Head coach Matt LaFleur had 10 days to prepare his offense to face one of the league’s best defenses led by Steve Spagnuolo of the Kansas City Chiefs. The result was a 27-19 victory at home on Sunday night in what was perhaps their most important game to this point.
The Packers scored three touchdowns on their first four drives of the game and added two more field goals later in the second half. Jordan Love had another solid performance, netting three touchdowns and zero turnovers, though he was not perfect and had some errant passes throughout the course of the game. He finished 25/36, 267 yards passing, and three touchdowns.
The running game, though it didn’t seem like it, was 7th in Week 13 in rushing success rate. Success rate is an advanced metric in football that measures efficiency but with the important context of down and distance considered. A play is successful if it gains a certain percentage of yards on a given down. The later in the down series, the higher the percentage needed to score a successful play.
While only having three explosive run plays, LaFleur was able to use the running game to set up other plays on later drives. On one play, they test Kansas City’s secondary on a similar play to the play-action shot play used on the first play of the game against Detroit in week 12.
Here on the first play from scrimmage against the Lions on Thanksgiving Day, the Packers come out in shotgun 11 personnel 3x1 with a three-receiver alignment to the right, two receivers in a stack and an inline tight end. The play call is the Packers' corner-post shot play off play action.
The Lions are playing a 3-under/3-deep fire zone coverage so the underneath defenders are able to pass off the intermediate crosser and blanket it. Love sees the corner alone 1-on-1 with Watson and the deep safety outside the opposite hash. He sees it a tick too late and double hitches before throwing so the ball is underthrown. Watson would have walked in for a touchdown.
On the first drive of the game against the Chiefs, the Packers went under center to call another play-action shot play with Watson on the outside to the left of the formation.
The play is a staple Shanahan tree play action concept, a deep curl/Hank concept that gives the receivers the option to read the leverage of the corner or safety and convert the route to a go route.
The nomenclature is “read takeoff.”
The Chiefs, worried about Watson’s speed on the outside, are playing a deep Tampa-2 coverage shell with two deep safeties over the top of the deep curl routes. The deep safety over Watson goes to turn downfield as Watson pushes to the top of his route stem. Watson reads the shell and shuttles down and turns to catch the pass.
Split safety coverage is common when an offense shows the potential to max protect for the quarterback, which could mean a deep shot play. Normally the quarterback would check into the run call within the plays called in the huddle but it’s not clear if Love had that option.
In this game specifically, there are instances of LaFleur building off run concepts to get explosive passes in the play-action game.
The Packers hit a 19-yard play action pass off of this 4-strong formation with an orbit motion that they first used on a running play in the first quarter. The run only gained 5 yards but they only need to see it one time to react aggressively the next time they see the same motion. The play is a 4-strong pin and pull sweep with an orbit motion from Henry Pearson on the orbit.
Pearson lead blocks with Zach Tom on the perimeter while Tucker Kraft pin blocks inside and Watson crack blocks the force defender. Dillon might have had a chance to get more yards by pressing the lane outside of Tom where they only had to block the corner in run support. But Dillon cuts it up inside and gains five.
Later in the second quarter, the Packers called a play-action pass off this same pin and pull blocking action.
The play sent Tucker Kraft over the middle of the field on an intermediate crossing route away from the pursuit.
Kraft replaces the underneath coverage defenders on the opposite of the run action. Since he had the pin block inside on the earlier run from this formation, the defensive slanted inside away from a potential pin block again, giving Kraft a free release. The linebackers get caught in the wash of the run action as Kraft leaks out across. The safety coming, in cover-3 mable coverage, should be responsible for picking up Kraft across the formation.
Lastly, LaFleur called a handful of under-center runs on the first drive utilizing duo run blocking and wide zone run blocking.
It’s all about presentation and getting the defense thinking about a few more potential layers with each play in succession so that when they do call, play action, it’s successful because the defense was a bit slower in reacting to what they were seeing.
Even though these run plays went for minimal gain, they set up LaFleur to be able to execute an explosive pass play later on their second drive of the game in the second quarter.
The play call has two high crossing routes with an outside vertical route to the left and duo play action blocking up front.
The Chiefs end up playing a 3-under/3-deep fire zone with a linebacker blitzing as the fifth rusher, putting Chiefs backup middle linebacker Jack Cochrane (No. 43) in conflict as the middle hook defender. Technically he should be looking for any crossing route over the intermediate middle but he stays locked on to the running back in flat.
The seam player, nickel Trent McDuffie, runs with the vertical crosser from the opposite side leaving Cochrane in no-man’s land. Love hits Dontayvion Wick with a nice throw for a gain of 27 yards.
The win pushed them into the seventh seed in the NFC’s playoff picture with just five weeks to go. Those five games are the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL for any team. And December is usually a good month for head coach Matt LaFleur as he remains unbeaten in the final month of the year since he’s been at the helm as head coach.