In week one versus the New Orleans Saints, the Green Bay Packers didn’t score a single touchdown and by the fourth quarter, backup quarterback Jordan Love had entered the game to replace Aaron Rodgers to try and salvage anything they could out of a road loss in a relocated game in Jacksonville. In week two, the Packers reversed course and found success with play calling they could not previously take advantage of and it came at the right time heading into an interesting week three matchup with the San Francisco 49ers.
In week one, the Packers couldn’t run the ball effectively versus 2-high coverage. In week two, they did. In week one, the Packers couldn’t throw the ball effectively versus 2-high coverage. In week two, they also did. Rodgers in week one threw for 133 yards and two interceptions. The running game only amassed 43 yards. Davante Adams caught five passes for 56 yards.
In week two, Rodgers was 22-27 for 255 yards and four touchdowns. Aaron Jones added one touchdown in the running game and three in the passing game. Adams caught eight balls for 121 yards. And the Packers didn’t hold a lead in this one until the third quarter.
After the Saints game, head coach Matt LaFleur said he was “absolutely embarrassed” and stating that he did “a pretty bad job” himself. After the game Monday night, LaFleur stressed how great it was getting back to Lambeau and playing in front of the fans. “I was happy with how we finished [after the slow start]. We definitely need to start faster as a team in every phase. We’ll enjoy the win tonight but we know that there’s a lot to improve upon.”
Aaron Rodgers on target
Rodgers continues to make the toughest throws look incredibly easy. He did this on two throw in particular on Monday night against the Lions where he placed one pass between Adams and the one yard of space Adams had between the receiver and the sideline. On another throw, he threaded the needle to Robert Tonyan on a vertical down the seam after the cover-2 safety over the trips misplayed the coverage and route distribution.
The first throw came on a go route by Adams down the right sideline in the 3rd quarter. The concept is a double go (middle read) concept with a slight twist. The outside receivers run a double move out and up while the slot receiver runs a middle read route where he has the option to run through split safeties if the middle of the field is open, run across on a dig route if there’s a single high safety/middle of the field closed, or sit in the zone.
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.
On the same drive, Rodgers connected with Tonyan down the seam in tight coverage for a touchdown. The play call here is “Trips RT off 3 Jet Y Rub.” Rub is a concept in the Shanahan tree that LaFleur has been using since he coached with Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay in the early 2010s in Washington. The outside receivers are running under routes.
Number two in trips, Lazard, and number three, Tonyan, are in tighter splits together to create the rub element of the play. Tonyan’s outside release creates a rub on the defender for Lazard who ends up wide open. But Tonyan, running the alert seam route, ends up being the beneficiary here with some subtle route running.
Everything in the Shanahan/McVay/LaFleur tree is about selling your routes, blocking, etc., before actually doing the thing you’re tagged to do. Tonyan’s bends to the corner just enough to get the safety to shade toward the numbers before he bends back inside up the seam. The ball is already out and on it’s way and completed into an extremely tight window for six.
Getting Aaron Jones involved
In week one, the Packers could not find success staying on schedule. A couple of first downs gained quickly turned into play action keepers being snuffed out on the backside as Rodgers rolled out. On other series, LaFleur elected to keep Jones in to pass protect in six-man pass blocking schemes. On Monday, they got Jones involved in the passing game to the tune of six receptions for 48 yards and three touchdowns.
The easiest way to remedy the week one struggles was getting Jones involved in the passing game, even if just to hit the checkdown, throw routes out to the flat, or even the swing screen that set up their second touchdown of the game. Whatever the case is, more, not less, of this is always ideal.
On top of that, LaFleur stayed committed to the running game, something they could not do against the Saints.
The Packers had a lot of success running up the middle and out on the edges in much the same way the 49ers did to the Lions in week one. The Packers utilized wide zone toss plays to the edges, and fullback lead zone up the middle to gain four, five, six, seven, eight, or nine yards a carry on a handful of runs, allowing the Packers to stay balanced and move the chains..
Screen game success
In week one, the Saints converted a 4th down early in the second quarter with the use of a tight end delay screen that utilized a running back motion to create a 4x1 strong to the field with a nub tight end on the backside of the play. LaFleur must have seen something he liked because the Packers ran it twice in the game for big gains by Tonyan, once in the first quarter and once in the fourth quarter.
The Packers essentially copied what worked for the Saints. They used a running back motion with Jones to create 4x1 4 strong to the wide side of the field, a common look some teams will run with 3 verticals from that side. Tight end released on a delay screen on the back side after engaging the defensive end.
Week 3 Outlook
Week three does not get any easier for the Packers as they to Santa Clara for a Sunday Night Football game against the 49ers. In the last three meetings including the playoffs, the Packers are 1-2. The 49ers have several key injuries but still boast of the league’s best defensive lines. How LaFleur chooses to slow them down with Rodgers and Jones will be a deciding factor but getting Jones involved early and often in the same way they did against the Lions will be critical.