in the flat. With the deep safety to that side removed by the vertical route by Bo Melton [80] Love knows he has room over the top to Reed, so he lets it fly. 

According to LaFleur, Reed wasn’t a part of the progression. “That was just Jordan being Jordan.” That route is meant to create space underneath. Even on the traditional PA Boot, the deep corner route is almost never thrown: defenses have a tendency to take it away. But on this play a window opened up. Credit to Love for seeing it and making a big play, and credit to Reed for fighting through the contact off the line and making a great play with the ball in his hands.

Play 3: 1st & 10, 3:15 remaining in the 4th quarter

On this one, the defense does a good job of taking away the deep routes. The crosser is breaking open and the flat route is open with room to move, but Montez Sweat [98] plays this well off the edge. He gives Melton a little hook on the release, then converges quickly on Love, widening his approach to make the throw to Melton a difficult one.

Love doesn’t panic, because he rarely seems to do that. He looks back inside to Jones on the slam route (which really plays out more like an angle route under the line), drops to a sidearm and connects with Jones.

It’s not much, but 5 yards on 1st & 10 is better than a 10 yard sack. 

Overall, I’m a big fan of this concept. Unless I’ve missed it, this is the first time I’ve seen the Packers run it, and they ran it 3 times in this game. It certainly seems like it’s going to be a nice piece of their arsenal going forward. It’s a powerful, all-use concept that gives the QB answers to various problems. 

I know it's The Passing Chronicles, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention one of the main reasons this is in the offense and why it works. As I've mentioned multiple times, this is a thoughtfully crafted offense, with a lot of pieces tying together. These are not all just one-off calls and they're not all strictly tied to the success of the main PA Boot Sail concept. This is also based around a Counter run the Packers have in their offense. Here's an example from this past week:

All of that movement should look extremely familiar. Illusion of complexity, etc.

Albums listened to: Smashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness; Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha; Wilco - Being There; Beach Bunny - Emotional Creature; U.S. Girls - In a Poem Unlimited; The Kills - God Games; Veruca Salt - American Thighs




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].


3 points

Comments (9)

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splitpea1's picture

January 10, 2024 at 03:25 pm

Play #2 to Reed is something you can watch over and over again and marvel at the execution of everyone involved. It must be a wonderful feeling for a receiver to streak across the field diagonally with the ball in his hands for such a long distance.

5 points
Bitternotsour's picture

January 10, 2024 at 03:30 pm

Now that Pete Carroll is out at Seattle, I won't feel bad that McCarthy will lose his job Monday after we beat the Cowboys. He has a solid landing spot with John Schneider.

2 points
stockholder's picture

January 10, 2024 at 07:51 pm

He isn't. He is now a consultant.

1 points
Bitternotsour's picture

January 10, 2024 at 03:31 pm

Conversely, I do feel bad for Luke Getsy, who always was a good guy. Maybe Mike can hire him in Seattle.

2 points
pantz_bURp's picture

January 10, 2024 at 05:22 pm

Thanks Dusty, appreciated.

I do not agree with an older QB that Green Bay WI is not an ideal travel destination.

When that ball flies out of #10's travels quite well to the open receiver.

Thank you #10 for taking your role on the team seriously and willing to put in the time/effort to get better and better.


3 points
jont's picture

January 10, 2024 at 05:36 pm

Good review again.

I watched NBC Chicago's After Show, and Lance Briggs was talking about the effectiveness of the Packers' dig routes. He praised the Packers' offense generally and passing game in particular.

He was displeased, as you might expect, but he and Alex Brown did a really good job of discussing the game, Fields, and the direction of their team. Honestly, it was some of the best football commentary I've heard; two knowledgeable and totally normal guys without any posturing or show-biz stuff make for a good football show.

4 points
Bitternotsour's picture

January 11, 2024 at 09:39 am

sadly a show like that, where people aren't screaming hot takes at each other attracts only serious fans, and will therefore never have much viewership.

what did they think about fields? if the bears don't draft a quarterback they'll be fools not to hire Mark Roman as OC. Fields in a Mark Roman offense could be a problem.

2 points
jont's picture

January 11, 2024 at 12:14 pm

"what did they think about fields? if the bears don't draft a quarterback they'll be fools..."

Owens wants him gone now. Really ripped on the Bears' failure to find a good QB for so long. Said "this is unpopular but I look at Love and say 'get us one like him'." Briggs was more measured but, yeah, good-bye.

1 points
T7Steve's picture

January 11, 2024 at 08:38 am

As always, Dusty, thanks.

As last week there are always others open on every play you show. What a nice problem to have.

On play #3 though there's two receivers right together on the sideline with no defenders by them. Were they both supposed to be there so close together?

0 points