Now that is what I’ve been wanting to see from the Packers. Aaron Rodgers said they could run the table, then went out and put up a QB Rating of 116.7 on the top-ranked pass defense in the league (defensive ranking per Football Outsiders). The quick-hitting passing game was established early, opening up the deep ball. Rodgers was as accurate as he has ever been and the receivers allowed very few balls to hit the turf.

It was a lovely game. I almost forgot what this offense is capable of. The running game is still having a hard time getting on track, but when the passing offense is picking up 7 yards with wide receiver screens on a regular basis, who needs a running game? It’s 2016. Running the ball is a suckers game. Throughout his career, Rodgers is averaging 33.5 attempts per game. This season he’s averaging 40.8.

That may not be the recipe for winning long term, but, for this season, I’ll take it. Keep slinging the rock, Aaron.

Let’s get to the film.

I wrote about a big third down conversion to Davante Adams in the 4th quarter in One Big Play this week. You can read that here. For the record, it’s my favorite One Big Play article I’ve written this year. Some of that may have to do with the fact that this is the first win I’ve covered in that column.

THE BAD

I didn’t want to put an entire article of good plays up. I thought I needed to introduce a little balance. So let’s get a couple bad plays out of the way before we get to the good stuff. I’m tough but fair.

bad-d-01_green-beckham_catch

This play occurred on the Eagles first drive of the game. Dorial Green-Beckham [18] is the wide receiver on the left side of the line, set slightly behind Bryce Treggs [16]. At the snap, they both run straight down the field. Treggs continues running a go route, but Green-Beckham breaks off and runs an in roughly 17 yards down the field.

No one is in bad position to start, but Carson Wentz [11] has a ton of time to sit behind the line of scrimmage. The Packers send a 4 man rush, and, though they’re able to push the pile a little, it’s not enough to bother Wentz. All he has to do is sit back and wait for the play to develop. Micah Hyde [33] is playing zone on the outside. He has coverage on Green-Beckham on the sideline, but releases him to the middle.

Therein lies the problem; there is no one in the middle to release to. Carl Bradford [54] is the inside linebacker on that side and he has the responsibility of Darren Sproles [43] out of the backfield, so he can’t drop deep enough to take away the throw to the middle of the field.

Joe Thomas [48] is the linebacker on the other side. He bites hard on the play action, pulling him close to the line. It looks like he’s supposed to drop into the middle of the field, but getting pulled up means he’s late in his drop. I don’t know if he would have been able to get to Green-Beckham in time, but he certainly could have made this a more difficult throw than it was. As it was, Green-Beckham was wide open and the Eagles pick up an easy 24 yards.

bad-o-01_starks_screen

This play had us screaming at the TV, or at least silently shaking our fists.

This is a really nicely set-up screen pass, with Lane Taylor [65] and Corey Linsley [63] both getting off the line and heading out to set up blocking for James Starks [44]. Starks pauses in the backfield just long enough, then releases to get behind the blocks. Aaron Rodgers [12] looks to the opposite side of the line to move the linebackers and safeties slightly before turning back and throwing to Starks.

It all looks great. Really great. Starks can stay behind his blockers and cut to the inside, as they have a bit of a wall to the outside.

That’s the issue. Sure, he could do that, but why would he? There’s nothing Starks loves more than breaking to the outside.
Instead of following his blockers, he hesitates for a second – like his brain told him to cut inside – before cutting to the outside. He cuts outside of his blockers and runs right into a tackler.

Why, James Starks? WHY?! If he wanted to cut this outside, he could have at least been smart about it. Just stay behind the blockers for a beat, wait for them to pick up the outside tackler, then cut outside. Instead, he cuts before the block is set up to the outside and gets himself taken down.

This is maddening. Absolutely maddening.

THE GOOD

Okay. That stuff is out of the way. Let’s get to the good stuff.

good-d-01_clinton-dix_goal

This play would be easy to overlook. It came on the Eagles opening drive and they scored on the very next play. I wanted to bring it up here because I love it.

There are three guys to keep an eye on here: Clay Matthews [52], Ha Ha Clinton-Dix [21] and Nick Perry [53].

