The Packers won round two versus the Bears this season by a score of 45-30, bringing their record under Aaron Rodgers to 22-5. They can clinch a playoff spot and a division title with a win next in Baltimore next Sunday versus the Ravens. It would be their third straight division title with Matt LaFleur as the head coach.
The offense struggled to find a rhythm and move the ball until the second quarter but still found themselves down 24-14 with a 1:32 left in the half. One of those touchdowns was a Rasul Douglas pick six of Justin Fields in the second quarter. Outside of the touchdown drive that ended with a two-yard touchdown pass to Allen Lazard, the Packers went into that 10 point hole after the offense went six plays before punting and giving up a 97-yard punt return.
Rodgers said after the game.
“Once we got into a rhythm a little bit, that was important. We ran the ball a little bit better, then we started slinging it all over the place and scored that first touchdown. The really, really important drive for us in the 2-minute to take it down there and score. Wanted to get Davante involved, so moved him into the slot on a few of those plays and got the right coverage.”
“On the touchdown, the unsung hero of the play is Marquez Valdes-Scantling because he’s running a clear-out route on the outside to allow for Davante to run his out-and-up. And then Tae, he’s so talented to be able to catch that ball in full stride and make a guy miss on the 5-yard line who was barreling down is pretty impressive. So that was a big drive for us.” Acme Packing Company’s Tyler Brooke goes into more detail in his weekly breakdown article on how the Packers moved Devante Adams around to get him more involved.
Rodgers finished 29-37 for 341 yards and four touchdowns. The running game between Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon, and one Allen Lazard carry went for 119 rushing yards and one touchdown. Adams caught 10 passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns while Lazard and Jones each added another receiving touchdown. Rodgers was right, once they got into a rhythm, they were indeed “slinging it all over the place.”
Packers use Adams as a decoy
Even though the Davante Adams had an all-pro worthy performance, the Packers still found ways to use him as a decoy by running him on clear outs and in ways he could stretch the coverage away from secondary and tertiary receivers.
First play, 1Q 3:22, 3rd-and-18 at the GB 12
Although this play didn’t lead to any points as the offense would eventually punt it away, the play itself illustrates how the Bears tried to double Adams and force Rodgers to look elsewhere. For a quarter, that strategy worked until the Packers started moving Adams around. On some plays, they didn’t do a very good job of covering the rest of the Packers receivers.
The Bears are in Drop-8 coverage with cover-3 buzz to the weak side, a coverage scheme they call “blanket.” The Packers are running Adams vertically and Allen Lazard across the field from the #3 receiver position in trips. Rodgers looks to Adams first but sees he corner zone off to his deep third over Adams vertically while the flat defender gains depth underneath him. He comes off and sees that Lazard has turned the safety has open grass at the opposite numbers.
The Bears corner should have zoned off to his deep third but did not get back in time. Rodgers layers it in over the sinking corner for 32 yards on 3rd-and-18.
Second play, 2Q 8:55, 2nd-and-4 at the 50
Here the Packers used Adams to screen Josiah Deguara’s flat route after he came across the field in motion. The use of fast motion like this across the formation allows an offense to get a running head start on a defenders racing to get across and can cause a traffic jam.
The play call is jet motion to stick/flat concept to the left. Deguara comes in motion from right to left and putting two defenders in conflict as the linebacker bounces out to try and cover the flat. Adams, running the stick route, turns outside smartly and screens the linebacker coming out to cover the flat and is unable to get there. The corner also runs with Adams and there is no one in the flat to cover Deguara as Rodgers flips out to him immediately for a 25 yard gain.
Third play, 2Q 6:04, 4th-and-2 at the CHI-2
The Packers thrive on the run-pass option game and have used several different wrinkles to get the ball to their playmakers in space. The quick game is a vital part of their offense. One way the Packers like to utilize Adams is by running him to the flat in the red zone off of an inside zone RPO. The play call here is similar to an inside zone RPO the Packers ran in week three versus the 49ers and again in week eight versus the Cardinals.
Instead of motioning Adams on a quick motion in and out to the flat or motioning a receiver across as the decoy to the flat, the Packers stay static against the Bears man coverage and draw the defense away from Allen Lazard. Lazard is running a quick bluff slant route over the middle in the area vacated by Adams’ defender.
Adams defender runs with him at the snap and the defender over Lazard gets caught with eyes on Adams as Lazard breaks inside. Easy pickings. Rodgers pulls the ball from Jones gets out to Lazard for the touchdown.
Aaron Jones touchdown
In the first game, the Packers called “Hiccup”, the Shanahan coaching tree corner post concept off of keeper play action. The play is all the rage this year for offenses around the league but the Packers have been calling a bit more than most teams over the last few seasons with Matt LaFleur.
On the concept, the quarterback executes a keeper play action fake and rolls out away from the zone run fake. On the front side of the concept, a receiver, usually a tight end, runs the corner post and breaks to the post away from the flow of the defense as the quarterback rolls with the flow. If they catch safety in single high, it’s a good shot play but twice now the Bears have rolled the cornerback deep to bracket the throw after getting burned by the Packers on this concept in 2020.
In week six, the Packers called it but the Bears double covered the corner post route downfield so Rodgers threw the short flat route. The Bears were in man coverage but no one picked up Jones out of the backfield and he was all alone on the wheel route after the play fake.
Sunday night, they called the play again but flipped the side the corner post route was on away from the run fake and boot action. The Bears defense still fast flowed to the run action as Jones leaks out. He gets upfield but the Bears defensive tackle is able to get under the throw because he was so far outside on the run fake. Rodgers still layers the pass in over the defender to Jones who tags the front pylon for the touchdown.
Rasul Douglas interception returned for a touchdown
Rasul Douglas is turning in a fine season since being signed off the Cardinals practice squad before their week eight game versus Arizona. In this game he earned Pro Football Focus’ highest grade for the Packers defense and their highest coverage grade. His instincts were on display when he intercepted Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields in the second quarter and returned it for a touchdown.
The Bears are running an “Omaha spacing” concept from a 3x1 trips to the left. The Packers are in cover-6 with quarters coverage to the wide side of the field away from the hash the ball is placed on. Fields drops back to pass, looks to his, triggering Douglas to jump the Omaha out route to the sideline. Fields is more than capable of making this throw but he’s a beat late, allowing an already closing Douglas to step in front of the receiver in stride and returning it for an interception. Fields should’ve thrown as his receiver is breaking out to the sideline.
Defense racks up the pressures again
The Packers defense pressured Justin Fields on 28 of 43 drop backs per Pro Football Focus. It should not come as a surprise but leading the way were Preston Smith with 11 pressures, followed by Rashan Gary with eight pressures, and Kenny Clark with seven pressures. Preston Smith recorded the teams only 2 sacks.
The Packers are playing some of their best football down the stretch heading into these finals weeks before the playoffs. However, they do have some special teams issues to clean up. They gave up 258 total yards on kickoff and punt returns that included a 97 yard punt return for a touchdown, a 34 yard punt return, and kickoff returns of 42 and 40 yards. The coverage units must be better. Special teams has been an issue, from missing field goals and extra points to poor coverage and tackling to muffed kicks, these issues cannot linger in the playoffs.