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Packers Film Room: Coverage busts led to Lions’ two touchdowns

While the Packers defense kept the game close, they still showed some persistent issues they have struggled with in recent weeks.

Green Bay Packers v Detroit Lions Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

In the first part of this week’s Film Room breakdown, I broke down some things the Packers defense did exceptionally well versus the Lions. Part two here today shows us that they still have some issues to sort out, mainly communication and playing the correct responsibilities in their man coverages in the red zone. The two touchdowns they gave up provide the examples.

On the Lions first touchdown pass, they are running mesh crossers with a fast motion underneath. The inline tight to the right, Shane Zylstra (No. 84) is the lone crosser to the left from the offense’s right side.

The Packers are playing a cover-0 coverage with a 6-man rush. There is a “banjo” coverage check in there with safety Darnell Savage (No. 26) and linebacker Quay Walker (No. 7). In a banjo call, the innermost defender will take the inside release or receiver who works across the field inside and the outermost defender will take the first receiver who goes outside.

This prevents defenders from getting picked on routes that cross. They just switch responsibilities by reading the release and route distribution.

The Lions send a fast motion across and immediately after the snap, Savage communicates a call to Walker to take the inside receiver, the tight end Shane Zylstra. Savage’s responsibility is either the running back or the fast motion tight end and Walker never picks up the crosser by Zylstra, in part because he’s still watching the running back. Zylstra blocks down before releasing so Walker stays put as the tight end releases and gets wide open.

On the next Lions touchdown drive late in the third quarter and early into the fourth quarter, the defense gave up a crucial 3rd-and-6 at midfield where a stop would have gotten the defense off the field and given the offense a chance to take the lead trailing just 8-6.

The Lions are running a double dig concept call “pivot” or “swiss,” a concept Goff had a lot of experience throwing in Sean McVay’s offense with the Rams. The concept is designed to high-low the strong apex/strong hook defender with a pivot route underneath a deep “thru” route and a dig route behind it.

The defense is in a sub package nickel personnel defense playing cover-9, which is just nickel cover-3 with the nickel defender to the passing strength and safety rotation away, similar to cover-3 buzz.

The nickel defender has the flat. Krys Barnes (No. 51), the strong hook defender, should take the #2 receiver. The corner reads 2-to-1 for any vertical threat (should run with new #1) and Walker, the “3-receiver hook” defender, should zone off under the new #3 deep across.

The bust is likely on Rasul Douglas, who has the #1 receiver on any vertical here based on the route distribution since the new #2 receiver is on the short hook route but it is tough to blame him here for anything because the route does not really go vertical and cuts across the field into the space vacated by Barnes covering the short hook. Goff hits the small window and the play gains 25 yards.

On the same drive three plays later, the Packers gave up the go-ahead score on the Lions’ drive concept.

The Lions are running a drive concept inside the five yard line, designed to take advantage of low hole zone defenders or get man coverage defenders pressed tight so they do not give up space. “Drive” is a deeper dig route over the top of a shallow crossing route.

The Packers are playing cover-1 “dog,” a man coverage call with a 5-man rush, a zone deep safety and man coverage everywhere else. There looks to be some sort of banjo call again here but it is less clear because of how the routes are distributed.

The Lions get to the line quick and snap the ball before the Packers can sort out the formation. The routes distribute so that they mess with the banjo call but Walker correctly passes off the vertical when he sees the first receiver cut inside.

What is less clear is what is what Alexander and Keisean Nixon are doing. Alexander gets lost in no-man’s land when the point receiver goes vertical, indicating he might have thought Nixon was going to carry him up the seam into the end zone. His steps seem to indicate that, making him late to cover the point receiver on the dig.

More alarming is that safety Darnell Savage (No. 26) got caught looking at anything but the receiver coming across on the dig in the back of the end zone. He jumps over the top and then outside as the receiver cuts across but there’s nothing to make jump that far over. Goff’s eyes never lead him there. He should have stayed over the middle keying on Goff’s eyes.


What is clear is that busts occurred and defenders did not communicate clearly, something that plagued all three of these plays highlighted above. The defense played better overall, but they have to clean this up and Joe Barry is the party ultimately responsible for all of it thus far.