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Packers film room: Season-defining moments on offense, part 2

The Packers' 2022 season was defined early on by a key drop in Week 1 and a rebound late in the year before falling short in Week 18. We look back at the four key moments in this two-part series.

Green Bay Packers v Miami Dolphins Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

In the first article of this series, Packers Film Room looked at a season-defining dropped pass in Week 1 and a series of plays from Week 5 of 2022 that could arguably be the beginning of the Packers' downward spiral in the middle of the season.

At the start of Week 14 in the last quarter of the season, the Packers began to climb out of the cellar, thanks in large part to the chemistry quarterback Aaron Rodgers had finally developed with his young receiver corps in the passing game. Week 16 encapsulates this perfectly.

In Week 18, the wheels came off again and the Packers narrowly missed on a chance to sneak into the playoffs with a home loss on Sunday Night Football to the Detroit Lions. Rodgers departed Green Bay soon after in a trade and Jordan Love is the presumed starter.

For the passing game to continue to build off of its late-season successes, head coach Matt LaFleur should structure his passing game similar to how the 49ers and Dolphins structure their passing game for their young quarterbacks, a coaching tree of which he is a part of.

Vertical passing game week 16 versus the Dolphins

By Week 16, in the middle of a four-game win streak, the offense started to find its stride and the Packers were looking like potentially a tough out if they made the playoffs. Overall, Rodgers was 24-for-38 for 238 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

The Packers relied on a heavy dose of their “989” double go (middle read) concept or some variant of it where Rodgers was 2-for-4 throwing the concept and could have been 3-for-4 if not for rookie receiver Romeo Doubs’ one-handed catch attempt.

This is a favorite concept of LaFleur and Rodgers as detailed here in the past. The play is a simple isolation route concept designed to get the ball to the best 1-on-1 matchup outside. There are essentially three vertical routes, two go routes on the outside and a middle read route by the inside receiver in the pattern.

That inside receiver can run a dig route across the field versus middle of the field closed (Cover-3 or Cover-1) or split the safeties versus middle of the field open (two-deep safety coverages). The cut-up above shows the different variations used in this game.

The Packers would win a fourth straight game to get to 8-8 before their Week 18 game versus the Lions. They would need to win to get into the playoffs and by the end of Week 17, it certainly appeared that the offense could keep producing in a way it hadn’t during their losing streak.

Vertical passing game week 18 versus the Lions

The Packers boom or bust deep passing game hinges on Rodgers getting the right matchup that he wants versus the secondary but at times felt forced with desperation throws. The superstar quarterback’s deep passing game didn’t have the same juice last season as it had in seasons past, partly due to the lack of chemistry with his receivers and partly due to Rodgers uncharacteristically forcing passes into coverage.

Versus the Lions, Rodgers should have had three interceptions, but one was called back due to a defensive penalty and one was dropped by the safety after he broke on a pass intended for running back Aaron Jones deep. On other passes, the receivers just dropped them, culminating in a season’s worth of struggles in one game.

On Rodgers’ game-ending interception, the Lions forced the offense into a deep shot by playing Cover-1 single-high safety coverage and sending a seven-man pressure at Rodgers.

Running back A.J. Dillon probably blew this blocking assignment and didn’t see the linebacker loop around to the right A-gap as he was watching the left side. It was a well-disguised blitz from the offense’s right while the defense simulated the most dangerous side to the left and got the pass protection to slide that way.

Rodgers hurried the throw and took a shot as he threw it. The pass was left high and too short and the cornerback picked it off, sending the Packers into a months-long standoff with Rodgers and the New York Jets over a trade for the 39-year-old quarterback.

The way forward

Play action concepts

Presumably, the offense will not change that much as wholesale changes usually don’t take place year to year. The change is gradual but with a new quarterback at the helm, there’s sure to be some changes. For the most part, LaFleur will likely keep the RPO game intact.

But for a young and inexperienced quarterback, the passing game may become a little more structured with play-action and a passing game that favors the middle of the field. They might want to consider taking a page out of the playbook of the 49ers and Dolphins.

Per Pro Football Focus, between the 49ers, Dolphins, and Packers, on passes inside the numbers in the 0-9 yard range, 19% of all Packers pass attempts came in this range, with the 49ers at 26%, and the Dolphins at 15%. The Packers were lower than both in percent of total pass attempts over the middle of the field at the 10-19 yard range (Dolphins 20%, 49ers 11%, Packers 9%) and lower at the 20+ range than both the 49ers and Dolphins (Dolphins 5.6%, 49ers 3.7%, Packers 2.5%).