Let’s start with Matthews. He starts at the inside linebacker position. Mike Daniels [76] is double-teamed and forced inside, so Matthews scrapes over the top to fill that hole. Isaac Seumalo [73] is pulling from the right guard position to seal the hole for Darren Sproles [43] to run through. Matthews knows he can’t take Seumalo one-on-one, and he also knows that he has a couple defenders on the outside, so he does what he does best: he throws his body into the line in an attempt to blow things up.

Matthews taking out Seumalo means that Sproles can’t run through that gap. He is forced to cut it outside, killing his momentum.

Clinton-Dix is playing the edge. With Perry tied up by Brent Celek [87], Clinton-Dix is able to sit in the gap. He originally jumps inside, but, after Matthews destroys everything, he has to jump back outside. Somehow, Clinton-Dix is able to wheel to the outside and wrap up Sproles.

Lastly, Perry is on the outside. As I mentioned, he is locked up with Celek. Perry is originally set to rush Carson Wentz [11], so he gets upfield. As soon as he sees Sproles running to his side, Perry rips through Celek, wheels back to the goal line and is able to grab Sproles’ feet.

Between Matthews blowing up the hole, Clinton-Dix wrapping up and Perry diving back to grab Sproles’ feet, the Packers are able to stop this goal line run.

One final note on this play: this won’t show up anywhere on Matthews’ stat line, but this is the kind of thing he’s able to bring to the Packers defense. He’s more than willing to throw his body into the line to create some chaos.

good-d-03_daniels_sack

Let’s all just take a moment to watch Mike Daniels [76] work. At the snap, he glides over the top of Jason Kelce [62] and cuts under the block of Isaac Seumalo [73]. Once he gets inside the block of Seumalo, it’s all over.

Watch Carson Wentz [11]. He’s trying to sell the end-around, so he has his back to the line. He turns around to see Mike Daniels – all 291 pounds of him – barreling towards him like a very angry bowling ball. Wentz made a valiant effort to flee, but eventually his legs gave out from sheer terror and he succumbed to the sweet embrace of death. It greeted him like an old friend and together they made their way to their final destination.

good-d-04a_rollins

This was a big play. It happened with 0:41 left in the first half. If you look to the right side of the offense, you’ll see a bunch of three receivers with two defenders. The Eagles are setting up a wide receiver screen to Dorial Green-Beckham [18]. At the snap, Quinten Rollins [24] comes off the corner on a blitz. Carson Wentz [11] does not notice this, so he gets the snap, turns and fires.

If this had been completed, it had a chance to be a big gain. Instead, Rollins is able to get a hand on it and knock it backwards.

Let’s look at it from another angle.

good-d-04b_rollins

Just watch him flash from the right side of the screen. This was great awareness by Rollins to recognize the quick throw and get his hand up in time. Great play by Rollins.

We’re going to look at two more for the defense, and we’ll make them short.

good-d-05_jones_hit

Datone Jones [95] is on the right side of the screen, lined up wide on former Packer Allen Barbre [76]. Look at how wide Barbre is lined up here: he barely looks like he’s playing on the line. Jones uses this to his advantage. He gives Barbre a head fake outside, then is able to sidestep Barbre to the inside with relative ease. Carson Wentz [11] is able to get the pass off, but it falls harmlessly to the ground.

good-d-06b_clinton-dix_int

This happens on the very next snap, and the ball does not fall harmlessly to the turf.

The match-up on the right side of the screen is still Datone Jones [95] vs. Allen Barbre [76]. Jones is still lined up wide on Barbre, but Barbre is not playing quite as wide as he had on the previous play.

At the snap, Jones takes an outside angle. Barbre sets up to guard against that, and, once again, Jones is able to get the inside angle. It’s not as clean as it was on the previous play – with Barbre closer to the line, there’s less open space between Barbre and Isaac Seumalo [73] – but Jones is still able to apply some pressure on Carson Wentz [11]. Jones himself doesn’t get there, but he shoves Barbre right back into Wentz. Wentz isn’t able to step into his throw and it floats on him.

Wentz is attempting a pretty tough pass: Zach Ertz [86] is running a post and Joe Thomas [48] has good coverage. It would have to be a perfect throw to get through to Ertz.

The ball sails high, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix [21] nabs the interception and Morgan Burnett [42] lifts his arm in celebration and heads down the field to block.

