The Packers offense only managed to score nine total points versus the Lions in a road division game this past weekend. The Packers dropped their fifth straight game and quarterback Aaron Rodgers has never been more animated and visibly frustrated than he was this past Sunday in Detroit. The Packers dropped the game 15-9.
Rodgers finished the day 23-43 with 291 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions. All three of his interceptions were targeted at the goal line or in the end zone, with two of them coming in goal-to-go situations. They were three of the worst interceptions of his career and all three undoubtedly took points off the board because of where they occurred.
In addition to this, Rodgers was missing open receivers after first staring them down and then failing to pull the trigger. On other throws, he was leaving the ball short and behind. As the signal caller, he is most responsible for these mistakes and they cost his team more than any other event that occurred in this game.
His first interception came on a run-pass option with Lazard running a quick slant into the end zone on the backside with the option to give the ball to the running back on an inside zone with the running back to the right side.
Rodgers is reading the box numbers here to determine where to go with the ball. With only two defenders on the perimeter guarding two receivers and stacked box to run against, Rodgers makes the decision to pull the ball at the mesh point and throw the backside slant.
Lazard is open with a step on the defender. Rodgers sees it and rips the pass over the middle. But his arm angle and release point keeps the ball’s trajectory lower than it should be in this situation.
He tried to nearly sidearm the pass over the line whereas a higher release would have gotten the ball over the line of scrimmage and more to the open area of the end zone. Even if the pass had gotten there, it looked like it was going to be behind Lazard.
His second interception was a comedy of errors. Bad play calling, bad execution, worse throw.
The play was designed to get David Bahktiari open in the end zone as an eligible target. He was open, but Rodgers threw the equivalent of a fadeaway jump shot that was severely underthrown. Aidan Hutchinson was able to snag it out of the air.
The third interception was another bad throw compounded by worse timing. The throw itself would have been a perfect throw if not for it being a beat late. It was layered over the intermediate defender, it was in front of Tonyan, and it would have been a touchdown.
But it was thrown a beat late. Rodgers hops back before setting to throw and it’s not clear why. There was pressure up the middle but this is an otherwise clean pocket he can step up into.
And these are windows he usually anticipates opening and is on time with. Tonyan runs a good route, bends around the strong hook defender into the window between the two safeties and Rodgers layers the pass over the first defender.
The problem is that extra hop backwards in the pocket that Rodgers does and it completely throws off the timing of an otherwise perfect throw.
Rodgers missed receivers
On several occasions, Rodgers did not anticipate receivers coming open and did not throw to wide open receivers as a result. It would be forgivable and understandable if he did not see while working one side of the coverage. Quarterbacks rarely make full field reads because they do not have time to on most pass plays and most pass plays are not designed to be read all the way across.
On these misses though, Rodgers eyes go right to those throwing windows and yet for reasons unexplained, he did not pull the trigger. Call it trust, call it a feeling he had, call it whatever one wants, these are windows he usually anticipated and hit with ease in the past.
Two misses in particular were especially egregious as Rodgers appeared to look at the receivers who eventually came open but did not throw it. Both came on misses on seam benders over the middle.
Rodgers’ only sack came on a four verticals concept where he failed to pull the trigger.
The Lions rotate from base cover-2 into Tampa-2 robber where the strong side safety rotates down to the middle of the field where the Tama-2 deep hole player would be.
Rodgers drops back and scans after the play action fake to see the coverage rotation as his inside seam receivers bend their routes to the middle of the field away from the safeties. He sees both Lazard and Tonyan coming open, comes off Lazard back to Tonyan, decides to throw but does not and takes a sack he just cannot take here.
This is an explosive pass play this offense cannot afford to pass up. Tonyan does turn his back to the quarterback as Rodgers starts his throwing motion but this ball should have already been out at the very least to Lazard.
There were other throws and missed reads like this too.
Non-Rodgers offensive issues
Make no mistake, Rodgers is not the only issue, but his poor performances compounded the already broken nature of the offense. Early in the game there are a couple of examples of this.
Here the Packers are running a naked boot play action pass to the right where Rodgers fakes the outside zone run to the left as receivers cross from left to right over the linebackers.
The built in shot play is the corner post to Watson and the progression goes from Watson to the intermediate crosser by Watkins to the shallow crosser in the flat. The above diagram is the route distribution that should have occurred.
This diagram is what happens. And it’s wrong.
Rodgers boots out to the right and sees there is no intermediate crossing route from Watkins under the corner post. Watkins for some reason ran the wrong route and ran a corner route the opposite way.
Watson also runs a very poor route and should stem the corner portion of the route stem a few more steps before cutting back to the post. The idea is to get the safety to jump the corner.
Either way, Rodgers second read was nowhere to be found and the flat route was covered so he had to just throw it away. That kind of mistake by a veteran receiver with experience in this offense is inexcusable.
On this play, the Packers are running an all go verticals concept where the receivers have the option to run deep sit or curl routes based on the coverage.
The Lions defense is playing a single high 3-deep coverage with rip/liz match principles, a way to play 2x2 four verticals without playing 2-deep safeties.
As Rodgers drops back to pass, Tonyan in the right slot runs his vertical angled at the middle of the field and more toward the deep middle safety. He should have recognized that the middle of the field was closed (MOFC) and worked to the space around the strong safety whom he allowed to funnel him inside. He needed to work back outside the hash away from the safety.
Meanwhile, Rodgers, looking for Lazard, ends up just dumping the pass off to the check down because Lazard ran his fade route about six inches from the sideline and gave Rodgers no window to throw too. He needed about three or four yards from the sideline to give the quarterback any chance at a throw but he allowed himself to be pinned to the sideline.
In addition to poor spacing and reading the leverage incorrectly, Packers receivers were caught on tape:
Falling down on routes and forcing Rodgers to go off script
Receivers getting jammed and throwing them off their routes, throwing the timing off.
The issues with the Packers offense are plentiful. There are issues all over the field with the offense from the quarterback to the receivers and they compound and feed off each other from one series to the next.
There is a lack of trust and a lack of experience with the receiver group that isn’t helped by Rodgers’ comments in the media and after games, to say nothing of his mid game outbursts. At 3-6, the season is all but over for them and the issues do not look like they will be fixed any time soon.