Ideally, Jordan Love would be able to take deep shots down the sideline outside the numbers to receiver Christian Watson, but there are other ways the Packers can manufacture deep shots for Love and Watson that don’t rely on low percentage throws in one-on-one situations.


Drift/strike is a play-action concept designed to take advantage of a quick strike route over the middle at a depth of around 10 yards in the space behind the linebackers reading the run fake. The drift/strike route is run over the middle of the field in the void created by the linebackers being drawn into the run fake. Love and Watson connected for a 64-yard touchdown catch and run.

Corner post

I have written extensively about this play-action passing game concept in the past. The play is a designed shot play in the Shanahan coaching tree system that seeks to take advantage of a secondary that might get overly aggressive in chasing the deep crossing route with the backside corner or cutting it with the safety, allowing the offense to hit the shot play over the top.

In 2022, the Packers called this a few times but rarely threw the corner post. Typically it’s run from under center but here the Packers run it out of the shotgun with the corner post route coming from receiver Samori Toure in the slot.

Rodgers executed the play action fake and rolled right to set up. He wanted to throw the post portion of the route stem to Toure but the safety was sitting in the deep half and in a prime position to affect the play.

Rodgers bought some time as he shuffled back to the middle of the field and when Toure recognized that the ball was not in the air and the safety was sitting in the deep half, he made a nice adjustment and worked back to the middle of the field where Rodgers placed a perfect pass to him in the back of the end zone.

Non-play action concepts

There are some non-play action passing concepts we can expect LaFleur to call for Love that they didn’t run a lot of with Rodgers. Mostly dig routes and choice routes and concepts that combine the two. We can also expect to see a fair amount of “stick” and “dragon” since those are concepts the Packers called frequently with Rodgers already and they are basic staple concepts in nearly any offensive system.

The evolution of the Shanahan offenses has seen a number of concepts being combined to give the quarterbacks easy reads vs certain coverages and usually gives them a man versus zone concept. One concept is “aggie basic” which combines their four verticals concept on one side with a “spot/basic” concept on the other. Other variants include running the spot basic from the trips with a backside choice from the slot.

The first play in the cut-up above shows “aggie-basic,” a dig route over the top of a short sit route and gives the quarterback a high-low read on the curl/flat defender in quarters. The Eagles are in Cover-8, a Cover-2 safety rotation the offense’s pass strength and quarters coverage on the weak side. The aggie side of the concept can be thrown versus single-high coverage.

The plays in the cut-up above show a different spot-basic combination from the inside trips receivers with a backside choice route from the slot on the two-receiver side.

One way the Packers can simplify this concept is to give Love a zone vs man concept in the tag similar to how the 49ers scheme up their passes for Lance, Garoppolo, and Purdy last season.

In this cut-up, the 49ers have a zone concept tagged with the dig route and a dragon concept (slant/flat) designed to be thrown versus man coverage or favorable leverage against a soft zone. In both plays, Garoppolo throws the slant/flat side due to the man coverage indicator in the first play (motion) and the soft zone off the flat route in the second play.

Arches concept

Another concept that gives Love choices based on the coverage or something that can be read as a pure progression is their version of the “arches/cougar” concept. Arches is typically a shallow cross followed by the arches (or short post) route behind it. In “cougar”, the play is run with a third “sluggo under” route by the outside #1 receiver in trips. To the backside, they pair the front side concept with dragon (slant/flat).

The progression goes from #3 to #2 to the trips side (counting from outside in) by reading the middle linebacker’s leverage and then to the slant/flat side. Rodgers and Love both read how the middle hook defender drops and works from #3 to the #2 receiver in trips. If the linebacker widens with the #3 receiver, they throw the arches route.


There is reason to be optimistic heading into 2023 but the Packers are going to have to rely less on the vertical passing element and instead be more strategic about it. The deep passing game felt forced and lacked chemistry for most of the season, forcing Rodgers and the offense to play a bit more in the short to intermediate area than they would’ve liked, especially with speed at the receiver position.

Inserting Jordan Love as the quarterback may be the key to better production on offense, as silly as that sounds, because inexperienced quarterbacks in the Shanahan offensive system are better when the offense is a bit more structured and tailored to their skills. In a later piece, we’ll break down how the offense might look with Love running it.