The Packers got their offense up and running in this game with a quick-hitting passing attack. To honor that, I’m going to run through a handful of plays in quick succession. Welcome to Eye in the Sky’s No-Huddle. Lace up your boots.

good-o-01-nelson_quick_throw

James Starks [44] goes in motion, dragging a defender out wide and giving a little more breathing room for Jordy Nelson [87] and Davante Adams [17] in the slot. They’re running dual outs with breaks roughly 5 yards apart. Adams takes the underneath defender, opening up a throwing lane to Nelson. Aaron Rodgers [12] gets the ball out of his hand quickly. Easy 10 yards.

BAM. NEXT.

good-o-02_cobb_quick

Two plays later. The ball is snapped and the defender over Randall Cobb [18] in the slot is blitzing. Aaron Rodgers [12] get the ball out of his hand before the defender shoots the throwing lane, Cobb makes a quick move on the safety flying down the field like a bat out of hell and runs inside the block from Davante Adams [17]. Easy 12 yards.

BAM. NEXT.

good-o-03_cobb_quick

This is on the very next play. They basically took the previous play and swapped Randall Cobb [18] from the left slot to the right slot. Cobb’s man is playing off the line, making this an easy read. Cobb takes a jab step upfield to get his man moving backwards, then takes a step back and looks for the ball. Aaron Rodgers [12] does a quick play fake before getting the ball out of his hand quickly. Jason Spriggs [76] and Corey Linsley [63] get upfield, but they’re not able to secure blocks in time. Still, it’s an easy 6 yards.

These three plays all happened on the Packers first offensive possession. They set the tone early. I loved it.

BAM. NEXT.

good-o-06_nelson_quick

This one is not as quick as the others, but it’s still beautiful. Jordy Nelson [87] is running a 9 yard out from the right side. Aaron Rodgers [12] takes a three step drop. Nelson has a quick cut. Rodgers hits that third step in the drop and lets the ball fly. Easy 13 yards.

The Eagles are bringing pressure on this play, but Rodgers get the ball out of his hand so quickly that it doesn’t really matter.

BAM. NEXT.

good-o-07_cobb_quick

Randall Cobb [18] in the slot to the right with Davante Adams [17] on the outside. Cobb’s defender is playing off him. Sing with me.

Cobb runs into the flat, Aaron Rodgers [12] takes a quick step, turns and fires. There are three defenders against one blocker on that side, so Cobb finds a sliver of a gap and hits it hard, knocking a man back in the process. Let’s call this an easy 7 yards with 4 tough ones at the end.

BAM. NEXT.

good-o-10a_cobb_quick_read

Eagles are bringing pressure so Aaron Rodgers [12] looks for the hot read. It’s a pretty nifty little play design. Jared Cook [89] is off the right side of the line while Randall Cobb [18] is in the slot. Cook runs a 10 yard in while Cobb runs a little 3 yard in. It actually kind of looks like a drag that Cobb doesn’t ever finish, but that’s neither here nor there.

Cook’s route holds the deep defender on that side, meaning Rodgers only has to deal with the inside linebacker who starts on the opposite side of the line. Rodgers takes a step then fires to Cobb just as Cobb is going into his route. Cobb catches the pass, stops on a dime and cuts upfield. This could have been a big collision, but Cobb is able to avoid it and pick up some yards in the process. Randall Cobb is really good.

BAM. NEXT.

good-o-05_montgomery

Packers start in a full house backfield with Randall Cobb [18], Ty Montgomery [88] and James Starks [44]. Cobb goes in motion pre-snap, leading to lots of confusion and waving arms in the Eagles defense. In the attempt to make sure Cobb is accounted for, Montgomery is lost in the shuffle. He runs into the flat and Rodgers gets it out of his hand quickly. Easy 9 yards.

So many times this season, the Packers have struggled on offense because they couldn’t pick up easy yards. They were able to do a lot of that in this game and it kept the offense humming.

BAM. NEXT.

good-o-12_starks_checkdown

We already looked at a few quick throws to Randall Cobb [18], but what happens when those plays are covered?

