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Anatomy of a Play: The Packers’ Y Leak concept

The Packers hit an explosive pass play on a play action concept they rarely run.

Green Bay Packers v Chicago Bears Photo by Todd Rosenberg/Getty Images

Green Bay Packers rookie tight end Luke Musgrave nearly had his first NFL touchdown versus Chicago when he found himself wide open on a play action pass down the left sideline in the third quarter of Sunday’s Week 1 win over the Bears. But the pass was late and he only ended up with a gain of 37 yards and first down at the 4-yard line.

The play? Y Leak and it’s a Kyle Shanahan coaching tree staple. It is usually run as part of a sequence of plays that starts with the wide zone running game, then play action boot passes off of that, then an explosive pass off of the boot play action.

One of the benefits of the wide zone running game relying on the outside zone is the run action it creates with aggressive lateral movement of the offensive line. Boot action passes look like outside zone because the pass protection movement is exactly the same movement as the run blocking movement.

Once defenses start to adjust to the timing and route combinations of the regular naked boot play action, the offense will change up the play by adding a “leak” route from the play side tight end, who runs shallow across the formation to the back side and then down the numbers.

The play has gained notoriety over the last eight seasons or so since Shanahan popularized it with the Falcons but he’s actually been running it for six or seven years prior to his stop in Atlanta. Head coach Matt LaFleur has been with Shanahan off and on since their days in Houston together in the late 2000s.

These are some of the more notable examples of the play in recent seasons.

On Sunday, this was only the second time I believe I have seen this play from LaFleur since he took over.

They have run other explosive play action pass play like corner post and high cross but this is the first time I can remember seeing Y Leak from LaFleur.

Speaking after the game, David Bakhtiari said “I’m gonna be honest. When I heard that play call, I was like, ‘Yes. That play was money all practice. I was just on ’em, like, please call this at some point. … The closest guy was like 20 yards, and that’s what it was in practice, too.”

The Packers come out in 12 personnel with Musgrave as the first tight end in line to the formation. Receiver Jayden Reed is running the intermediate crossing route and receiver Romeo Doubs is running the go route down the right sideline. The offensive line and the running back are faking outside zone to the weak side, the left side.

Play action works not because a team “establishes the run” but because the linebackers and other second-level defenders have to read their cues if they see the run action and have to flow toward their run fits and gaps.

Since the offensive line movement on the play-action pass looks the same, the defense gets lost chasing the run, forgets about Musgrave, who sells the leak route with a run block, and runs underneath the coverage and down the numbers before quarterback Love finds him wide open.

Here’s Love after the game:

“It is a little chaotic, fumbling the snap. I knew we had a great play dialed up, so going through my head, I was like, ‘Man, I might be messing this one up.’ But picking the ball up, I was just hoping nobody was about to blast me because the timing gets messed up trying to scramble for the ball but was able to get out clean, and we had a great play drawn up and Luke was wide-open, so I just chucked it out there for him.”

Musgrave might have had a touchdown but Love fumbled after pulling the ball back as he transitioned to his play fake. He dropped it, scooped it back up, and was able to just get the pass to a wide-open Musgrave who by this point was 30 yards downfield. Ideally, Love wouldn’t fumble and would hit Musgrave in stride for a touchdown. The fumble allowed the defense to somewhat recover and tag him down at the 4-yard line.