The Green Bay Packers have a very efficient vertical passing with Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams. Their ability to move Adams around in 3x1 alignments as a receiver who can play both the slot and as the single receiver to get favorable match-ups is a thing of beauty whether or not they’re throwing deep or not. In 2020, this was an effective way to spread the ball around, especially throwing deep.
If they move Adams into the slot against 2-high coverage, they can get a favorable matchup on a slower linebacker. Having the ability to play Adams in the slot or out wide allows them to put stress on a defense with Adams where an opponent might shade over to his side and bracket while leaving another receiver alone with no safety help.
One vertical passing game concept the Packers run (but not out of a 3x1 trips) is a concept known as “double go (middle read).” The concept was popularized in the Don Coryell offense and is popularly known as “989”, where the nines indicate go routes by the outside receivers and the eight indicates a post route by the tight end or slot receiver.
In the modern version, the slot or tight end post turns into a dig route across the middle of the field if there is a single high safety. Against 2-high coverage, the slot will run the post. The outside receivers have the option to run 6-7 yard curl routes if the coverage over them bails at the snap, which you can see in the week 14 clips above vs Detroit.
In their week two Monday night game versus the Lions this season, quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw a perfectly placed pass Davante Adams down the sideline. On this variant of the double go concept, the outside receivers run a double move out and up while the slot receiver runs a middle read route.
Rodgers has Adams down the left side working against rookie cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu (No. 26). The Lions are playing a cover-1 robber coverage with a deep safety aligned in the middle of the field.
Rodgers looks off the deep safety as Adams turns Melifonwu on the double move. That was all the separation Adams needed as Rodgers dropped it in the bucket.
Against the 49ers in week three, the Packers called double go, but from 3x2, four different times in the game. On their first third down, the Packers are running double go but from the slot receivers out of a 3x2 empty formation. Adams is lined up on the two receiver side with Jaquiski Tartt in press coverage and rookie safety Talonoa Hufanga shaded to that side.
The three receiver side has Robert Tonyan as the inside slot (No. 85) and Alan Lazard as the number two middle slot. The number one receivers on both sides are running quick hitches, Adams and Lazard are running slot fades, and Tonyan is running the middle read route.
Rodgers sees in the pre-snap assessment that Hufanga and Tartt have removed Adams from the play. Rodgers drops back and throws in about 1.8 seconds from snap to throw deep down the field to the slot fade to Lazard being covered by K’Waun Williams.
The second play in the clip above happened late in the first quarter. The Packers came right back to the same concept out of 3x2 again with Lazard in the middle slot like the first play. This time corner Deommodore Lenoir (No. 38) is covering Lazard.
The 49ers defense aligns the same but with Tartt as the single high safety and corner Josh Norman (No. 26) covering Adams. The play result ends up with Lenoir drawing the flag for pass interference on Lazard.
On the final time the Packers called double go, Rodgers threw to tight end Robert Tonyan who was running the middle read route. The 49ers adjusted to a 2-high coverage shell versus the Packers 3x2, most likely to give the corners some safety help over the top against the slot go routes.
Tonyan splits the safeties versus “middle of the field open (MOFO)” with linebacker Fred Warner in trail underneath. Warner ends up drawing defensive pass interference but Rodgers is still able to put the ball over the top of Warner into Tonyan’s hands even though he’s unable to catch it.
The Packers have a variety of concepts in the vertical passing that they can get to in creative ways and one way to run your core concepts is by hiding in different formations. The Packers never ran double go from a 3x2 like this in 2020. In 2021, it will be interesting to see what other ways they are able to get to the vertical passing game that we haven’t seen yet.