Cobb is lined up on the left side, set behind Davante Adams [17]. At the snap, Cobb takes a jab step, then steps back and looks for the ball. Aaron Rodgers [12] is ready to throw, but Malcolm Jenkins [27] crashes towards the line. If Rodgers throws this ball and Cobb catches it, it would likely have been a 3 yard loss. Instead, Rodgers sees Jenkins and is able to pull the ball down. With the linebackers reacting to the pump fake to Cobb, James Starks [44] is able to leak through the middle of the line for a checkdown. This play only picks up 3 yards, but, if not for the awareness of Rodgers, it could have been worse.

Thus ends the no-huddle portion. Let’s round this out by looking at a few touchdowns and call it a day.

good-o-14_ripkowski_td

A nice bit of downhill running by Aaron Ripkowski [22] to get into the end zone, and some great blocking to plow the road.

Ripkowski ends up hitting the B gap between Lane Taylor [65] and David Bakhtiari [69], so let’s start there. The entire line is sliding right. Taylor and Bakhtiari both engage with their men and push them down the line. They don’t do much, but they don’t need to: by not allowing either of their men to get into the gap, it allows a sliver of a hole for Ripkowski to run through, and that’s all he needs. Ripkowski slightly twists his body and puts his head down and finds himself in the end zone. This exactly what you want your fullback to do with the ball in his hands: just put his head down and get as many yards as he can.

Let’s look at some others on the line.

Richard Rodgers [82] is on the left side and he makes a really nice block on his man. He’s not asked to do much, but he is able to get his man off-balance and drive him down the line. Rodgers is a willing blocker, but he’s not always a very good one. He did his job here.

Corey Linsley [63] comes off the ball and immediately drives his man to the right. Beautiful block.

Jason Spriggs [78] ends the play on his back, but he is able to fight off Jordan Hicks [58], not allowing him to shoot the gap. It’s Hicks’ second move that puts Spriggs down, mainly because Spriggs is a bit off-balance after Hicks’ original move. Spriggs fighting off that original move is what is important here.

Bryan Bulaga [75] casually blocks his man. It’s such a quick-hitting play on the other side of the line that he doesn’t have to do much. Once the initial move was fended off, he was golden.

It’s a great job of blocking up front and a great job of Ripkowski of finding a sliver of daylight and running to it.

And, with that, we have the first offensive touchdown of the 2016 that Aaron Rodgers did not account for. In Week 12.

good-o-04a_adams_td

Here is Davante Adams’ [17] first touchdown. The Eagles are in Cover 1 Man Under. It looks like Jordan Hicks [58] is spying Aaron Rodgers [12] on this play. The Packers are running slants/flat pattern on both sides of the line, with Jordy Nelson [87] and Jared Cook [89] on the left and Adams and Randall Cobb [18] on the right.

Rodgers had hit Cobb on two quick-hitting passes on this drive (we looked at both of those in the no-huddle section), so Cobb’s man is tight on the line of scrimmage. That’s key on this play, as it helps to clear out the throwing lane for Rodgers to Adams. If Cobb’s man was playing a little off the line, there is slightly more congestion out of Adams’ break. As it is, Cobb drags his man to the sideline while Adams runs a nice route – jab step to the outside before a hard slant inside – to create separation. Hicks starts close to the line and doesn’t drop back. All those things combined means that Rodgers has a nice throwing lane to an open Adams.

Rodgers puts the ball on Adams’ back hip, which is important here. Rodney McLeod [23] is the single high safety and he converges on Adams. If Rodgers leads Adams to the middle of the field, Adams likely gets lit up and doesn’t make it into the end zone. Putting the ball on Adams’ back hip allows him to slow his momentum. Instead of running full speed to the middle of the field and almost certain doom, Adams is able to turn upfield, avoid the hit by McLeod and get into the end zone.

Did Adams shout “There can be only one,” after avoiding the hit by McLeod? Probably not, but I can’t say for sure.
(Allow me to apologize to McLeod for making a Highlander joke at his expense. I’m sure everyone who has ever mentioned him in his life has made that exact same joke. I don’t even like that movie. I’m not proud of myself.)

good-o-08a_adams_td

I can’t find the specific quote at the moment, but I seem to remember hearing it a year or so ago. It goes something like this: when the topic of Aaron Rodgers’ [12] perceived arrogance came up, the response was, “Of course he’s arrogant. You can’t attempt some of the passes he attempts without being arrogant.” That certainly holds true here. This throw is straight-up arrogance, completely disrespectful to the Eagles defense, and absolutely beautiful.

