If you were wondering why the Green Bay Packers didn’t rush Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow full-force on his deep touchdown strike to wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase at the end of the first half on Sunday, you aren’t the only person who thought something was wrong on the play. Today, head coach Matt LaFleur clarified that it was a result of misunderstanding the Bengals’ offensive check at the line of scrimmage, leading to the pass-rush playing more conservatively.
“A lot of things that go on defensively, there’s tips and tells. Certainly, there’s some checks that you may hear...Everybody spends a good amount of time looking at TV copies trying to hear things that maybe an offense is saying that can give you some insight onto what they’re doing. If you have an idea of what a team is doing, then you have a much better chance of stopping it. So, our guys thought they heard something that we actually have in our offense that I don’t know if Cincinnati has in their offense or not, in terms of the same words for the same play. So, our guys thought they heard that and they were playing that play and, unfortunately, they guessed wrong. It definitely hurt us in a big way ‘cause certainly you never want to give up a 70-yard touchdown completion in that type of situation.”
Below is the play in question, in which Burrow held the ball for eight seconds before releasing it downfield to his star receiver Chase:
To recap, the Packers defense heard the Bengals offense make a call that sounded like a check the Packers offense runs, which triggered a check defensively to only send two pass-rushers, both interior defensive linemen, while the outside linebackers dropped over the center near the line of scrimmage. For reference, Cincinnati head coach Zac Taylor and LaFleur spent time together in 2017 with the Los Angeles Rams, when LaFleur was the offensive coordinator and Taylor was the assistant receivers coach, which might have been why the defense thought the offensive checks would translate across schemes this week.
If we’re to guess here, the defense probably thought they heard a check to something like a quarterback draw, due to the twisting defensive tackles and the fact that their outside linebackers dropped into what seemed like no man’s land. The lack of a pass rush, though, allowed Burrow to hold the ball and send it roughly 50 yards from throw-to-catch.
Chase made the grab after safety Darnell Savage was unable to make a diving play on the ball as Chase ran from the left sideline to outside the numbers on the right side of the field. According to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, Chase was able to cover 103 yards on the play, according to NextGenStat’s tracking data.
Ja’Marr Chase covered 103.2 yards on his 70-yard TD with a max speed of 20.2 mph.— Rob Demovsky (@RobDemovsky) October 10, 2021
Darnell Savage had a max speed of 22.1 mph on the close out but still missed the breakup.
Via @NextGenStats pic.twitter.com/fkzsoLiznY
This strange story would be a lot less funny if the Packers didn’t come out on top with a 25-22 overtime win on Sunday.