The Green Bay Packers’ offense has the ability to put points on the board quickly. It hasn’t happened often in 2016; as fellow writer Paul Noonan detailed, the longest touchdowns for Green Bay’s offense this year have been a pair of 29-yard passes to Davante Adams. Single-play scoring drives are exhilarating and reduce the stress on the offense; not only is it difficult to execute every play on a long drive, it’s also not nearly as fun to cheer for 4 yard gains on check-downs every play. That being said, with 1:55 on the clock and one timeout remaining in the 2nd quarter, Rodgers put together a lightning-strike drive that looked easy, resulted in 6 points, and only took a little over a minute to finish. It wasn’t an 80-yard bomb, but it still brought some excitement.
First Play: Completion to Jordy Nelson, 18 yards
This was going to Jordy, whether or not he was open. I don’t like the reads as Rodgers doesn’t put in any effort to look off his receivers. I do, however, like the quickness of the release. Aaron sets himself up after only two steps, and unleashes a perfect pass to someone who he clearly has a longtime connection with. It’s clear that Jordy has lost a step this year, but if he can continue to make these catches, he can provide a security blanket to the offense.
Daryl Johnston calls this play perfectly:
Yeah, I just don’t know if you can defend this. Perrish Cox is in perfect position, but this is - this is two guys that have done this too many times. I mean that...that’s just...I don’t know how you defend that, Kenny. That’s just tremendous chemistry between Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson.
He’s absolutely right. Perrish Cox is in great position to break up the pass, but since it’s thrown so quickly and before Nelson even turns around, Cox doesn’t realize that the ball is already in the air. Cox doesn’t even get a chance to get his hands up to deflect the pass by the time Nelson is turning to go upfield with the ball in his hands.
Second Play: Incomplete to Geronimo Allison
Here, Allison is open, and Aaron misses him. It’s a tight window on a 12 yard out route, but this is a routine throw for someone as good as Rodgers. There was also another option; Nelson ran a post-corner on the near side and had beaten his man for a potential big gain. Either way it’s a pass that should have been completed for a first down.
Third Play: Incomplete to Richard Rodgers
Another forced pass to a receiver who, in my opinion, shouldn’t be on the field in this scenario. During his career, Richard Rodgers hasn’t shown that he’s a real receiving threat. He’s not fast, he’s not tall, and he doesn’t even have steady hands. Worst of all, Aaron doesn’t even look to another receiver on this play. There is decent protection on a 3-man rush, so there’s no need to throw the ball quickly, and Geronimo Allison is actually the only open receiver on this play.
That being said, the throw is still OK. Not every pass can be completed. It’s in a position where only Rodgers would be able to catch it - high and outside - and that’s exactly where it needed to be.
Fourth Play: Completion to Davante Adams, 38 yards
Davante Adams has quietly become a nice route runner. Coming out of college, his profile was essentially “benefited from Derek Carr and poor competition, good body control, poor route runner”. Since then, he has drastically improved his route running, and the next play is a good example of such.
While it’s not a crisp hard cut route, it’s a smart route. As the ball is snapped quickly, the Titans defender #23 Brice McCain doesn’t have time to get over to cover Adams and square up his body position. This means that he’s running with Adams while positioned on the inside. If Davante runs an outward breaking or fly route, McCain would be in perfect trail position and not have to change his path of travel. Notice where McCain’s hips and shoulders are pointed in this photo.
It’s at this point where Adams throws a fake to the outside, further committing McCain, and starts his cut inside. As mentioned earlier, this is a speed route; not a hard cut, but one made at full speed. Once Adams makes his break, McCain can’t just throw his shifter in reverse to stay with Davante; instead, he has to turn himself around and is looking in the exact opposite direction of his receiver.
By the time McCain gets his head back around to locate his man, there’s already too much separation, and now McCain is the one rounding off his angles to try and get back to covering Adams.
It’s the completion of the route that makes this a good play by Adams; he could have lazily not finished the cut, thereby taking a deeper angle inside, but that would have run him back into McCain’s coverage. Instead, he stays flat on the 45 yard line and continues running at full speed, where Rodgers delivers the ball in a spot where he can pick up some YAC. Just don’t look to closely at Rodgers’ terrible footwork as he releases the ball - that’s for another, much longer article.
Fifth Play: Completion to Davante Adams, 6 yards
After having picked up 38 yards on the previous play and seemingly being the only one on the team having any life, Adams was highlighted by Daryl Johnston before the snap. Unlike the previous play, however, this was not a good route. Winded from the previous play, Adams simply jogs to the sideline. The only reason he’s open at all is because the Titans are up by 25. The man covering him, McCain again, is fine giving up the underneath completions in order to not get beat over the top. You won’t get yelled at by your coach for allowing a 3 yard completion; you’ll get benched for allowing a touchdown.
Adams does manage to break McCain’s poor attempt at a tackle and dance along the sideline and gain a few extra yards. Rodgers’ first look was to Geronimo Allison at the top of the screen, and you can see him set his feet to fire it after the three-step drop. Had Adams not been open, this would have been a throw-away and on first down, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Sixth Play: Completion to James Starks, 13 yards, TOUCHDOWN
It’s good to see James Starks come back and be able to make an impact right away. He wasn’t as productive as Packer fans would have hoped before he got injured, but it’s clear he is an improvement over the combination of Aaron Ripkowski and Don Jackson in the backfield.
The screen play hasn’t seen a lot of usage this year in the Green Bay offense, and I for one think that’s a shame - but it’s for good reason. As most of the NFL world knows, the Packers receivers have had trouble consistently getting open against man coverage. Screen plays can be best defended against man coverage; it’s easy for the defender covering the screen man to recognize, and if the defender is aggressive enough, there is a good chance for him to sneak in through the much less agile linemen and break up the play before it gets started. That scenario nearly happens here; Titans safety Daimion Stafford, #24, reads the screen as soon as Starks moves to begin his route.
Lane Taylor, the closest blocker, positions himself as if Starks is going to catch the pass and run outside. Taylor is reading Stafford’s movements, who is in turn reading Starks’ path. The problem with Taylor’s body positioning is that he is in horrible position to try and block the defender if Starks makes a cutback. Ideally, instead of turning his hips to the inside, Taylor is good enough blocker to be able to pick up Stafford with a flat base. If his hips and shoulders stay square to the LOS, he can much more easily block Stafford in either direction he goes. Since Starks did choose to cut back to the middle of the field, Taylor has to lunge out to try and get a paw on Stafford.
Fortunately, Stafford is so worried about beating Starks to the outside that he too leaves himself susceptible to the cutback, whiffs on the tackle attempt, and takes himself out of the play. From there, Starks gets a bit of assistance from Don Barclay who (along with Corey Linsley) initially took a bad angle. Instead of running east-west, they should have gone upfield once they ditched their linemen on the LOS. If they were only a few feet further upfield, Starks could have walked in untouched, but instead, Linsley was as useless as a screen door in a snowstorm while Barclay managed to bust his hump enough to make a block that might not have been needed anyway.
One last look: