If you managed to stick through the ending of Week 2’s Sunday Night Football game between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, you probably noticed that Chicago running back David Montgomery looked unstoppable in the fourth quarter of the game. When asked about the performance of his run defense on Monday, Packers head coach Matt LaFleur helped contextualize what went down on the field on the Bears’ penultimate drive.
“Yeah, it wasn’t good enough. Certainly on that drive. I think we can all acknowledge that.
They did a nice job. I gotta give [offensive coordinator Luke] Getsy credit because that’s hard to do when it’s a two-possession game in the fourth quarter to stay disciplined and I thought he did a really nice job with that.
We were in some situations, too, where we had them in second and long ‘get back on track’ situations and, typically, you’re thinking ‘okay, the offense is either going to screen or they’re going to run some sort of pass.’ Well, so we put more of our pass coverage defense out there, in terms of our nickel, versus their 12 personnel. They gutted us on a couple of powers for big yardage. That’s why I gotta give him a lot of credit for just staying disciplined with that approach.”
After watching the coaches' film, it seems like there were two key plays that LaFleur was thinking about here. Let’s dive into them.
Situation: Second and 10, 14:07 left in the 4th quarter
When LaFleur talks about “12 personnel” he means that the offense has one running back and two tight ends on the field. Generally, the Packers match their cornerbacks to the number of receivers on the field, which means they would typically play their base 3-4 to this personnel.
Because of the lead they had built in the game and the down and distance that Chicago was in, though, the Packers played with lighter personnel and subbed in nickelback Rasul Douglas onto the field. Highlighted in the yellow box is Douglas, who on this play was essentially playing the strongside outside linebacker role in what amounted to a 4-3 front with nickel personnel.
Packers in nickel vs 12 personnel pic.twitter.com/0ZudJtiRro— Justis Mosqueda (unmistakable latiñ flavor) (@JuMosq) September 19, 2022
As LaFleur said, the Bears motioned their wing tight end from the weak side of the formation to run two-back power, an apparent surprise to a Green Bay defense that was expecting a pass or screen. Outside linebacker Rashan Gary, who was playing the left edge in the video above, got aggressive and stuck his head inside the kick-out block instead of setting the edge, which allowed Montgomery to bounce the play outside.
From there, Montgomery beat inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell and Douglas, who was basically playing as a 209-pound linebacker, in space and was able to gain 14 yards for a first down.
Situation: Second and 22, 13:12 left in the 4th quarter
On the second play, the Bears flipped the formation, with the strong side being to the defense’s right instead of the left this time. The Packers also kept three cornerbacks on the field against 12 personnel again, but they were instead in penny personnel instead of nickel personnel. Penny is their five-defensive back formation that leaves just Campbell as the sole inside linebacker in the game.
Highlighted once more is Douglas, who is again playing as a strongside add-on player over the inline tight end.
Packers in penny vs 12 personnel pic.twitter.com/utWLmtZLHT— Justis Mosqueda (unmistakable latiñ flavor) (@JuMosq) September 19, 2022
Just like in the previous play, the Bears motioned their wing tight end from the weak side to run two-back power. This time, the backside guard was able to pull cleanly to a one-on-one matchup with Douglas, which was over a 100-pound disadvantage for the nickelback.
Safety Adrian Amos missed a tackle, Campbell missed a tackle/got held and defensive backs Darnell Savage and Eric Stokes got shaken out of their boots until Montgomery went down on a gang tackle 28 yards downfield.
While 42 yards over two plays may not seem like the most important thing in the grand scheme of things, the Bears’ second-to-last drive does give the Packers an opportunity to grow. The lesson that should be learned here is that you can’t assume that a team is going to pass the ball when in second and long situations.
Now that Green Bay’s defense struggling to fit power with lighter defensive personnel is on film, you can bet that opposing offenses will try to test them there if they can get the Packers in a similar situation. While it wasn’t a bad plan to try out against Chicago, the team must now adjust moving forward.