The Passing Chronicles: 2023 Week 2

Dusty digs into the performance of the passing game in the Packers week 2 loss to the Falcons

Unless you’re a Falcons fan who stumbled their way over here, I feel comfortable saying that’s not the way any of us hoped that would go. The Packers scored 24 points in the 2nd & 3rd quarters, but sandwiched those quarters with goose eggs. As it turns out, getting outscored by 13 in the 4th quarter is not a recipe for success.

Their passing game held up (0.090 EPA in the 1st half, 0.136 EPA in the 2nd half), but their run game faltered (0.050 EPA in the 1st half, -0.463 EPA in the 2nd half). 

More than anything, the story is that the defense just ran out of gas. The Falcons ran 42 plays in the 2nd half while the Packers ran 20. That’s more than double! That’s a lot! That disparity comes down to the 3rd & 4th down efficiency in the 2nd half.

In the 1st half, the Packers faced 6 3rd downs and converted 3 of them (50% conversion rate). All 3 of those conversions occurred on a single drive, with the drive itself ending in the 9 yard touch-pass TD to Jayden Reed. That’s 7 points that would not be possible without those conversions. Without the first conversion on that drive, it would have been a 4 play, 24 yard drive taking ~2.5 minutes. 

In the 2nd half, the Packers faced two 3rd downs before their final drive, and they didn’t convert either of them. One was the ball AJ Terrell almost picked-off (intended for Malik Heath) and the other was a no gain from Dillon. Both were short drives that ended in Packers territory. A conversion on either of those not only increases the chance of scoring points, it also gives your gassed defense some much-needed rest.

But what of the passing game specifically? I’m so glad you asked. Here’s Jordan Love’s passing chart:

This chart shows a lot of attacking on the edges. That was more due to necessity than preference, I would say. The Falcons did a really good job clogging the middle of the field with their linebackers, particularly on play action plays. So he nipped at the edges a bit using some quick-game concepts. He showed a comfort and consistency on those concepts that really impressed me. We haven’t seen Love operate that kind of game before, and I thought what he showed was extremely promising.

Per PFF, Love’s aDOT (Average Distance of Throw) was 8.2 yards. Down a bit from his 10.6 aDOT in Week 1, but still a solid range to be in.

Per Next Gen Stats, his CPOE (Completion Percentage Over Expectation) was -9.3%. I have gotten some questions about this, so let’s talk about the calculation real quick. CPOE is derived by taking expected completion % and subtracting it from completion %. Expected completion % is found by looking at a bunch of different variables. Those variables are:

  • Field position
  • Down
  • Yards to go
  • Air yards
  • Distance to Sticks
  • Whether team throwing is home or away
  • Outdoors or dome game
  • Era the game was played
  • Pass location (middle or not-middle)
  • Whether the QB was hit

You can read about it a little more over at The 33rd Team if you feel so inclined.

It takes all those variables, finds what the completion % has been in that kind of situation and that gives you expected completion %. Not a perfect metric - and still misses some context - but it’s a solid data model that tends to give a good picture of how a QB did.

This is two straight games of Love with negative CPOE (meaning, he has completed a fewer percentage of his passes than he would be expected to given the situation). You and I know that there is context to all of this, but it’s certainly something to monitor. Personally, I’ve been impressed with what Love has shown so far, but he has played far from perfect so far.

Alright. Enough of the jibber jabber. Let’s look at some plays.

Play 1: 3rd & 1, 1:36 remaining in the 1st quarter

Looking for a yard on 3rd & 1? You could do a lot worse than this play. Packers roll out heavy, 13 personnel (1 RB, 3 TE), with all three tight ends aligned on the right side of the line in a condensed bunch look. Luke Musgrave [88] is the inside tight end on that bunch. 

At the snap, the line blocks to the left and the tight ends block down that way as well. Musgrave takes a single jab step towards the line, then releases to the right flat. Jordan Love [10] fakes the handoff to AJ Dillon [28] then sprints out to the right. 

The linebackers react to the run action, leaving the right side of the field wide open. Love finds a wide open Musgrave with room to roam and the Packers pick up 17 yards.

Beautifully drawn up and executed.

