The Green Bay Packers started slow on offense last Sunday Night, but eventually they put together a 37-10 win over the Vikings at Lambeau Field. The win put them in sole possession of first place in the NFC and the road to the Super Bowl will go through Green Bay. This is the third straight season since Matt LaFleur took over as head coach that they have earned a first round bye.
They did so on the back of a few core concepts they have refined over the last few seasons. Every good team does this at this stage of the season as they discard the experimental stuff that did not work in favor of the the schematic play designs they are good at. The Packers have blended traditional West Coast Offense concepts with an ability to hone in on the skill set of their receiver, running back, and tight end groups.
Slot fade (half field middle read/double go concept)
In this game, the Packers relied heavily on their vertical “double go” concept and variations of it, which I broke down at length after the week three game against San Francisco in the hyperlink.
The diagram above is the traditional way to run the double go concept. The play is two vertical go routes on the outside that are the first primary reads based on the coverage. The third route in the concept is a middle read route that can be run by the tight end or a slot receiver.
On the route, the receiver has the option to run a skinny post splitting the middle of the field open coverage (two high safeties), run a dig route straight across the field underneath middle of the field closed, or sit versus a middle hole spot dropper over the top (Tampa 2 middle hook drop for example).
Versus the Vikings, the Packers either paired the concept with a zone beater concept on the single receiver side of a 3x1 trips formation or the two receiver side of an empty 3x2 formation and hit several big plays in the first half.
First play, first quarter, 3rd-and-3, 13:19
The Packers line up in a shotgun 2x2 with Davante Adams in the backfield before motioning Adams out to the left as the #2 in the slot on the three-receiver side. The play call is a slot fade concept that is really a half field variant of the double concept. The outer most wide receiver, actually tight end Josiah Deguara, is running a short hitch route. The number three receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling is running the middle read route.
The Vikings are in a single high coverage shell with the safety shaded over toward Adams on the trip side. The route distribution, however, pulls the safety toward Valdes-Scantling’s middle read route over the middle while the short hitch draws up the corner over Deguara, leaving nickel corner Mackensie Alexander (No. 24) 1-on-1 with Adams down the seam. Rodgers sees the safety sitting over the middle read route on his drop back and gets his eyes immediately to Adams and drops the pass over Adams and the defender into his hands.
Second play, second quarter, 1st-and-10, 2:08
This time the Packers are running the same concept but this time from a 3x1 with Adams singled up on the single receiver side. To Adams side, the concept is a spot/dig concept that high-lows the coverage versus zone or opens space versus man coverage. The Vikings are in cover-1 and have shaded safety Harrison Smith over to Adams’ side again. The trips side is running the half-field double go concept again designed to occupy the deep middle safety.
The Vikings safety drops deep to the near hash to keep the vertical from #3 bracketed as well as attempting to stay over the top of a potential vertical from Adams. But the Packers have other plans for Adams as he runs the basic route across the middle (intermediate dig route). The spot route by the running back holds his defender and opens a void in the middle of the field for Adams to catch and run as Rodgers completes the pass in front of the safety.
Full field double go/middle read
The Packers did also run the full field double go/middle read concept in this game, both the traditional under center design and the 3x2 empty design.
First play, second quarter, 2nd-and-5, 4:18
The Packers’ first touchdown of the game came late in the second quarter when Rodgers connected deep down the right sideline with Allen Lazard on the traditional double go concept. The Vikings are in cover-1 again with the deep safety shaded over toward Adams again.
Rodgers pumps the go route to Adams and gets the safety to move toward the route, leaving Lazard 1-on-1 with his defender with no safety help. Rodgers gets the pass off as he takes a hit but is able to get enough the throw that allows Lazard to highpoint the pass on his back shoulder. He secures the pass as he goes to the ground in-bounds for the touchdown.
Second play, second quarter, 2md-and-4 at MIN 28, 1:13
On another big play to Adams on the drive after the touchdown to Lazard above, the Packers called double go again but this time from a 3x1 with Adams singled up away from the trips side.
The route distribution is the same though as the #2 and #3 receivers on the trips side run the vertical go route and the middle read route respectively. The Vikings are playing a split field coverage where they have a “MEG/Cone” call to Adams’ side.
In MEG (Man Everywhere #1 Goes) the corner follows the #1 receiver where ever he goes and plays with inside leverage on an outside release. The safety is playing a “cone” bracket where he looks to rob or get over the top of #1 vertically with underneath corner help, thus creating what looks like a cone or bracket. No big deal for Rodgers though as his skillfully throws a back shoulder ball instead of trying to fit the pass into the cover-2 hole the coverage creates. It’s easy pickings for Adams and Rodgers.
Double stick and Dusty Delay (double China-7)
The Packers also completed a pass on an alert route to Adams on their “disk” concept. I covered “Disk” at length in a piece last week but the basic design is out of a 3x1 trips where the trips side runs stick routes from the #2 and #3 receivers and the #1 in trips runs a clear out route. The backside or single receiver side, where Adams is lined up, is running the alert route which turns into a go route versus cloud coverage (safety over the top help on an underneath corner).
Rodgers and Adams have to have the best chemistry currently out of any quarterback/receiver duo in the league. The awareness for both to know where that pass is going to land and the adjustment they need to make a back shoulder throw and catch is unparalleled.
One favorite red zone concept the Packers have had success with already this season is their low red zone “Dusty delay” concept. The play is essentially a double china-7 concept where the outside receivers run shallow in-breaking routes and the #3 receiver runs a corner route.
The change up to this is getting the delay route from #2 as they run their shallow crosser stem. The defense follows the corner route and can leave the delay route open over the middle.
Here, Adams is the #2 in trips running the shallow crosser with the delay at the top end. The Vikings are in a cover-2 “red” coverage for red zone where they try to rob underneath any deep routes and let the underneath routes go to the middle of the field defenders. The strong hook defender carries #3 too far upfield, leaving a void in the middle of the defense for Adams to run the delay portion of the stem. He breaks up field to the end zone and Rodgers hits him for the touchdown.
The Packer are firing on all cylinders offensively and going with what works for them. They have a variety of ways to hurt opposing teams by isolating Adams and creating space for other receivers if Adams isn’t targeted due to coverage or brackets. It’s all on film now and it’s going to make their first playoff opponent have to prepare for everything they have seen from the Packers. And they will have to do it in frigid Green Bay at this time of year.