Geronimo Allison, the undrafted wide receiver coming from the University of Illinois after two years at Iowa Western Community College, single-handedly (or with two hands if we’re being honest) put the team on his back to win a game for the Green Bay Packers in 2017. It happened early in the year so some of us may have forgotten, but I’m here to remind you how special those 7 minutes of game time were for Geronimo and Green Bay.
Let’s replay this incredible sequence; I’ll start by setting the scene for you. The contest is in the fourth quarter of one of the hottest games ever recorded at Lambeau field. Cincinnati had just marched down the field on an 11-play touchdown drive, putting them up 24-17 with 3:46 on the clock. At this point Green Bay’s offense had no run game to speak of and while Aaron Rodgers was putting up decent numbers, too many of the passes were check-downs to Ty Montgomery out of the backfield. Adding to the intrigue was the fact that both of your starting offensive tackles were out of the game and Randall Cobb was inactive. Needless to say, confidence heading into this drive was not very high. So what do you do? Throw to your fourth wide receiver on four out of the first five plays of the drive, of course. Who says McCarthy isn’t a coaching genius?
4th Quarter, target 1 of 4
The play starts with Allison coming in motion from the bottom to the top of your screen, ending up in the slot position between Bennett, who was flexed off the line, and Jordy Nelson playing out wide. Allison runs a switch comeback route; he initially breaks up the field at a 45 degree angle to the outside, while Nelson does the same but to the inside - essentially switching their positions. After getting upfield around 20 yards, Allison cuts back and outside, the classic comeback pattern. The Bengals defense counters with a cover three look, but the cornerback that is covering Allison on the outside slips as Allison is at the top of his route.
Rodgers manages to escape early pressure (McCray at right tackle is less than ideal) and spots a wide open Allison along the sideline for a 17-yard pickup.
4th quarter, target 2 of 4
After another incompletion to Ty Montgomery in the backfield, Allison is in a similar position to the above play, except Davante Adams and Nelson have swapped spots. The inside blitz by Cincinnati is not picked up by Green Bay’s linemen so Rodgers is forced to throw the ball sooner than anticipated. Luckily for him, his receivers were running slants, and Allison finds himself open. Rodgers fires one that hits Allison square in the hands, but the wide receiver can’t manage to hang on to what would have been close to a first down.
4th quarter, target 3 of 4
This might give some of you a bit of deja-vu; watch this clip and see if you can figure out the similarities between this play and the first play I highlighted.
You guess it - the route combination is the same. This is a great example of how you can run the same concept with different window dressings to disguise it. This time, Allison doesn’t motion across the field; he starts in the slot position with Nelson above him.
An added wrinkle, which I really like, is the designed rollout protection scheme with the linemen. While having you quarterback use a designed rollout limits their field of vision, it also eases the burden on the offensive line, something that Cincinnati had been exploiting with blitz schemes and winning 1 on 1 matchups on the edge against Green Bay’s backup tackles. Rollouts are especially effective against man coverage as it allows the receivers more time to get into their routes and extends the coverage time of the defense. The playside blockers don’t drop straight back and instead work their way down the line, while the backside blockers follow suit and hitch after they get into position. See how far the pocket moves:
As for the routes themselves, Nelson essentially sets a pick on the swap between him and Geronimo; Allison runs underneath Nelson and Allison’s defender, Darqueze Dennard, gets hung up and ends up a few yards behind him. Geronimo runs another comeback route, and as his defender had already been beaten over the top, coming back to the LOS made the catch more difficult than it needed to be. Despite good positioning by Dennard on the throw, Allison fully extends himself and his lanky frame to make a great contested catch on the sideline.
4th quarter, target 4 of 4:
After getting the ball on three out of four plays, Allison is feeling it. Again matching up against Dennard, Allison is now lined up in the left slot paired with Adams. Only Allison and Martellus Bennett actually run routes, as the outside receivers are blocking the entire way. Immediately looking his way, Rodgers slings the ball Allison’s way on a flare out to the sideline where its up to Adams to give him a block and for Geronimo to make someone miss. He doesn’t; nor does anybody watching the game expecting him to, as Allison isn’t really all that agile and he’s gassed at this point.
Regardless, he picks up four yards and immediately goes to the sideline to catch his breath. For an undrafted wide receiver who is normally fourth on the depth chart; not a bad series. But here’s where the real beauty comes in.
The Bengals got the ball first but Green Bay’s defense held them to a three and out, and after a nice return by the much-maligned Trevor Davis (whom I still think can be a really good return man) the Packers have the ball at their own 21 yard line. After a pair of incompletions, Green Bay was facing a 3rd & 10. Always looking for a free play, Rodgers uses a hard count on the Bengals - and it works. In an interview with Larry McCarren, Allison said he recognized the offsides, worked vertical, felt the cover two coverage, and peeked at the safety to see where he was. The rest was gravy.
Rodgers recognizes the coverage early, looks off the safety, and fires a beautiful ball sliding to his left to hit Allison before the safety help gets there. 72 yards later, Geronimo Allison had put the Packers in an excellent position to win the ballgame and they did just that as Mason Crosby knocked home a 27 yard field goal two plays later. Allison had himself a pretty loud seven minutes for someone typically so quiet.