On Sunday night in Week 17, the Green Bay Packers easily handled the Minnesota Vikings 33-10 by giving quarterback Jordan Love and the offense easy answers to the Vikings' multi-varied coverage schemes. Love tossed three touchdown passes, two to Jayden Reed and one to Bo Melton. It was Bo Melton’s first touchdown catch in the NFL after playing in his third game.
The sequence of plays that led to his touchdown in the right corner of the end zone was similar to a week 11 sequence that the Packers had tested early on in their game against the Chargers with a tendency they picked up on.
In that game, in-game scouting by LaFleur and the offensive staff revealed that any time the defense clamped down on the stick/flat side by rotating the safety coverage to that side, it left the deep safety alone to play top down over the dagger side of the concept. Eventually, they hit the intermediate crossing route to Christian Watson for a touchdown when the weak side safety bit on the stick route as the weak hook defender.
Against Minnesota, several reps of stick/flat against Minnesota’s single high coverages revealed nearly identical rotations by the Vikings. If the Packers could catch them in a five or six-man pressure, they might have a chance to hit the crosser behind the safety rotation.
Earlier on the Melton touchdown drive, the offense called their dagger/stick concept against the Vikings' 6-man pressure.
The defense is running a 6-man pressure with “hot coverage” behind it. In hot coverage, the corners play off coverage and the overhang defenders play man coverage with zone principles where they keep eyes on, and vision, the quarterback in their backpedal. This allows them to break on routes when the quarterback looks to throw and allows the overhang defenders to carry the seams if necessary.
The coverage has weaknesses though. The stick/flat concept stresses the off-coverage corner to that side and gives Love an easy read. With the corner playing off, the throw becomes the flat route with a defender sitting on the stick route. The backside of the concept also revealed that if they could get the defense to bite on the stick/flat combination, then there might be a chance to hit the crosser behind.
All of the reps of stick/flat got the Vikings to adjust to the concept in the red zone by getting the corner to sit in the flat and the safety to clamp down on the stick route.
This is the same concept above with reduced route depths for the red zone and the play and formation are flipped but with the same motion as the above play.
The defense is in a “hot quarters” coverage here, cover-0 but with quarters coverage principles on the back end with the corners and safeties reading the route distribution and middle zone dropper.
With the corner adjusting and sitting in the flat route, safety Harrison Smith funnels down to the stick route. Love actually looks to the left first, sees the defenders playing with depth on the goal line and looks for the stick/flat.
The routes are covered there too. He hops back and resets and sees the crosser from Melton open near the back corner of the end zone since Smith vacated the zone. With a flick of the wrist, Love gets the pass to a perfect spot to Melton for his first touchdown.