The Packers’ offense did not have the hottest of starts against Minnesota. Before their final drive of the first half, they had 24 rushing yards on 7 attempts, they had missed Marquez Valdes-Scantling three separate times on deep shots and Aaron Rodgers was out of rhythm. While they did adjust in the second half, Green Bay also made a couple of adjustments on that final drive to make it a 10-16 game.
Play 1: 2Q 4:18, 1st and 10 GB26
In the first and second quarters, the Packers had run a handful of trips looks with three receivers to one side of the field. When they got into that formation, the Vikings were a linebacker in coverage on the running back. When the back stayed in, the linebacker would Green Dog blitz. A Green Dog blitz means that the linebacker is going to add to the blitz because the back is staying in and is no longer a passing threat.
The Packers come out in trips to start their drive. As running back A.J. Dillon steps up to meet the blitz by Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks, Rodgers knows that linebacker Anthony Barr is likely to add on since Dillon is staying in on protection. Minnesota is rotating to a single-high coverage with Harrison Smith which voids the slant window in the middle of the field. Receiver Equanimeous St. Brown does a great job winning his matchup with a quick stem outside and it’s a pickup of 17 yards.
Play 3: 2Q 3:18 1st and 20 GB33
After an illegal use of hands penalty on tackle Billy Turner, the Packers are faced with a 1st and 20. While this play is incomplete, it’s important because of the look that receiver Randall Cobb and Rodgers get at the top of the field. The Packers are aligned in a balanced formation with two receivers to each side. The key here is the slot blitz from the defender over Cobb. As soon as that defender goes, Cobb turns so that Rodgers can throw hot in the vacated space. Barr, who is on the boundary side of the field, is sprinting to cover the field-side flats. With Kendricks blitzing and Barr chasing to the field, that leaves a ton of space in the middle.
Play 5: 2Q 2:34 3rd and 8 GB45
After their first-down play, the Packers got a 12-yard gain to Tight end Josiah Deguara underneath. That set up this 3rd and 8. The Vikings are in another one of their blitz looks. Minnesota rotates out of it late, but they again bring a slot blitz from the wide side of the field over Randall Cobb. Cobb again looks early, but he understands that if he doesn’t get the ball, that means someone is sprinting out of the blitz look to get underneath him. As soon as he identifies Kendricks getting out to the field, he bends his route over the top into the middle of the field and uses Kendricks’ momentum against him. Cobb is wide open for a 15-yard drive-extending gain.
Play 10: 2Q 0:38 3rd and 5 MIN25
To cap off the drive, we got some vintage Rodgers outside the pocket. We also got some of the rhythm issues that Rodgers has had this season. The Packers have two Fin (five-yard in) routes at the top of the screen with a clear-out from the #3 receiver, Deguara. Deguara is supposed to remove any linebackers as they cover the post hole. That isolates the #1 and #2 receivers on the defenders over them. All they have to do is win inside at five yards for the first down. However, the defender on Cobb, which is where Rodgers wants to go, has inside leverage and prevents the in-breaker. That means that with the corner outside playing at about eight yards, the ball should go to running back Patrick Taylor. However, Rodgers comes off of Cobb and instead of staying with the concept, comes to Davante who was working an option route at the bottom of the field. Receiver Davante Adams is covered, so Rodgers improvises, buys time, and hits Deguara with a dime in the back of the endzone.
Rodgers has been higher variance this year. There’s clearly something up with his deep ball, but when Rodgers is playing on rhythm, he’s almost unstoppable. It took the Packers a few drives to dial in last week, but if this is the game that unlocks the offense, the future is very very bright.