The Green Bay Packers have had some success running their “run-pass option” (RPO) game this season, but not as much as they have in previous years and it’s led to some less than stellar results in-game this year. As a result, it seems like they have almost no identity or foundation for what they want to do and one way to get back to that is to incorporate a bit more after mostly getting away from it to start the year.
On Sunday versus the Vikings in a 24-10 loss at home, they tried to incorporate it a bit more and had some success, including a touchdown, though there were some early-game blunders. Nonetheless, the opportunity to create more offense for Jordan Love is sitting right there in their bread and butter RPO concepts.
One play Green Bay has leaned into a bit the last couple of games is their 2x2 formation inside zone arrow RPO. The play is built off of the shotgun zone read concept but the Packers’ own flavor adds an additional arrow route to the flat instead of giving the quarterback the option to keep and run. The Packers created this with Aaron Rodgers because they did not want him running the zone read portion of the concept, and they have kept it in the playbook for Jordan Love.
The read is built off the flat defender. If the flat defender, usually a linebacker, safety, or nickel corner, is late to the flat, the quarterback can throw the quick arrow route. If the flat defender runs with the arrow, the quarterback can hand off. It essentially gives a 2-on-1 on the backside by influencing both the flat defender and defensive and “blocks” them without using a blocker.
Matt LaFleur called this on the same drive twice in the recent week five game versus the Raiders, capping off the drive with a touchdown run by A.J. Dillon on the inside zone portion of this concept.
In the first play here, Love gets an easy read as there is basically no one in coverage on tight end Luke Musgrave post-snap.
Pre-snap, the strong side linebacker would be the quarter flat defender there and would cover him if he read pass. But he falls back inside on seeing the run action. Defensive end Maxx Crosby is left unblocked and is unable to influence the play. Musgrave gets an easy four yard completion.
On the same drive, Dillon punched it into the end zone on the same concept.
This time, the Raiders rotated a safety down to cover Musgrave in the flat just before the snap. Love reads this and hands off while the mesh between the quarterback and the running back freezes Crosby just long enough for Dillon to careen into the pile and muscle his way to the goal line for six.
In week eight, the Packers ended up running this concept a couple of times with varying degrees of success.
In the first clip here, it’s nearly the same play as the ones above but the running back alignment is flipped. The play ended up not counting because wide receiver Christian Watson engaged with the corner to block him before the pass was thrown and received an offensive pass interference penalty. However, pre-snap you can tell with 95% certainty where this ball is going to go. To make matters worse, Love throws a wildly inaccurate pass on top of it.
The Packers came back to the play again later in the game and threw it again based on the leverage. The Vikings are simulating a cover-0 pressure that rotates into Tampa-2 at the snap. Love reads that there is a late flat defender again and throws out Jayden Reed in the flat. Reed scoots around the block and gets up field for 11 yards.