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How in-game scouting led to Christian Watson’s TD catch vs. the Chargers

The Packers identified a schematic weakness in the Chargers pass coverage that led to Christian Watson’s touchdown.

Los Angeles Chargers v Green Bay Packers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

An in-game scouting adjustment by Green Bay Packers tight end coach John Dunn led to receiver Christian Watson’s first touchdown catch since the Thursday Night Football game in Week 4. It came late in the third quarter on a critical drive as the Packers trailed 13-10 in a game they ultimately won 23-20.

After the game, quarterback Jordan Love gave credit to head coach Matt LaFleur, saying:

“It was actually a play that I think Matt [LaFleur] just kind of drew up on the sideline after seeing a look that we had previously seen. It was something that wasn’t really in the game plan and credit to Christian for going out there and executing it to perfection. It was awesome to see him get a touchdown today.”

It was a 12-yard touchdown pass from Love to Watson in the back left corner of the end zone behind the coverage. LaFleur went further to give Dunn all the credit: “I got to give John Dunn all the credit in the world on that. There was a play earlier in that drive and we always look at the pictures and we saw something there.”

He suggested a play and then we just called it and hit the coverage and those guys went out there and executed it. It was a great job by Watson just hauling ass across the field and Jordan made a good throw but certainly the credit goes to John Dunn in that situation.

There is some conflicting information here. First, Love says they had seen the coverage look “earlier in the game.” LaFleur said “there was play earlier in that [scoring] drive,” that they saw something they could come back to. There are two plays, one earlier in the game and the other on that same drive as the touchdown. Either could be the play that is referenced. Either way, let’s look at what they potentially saw.

First play, 2nd quarter, 2nd and 7 @ LAC 21, :40 remaining

The first potential play could be this play from the late second quarter before halftime with the Packers just outside the red zone.

The play is a stick/flat concept out of a 2x2 after a motion. The backside of the concept is a mini dagger concept with a dagger route and an inside intermediate crossing route.

The Chargers look like they are in cover-9, nickel cover-3, with safety rotation away from the declared nickel Derwin James (Chargers are playing 3-safety defense).

Pre-snap, Love sends Reed on a motion to the right to create a 2x2 running the stick/flat to that side. The defense bumps over with the motion and safety jumps the stick route. The crosser from Watson would be open behind it if Love wanted to take it. This play most closely resembles the defense called on the Watson touchdown and a similar passing concept. The major difference here is the formation and post-snap route distribution.

Second play, 3rd quarter, 2nd and 6 @ LAC 39, 1:34 remaining

LaFleur referenced a play where they got a certain defensive look on the touchdown drive, prompting them to come back to the play for the touchdown. This is the only play from that drive that could be it but it’s not clear if it actually is.

The play is a YY wing stick/flat concept that Tucker Kraft nearly scored if not for stepping out on the sideline just barely.

The defense is playing nickel cover-8 with quarters to the two tight end side of the formation

Love decides to work the stick/flat combination to the quarters side of the defense. The tight ends switch release their routes and Kraft as the inside tight end runs the flat route. This puts the quarter/flat defender to that side in conflict and he has to chase Kraft who has a head start. Kraft scored but on review, the replay showed he barely stepped out.

This likely isn’t the play LaFleur referenced because the defense is in a split safety coverage but the stick/flat is a combination they returned to on the touchdown throw to Watson.

Third play, 3rd quarter, 2nd-and-9 @ LAC 11, :08 remaining

On the touchdown pass, they were able to get the Chargers in a similar defense to the first play referenced above. Love read the coverage and lofted a nice pass over the defenders to a wide open Watson in the corner.

The play starts out with a motion from a YY 3x1 bunch to the left into a 2x2 to the right. The tight ends are running the stick/flat combination and the receivers to the right are running the short dagger/crosser concept. This is similar to the first play above.

The defense is in nickel red-9, nickel cover-3 in the red zone.

The motion to a 2x2 gets the defense to bump over, most likely indicating zone coverage. The free safety is shaded to the two receiver side. The down safety jumps the stick route, giving Love the confirmation he needed that the crosser would be open. No one turned and ran with the crosser over the middle and the off-coverage corner ended up running with Watson. He was never going to catch him.

My best guess is the play they referenced was the one above that Love talked about initially in his post-game press conference as it more closely matches the coverage and the pass concept. He said they had not gameplanned that for that specific coverage but they did install that pass concept (or something very similar). To be certain, players and coaches are never going to give away all their secrets and detail exactly what they saw and when.