Davante Adams [17] is outside receiver on the left side. He beats his man off the line with a quick jab step in before cutting to his defender’s outside shoulder and heading straight up the field. The Eagles are in Cover 1 Man Under. Once again, it looks like Jordan Hicks [58] is spying Rodgers.

Rodgers initial reads are to the right, which pulls Rodney McLeod [23] to the right side of the field. This assures that there will be no safety to help on Adams.

When Rodgers eventually works his way over to the left side of the field, he throws an absolutely perfect pass past Nolan Carroll [22]. Adams goes down to his knees to get it and secures the catch.

I can’t properly put into words just how ridiculous this play is. So, instead, let’s look at a bunch of different angles.

good-o-08b_adams_td

I cut the catch out of this one, because I just wanted to look at Rodgers going through his reads. There’s no doubt why McLeod was shading to the right side of the field: that’s exactly where Rodgers was looking for most of this play.

Another thing to look at: unlike earlier in the season, Rodgers doesn’t run from the pocket at the first sign of it breaking down. It’s starting to collapse, but Rodgers stands in the pocket and delivers a perfect throw. This is wonderful to see. He looked comfortable back there all game.

good-o-08e_adams_td

HIT ME AGAIN

good-o-08c_adams_td

THANK YOU SIR MAY I HAVE ANOTHER?

good-o-08d_adams_td

Carroll could have knocked this ball away if he had turned in time. But he didn’t turn around in time. Furthermore, Rodgers knew Carroll wouldn’t turn around in time, because it has already been established that Rodgers is a wizard.

Random Thoughts:

– Coming into this game, Aaron Rodgers had been struggling with his deep ball (passes that were thrown 15+ yards in the air). He was completing 33.7% and 10.6 yards per attempt. In this game, he completed 57.1% and 16.1 yards per attempt.
For the season, the Eagles were allowing 37.2% and 12.1 yards per attempt on deep passes.

– Here are Carson Wentz’s stats by half:

wentz_stats_by_half

– Here are Aaron Rodgers’ stats by half:

rodgers_stats_by_half

– When targeting Davante Adams, Aaron Rodgers was 5/6 (83.3%) for 113 yards (18.8 yards per attempt) and 2 touchdowns, for a QB Rating of 158.3.

– I was pretty hard on Adams coming into this year – and even during this year – but he seems to have turned a corner. He’s coming out of his breaks with more explosiveness. He hasn’t had a huge problem with drops or cutting off routes. He still has occasional lapses, but he has looked really good. I hope he’s finally realizing his full potential and not just flashing what he’s capable of before sliding back into mediocrity.

– On the Packers 17 play, 8:21 minute drive in the 4th quarter, Rodgers was 5/6 (83.3%) for 66 yards (11 yards per attempt). On 3rd and 4th down, he was 3/3 (100%) for 51 yards (17 yards per attempt), including a 21 yard completion to Jordy Nelson on 4th and 5. They also averaged 5.5 yards per carry on that drive.

– I had recently rewatched the Lord of the Rings series with my wife – something we end up doing every couple years – and we found we had some questions neither of us knew the answers to. Seemingly simple stuff like, “What does the One Ring really do? Sauron’s plan is to destroy the entire world, but does that include the place the elves sail off to? Why were men the only ones turned into Sauron’s ghostly killing crew, when dwarves and elves also received rings?”
Luckily, one of the guys I watch Packers games with is a Lord of the Rings expert. He has read everything related to Lord of the Rings multiple times. So halftime of this game turned into a Lord of the Rings Q&A session. We were sitting in a sports bar, drinking Shotgun Wedding – a local vanilla brown ale – and peppering him with Lord of the Rings questions. He answered every single one without the need to reference anything online. It was delightful. It is very important to have a Lord of the Rings expert in your life.


Albums listened to: The Weeknd – Starboy; Newmoon – Space; Element 101 – Stereo Girl; Sam Cooke – Night Beat; Doug Burr – Pale White Dove; Taking Back Sunday – Tidal Wave; Angel Olsen – My Woman; Frank Ocean – Endless; Local Natives – Sunlit Youth

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