The Green Bay Packers put together their most complete game of the season and at just the right time in week 17 with a playoff spot on the line. The win, 41-17, shot them up to 61% odds in their favor to make the playoffs. If they win, they are in no matter what the outcome of Seattle’s game is. If they lose, they are out no matter what the outcome of the other game is.
Each side of the ball took care of business. Special teams returned a 105 yard kickoff return for a touchdown, the offense scored three touchdowns of their own, and the defense added a pick-6 off of an early Kirk Cousins interception. The defense ended the game with three interceptions total.
Justin Jefferson has had an MVP caliber season. In the week one game versus Green Bay, Jefferson caught nine passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns. In week 17, the Packers defense shut him down, allowing him to catch only one pass for 15 yards.
The Packers defense played a lot of cover-1 “double jersey” and cover-2 coverage principles to bracket Jefferson. They played cover-1 double jersey, a bracket coverage to a specific player in the game plan, if Jefferson was in the slot, and cover-2 corner squat/underneath with 1/2 field safety shell coverage if Jefferson was outside.
So how did they take away Jefferson from the Vikings offense and what did those coverages look like?
Cover-1 Double Jersey #
Cover-1 double jersey is a bracket coverage and the Packers played a few snaps of it throughout the game against Jefferson. The rule in the slot is “deuce” where the bracket comes from the overhang defender with outside leverage and the safety with inside leverage. The rule out wide is “cone with the corner maintaining outside leverage and the safety playing robber with inside leverage.
The coverage is game plan specific and lets the defense follow the #1 receiver wherever he goes with a bracket from the safety.
Here, the Packers have what would be considered a “deuce” tag with a bracket on Jefferson in the slot with Jaire Alexander in the slot and Rudy Ford the safety with the inside bracket. The Vikings running a good horizontal man coverage beater with Jefferson on the dig route and a short choice route underneath that pulls a defender out from the middle of the field.
Ford comes down and robs the inside and Cousins has to look elsewhere for the throw. Kenny Clark hits Cousins as he throws and the pass is behind Adam Thielen and batted away by Rasul Douglas.
Later in the first quarter, the Vikings tried to run Jefferson on a dig over the middle with the choice route underneath that opens up the middle of the field against man coverage, similar to the play above.
Alexander has help this time from Adrian Amos as the robber safety to that side. Here they’re playing “cone” with Alexander outside and Amos with inside leverage as the robber. Amos drives on the dig from the top down so Cousins looks back to the right and finds his check down.
The main purpose of these man coverage brackets is to give the defenders better leverage against really good receivers and put them in better positions to defend passes or discourage the throw.
In part two later today, we’ll look at the split safety, two deep coverages the Packers deployed versus the Vikings.