The Packers' offense came out flat in a 34-31 loss to the Vikings in the game’s final seconds on Sunday. At one point in the game, it looked over sooner than it was when the Packers were down 23-10. After some nice second-half adjustments, the offense came to life and roared back to take the lead, which shifted back and forth a total of four times in the game’s final quarter.
In the end, Rodgers finished the day 23-33 for 385 yards and four touchdowns. A.J. Dillon and Patrick Taylor combined for only 64 yards rushing but much of the game script wasn’t conducive to the run with the Packers behind the chains right away with 1st-and-15 or 1st-and-20 on four separate drives.
In the first half though, it was a tough slog for an offense missing Aaron Jones, Allen Lazard, and Robert Tonyan. The Vikings had an easy task early on with doubling Davante Adams and forcing Rodgers to throw isolated routes to Marquez Valdez-Scantling and Randall Cobb, a less than ideal situation to be in.
Davante Adams double coverage
When the Vikings double-covered Adams downfield or passed him off between defenders, it usually meant that another receiver somewhere else was blanketed in man coverage due to devoting resources to stopping Adams. This forced Rodgers a number of times to throw isolated routes downfield that have a lower percentage chance of being completed.
The result was usually that Rodgers felt rushed while looking for other receivers to throw to, which ultimately affected the timing of the play and the timing of the throw. Several were off target as a result. Adams caught two passes in the first half for 45 yards, but 37 of those yards came on a shallow crosser on the offense’s first play of the game.
Second half offensive adjustments
The Packers needed to get some cheap and easy yards if the Vikings were going to keep doubling Adams. On the second play of the second half, the Vikings double Adams again but the play call had a built-in check-down option to go to right away if Adams wasn’t there.
On this play, the Packers align in a trey 3x1 formation (trey is the tight end in tight end on the line scrimmage). Rodgers' progression as a deep in-breaking route on the left outside of Adams, who’s running a deep clearing route from the slot. The Vikings pass off Adams again in the coverage and he’s essentially bracketed to that side. They also erased the deep dig route.
As Rodgers drops back scanning those reads, he sees this and immediately goes to Dillon, the check down in the flat to the opposite side, where he manages to get 12 yards on 1st-and-20.
To manufacture yards for Adams, they had to use him in a way they don’t typically do. Later on the same drive, instead of running Adams downfield, they had him run a slide route behind the offensive line on a play-action pass.
The play call was a simple keeper play-action rollout to the left with a corner route, an intermediate crosser, a late down flat route, and Adams on the slide route. Rodgers hit Adams on the slide route to the flat for quick 17 yard gain.
Later in the fourth quarter, the Vikings' coverage on Adams tightened down but Rodgers was able to find other outlets to keep the chains moving and score points. On their first drive of the fourth quarter, they called the keeper play-action pass again but this time to the right side of the formation.
On this particular play, Adams was not on the field but the play call was executed to perfection as Rodgers found Equanimeous St. Brown on the late down flat for a 26 yard gain across mid-field.
To take the lead late in the game, Rodgers found Valdez-Scantling for a touchdown on a deep crosser over the middle of the field.
It looks like the Packers used Adams as a decoy to draw double coverage with the safety playing top-down over his shallow crosser. The Vikings come out in a two-high coverage shell with the intent of giving the corner safety help with safety Harrison Smith (No. 22).
Rodgers drops back and his eyes immediately go to Adams on the shallow crosser. This causes Smith to bite on the route and drive from his safety spot.
As he does, Rodgers flips his eyes back around to Valdez-Scantling and finds that he’s beaten the other safety and is running through the area that Smith vacated with nothing but open grass in front of him. Rodgers places the pass directly into his hands perfectly in stride and Valdez-Scantling sprints for six.
Rodgers to Adams connection
The two stars did connect for two touchdown passes in the second half of the game to give their team a chance to win. Sometimes an offense just needs its star players to create when there’s nothing to create and on the two touchdown passes, this is evident as so many other times before it.
On their first touchdown in the third quarter, the play call has Adams and Valdez-Scantling running intermediate mesh crossers to try and create traffic around the goal line. The Vikings still manage to double cover Adams with linebacker Eric Kendricks playing a “robot” technique under Adams’ crosser and the safety driving top down on his route.
Rodgers wants Adams here, so the two flip into scramble drill mode, Adams cuts back inside, and the defenders cannot hang with him. Rodgers zips it in there for the touchdown.
Later in the fourth quarter, Adams is 1-on-1 with the dime defender as the trips side draws man-to-man coverage behind a six-man pressure from the defensive front.
Adams runs a stutter-and-go double move and beats his defender to the outside and gets wide open in the end zone where Rodgers finds him for the touchdown. The Packers would go up 24-23 at this point and would have two more scores each before the game ended.
The injury-depleted roster caught up with them on Sunday. And it couldn’t have come at a worse time as they play perhaps their most important game of the season this weekend against the Rams and former division foe Matt Stafford. The Rams and Sean McVay went into the bye week after getting utterly embarrassed by his big brother Kyle Shanahan on national television on a Monday night.
The Rams are without Robert Woods on offense and Von Miller’s first action of the season versus the 49ers was pretty uneventful. This would be a bad week for that defense to get right if the Packers don’t get some reinforcements back on offense this week. They’ll need to get creative again with some of their play calls work to find ways to get Adams the ball in space a few more times than they against Minnesota.
Buckle up, the prelude to the playoffs starts this weekend.