It’s pretty crazy to watch the Packers get off to a sluggish start and still see them hang 38 points on a team in the playoffs.

This Giants defense had only given up one 300 yard passing game all year, but even that didn’t compare to what Aaron Rodgers did to them in this game. In Week 9, Carson Wentz put up 364 yards in a losing effort. He threw 0 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Rodgers went for 362 yards, 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. After a lackluster first quarter, this was a dominant performance.

The Giants faced 13 quarterbacks this season and not a single quarterback threw for more than 2 touchdowns in a game. In fact, not a single quarterback had more than 3 combined passing touchdowns against them this season. Kirk Cousins threw 3 touchdowns in 2 meetings. Aaron Rodgers threw for 4 in this game and 6 overall. That’s pretty impressive.

We’ll worry about the injury to Jordy Nelson another day. For now, we drink in that sweet, sweet playoff victory.

Let’s get to the film.

I wrote about a couple huge catches from Davante Adams in One Big Play this week. You can read that here.

THE BAD

We’re all coming off the high of a playoff win, so I won’t dwell on The Bad too much. I put some of those plays up on Twitter, so you’re welcome to see them over there. Let’s just look at a couple plays and get to the good stuff.

3rd and 2. The Packers have two safeties – Ha Ha Clinton-Dix [21] and Kentrell Brice [29] – 12 yards off the line of scrimmage. Will Tye [45] goes in motion for the Giants and Brice follows. That indicates to Eli Manning [10] that this is man-to-man coverage. Once the Packers show their hand, Clinton-Dix tells Brice to play Tye closer to the line, at which point Clinton-Dix falls back into his Cover 1 spot.

To the right side of the line, Micah Hyde [33] is lined up close against Sterling Shepard [87]. With Clinton-Dix on the opposite side of the line as the single-deep safety, this is an easy read for Manning. Shepard easily beats Hyde off the line to the outside. With Victor Cruz [80] running an in route on the outside – dragging Demarious Randall [23] with him – it is clear that Hyde will have no immediate help over the top.

Manning takes a couple steps back and lobs the ball to Shepard, who is wide open. If this ball wasn’t underthrown, it would have been a huge gain, possibly even a touchdown. As it stood, the Giants picked up 26 yards on this play.

This is the intentional grounding penalty that occurred on 3rd and 4. It was clearly the correct call – Aaron Rodgers [12] had not left the pocket and there was no one in the area – but I wanted to know exactly what happened.

On the left side of the line, Davante Adams [17] and Geronimo Allison [81] are running stacked outs at 10 and 15 yards, respectively. Randall Cobb [18] and Jared Cook [89] are in a stacked look to the right of the line, with Cobb running a quick out just past the first down marker and Cook running a drag to the left. Ty Montgomery [88] starts in the backfield and sneaks out into the flat to the right.

This is a flood concept from the Packers, with Cook running counter to the flood to try to get open on the left while the rest of the action is moving to the right.

I believe this throw was intended for Cook, but watch his route. He gets bumped a couple times off the line, giving him a late release. As he is crossing the field, he sees Devon Kennard [59] in his path. Instead of running across the field, he decides to stop short of Kennard in the middle of the field. After stopping and being contacted by Kennard, Cook cuts back to the right.

This is where it falls apart. It appears as though Rodgers was thinking Cook would cut back to the left and to the open part of the field. Without hearing it straight from their mouths, it’s impossible to tell who is to blame. I’m guessing this was part of Cook’s secondary route. Perhaps it was an option route, allowing Cook to make his cut based on the defense. Maybe it was just a gut reaction by both men, with Cook thinking he could get open to the inside while Rodgers thought he could get open to the outside.

Whatever the reason, Cook cut inside and Rodgers threw outside. With no one in sight, the flag was thrown.

THE GOOD

Sometimes I just like to make gifs of Mike Daniels [76] wrecking people. It happens multiple times a game, and I should really do it more often.

On this play, Daniels is lined up between Justin Pugh [67] and Ereck Flowers [74] with Pugh is blocking out at the snap. It’s not the easiest assignment, and Daniels makes Pugh look downright silly.

Daniels takes one step towards Pugh, then hits him with a nasty little swim move to the outside. Pugh is already playing too far over his feet, and this move causes him to just crumple to the ground. Daniels gets into the backfield, sees Rashad Jennings [23] getting ready to hit the line and is able to dive at the legs of Jennings and pick up the tackle.

