Anatomy of a Play: the two-way concept of the Packers

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The Green Bay Packers have a very efficient vertical pass with Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams. Their ability to move Adams into 3×1 lineups as a receiver who can play both the slot machine and as a sole receiver to get favorable matches is a thing of beauty whether or not they throw deep. In 2020, it was an effective way to spread the ball, especially to throw deep.

If they move Adams into the slot against a high coverage of 2, they can get a favorable game against a slower linebacker. Having the option of playing Adams in the slot or on the outside allows them to focus on a defense with Adams where an opponent could hide on their side and support while leaving another receiver alone without safety assistance.

A vertical passing game concept that the Packers perform (but not from a 3×1) is a concept known as “double go (middle read)”. The concept was popularized in the Don Coryell Offense and is commonly known as “989,” where the nine indicates the outbound routes through outside receivers and the eight indicates a mail route through the narrow receiver or slot.

In the modern version, the slot or tight end post turns into an excavation track in the middle of the field if there is only one high security. Against 2-high coverage, the lunge will run the post. Outside receivers have the option of running 6-7 yard curling courses if the coverage on them collapses at the time of the snap, which you can see in the Week 14 clips above against Detroit.

In their second game on Monday night against the Lions this season, quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw a perfectly placed pass Davante Adams on the sideline. On this variation of the double go concept, the outer receivers perform a double outward and upward movement while the slot receiver performs a median read route.

Rodgers has Adams on the left side against rookie cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu (No 26). The Lions are playing cover 1 stealer cover with deep security lined up in midfield.

Rodgers watches security deep as Adams spins Melifonwu on the double move. It was all Adams needed when Rodgers dropped it into the bucket.

Against the 49ers in week three the Packers called the double go, but from 3×2, four different times in the game. On their first third held, the Packers execute a double hit but slot receivers on an empty 3×2 formation. Adams is lined up on both receivers’ side with Jaquiski Tartt in the media coverage and rookie security Talonoa Hufanga shaded on that side.

The three receiver side has Robert Tonyan as the interior location (# 85) and Alan Lazard as the central location number two. Number one receivers on both sides perform quick hitches, Adams and Lazard perform slot fades, and Tonyan performs the middle play route.

Rodgers sees in the screening that Hufanga and Tartt removed Adams from the room. Rodgers backs up and throws about 1.8 seconds from the snap to throw deep into the field to the melted lunge until Lazard being covered by K’Waun Williams.

The second play in the above clip occurred at the end of the first quarter. The Packers returned to the same concept in 3×2 with Lazard in the middle lunge as the first game. This time corner Deommodore Lenoir (# 38) covered Lazard.

The 49ers’ defense lines up in a similar fashion, but with Tartt as the only high security guard and corner Josh Norman (No.26) covering Adams. The result of the game ends with Lenoir pulling the flag for pass interference on Lazard.

When the Packers last called the double hit, Rodgers threw to tight end Robert Tonyan who was following the middle reading lane. The 49ers adjusted to a 2 tall cover hull compared to the 3×2 Packers, the most likely to give corners a safety aid over slot roads.

Tonyan splits the “open midfield (MOFO)” safeties with linebacker Fred Warner on the track below. Warner ends up causing defensive pass interference, but Rodgers is still able to get the ball over Warner into Tonyan’s hands even though he’s unable to catch it.

Packers have a variety of concepts in the vertical passage that they can creatively access and one way to deal with your basic concepts is to hide in different formations. The Packers have never run a 3×2 like this twice in 2020. In 2021, it will be interesting to see what other ways they can access the vertical passing game that we haven’t seen yet.

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