Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur had a very specific goal in mind as the Packers prepared to face the Minnesota Vikings again in Week 17: get the ball out of quarterback Jordan Love’s hands quickly versus the Vikings' pass rush and pressure packages. It worked, although Love did hit several downfield throws too, and the Packers won 33-10.
Entering week 17, the Vikings were blitzing at a league-high 46% of the time per Sports Info Solutions. On Sunday night, they blitzed Love on 59% of his passing snaps. Love was 24/33, for 256 passing yards, three touchdowns, and took zero sacks. His time to throw was 2.69 per NextGenStats and his season average is 2.78.
Getting the ball out with quick decisive throws, aided by the scheme, enabled the offense to stay in a rhythm move of the night. They did this through the use of quick game concepts like stick/flat that gave Love answers to the Vikings' 5- and 6-man pressures as well as their disguised coverage rotations post-snap.
Traditional stick/flat is paired with either a spacing concept on the backside or a slant/flat combination on the backside. In the ever-evolving world of NFL offenses, LaFleur has attached other zone or man coverage concepts with it to give the quarterback a variety of answers.
The stick/flat itself is a combination of a quick out route in the four- to six-yard range with a flat route underneath it as the first read. The quarterback reads flat to stick, reading the leverage of the flat defender.
Against the Vikings, it gave simple answers to Love as he diagnosed the coverages and blitz packages, allowing him to key specific players.
The defense is sending a 5-man pressure here with six zone droppers behind it in a 3-under/3-deep fire zone that plays out a lot like a Tampa-2/cover-2 shell instead of a single high safety shell.
The blitz comes off the right edge, indicating to Love that his read is the flat route to the right. This is a good concept against a 5-man pressure because it puts stress on the flat defender, who can’t get out to cover the flat route quick enough. Love pitches it out to Tyler Kraft who gives the defender a nasty stiff arm on his way to a 12-yard gain.
Versus a 3-deep 5-man pressure, Love read the flat defender again, who sat on the stick route. With the cornerback playing deep third coverage responsibility and sitting with a six-yard cushion off the receivers, the flat route was the easy option.
Against a 6-man pressure, the read for the stick/flat becomes even more defined. The trips side receivers are in a stack with the inline tight end, triggering the corner to play off coverage so they don’t get picked. The corner stays off after the motion and post snap so Love immediately throws the flat route again.
One way LaFleur likes to pair stick/flat is with a backside dagger option. This unique design gives Love answers for both man coverage and zone coverage concepts and was featured heavily in the win over the Chargers in Week 11.
The Packers are in an empty 3x2 formation with the condensed two-receiver side to the left. The front side of the concept is a stick/flat from the two-receiver side. The backside of the concept is running the two-man dagger concept with an intermediate crosser and a dagger/intermediate dig route behind it.
The defense is in drop-8 quarters coverage.
Love scans and sees there is no throw to the stick/flat side with four defenders zone-dropping over the concept. He resets his feet, reads out the dagger side, hitches to the crossing route, and resets quickly to the dagger route as the fourth read in the progression and fits the ball in nicely just before the safety arrives to break it up. Love placed the ball on Bo Melton’s outside number just far enough away from the safety.
In part two, we’ll look at a two-play sequence that led to Bo Melton’s touchdown catch.