The Green Bay Packers run game is littered with RPOs and alerts. They are some of the differentiating factors between Matt LaFleur’s, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan’s, and Rams head coach Sean McVay’s offenses. Where LaFleur sacrifices some of the motion to allow quarterback Aaron Rodgers to survey the field and better work tempo, he has to supplement the offense with some perimeter stretch to help slow down the run fits on defense. That is where the RPO comes in. RPOs can come in a bunch of forms. All are designed to punish the defense if they overcommit to the run. Where there is space, the Packers will take it.
Even if they aren’t always thrown, they’re present on almost every run the Packers use – even under center. The flash and short bubble that rookie receiver Romeo Doubs caught at the end of the game were huge, but those were present throughout the first 65 minutes as well.
In 2x2 formations with two receivers to the backside of the run, the Packers often run flash/seam (or slant.) The #1 receiver runs the flash and the #2 receiver runs the seam/slant to replace filling linebackers.
The Packers like to throw the flash when the corner is playing off coverage. It gets the ball into the hands of their receivers with space to operate. However, just because the corner is off, doesn’t mean Rodgers will throw it. The Packers lean towards pre-snap decision-making on box counts and the functionality of the run based on the look they’re getting from the defense.
When the Packers have a single receiver with a tighter split, they often run a short bubble to the sideline. The read is similar. If there’s a cushion by the corner, Rodgers is free to throw it.
Green Bay loves to run arrow concepts attached to their run game as well. It immediately threatens the flats and pulls defenders away from the run. They have multiple ways of getting to the concept. The simplest is out of a 3x1 formation with the #3 receiver running the arrow and the #2 and #1 receivers blocking. Especially against New England’s man coverage, it pulls a minimum of three defenders away from the run with the potential to move a 4th. Motion and RPOs are trying to remove an additional half a man from the run game. If a 4th defender takes a step to defend the RPO, that’s a small crease that is added to the run scheme. Since the offense is at a man disadvantage with the quarterbacking not being part of the run game, the offense has to find a way to steal numbers back to their side.
The Packers will also motion and crunch to the same concept with a player threatening the flats and blockers on the perimeter.
New to Green Bay’s repertoire, is the arrow out of their Pony package with running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon on the field at the same time. In this look, the Packers are running the ball to the same side as the arrow. The back to the play side is running the arrow while the backside running back is getting the ball. Every time the Packers ran it, they ran a split zone look with the H-back (Robert Tonyan or Tyler Davis) coming across the formation and kicking out the backside defensive end. This play is designed to create cutbacks off of wide zone. The arrow threatens the play side and creates over pursuit and the split zone walls off backside pursuit. That opens up lanes away from the play side of the run concept.
Lastly, the Packers love to run bubble out of different looks. They’ve recently gone to more stacked formation looks to force defenders to play off coverage and give space due to the fear of rubs and pick plays.
Then, of course, the Packers still love to run their push motion bubble out of their Pony package with Dillon and Jones.
The Packers’ RPO game keeps the offense on schedule, takes the available yards, and is one of the big reasons Green Bay is at the top of the league in yards after catch. They might not be creating the explosive plays down the field that we’re used to seeing, but they’re turning short throws into big gains by putting the defense into a pass vs. run conflict.