This is what makes Daniels so good. It’s not just that he’s strong with a low center of gravity; he’s also an extremely intelligent player who can beat the opposition in a number of different ways. This swim move is the perfect move at the perfect time.

3rd and 1, Giants on their own 41 with 1:58 remaining in the first half. The Giants are running straight into the line with Bobby Rainey [43].

The stop – as they often are – is a group effort. It starts in the middle with Letroy Guion [98]. His move is a lot of fun to watch. He goes low on Weston Richburg [70], hoping to take him out, thus opening a hole for a linebacker to run through. Richburg stays on his feet, but Guion doesn’t stop working. Guion is down on his knees, effectively pinned by Richburg. Guion sees Rainey running for the hole and just kind of crawls sideways. He’s able to move Richburg with him. There’s no chance the crashing Joe Thomas [48] would have been able to get there in time to stop a 1 yard gain, so Guion plugging that hole from his position on the ground is huge.

Mike Daniels [76] is to the left of Guion. He gets a good initial push to the inside against John Jerry [77], but he is eventually pushed far inside, opening up a hole to the outside.

Once Rainey’s hole closes up on the inside, he looks to bounce the run outside, but Morgan Burnett [42] has already run into the hole vacated by Daniels. Rainey makes a move but Burnett is already there and makes a tackle in the backfield. Instead of the Giants taking time off the clock and possibly scoring some points of their own to close out the half, the Packers defense held and ended up scoring a touchdown to end the half.

How did they score that touchdown? I don’t remember. Must not have been anything special.

Aaron Rodgers [12] drops back, casually throws a ball through the clouds and drops it into the bucket from 60+ yards out. Do you remember that video that surfaced from family night a couple years ago, where Rodgers threw a ball into a net from 40 yards? This is like that, but with a lot of large, angry men trying to stop the ball from reaching its destination.

Randall Cobb [18] starts this play as the outside receiver on the left. He’s at the 10 yard line when Rodgers releases this ball. Just watch him as the mass of bodies sets up in the middle. Eli Apple [24] follows Cobb down the field. Once the ball starts coming down, Apple has his hands out to contain Cobb, but gets distracted by the pass. Cobb simply slips by the distracted Apple, sets up behind everyone else, catches the pass and gets two feet – followed by two knees for good measure – down for the touchdown.

It’s lovely.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Jake Ryan [47] last season, but he has begun to turn me into a believer with his play this season. He has improved every area of his game, and it has been exciting to watch.

The Packers are in Cover 2 Man Under. Ryan sets up in the middle, matched up on Paul Perkins [28] in the backfield. With Perkins releasing through the middle of the line, Ryan is in perfect position to cover him, no matter which direction he breaks once he’s through the line. Perkins doesn’t run the sharpest route which allows Ryan to make a sharp break on Perkins. The ball arrives and Ryan is able to swing around Perkins and knock the ball out.

Let’s look at it from another angle.

Ryan reacts as soon as Perkins starts his break. It’s a really nice play from Ryan. I swore he would never be any good in coverage, because I am not an intelligent human being.

Remember what I said about not being intelligent? Let’s double-down on that and watch Jake Ryan [47] in coverage.

He starts this play as the inside linebacker on the right side of the defense. The Packers are in Quarters coverage, with Morgan Burnett [42] and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix [21] as the two deep safeties in the middle.

Odell Beckham [13] starts this play on the ride side of the offensive line on the outside. He’s running a slant-and-go (aka, “sluggo”). It looks like the linebackers are in zone match. Ryan drops back into a middle zone, looking to his right. Once Beckham starts heading up the field, Ryan turns and runs with him. Ryan is able to stay with Beckham remarkably well. Eli Manning [10] throws a back-shoulder jump ball to Beckham. Beckham goes up to get it, but Ryan and Clinton-Dix hit him immediately and knock the ball to the turf.

Ryan read this play perfectly and was able to turn and run with the speedy Beckham. Overall, a terrific play from Jake Ryan. He has made tremendous strides this year.

There seem to be plays every game where I find myself screaming, “Pick up the ball! No whistle has been blown!” More often than not, it was an incomplete pass or the runner was down by contact. But picking up a ball is easy, and you never know if it’s actually going to make a difference. It made a huge difference here.

