The Green Bay Packers won easily on Sunday night in Minnesota 33-10 on the back of Jordan Love’s four total touchdowns and Jayden Reed's two receiving touchdowns. The wide receiver group has taken tremendous strides late this season and it has the Packers squarely in the driver’s seat where they control their own destiny for a playoff spot. If they win in week 18, they’re in.
Earlier in week eight versus Minnesota, the Packers receivers made a series of errors in route running that contributed to the loss in Green Bay (among other issues), so much so that head coach Matt LaFleur spoke at length about the nuances of route running and the details the receivers were missing.
The play he was addressing ended up being a 31-yard completion to Jayden Reed down the right seam on a 4-verticals concept and was a positive play but should have been a touchdown.
The day after the game, he stated: “The way we teach seams one high (safety) versus two high is totally different. When it’s single high, we expect those seam route runners to get to the inside edge of the numbers because you really want to disperse the field and put that middle third safety in a bind.”
Reed's inside release took him more toward the middle of the field to the safety when he should have taken an outside release. Instead, he let the “reroute buzz” defender funnel him inside to the safety, which is how the defense wants any vertical route upfield to be directed.
The end result, as LaFleur stated, was “successful,” however, “our process wasn’t right. So I think over time that’s going to lead to more poor results than it will be for one successful play. So it’s all those little details that are so important that in my mind really separate good from great in this league.”
On Sunday night in week 17 versus Minnesota, Reed showed his growth in these details when he scored on the same exact play precisely because he read the coverage right and ran his route accordingly.
The play call is the same as the one above but it’s run from a slightly different formation, 2x2 “all go” (4 verticals). The tight end in the week eight play is flexed out into the slot. Here, tight end Tucker Kraft is on the end of the offensive line sort of in a wing position.
The defense is disguising Tampa-2 coverage from a single high safety pre-snap alignment. The nickel defender ends up becoming the flat player where the corner would normally be and the corner becomes the deep half safety to that side. The nickel has outside shade on Reed. This could mean single high safety coverage so Reed will have to check the post-snap rotation.
The adjustment to the inside verticals against two deep safeties is to bend the seam routes inside to the middle of the field. Reed saw the rotation and bent his route to the middle of the field and threw up his hand to signal he was open.
Love saw the coverage rotation when he looked to Kraft as his primary read and saw the safety sitting over the top. He whipped around and saw Reed throw up the mailbox signal, reset, and fired a pass down the middle of the field that cleared the Tampa-2 middle hole runner as center Josh Meyers was nearly shoved back into his lap.
The Packers' receivers group has developed quite nicely throughout the later part of this season and the Packers are reaping the rewards as they sit on the brink of a playoff appearance after bleak outlook by the end of October. They firmly control their own destiny and a win gets them in no matter.
A win and a Rams loss at San Francisco will bump them up to the 6th seed. A loss almost guarantees no playoffs unless the Saints also lose. The path is clear. The offense needs to put another complete game together to win and beat a Bears team that’s gotten hot this month of the season.