When I think of Week 8, I think of Packers, who enters Arizona without Davante Adams, Marquez Valdez-Scantling or Alan Lazard, and emerges victorious over the undefeated Cardinals.
The main game that stands out is the last game in the defense of the Packers: interception when leaving Rasul Douglas in the end zone. It was an amazing moment – one of the most memorable moments of the season – but there is more than one game. The further we get away from the game, the more I forget, which is why we go through this little exercise. Today we look at a few small plays that set the stage for the big one.
As I mentioned, the Packers were without their top 3 wide receivers and this is certainly seen in the result of the box. The best receivers in the game were Aaron Jones (51 yards) and Robert Tonyan (49 yards before breaking the ACL at the end of the 3rd quarter). The best wide receiver was Juwann Winfree, who turned a cool 30 yards on 6 targets. Randall Cobb had only 15 yards (on 5 targets), but also received 2 touchdowns (the only touchdowns Aaron Rodgers threw during the day).
Looking at these numbers, the game plan seems pretty clear: just move the chains with whatever means you need. Nowhere is this approach more obvious than looking at the switching concept that Packers relied on the most in this game: the WR screen. And they were lucky with him: they scored 6 times and raised 43 yards (7.2 YPA).
They also looked quite similar. They would line up in a spread, 4X1 (“Quads”) set, with a lone TE away from the quads. If the protection does not transfer the coverage to the quadruple side, you have numbers on the screen. Take out the ball quickly, take what you can and line up for the next fall. If the defense shifts the coverage to the quadruple side, you have a favorable match with your nub TE.
For the most part, the Cardinals didn’t spin the cover, so the Packers just took the screen.
Like making candy from a bunch of big, sweaty babies.
This approach did enough, and the defense did the rest. The Packers took a 17-7 lead in the middle of the 3rd quarter, but James Connor’s TD reduced the lead to 3 with a remaining 6:27.
From then on, the Packers made 11 plays in 85 yards. They lined up for the 12th game of the drive to start the 4th quarter, watching the 3rd and 5th of the Cardinals’ 6-yard line. Touchdown here will give the Packers a nice buffer of 10 points. Failure to take 1st place would probably mean a goal from the game and a much weaker lead of 6 points.
So what did you do? Why, they showed a WR screen, of course.
It looks a little different from the videos in the video above, but it’s similar enough to provoke a reaction. In this area, you just have to force a reaction – a false step – to open up a little space. They come in 2X2 form, with Aaron Jones placed to the left of Rodgers with a rifle. Equanimeous St. Brown moves to the left before the click, giving the Packers an overloaded 4X1 set (but with a different look since Jones is in the backfield). St. Brown is overshadowed across the field by Robert Alford, which signals the reflection of man. So the Packers see the men’s coverage and the Budda Baker as a single high security, overshadowed on the side of the screen.
When clicked, Juwann Winfree (outside WR1) and Randall Cobb (slot WR2) are released vertically and set to block until St. Brown is released to the plane below. Rodgers spun and pumped to the flat, triggering two key defensive movements.
The first move is the CB slot over Cobb. I don’t know if he’s bending over, but he’s definitely freezing and overshadowing Cobb’s outer shoulder. This is a game that the Cardinals have seen a lot in this game, so he thinks to avoid the block from Cobb and get to the apartment.
The second movement is Buddha Baker. I mentioned that Alford was chasing St. Brown through the formation, but he was dragging and also had a lot of bodies flying around in this part of the field, so he could easily crash out of his way. At the fake pump, Baker yells at Winfrey and Cobb. If the throw goes to the plane – and it seems to be going that way – his job is to make sure St. Brown doesn’t run free to the end zone around the edge. Packers have body to body with Cobb and Winfrey. If they do their job, the edge is clear.
But Winfree and Cobb don’t block. At the moment when they would usually start, they cut sloping routes.
These are just a few steps, but they are enough. Freezing the slot protector allows Cobb to release freely from the inside, and movement from the fuse leaves the middle of the field wide open.
Rodgers stands up and sells the flat throw, then returns and finds Cobb in the middle of the field.
This is a beautiful part of the sequence by Matt LaFlor and a great performance at a great moment. An ideal time to sell counterfeits and manipulate security to relocate and create little work space.
Rasul Douglas’s moment gets all the hype, but this sequence right here deserves just as much love.