This play took place on 1st and 10 with 8:44 left in the 4th quarter. The Giants are on their own 47, down 31-13.

Clay Matthews [52] is lined up across from Ereck Flowers [74]. Matthews takes a wide turn on Flowers and beats him off the edge. There is a lot of grabbing and slapping involved, but Flowers is much slower than Matthews and isn’t able to recover, even after reaching out to try to grab Matthews towards the end. Eli Manning [10] drops back to pass and never sees Matthews off the edge. Matthews hits his arm as he’s winding up to throw and knocks the ball loose. Manning throws with an empty hand, but the ball propels off his arm and goes forward, leading many to believe that it was merely an incomplete pass.

Julius Peppers [56] is jogging towards the ball, but Matthews comes sprinting down the field. Paul Perkins [28] casually reaches down to grab the ball. Matthews knocks him back with a nice shoulder hit, leaps over the feet of the fallen Perkins and collects the ball.

For those of you keeping score, that’s 1 sack, 2 forced fumbles and 1 fumble recovery on the same play.

Let’s look at it from another angle, because I wanted to point something out.

This is after the fumble has occurred. You can see Matthews behind the line, screaming and pointing at the ball. Peppers is jogging, but Joe Thomas [48] is just standing there, oblivious to the the impassioned plea of the ranting caveman behind him. Finally, Matthews says, “I’ll just do it myself,” and launches himself down the field. I love the immediate awareness of Matthews on this play.

Here’s something else I love: Manning is behind Matthews. Once Matthews starts screaming and pointing, Manning decides that maybe he should do the same thing. So he jogs and half-points in the general direction of the ball. It does not work. The Packers would get the ball and drive down to take a 38-13 lead.

I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this play, but I did want to point it out. A lot of talk about Jared Cook [89] has been based around his speed and ability to stretch the field. While that is certainly true, his mid-game has been a game-changer in this offense. On this play, he motions to the right side of the line. He runs straight down the field, makes contact with a defender, disengages and makes a quick cut to get open for a nice gain in the middle of the field.

We’ve seen a lot of this on either side of the field, too. On those, he usually lines up in the slot, runs downfield and makes a quick cut to the sideline. More often than not, Aaron Rodgers [12] is able to find him. He’s such a big target that Rodgers can afford to throw the ball a little higher than normal and still have Cook come away with it.

Cook has lined up everywhere and made an impact. He’s a mismatch for linebackers and safeties because of his speed and ball skills, but he’s also a mismatch for cornerbacks because of his size. He’s quick out of cuts and a pretty good blocker when he is asked to stay back. I wasn’t sold on him when the Packers signed him, but I’m all-in now. I just hope he can stay healthy, because this offense is much better when he’s on the field.

Let’s take a look at a couple quick throws to Davante Adams [17].

On the right side of the line, Geronimo Allison [81] is on the outside running an in, Adams is in the slot running a slant and Randall Cobb [18] is just off the line, also running a slant. Trevin Wade [31] is lined up over Adams, a few yards off the line. Cobb is uncovered on the line.

The way the defense is aligned allows for a quick read by Aaron Rodgers [12]. The assumption is that Keenan Robinson [57] will drop from his linebacker spot to take away the underneath throw to Cobb. If that happens, it means no one is in a position to drop under the throw to Adams. If that’s the case, all Adams needs to do is beat his man at the line and it’ll be an easy throw.

At the snap, Rodgers is reading Robinson. As expected, Robinson drops under Cobb, taking away that throw. At that point, the read goes to Adams. With Wade playing a few yards off the line, Adams has some room to work with and he runs a sharp route. He runs straight upfield, gives a small fake to the outside before making a hard cut back in. Wade reacts to the first move and is beat. He reaches out a hand to slow Adams, but he can’t even do that.

Rodgers gets the ball out quick. Cobb’s slot route takes Robinson out of the middle, giving Adams plenty of room to run. A quick slant turns into a 20 yard gain.

Jonathan Casillas [52] is the other inside linebacker here. If Robinson had a wide drop under Adams, Casillas would have been able to slide under the throwing lane to Cobb. If the Giants had done that, Rodgers would have been forced to look elsewhere.