Play 2: 1st & 10, 10:39 remaining in the 3rd quarter

Through the preseason and two games into the regular season, the Cross-Country Dagger concept is one the Packers seem to want to feature. They’ve had some great success with it so far, and they’ve been able to find ways to dress it up with the speed they have in their receiving corps.

It’s two-man combo, with the lead route running a crosser and the follow route running a dig. The idea is to have the lead man clear the middle of the field for the follow. The QB reads the lead route first. If it’s open, he’ll throw it. If not, he’ll throw to the follow in the middle of the field.

On this play, the Packers run it with Romeo Doubs [87] as the lead crosser and Dontayvion Wicks [13] as the follow. The kicker is that Wicks is the jet motion man. The ball is snapped as Wicks is clearing Josiah Deguara [81] on the end of the line.

The Falcons are in a man coverage look, so a defender follows Wicks across the field on the motion. As Wicks releases up the field, he pushes vertically and slightly outward. The defender pushes with him and eventually flips around to pick up a vertical route from Wicks up the sideline.

Wicks - having sold the vertical route, cuts back to the middle. The middle has been cleared by Doubs. That includes the safety, who fades with the deep crosser of Doubs.

Love steps up and fires a perfect pass to Wicks. Wicks slips out of the tackle of his defender then reverses back to the right to evade the closing safety. When the dust settled, Wicks had his first touchdown: a beauty of a 32 yarder.

Having the follow route come off jet motion is a really fun look, but it makes it a longer developing play than you normally see on this concept. It’s something that is only possible with speed at receiver and good protection up front. Thankfully the Packers have invested in both of those things.

Play 3: 1st & 10, 1:01 remaining in the 3rd quarter

Let’s close things out by looking at Jayden Reed’s [11] second touchdown of the day. The Packers are in 11 personnel, with Samori Toure [83] in an in-line role and Reed slightly split out as the front man of this condensed stack look.

The Packers use play action to draw the defenders in and Reed sells his part, blocking out on his man initially. But then he sheds and it’s all over but the crying.

Reed’s man takes a step toward the line, believing he had won his block. But it was all a ruse! A trick! Reed releases and has an ocean of room in front of him. Meanwhile. Toure is releasing on a corner route to the back pylon.

The Falcons have man coverage on the receivers and a single-high safety shading away from Toure/Reed at the snap. With no safety, Toure’s defender being dragged into the end zone and Reed’s man taking one step toward the backfield, it’s an easy read for Love. Get the ball out to Reed and pick up a TD.

Really nice design, and a good job by Reed to sell the block before shedding and releasing.

A loss is never fun, but I still had a blast revisiting this game. The Packers are showing a lot of cool stuff on offense. It’s been fun to see them find new ways to get to their core plays, but also watching them come up with counters to those plays. I feel like they’ve been operating a bit of a training wheels offense right now as a way to get Love and these receivers comfortable. I have a feeling they’ll continue to poke and prod over the next few weeks, then unleash the next iteration after the bye week. 

I walked through a few plays with John Kuhn this week, so if you haven’t checked that out, feel free to do it now! This has been a ton of fun.

Albums listened to: Mitski - The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We; Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell; The National - Laugh Track; Madison Beer - Silence Between Songs; S. Carey, John Raymond & Gordi - Shadowlands




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)

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

September 20, 2023 at 03:33 pm

Thanks Dusty for you indepth info...per usual!

Parov Stelar and Caravan Palace are my latest music delights.


2 points
DustyEvely's picture

September 26, 2023 at 10:35 pm

Oh man. I don't know Caravan Palace but I do love me some Parov Stelar.

0 points
croatpackfan's picture

September 20, 2023 at 03:37 pm

Dusty I would love to check your comment on my descriptioned play:
"There was few misscalls, or better to say - no calls from referees that cost Packers at least 7 points. Packers lead 7:3, 3:26 in the first Q there was ball in Falcons red zone. Packers were on Falcons 15 yards line, it was 3rd & 6 and Jordan Love throw beautifull pass to Wicks, right to the right end pilon in the corner of the TD zone. Wicks beat his man and defender panicked, grabed Wicks for his left hand and Wicks were not able to catch that ball with one hand. Referee, instead to threw flag showed sign for incomplete pass."

Thank you!

3 points
PeteK's picture

September 21, 2023 at 09:11 am

Watson"s back so that should loosen up the field.

2 points