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Anatomy of a play: Breaking down Aaron Rodgers record-breaking touchdown pass

Breaking down Aaron Rodgers’ franchise record-breaking touchdown play

NFL: DEC 25 Browns at Packers Photo by Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On Christmas Day, Aaron Rodgers became Green Bay’s career passing touchdowns leader when he tossed his 443rd touchdown as a member of the Packers, surpassing Brett Favre’s record of 442. Rodgers entered the game tied with Favre and it was inevitable that this was going to happen. This season Rodgers has thrown 33 touchdown pass to just four interceptions and is the likely favorite to be the MVP. He finished the day at 445 career touchdown passes.

The play call to get Rodgers his 443rd career touchdown pass was a double stick concept run out of a 3x1 formation in 11 personnel. The recipient of the pass was receiver Allen Lazard who was running the stick route from the #2 position. He caught it, turned upfield and dove for the pylon, touching it before he touched down out of bounds. It’s fitting that pass call came on a quick game concept the Packers love to run but almost amusing that it did not come on a slant/flat concept, one of Rodgers’ favorite concepts.

Situation: 1st quarter, 3rd-and-5 @ CLE-11, 5:18 remaining

The play call: Gun empty trips right flex 382 (or 2 Scat) Disk (Both Stick) Dragon

The play call is a double stick concept to the right by the number two and number three receivers in the flex trips formation. On the two receiver side, the pass concept is the “Dragon” slant/flat concept. This play is a good example of a play call designed to be either/or. Against single-high coverage, the play should go to the slant/flat side. Against two high coverage, the play should go to the double stick side. Since it is a quick game concept, the play is not really designed to be a full field read. The pass protection shows why.

Formation: Gun empty trips right flex

The formation designates the quarterback in shotgun in an empty backfield with the H (Jones) split out in the slot to the left. “Trips right flex” in the play call designates the tight end split out wide as the number one receiver. Tight end Josiah Deguara is running a clear out route to make space for the stick routes.

383/382 or Scat pass protection

383/382 in the play call is scat pass protection. Scat is similar to jet pass protection with two main exceptions: 1) the running back free releases into the field on a route, making it a five-man pass protection and 2) the blocking is considered more man blocking instead of zone blocking for the offensive line because of the five-man pass protection. 2-scat slides the line to the left and 3-scat slides the line to the right based on where the greatest threat or strength of the defense is.

For purposes of the play call, it’s not clear if Matt LaFleur still uses 80 series pass protection or if he uses the more standard 2/3 scat in the play call. Sean McVay switched to the 80 series pass protection in Washington presumably after Kyle Shanahan and Matt LaFleur left. Either way, the premise is still the same.

On this play, the Packers are in a 2-scat or “82”pass protection slide to the left. They set the slide to the left because that is where they’ve identified the strength of the defense (where the threat of a third rusher could come from). The MIKE linebacker Anthony Walker (No. 4) is shaded toward the trips side and is identified as the “hot” read for the quarterback. If Walker were to rush, Rodgers would have identified his hot read as the #3 receiver.

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (No. 28), the WILL linebacker, is the primary rush threat from the second level since he’s shaded more inside the tackle box. If he were to rush, the three-man slide would pick him up to the left.

Since the protection is man-based rather than zone-based, each offensive lineman is responsible for blocking a pass rusher and if no rusher, will help double team the man closest to their next blocker. Since the back free releases, the guards to the side the back releases to or any other uncovered linemen look for the next level threat as they take on the blocks from the defensive line, essentially making the interior offensive line responsible for two different defenders.

The pass concept: both stick dragon

The Browns are in cover-6 “poach” or “stress” coverage (quarters to the trips side, cover-2 to the two receiver side). In poach, the backside safety looks to rob any crosser from number three in trips but is there as safety help in a cover-2 shell to that side. The trips side plays a loose cover-3 to that side with the corner bailing with #1, the safety staying over the top of #3, the overhang matching #3 under, and the curl/flat defender staying over anything underneath with no over the top help.

Dragon (slant/flat)

Starting on the backside of the play, dragon (slant/flat) is the call and would only be thrown if the Browns were in single high (cover-1 or cover-3). The stick/flat concept stresses the flat defender. If he widens with the flat, throw the slant. If he gains depth and drops into the slant window, throw the flat.

Against cover-2, the play is not an option as you can see the corner sitting in the flat to trap the flat pass and the weak hook defender sitting in the slant window is in position to defend the quick slant.

Disk (both stick)

The “Disk” concept or “both stick”, is designed to be run versus this coverage due to the match zone principles most defenses employ. With the safety looking for vertical routes and playing top down over a possible vertical, the underneath defenders have the responsibility to match the routes in their zone due to potentially not having safety help.

In the video, you can see Rodgers twirling his fingers in a spinning motion like a disk would spin. Whenever you see that, it’s a safe bet they’re running the double stick concept. The overhang defender, Walker, has to match #3 and has safety help over the top, leaving Allen Lazard 1-on-1 with the curl/flat defender to that side. With no safety help, the defender gives a bigger cushion and Rodgers finds him on the stick route in the flat that’s cleared out by Deguara’s go route. Lazard dives for the pylon and scores.

The Packers have a variety of ways to beat different coverages and Nate Hackett called the perfect play call at the right time with answers to different coverages in one play. The Packers are more than primed for the playoff run while Rodgers continues to add to his franchise record in the final two weeks.