You can pretty much take the last play, flip sides, replace Randall Cobb [18] with Jared Cook [89] and have the same offensive play. To the left of the line, Geronimo Allison [81] is on the outside running an in, Davante Adams [17] is in the slot running a slant, and Cook is just off the line, also running a slant. Although, since Cook is lined up closer to the line, it’s a less severe slant than Cobb ran in the last play. Cook’s route can best be described as meandering.

This time, Coty Sensabaugh [30] is lined up across from Adams, 5 yards off the line. A pass rusher is lined up across from Cook, with a safety 15 yards off the line. The Giants are showing pressure, making this an even easier read for Aaron Rodgers [12]. He can essentially read the rushers on the left side of the line. If they’re coming after him, he knows he’ll have Adams open on the slant. Again, all Adams has to do is get open.

The rush is coming, which means no one is dropping back to take away the throw to Adams. Adams runs straight upfield and takes a quick jab step to the outside before cutting back inside. Sensabaugh is turned to play outside technique, allowing Adams to get open easily. Rodgers throws a strike and hits Adams out of the break.

Since Sensabaugh was playing deeper, he’s able to limit the gain on this play. Still, by the time all is said and done, it’s a quick 12 yard gain for the Packers.

Ty Montgomery [88] played quite a few snaps at receiver after Jordy Nelson went down. I liked that. One of the things I love about Montgomery is his versatility. There’s no reason to use him solely as a receiver or a running back. Get him in there and mix up where he lines up. He’s one of the guys that can be a match-up nightmare when the Packers go no-huddle. I love him at running back, but it feels like the Packers are limiting their options if that’s the only place they use him.

On this play, he lines up on the outside to the right, with Davante Adams [17] in the slot. Adams is running an out while Montgomery is running a drag/curl option underneath Adams. If we want to get real, Adams’ route is less an out than it is interference for Montgomery. Adams simply runs up the field and turns outside. He doesn’t block anyone, but he just kind of gets in the way.

The Giants are showing a blitz in the middle, but all three linebackers back out into coverage at the snap. I believe Montgomery is the hot route here: if it’s a blitz, he just runs a quick curl under Adams. When the linebackers drop, Montgomery adjusts his route. Instead of running a drag in front of the linebackers, he takes a step in to make it look like he’s running a drag, then quickly cuts upfield. It’s just one step, but it’s so quick. It allows him to get behind the linebackers and up the field. Aaron Rodgers [12] hits Montgomery with a perfect pass and the Packers pick up 34 yards.

Just how perfect was that pass?

Absolutely perfect. Rodgers drives the ball up the seam, out of the reach of Landon Collins [21]. If this ball has any air underneath it, it would give Leon Hall [25] a chance to either make a play on it or unleash the dogs/hogs/whatever-farm-animal-of-war on Montgomery. Since it’s a bullet, Montgomery is able to catch the ball, turn to see Hall, make a move and pick up some extra yards. This throw is incredible.

You can also see that Montgomery is Rodgers’ third receiver in this progression. He starts by looking at the linebackers. Since they’re not blitzing, the hot route to Montgomery is off the table, so he looks to the left for a deep throw to Randall Cobb [18] on the outside, then Geronimo Allison [81] out of the slot. Since neither of them appear to be open, Rodgers turns his attention back to Montgomery.

For a second, it looks like Allison is open, but if Rodgers had gone that direction Hall would have been able to help over the top. Moving off Allison was absolutely the correct move.

Let’s close out with some appreciation for Randall Cobb [18]. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of his. He’s not a burner, but he has incredible short-area quickness. He’s a good route-runner with good hands.

On the right side of the line, Geronimo Allison [81] is on the outside running a go route, Cobb is in the slot running a post and Jared Cook [89] is just off the line, running a crossing route. The Giants are in Cover 1 Man Under, with Trevin Wade [31] lined up over Cobb. Cobb starts the route by veering outside. Just as Wade starts to turn to run with Cobb, Cobb cuts hard back to the inside and under Wade. With Cook’s crossing route clearing Leon Hall [25] out of the middle, Aaron Rodgers [12] has a clear lane to throw to Cobb. Cobb catches the ball and keeps running to the inside.

Landon Collins [21] plays this poorly. Like Wade, Collins also reads Cobb’s route as going outside and he breaks hard. Once Cobb cuts it back inside, Collins is in no place to recover to make a tackle.

Great route by Cobb.

Packers run dual-ins – they love those – with Randall Cobb [18] trailing Jared Cook [89] into the middle of the field. This is a zone-beater and the Packers run it to perfection.

