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Packers Film Room: Pass defense gives up big plays in loss to Atlanta

Breaking the key plays from the Packers pass defense in the loss to Atlanta.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers lost 25-24 in Atlanta last Sunday in what appeared to be a game they were about to put away, only to be spoiled by a late Falcons rally. The Packers, who led 24-12 at one point and had a chance to ice the game late in the 4th quarter leading by two, failed defensively in numerous areas versus the pass and the run.

Green Bay fell to 1-1 through two weeks due in large part to the 211 rushing yards they gave up to Bijan Robinson and 2nd year quarterback Desmond Ridder. In addition to being unable to stop the run, which was primarily due to execution issues at all levels of the defense, the secondary and second-level linebackers also failed to come down with at least two more interceptions when Ridder spotted them the ball.

The final score, while a loss by a point, neglects the dropped interceptions, missed tackles, and over-playing their gaps or playing the wrong gaps that allowed the Falcons to chip away at the score and take the lead late in the game. But is this a Joe Barry issue or a player execution issue?

It’s unclear what Barry could have done differently after players on the field failed to execute basic assignments in various aspects of the game. The coach is responsible on some level for execution if players are confused about assignments or something isn’t clear in the game plan, but these seem like mistakes on basic assignments every defensive player has been coached on for years.

In pass coverage, there were several miscues and lapses that allowed the Falcons to extend drives and score.

First play

While the Falcons didn’t score on this drive, there were two execution issues that prevented the Packers from ultimately coming out of this sequence more than a field goal. The first came when the defense surrendered 23 yards on 3rd-and-15.

The Packers are playing a 3-under/3-deep fire zone here in the 2nd quarter on 3rd-and-15. The underneath defenders have hot area responsibilities and Keisean Nixon is the “hot-2” player in the seam to the trips.

The Falcons are running a dagger concept with a dig by the #1 receiver and a clear out from the #2 receiver.

The Falcons converted this 3rd and long. As the seam player in 3 under/3 deep, you have to have the awareness to know you will only get probably two different route combinations here: Verticals or dagger. Keisean Nixon (No. 25) has to get in the seam quicker and squeeze that throwing lane between the receivers running vertically after he recognizes no threat in the flat and the clear out route being picked up by the safety.

Second play

Four plays later on 4th-and-4, the Packers defense was able to get a turnover on downs but it should have resulted in a pick-6.

With cornerback Jaire Alexander sitting six yards off the receiver with inside leverage, indicating he was likely going to be sitting on anything in the vicinity, especially with safety help over the top, Ridder tried to force a pass to Drake London but Alexander jumped it immediately. However, Alexander was unable to secure it and dropped what would’ve likely been a touchdown. On the next offensive drive, the Packers had to settle for a field goal.

Speaking of dropped interceptions…

Third play

Quay Walker dropped one that would have given the Packers off the ball in plus territory in the third quarter. Fortunately, the Packers scored on the next drive when Jordan Love threw a dart over the middle to Dontayvion Wicks for a 32 yard touchdown.

Quay Walker is the quarter hook player in their sub package “quads” coverage defense. His responsibility is the middle area of the field and he drops into the throwing lane of the outside dig route. Ridder doesn’t see him and rifles the pass over the middle as Walker steps in front of it. Walker is unable to make the interception.

Fourth play

Later in the game in the fourth quarter, the pass defense gave up an explosive pass play on a drive that would later cut the Packers lead to five. The blown coverage here resulted in a 46-yard gain.

The defense is in cover-3 versus the Falcons condensed 3x1 formation here.

The Falcons are running a go route with a wheel route behind it as the new number two receiver.

Safety Rudy Ford (No. 20) walks down late to cover the seam/curl/flat area. There’s a bit of trickeration here as Ridder first hands off to the running back, who hands off to the receiver on a reverse, who then flips it back to the Ridder before he heaves it downfield. Since the Packer are in zone coverage, nearly all eyes are watching this unfold in the backfield and not picking up the routes.

Alexander lets the #1 receiver running the go route run right by him as Ford picks up the wheel route. Alexander’s eyes are still in the backfield. He’s unable to recover from this as Ridder heaves it and completes with Darnell Savage blanketing the receiver.

Fifth play

On a similar concept to the one above, the Falcons again hit an explosive pass play when the corner, Rasul Douglas this time, busted his coverage in quarters.

In quarters coverage, if the #1 receiver runs inside instead of vertical the corner should zone off and play his deep quarter responsibility and look for a vertical route from the #2. That doesn’t happen here. The #1 receiver runs inside and Douglas follows, leaving Bijan Robinson alone down the sideline on the wheel route. The drive would end with a field goal that pulled the Falcons within two points, 24-22.

Sixth Play

On the final Falcons scoring drive, they gave up an explosive pass play on a deep out to London on the sideline and then caught De’Vondre Campbell in coverage out wide against Bijan Robinson, who proceeded to catch a now slant under a pair of verticals. It’s trips to the right and Campbell is playing off coverage because they don’t want to get picked. Unfortunately, Campbell still had to fight through traffic to get to Robinson to make the tackle.

Outlook

On the same side of the ball, the run defense did not fare any better than the pass defense and we’ll take a look at it in the next article.