The Green Bay Packers offense hit two big plays versus the Chicago Bears where they used some element of their vertical passing game paired with other traditional combinations. Usually, this is done on one side by running a half-field four verticals element and on the backside either a quick slant or spot/dig combination or corner/flat combination.
Defenses have adapted to take away the explosive downfield pass by playing more two deep coverage safety shells but this leaves the middle of the defense vulnerable to other route combinations that attack the middle area of the field.
Here are a couple of ways Packers head coach Matt LaFleur schemes around this by pairing their verticals concept with either a spot/dig concept that’s good against cover-2, with a quick slant that’s good versus the blitz, or with flat-7 combination.
Verticals with a spot/dig concept
Versus the Eagles, Jordan Love hit a completion to the dig route on this concept on the backside of the two verticals to the passing strength.
The Packers are in empty 3x2 here. The trips side to the top is running two verticals with a now slant underneath and the two-receiver side is running the spot/dig concept that puts the Eagles quarter/flat defender in a high-low conflict.
The Eagles are in cover-8 which is reversed cover-6 where the nickel defender plays the vertical curl zone over the passing strength and defense is in cover-2 to that same side. The backside coverage plays quarters over the two-receiver weak side. The backside quarters safety also has to look for the #3 receiver if he comes across.
The verticals horizontally and vertically stretch the coverage to the trips side. The quarters coverage defenders back up deep while the cover-2 safety runs with the vertical. There is no one in the middle of the field so Love hits the dig route over the middle with good timing.
Verticals with a flat/corner route combination
On Sunday versus the Bears, Aaron Rodgers threw a touchdown pass to Christian Watson when he made a nice adjustment to get open in the end zone on the same front-side verticals concept.
On the backside to the two receiver side, the Packers had a flat-7 route combination that consists of a corner route by the slot receiver and a flat route by the outside receiver. With the defense in cover-2 pre-snap, Rodgers looks for the corner route versus the safety. The Bears are actually in cover-2 man to the receiver side and cover-2 match zone to the trips.
Rodgers drops back and confirms the coverage is man coverage underneath with the corner route bracketed by the linebacker and safety over the top to the two-man side. The linebacker passes off Watson’s vertical (zone match indicator) as Rodgers comes back to the trips side. With no space to keep running, Watson runs away from the leverage to get open and Rodgers puts the pass on him for the touchdown as the safety had no outside help due to the nickel defender plastering the number two receiver’s vertical route.
Four verticals with a backside quick slant
This combination was a big concept for the Packers in 2020 and 2021 but the basic premise is that the backside quick slant is tagged to the play to give the quarterback a quick throw versus the blitz.
The Packers are in a 3x1 trips with the trips to the left of the formation. The backside single receiver is running a quick slant. On any verticals concept, the receivers have the option to adjust by running a deep curl if they can’t get over the top of the corner or run past them. Watson adjusts here. The defense rushes five and plays a 3-deep/3-under fire zone.
Although technically a fire zone blitz, Rodgers stays away from the quick slant and throws to Watson. The offense has six to block five so Rodgers is under no pressure. He actually has a good amount of time to wait for Watson to adjust his route. With the underneath hook zone dropper getting depth, Watson sits and adjusts his route to the sideline and Rodgers throws it away from the leverage of the underneath defender.
There are more ways the Packers combine their vertical concepts but these are some of the ones that stuck out recently as they went for big plays. Hopefully, we get to see more creative ways that LaFleur can scheme some of these throws up for his quarterback and receivers.