The Green Bay Packers offense is starting to mesh well on this late season push to get into the playoffs. On Sunday versus Miami, they scored 26 points and held a high-powered offense to just 20 with Aaron Rodgers connecting on two of six deep throws over 20 yards. One set up a touchdown later on the drive and came after he had not connected on a throw over 20 yards since week 12.
Overall, Rodgers was 24-for-38, 238 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. The Packers relied on a heavy dose of their “989” double go (middle read) concept or some variant of it; Rodgers was 2-for-4 throwing the concept and could have been 3-for-4 when one of the passes went off Romeo Doubs’ hand as he was unable to get his other hand on it.
This is a favorite concept of LaFleur and Rodgers as detailed here in the past. The play is a simple isolation route concept designed to get the ball to the best 1-on-1 matchup outside. There are essentially three vertical routes, two go routes on the outside and a middle read route by the inside receiver in the pattern. That inside receiver can run a dig route across the field versus middle of the field closed (cover-3 or cover-1) or split the safeties versus middle of the field open (two deep safety coverages).
1st quarter, 1st and 10 @ GB-12, :30 remaining
The Packers have a variety of ways they run this concept and but this is relatively new in shotgun with the running back attached. Usually in shotgun, they’ll run this from an empty 3x2 with the verticals coming from the slots and the middle read route by the #3 in trips.
Here they get the single outside vertical 1-on-1 with Allen Lazard versus undrafted free agent rookie corner Kader Kohou (No. 28). Cobb is the #2 receiver in the slot on the right in the trips running the middle read route.
The defense is playing a 3-deep/3-under fire zone.
Rodgers checks the coverage post-snap to his left, then checks the deep safety and middle read route. The deep safety is on the near hash and cannot get over the top of the go route by Lazard so Rodgers comes backs and throws a perfect pass in front of Lazard for the 42-yard completion.
2nd play, 2nd quarter, 4th and 1 @ MIA 37, 13:30 remaining
On the same drive, the Packers came back to the same play but this time they’re running it from a 2x2 formation with Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs in a two receiver stack.
The Dolphins are playing a cover-0 blitz with seven rushers.
The read for Watson is to split the middle of the field since the middle of the field is open and there is a man coverage defender playing the intermediate area of the field since the tight end stayed in to block. Rodgers has time but the pass sails over Watson into the end zone. This isn’t an ideal play call on 4th and 1 but nonetheless Watson had a couple of steps and Rodgers uncharacteristically missed on this one.
Third play, 3rd quarter, 1st and 10 @ MIA 38, 9:28 remaining
Rodgers’ throw on this play looked like a vintage Rodgers throw, on the move due to pressure and placing a perfect pass over the shoulder of Marcedes Lewis for a 31 yard gain.
It’s not exclusively a “989” concept but does look a bit more like a three verticals concept with a backside choice route. Similar design to 989 but it gives Rodgers another choice if he doesn’t like the look of the defense pre and post snap on any of the vertical routes. This is a common principle in LaFleur’s offense with Rodgers: combining concepts for multiple scenarios.
The Dolphins are running another 3-deep/3-under fire zone by sending a fifth rusher at the quarterback from the second level. Rodgers feels the pressure as he looks right to Doubs on the choice route but Doubs runs into the leverage. Rodgers comes off the read, escapes to his left and sees Lewis 1-on-1 down the sideline with the safety in coverage. Rodgers leads Lewis down the field and throws away from the leverage for the completion.
Fourth play, 4th quarter, 1st and 20 @ MIA 44, 15:00 remaining
Later at the start of the fourth quarter, Rodgers tried to connect with Doubs on a deep go route down the left sideline. The play is two outside verticals with crossers underneath.
The defense sends a creeper pressure while dropping the defensive end into coverage and closes the middle of the field to the crossers. Rodgers moves to the deep go route from Doubs and throws it out ahead of him. Doubs is unable to stack the corner behind him and is hand fighting with him down the length of his route. As a result, he is unable to get both hands on the pass to catch it. Great ball but not good effort from Doubs.
Despite the incompletions, Rodgers is finding chemistry with his receiver group at the right time and is relying slightly less on his veterans. There are still execution issues in the red zone that need to be addressed, and a more comprehensive breakdown can be found in this article by Casey Sully of Acme Packing Company. Those are the easier issues to correct. If they do, combined with hitting some of these deep throws, the Packers offense can help make that final push to the playoffs and give some home playoff teams a few problems.