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Why It Worked, Week 9: Packers’ pass rush schemes trick Andrew Luck

The Packers’ defensive unit held one of the league’s better passing offenses in check. Let’s see how.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Green Bay Packers Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Although they were unable to make some crucial last minute stops, the Green Bay Packers defense fared well last Sunday against a good passing team in the Indianapolis Colts. It was easy to see that Dom Capers and the defensive staff had a strategy to disguise the defensive looks and confuse the Stanford Neck Beard, Andrew Luck. Let’s take a look at a pair of successful cases of the strategy employed.

Quarter 1, 9:52 Remaining

This is the first series the Packers defense got to face Andrew Luck, and they confused him more than a puppy trying to eat a lime. Starting with a two-high safety look and 6 defenders on the line of scrimmage, Luck sees Kentrell Brice walking toward the line of scrimmage.

Thinking that the defense is shifting into a single-high man coverage look, Luck begins to make his own shifts, communicating to his linemen and running back, pointing out the blitz. The defense isn’t done making shifts of their own, however. With Brice up in a tight coverage position against the receiver, Morgan Burnett on the opposite side walks back from his starting spot on the LOS toward his typical spot as safety. Hyde, covering the slot receiver at the top of the screen, makes a pointed effort to tell Brice to get back in coverage.

I’m not Miss Cleo, but I believe Luck’s line of thinking now goes something like this: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is the only deep coverage, everyone else is man to man, and there is a 5 man rush. Luck’s first looks are to the inside receivers on in-breaking routes, and if they’re not there, go over the top on the far side, as Clinton-Dix has a long way to go. On the hike of the ball, Brice is back to playing 10 yards deep, Clinton-Dix has turned his hips toward the far side, and Burnett is backpedaling to cover Clinton-Dix’s spot.

But what’s this? Even more misdirection? Brice, instead of having deep coverage on his side, steps forward in order to pick up the short route. Quinten Rollins also plays short - he stands flat footed facing the quarterback, rather than immediately backpedaling.

Luck sees this, thinks he has himself a blown coverage for a possible touchdown, and launches the ball to the outside. Could you blame him? There’s a lot of green grass out there. As for the rest of the play? Well, let’s let the video do the talking.

Quarter 2, 9:23 Remaining

This one is a little bit more cut and dry. Not as much movement before the snap, but just as much during the play. Looks like a double A-gap blitz, right?

Quite the opposite. The linebackers drop out to coverage while Hyde and Clinton-Dix blitz from the edge.

To boot, Datone Jones slides over the center, while Nick Perry and Kyler Fackrell swap positions - a simple little addition to the play to help increase the confusion. Without the line recognizing this and sliding over, the Colts’ center, left guard and left tackle all have a defender to block on their own. Frank Gore is the one able to pick up any extra rushers, but he never sees Clinton-Dix coming off of the edge.

Haha sneaks in unblocked and makes the easy sack. Take that, Mr. Stanford-architecture-major-dang-I-had-a-hard-time-spelling-architecture-guess-his-life-turned-out-pretty-good-I’ll-get-back-to-flipping-burgers-now.