Last week, following the Green Bay Packers’ loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday Night Football, Acme Packing Company wrote up an in-depth breakdown of why outside linebacker Preston Smith found himself in coverage against receiver Davante Adams on a critical down. The biggest question we had, after acknowledging the limitations of the defensive play call against that specific look versus the Raiders, was if the Packers did or didn’t have the ability to check out of the play with two backup inside linebackers and a backup safety on the field.
On Monday, defensive coordinator Joe Barry met with the media and gave a clear answer. When asked if there was something else the Packers could have played after the call was sent to the field, Barry stated, “Based on the personnel we were in [base 3-4] and the personnel they were in [21 personnel], we didn’t have that mechanism.” He later would add, “We never thought it would come up.”
Barry took full responsibility for the call and said several times that Smith was not at fault for the play. “That’s totally on me. For us to be able to put [Smith] in that situation, we gotta have a mechanism to get out of it,” said Barry. When asked if Smith could simply switch assignments with another defender on the field, like cornerback Jaire Alexander — who was covering a fullback on the play, Barry responded, “I wish it was that easy,” and pointed out that you wouldn’t want Smith to play a deep third coverage like a cornerback, either. In the end, the width of the offensive formation simply gave the Packers’ “3 Up, 3 Under” coverage problems, as we wrote last week.
Later in the press conference, Barry said that there are two “mechanisms” that the Packers could have used to get a better result on that play. The first would have been to ask Smith to play hard inside leverage and force Adams to take an outside release. Smith wouldn’t have had much help to stop an Adams reception, but he at least would have been able to use the sideline as an extra defender.
The other option would have been to check out of the blitz look, which sent inside linebacker Eric Wilson as a pass-rusher. “You hate to always check things,” mentioned the defensive coordinator, who already had said previously that the team didn’t believe they needed a check in that situation based on the Raiders’ heavy personnel.
In a copycat league, though, don’t be surprised if someone else tries to replicate the Raiders’ specific look in the near future. The Packers cannot simply assume that they’re going to get an under-center formation when an offense has their fullback and tight end on the field after they gave up a long catch-and-run to Adams. By the time the team kicks off against the Denver Broncos on Sunday, let’s hope Green Bay has one of those handy dandy checks installed on defense for the situation.