Acme Packing Company continues our countdown of the best plays of the Green Bay Packers’ 2018 season.
Today we have the 6th best play of the year: a rare bit of outstanding creativity in personnel and formation diversity, paired with excellent execution. Geronimo Allison was having an excellent season when he went down with an injury, and there’s probably a non-zero chance that Mike McCarthy retains his job if Allison never gets injured. Plays like this are the reason why.
Alex Smith and (uggggggggh) Adrian Peterson got Washington out to a big early lead in the Packers’ first road contest of the year. A fierce pass rush and asinine game plan kept the Packer offense in check, and the defense was exposed against a less than impressive opposing offense. The Packers came in at 1-0-1, and they would leave at .500 despite the best efforts of Allison.
The Packers were down 21-3 as Washington ate up the Packers’ run defense and Alex Smith hit several big plays down the field to cast of mediocre receivers. Smith made a ton of hay targeting soon-to-be-Washington safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who did have an interception but was also humiliated repeatedly. The Packers came out with four minutes to go in the first half, picked up a quick first down, and then executed perfectly on this beautiful 5-wide masterpiece.
This is a fun one. It all starts with Washington’s defense Capersing all over the play, as they decided to rush only three people at Aaron Rodgers. This decision was likely based on the Packers’ fun, wide alignment which put pressure on the coverage unit to defend the maximum number of receivers. Adams and Allison lined up out wide with Cobb slot left, Jimmy Graham slot right, and Lance Kendricks on the end of the line at tight end. This is actually a formation that new coach Matt LaFleur probably appreciates, especially if you imagine Aaron Jones in Cobb’s place: the two-tight end look would allow for any kind of play from a power running play to the five-man pattern you see here.
The guilty party this afternoon is the soon-to-be former Washington safety D.J. Swearinger, a generally solid player who would, ironically, be replaced by Clinton-Dix in later in the season. Swearinger’s issues stemmed from public criticism of Washington defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, but this play probably didn’t help his case. At the snap, Jimmy Graham breaks his route outside while Allison streaks upfield. Allison has one of the league’s best corners, Josh Norman, in single coverage. Graham is covered by linebacker and current Packer Preston Smith.
Swearinger reads the play in a way that makes sense if you don’t think about it too hard. Graham is a mismatch for a linebacker, even in his diminished form, and Norman is as good as it gets. Allison pulls a good, but not great double move, hesitating just enough to draw Swearinger down into the box.
The problem with Swearinger’s decision is that even if Graham is targeted and makes the catch, it’s a minimal gain, and Allison’s move helps sell the idea of short routes further. Norman may be the guy you rely on should Allison break it deep, but Allison’s route is the bigger threat, especially when guarding a large lead.
And here is where the play was lost. Norman assumed he had inside help from Swearinger, but Swearinger is caught in no-man’s land, and some nifty work from Adams at the top of the screen, running a mirror pattern with Cobb breaking out wide, managed to clear out any help that might come from the far side. Allison has a step on the safety and five steps on Norman when he breaks his route to the deep middle.
And that’s all he needs.
Allison has excellent separation, Aaron drops an absolute dime in stride, and the Packers are right back in the game.
Watch the whole play here.
Unfortunately, this success was fleeting, as Washington would come right back down the field and score, using a huge gain to Vernon Davis and some more stout running by Peterson. The half would end with Mike McCarthy deciding to attempt a 62-yard field goal instead of a Hail Mary. JK Scott couldn’t handle the snap, everyone was embarrassed, and the game was basically over.
This play could have been the start of something big as was Allison’s touchdown in the Bears game, but instead it was just a pleasant landmark in an ultimately disappointing effort — a nice little microcosm of the season.
Seven of APC’s 11 participating contributors had this play in their top ten, with one writer ranking it as high as third. Three of those seven had it in the top five, pulling it within a few points of the fifth-place play, which we will reveal on Monday.