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Packers Film Room: More Counter Please

The Packers Ground Game is Winning Games by Changing the Scheme and Adding Wrinkles

Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wis via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The Green Bay Packers kept their playoff hopes alive thanks to an offense that is finding its footing. A big part of their success is an emphasis on the run game, and, even more so, the adaptability of the run game and how it has progressed through the season. Head coach Matt LaFleur and offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich have increasingly used gap-scheme runs throughout the season. Perhaps, it’s because of the influence of Stenavich being in the coordinator position and contributing to the bread-and-butter identity of the Packers’ run game in a more significant role. In previous seasons, the run game has been almost exclusively zone running with a sprinkling of duo for some physical, downhill, running.

This year, the Packers are creating a physical identity by pulling linemen, kicking players out at the line of scrimmage, and wrapping unexpected skill positions in as lead blockers. Green Bay’s first three run plays of the game were different variations of their counter scheme. LaFleur and Stenavich have come up with inventive ways to get into what is becoming one of their base plays. Those pulling linemen are also being used as layers in the Packers' offense. We’ve seen their pin-and-pull scheme become lethal with running back Aaron Jones on the edge. Now, with defenses working to protect the perimeter, Green Bay is punishing teams by running vertically underneath that horizontal flow while still pulling players and giving the illusion of stressing the edge.

Counter Variations

G Slot Counter with Cobb

The Packers opened the game with a variation of Counter that had the guard kicking out and Wide Receiver Randall Cobb, aligned tight to the formation, wrapping through. With the Jet motion from wide receiver Allen Lazard on the snap, the passing strength and run threat is to the defensive right. Green Bay has run Stretch Toss and Pin and Pull schemes out of the exact same alignment and with a player in motion lead blocking. The motion bumps defenders while the run scheme adds blockers in the opposite direction. Due to the formational alignment, the play also doesn’t ask Cobb to go wrap through a hole and pick up a linebacker one-on-one. Instead, with tight end Marcedes Lewis down blocking to the middle linebacker, Cobb is left to pick up safety Taylor Rapp who is down in the box.

GT Counter

The Los Angeles Rams base out of two-high safeties, which is asking the Packers to run. On their second run play, Green Bay runs the vanilla version of counter with both the guard and the tackle pulling. In front of their two-safety looks, LA also typically runs an odd front with a shade and at least one 4i aligned on the inside shoulder of the offensive tackle. A great way to combat that is with counter – especially if the defense is giving an outside alignment with their walked-down Sam linebacker against the Packers’ two tight end set. The tackle and tight end now have better leverage to down block on the 4i while the Sam is wide enough that it gives time for the pullers to get to their landmarks and create a lane. That leaves a lot of space for the safety to cover against a dynamic player like Aaron Jones.

GH Counter

On their third run play, Green Bay uses a GH Counter. The Rams give a similar alignment as the previous Counter and the Packers get another chunk gain out of it. Here, however, the Packers cut Lazard’s split down so that he can account for the safety who is coming down to fill. Now, the Packers have leverage and angles on the linebackers to seal pursuit with pullers wrapping around and the play-side safety accounted for.

The Packers only ran counter three more times in the game, but Green Bay has been brutally efficient with their counter runs over the last month or two of football. Monday night was no different. They’re creating angles and leverage for their offensive linemen, a physical identity, and opening up huge lanes in the running game.