The Packers deviate in a lot of ways from the standard Shanahan tree offense in that they give Aaron Rodgers more freedom to make checks at the line on their staple passing concepts that put them in advantageous situations and by their use of the run-pass option in the running game.
They’re also not as heavy of an outside zone running team like the traditional Shanahan offense but they have their shot plays off outside zone play action and on Sunday they called a concept they have only called 2 other times since Matt LaFleur took over as the head coach: “Leak.”
A few weeks ago, I detailed how the run sets up play action and how play action sets up a play action shot play in breaking down the Packers usage of the corner post concept, their preferred play action shot play. In that article, former Rams offensive assistant and current University of Arizona head coach Jedd Fisch distills down the basic premise of the play sequencing:
What we’re able to do is get in that exact same formation, and make everything look exactly the same, and then turn it into a keeper…Aligning in the exact same formation, same start, first five steps, is it a run, is it a play action pass, or are we setting up in the pocket to take a shot down the field and make them pay as they’re trying to defend the run game, or they’re trying to defend the play action and keeper game. So as everything looks the same, now we’re able to set up maximum protect, and take a shot down the field.
It is not always necessary to run the plays in that sequence and sometimes a coach will run a play a certain with a certain motion and formation to see how a defense is going to react.
This run play occurred on the same drive as the leak concept touchdown pass to Allen Lazard. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers motions Lazard in from a two-receiver stack in tight to the offensive line. The play call is a split zone run play to the left.
The play gains five yards because A.J. Dillon is tough to bring down but it also revealed how the Lions might play this formation again. They lined up on this play in cover-3 match coverage. The defender over Lazard, cornerback A.J. Parker (No. 41) moves inside but at the snap his eyes go to the sift blocker as he widens with the play.
This tipped off the Packers that they might get an underneath linebacker in coverage on Lazard on the leak route if they came back to it. Two other clues revealed themselves. First, the play side corner’s responsibility to cover the outside receiver. He stayed put as Equanimeous St. Brown showed run blocking technique.
If the corner were to travel with him, the sideline might be open for the leak route. The second clue would be getting single high coverage. The Packers like to run out of under center formations and do not throw a ton of straight drop back passes from it.
Play call: South Left Back ZE In Fake 19 Wanda Keep Right Y Brake ZE Leak
Formation: South Left Back ZE In
The formation on the play call (best guess by piecing together the motion, the run fake, and who lines up in what spot) is “South Left Back ZE In.” It could also be “South Left Back F In” but I am less familiar with the exact personnel groupings in LaFleur’s offense versus someone like Kyle Shanahan’s.
In 11 personnel in Shanahan’s offense, they still use the “F” but as a receiver. In McVay’s offense, there’s is no “F” receiver, it’s the “ZE” or “zebra” receiver in 11 personnel and “F” in all 2-back formations. It might that way under LaFleur in Green Bay.
“South” is the tag for a stack alignment, five yards outside the tackle, with the ZE or F as the outside receiver in the stack off the ball. The “back” tag designates the Z receiver on the line and the Y (tight end) off the ball on the line of scrimmage.
“ZE In” or “F In” is the motion of that particular receiver into the formation into a wing alignment off the right tackle.
Pass concept: Fake 19 Wanda Keep Right Y Brake ZE Leak
Fake 19 Wanda designates the play action fake portion of the pass play. The offensive line steps to the left like they’re blocking weak outside zone in that direction. “Keep right” tells the quarterback the pass play is a keeper where he boots out to the right after selling the play fake. Just like with the offensive line making the pass look like a run, so to should the quarterback should use the same keeper action he would use on the run play to sell it.
The receiver on the left is running an intermediate crosser and the receiver to the keeper side, the right side, is running a corner route. “Y brake” tells the tight end to sift across and look to protect the quarterback from the first outside threat that rushes up field as the quarterback boots out to that side.
He’s going to turn inside once he passes the tackle and ship that edge defender. Typically, they’ll for a threat to block and if not, they’ll present themselves to the quarterback as the late down flat route or check down.
“ZE leak” designates the receiver running the leak route. He’s going to fire off the ball in the same direction as the offensive line and then “leak” out underneath the linebackers into the vacated part of the field.
Since there are no defenders here due to the corner and safety chasing the routes by St. Brown and Adams, Lazard is alone 1-on-1 with a linebacker who chased after him down the field once the defense caught on. Rodgers saw this matchup and layered a pass over the linebacker into Lazard’s hands before crossed the goal line going to the ground.
Leak is a nice concept that can be paired in a sequence by repeatedly showing the defense the same action each time they run elements of it in their run and pass games or it can be used if the offense identifies an exploitable match-up like the Packers did here. Either way, it is just one more play the Packers might throw at an opposing defense in the playoffs this season.