Here’s the concept: we all know that zone coverage means each player has their own zone to coverage. Zone sizes can change, but there is always movement inside of zones. A defender isn’t just going to stand in one spot. What this route combination does is force a zone defender to move and create your own hole in the zone.

You can watch it happen on this play. Keenan Robinson [57] is in the middle, covering Cook. It looks for a second like he’s man-to-man, but he turns back towards the line once they get to a certain depth, signaling zone. Cook’s route drags Robinson slightly across the field. Meanwhile, Cobb is running directly behind him. Coty Sensabaugh [30] has the wide zone. He releases Cobb to the middle, but the middle has been temporarily cleared out by Cook. Aaron Rodgers [12] throws a dart to Cobb. The throw is slightly low and behind him, but, as we’ve seen in the past, that seems to be a way to protect Cobb. If Rodgers leads Cobb across the field, Cobb would be running straight towards Trevin Wade [31], who would no doubt be looking to separate Cobb from the ball. By forcing Cobb to stop his momentum, Rodgers spares Cobb from that hit.

Randall Cobb [18] lines up in the slot to the right of the line. He runs outside of Trevin Wade [31], gets bumped, then runs a deep in route in the end zone. Keenan Robinson [57] dropped deep in the middle, so Aaron Rodgers [12] has to throw this a bit high. He leads Cobb perfectly and Cobb goes up to nab the pass.

Jared Cook [89] starts this play off the right side of the line. He runs a deep in to the goal line. That moves Leon Hall [25] out of the way to clear room for Cobb. There’s that field-stretching ability we were talking about earlier.

This touchdown made the score 31-13 with 9:24 remaining. This is the moment when I felt confident in a Packers win. “The Giants can’t score 31 points in this game. It’s done.” I went to a sports bar to watch this game with my brother, sister and a close friend. They all looked at me like I had just cursed the Packers. I probably shouldn’t have said what I said. I’ve seen bigger comebacks and it wasn’t right to tempt fate. But I was feeling good and it all worked out in my favor. I dodged a bullet…this time.

Let’s look at this from another angle, because I love watching this throw.

Look at that sucker just cut through the air. It’s beautiful.

One last gif.

Look man. By all accounts, Cobb is a great guy and a great teammate. We already know he’s a great receiver. But he is a terrible fireman. All the flames are down low, and he’s spraying wildly up high. You’re not accomplishing anything, Randall. The real fireman is right there. Like, directly behind you. Let the man do his job or Rodgers won’t have anything left to his name.

Random Thoughts:

– I need to say a new more words on Randall Cobb’s Hail Mary catch, because I believe in being fair and honest. Cobb got away with a bit of a push-off on that play. I initially thought he had pushed off of Davante Adams to get himself moving backwards, but that’s not the case. You can see Leon Hall’s [25] head move back a bit just as Cobb is falling backwards, which seems to indicate a pretty clear push. Hall wasn’t complaining afterwards, so I don’t think it was a mugging, but there was certainly something there.

– The Giants defense only gave up 15 passing touchdowns all season. Aaron Rodgers threw for 4 touchdowns in this game. If you count his 2 touchdowns in the regular season meeting, Rodgers accounted for 31.6% of opposing touchdown passes against the Giants this season.

– The Giants scored a touchdown with a little over 5:00 on the clock in the 3rd quarter to make the score 14-13. After that point, Rodgers went nuts, going 12/16 (75%) for 196 yards and 2 touchdowns, for a QB Rating of 155.2

– After the Giants pulled within 1 point and Rodgers went crazy, Manning went cold. From that point forward, he was 7/17 (41.2%) for 73 yards, 0 touchdowns and 1 interception, for a QB Rating of 29.8.

– When targeting the middle of the field, Rodgers was 13/16 (81.3%) for 219 yards and 3 touchdowns, for a QB Rating of 158.3.

– On 3rd downs in the 4th quarter, Rodgers was 4/4 for 80 yards and 1 touchdown, for a QB Rating of 158.3. His 3 non-touchdown completions all went for first downs.


Albums listened to: Lady Gaga – Joanne; Dawes – We’re All Gonna Die; Nine Inch Nails – The Fragile: Deviations 1; Lissie – My Wild West; Lydia Loveless – Real; Gersey – What You Kill; John Carpenter – Lost Themes II

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