I’ll admit to being a little nervous before this game. The Chicago Bears are not a good team this year, but the injuries to the Packers just kept adding up and I began to wonder if the Packers would even have enough difference makers to beat this Bears team. In addition to that, this was a short week and the Packers were coming off a rough loss to the Cowboys.

Going into halftime with a 6-3 lead wasn’t exactly encouraging, either. The offense had plenty of opportunities in the red zone, but they weren’t able to punch it into the end zone. When the Bears scored a defensive touchdown off a strip-sack of Aaron Rodgers early in the 3rd quarter for a 10-6 lead, the group I was with all looked at each other and said, “Here’s how the Bears win.”

But the offense took off. They established a rhythm of their short-passing attack and were able to go up-and-down the field with relative ease. Davante Adams had the best game of his career and Ty Montgomery showed what he’s capable of.

There are still issues and questions with this team, but they went a long way towards answering some of those in this game. We have a week and a half to celebrate this win. The sun is a little brighter today.

The Packers got a divisional win and the temperature is dropping. Grab some scary movies and your favorite warm blanket to hide under. Spooky season is well and truly here. This really is the best time of year.

Let’s get to the film.

I’m going to do something a bit different this week.  Instead of going with The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, I wanted to show a couple random plays I liked, then look at a handful of plays that highlight two of the schemes the Packers used quite a bit in their passing game this week.

good-d-01_gunter_jeffrey

One of the worries in going up against this Bears was how the depleted secondary was going to deal with Alshon Jeffrey [17]. On this play, he lines up at the top of the screen, with Ladarius Gunter [36] lined up over top of him. There’s nothing special here: Gunter is able to stay on his hip, stay with Jeffrey on the cut and challenge the throw. Jeffrey isn’t a burner, but he’s a tall guy with good hands. As good as he is, Gunter was a really good match-up for Green Bay. Like Jeffery, Gunter isn’t a burner, but he’s a big guy with long arms. He has always kind of reminded me of Davon House.

For the game, Jeffrey finished with a modest 3 catches (on 11 targets) for 33 yards. The match-up against Julio Jones next week isn’t quite so favorable, but Gunter more than held his own against Jeffrey.

good-d-02_swarm

This is a wide receiver screen to Deonte Thompson [14] at the bottom of the screen. It is read perfectly on that side by Demetri Goodson [39]. By recognizing the play immediately, Goodson was able to slip underneath the block of Cameron Meredith [81]. Goodson’s pursuit means Thompson can’t cut up the field, so he has to cut back towards the line. Letroy Guion [98] misses on his tackle attempt, but the rest of the swarming bodies inside do not. Blake Martinez [50] makes the first hit, which slows Thompson down enough for the reinforcements to arrive. Goodson – still pursuing the play – is able to get in on the tackle. This was a tremendous play by Goodson, but the entire defense did a great job here.

good-o-01_nelson_4th_down

This play takes place pretty early in the 1st quarter. The Packers decide to go for it on 4th and 4 at the Bears 29 yard line. I assume this was a case of feeling good about the way the offense was looking and wanting to keep it rolling.  Whatever the reason was, I love that they went for it and I loved seeing this pass.

Jordy Nelson [87] is lined up in the slot to the left of the line. His route is pretty simple: run upfield and turn around. Aaron Rodgers [12] sees the defender is playing off Nelson, and he also sees that the defender is backpedaling. The Bears are bringing heat, and a free rusher is coming off the edge. Rodgers knows Nelson’s route and he also knows he needs to get the ball out quickly, which is exactly what he does. The ball is out of Rodgers’ hand before Nelson is out of his break. The defender doesn’t stand a chance. It’s a 9 yard gain on 4th and 4.

Nelson gets out of his break well and Rodgers gets the ball out of his hand quickly. This is something that has been missing quite a bit from the offense, and it’s exactly what the West Coast Offense is based around.

good-o-06_montgomery_3rd_down

Here is Ty Montgomery’s [88] stellar catch on 3rd down. Montgomery sells down the downfield route just enough to make his defender hesitate, and that slight bit of hesitation is what creates space. But look at the other routes in this play.

Davante Adams [17] is the outside receiver. He’s running a post, but his real job is to clear out space for Montgomery, which is exactly what he does. If Adams is slow getting downfield, this play doesn’t work. His defender would have the opportunity to help with Montgomery. But Adams gets his man downfield to clear out room for Montgomery.

Justin Perillo [80] is is the slot to the left. He runs a curl to the middle, and he runs it really well. If Montgomery wasn’t open on this play, Perillo would have been.

The Packers are running symmetrical outside routes (out/post combo) on the bottom with Randall Cobb [18] and Jordy Nelson [87].

There could be many reasons for Aaron Rodgers [12] throwing to Montgomery instead of Cobb on this play, but it looks that the defender over Montgomery is shading slightly to Montgomery’s inside shoulder, while Cobb’s defender is shading the outside shoulder. Since this is an out route with a quick throw, this slight variance can make a huge difference. Seeing the defender on an inside shoulder for an out means he’d have to go across the body to make a play on the ball, while a defender playing the outside shoulder would have a clearer path. Rodgers may have seen the defender on the inside shoulder of Montgomery pre-snap and determined that was where the throw would be going.

good-o-08_adams_spinning_man

I have talked about Davante Adams [17] poor route-running in the past, so I felt it only fair to point out when he has a great one. He starts this play as the outside receiver to the top of the screen. He looks like he’s running a post and his man plays that route. After about 3 steps into the post route, he sticks his foot in the ground and cuts back to the sideline, completely spinning his man around in the process. Aaron Rodgers [12] nearly misses the throw, but Adams is able to reach up, grab it and pick up a couple yards after the catch. This was a great route by Adams.

For the record, I don’t think Adams is a poor route runner, but I do think he’s an inconsistent one. Although “inconsistent” has basically summed up his entire career so far.

Now let’s move on to the next section.  Let’s call it Dual Outs, because that is the type of pattern we’re going to be looking at.

good-o-05_cobb_dual_outs

The Packers have used this kind of play for a while now, and we certainly saw a healthy dose of it on Thursday. Of course, when Rodgers throws 50+ times in a game, you’re likely to see all the best tricks an offense has. This specific throw went to Randall Cobb [18], starting in the slot to the right of the line. Justin Perillo [80] is standing up just off the right side of the line. He and Cobb are running matching out routes 5 yards down the field. Davante Adams [17] is on the outside running a go route.

They are both sharp out of the cut. With Adams dragging his man deep, there is free space to put the ball to Cobb.

You can see the beauty in this play design, though. If Cobb isn’t open, Perillo will have space, since Cobb has drug his man to the outside. It’s a quick-hitting pass play that calls for sharp cuts. It’s not something the Packers have been known for this season, but this is an effective way to establish rhythm in the passing game when it’s working.

This is the type of play that can have success against man or zone defense, provided it is run well.

If you look to the left side of the line, you’ll see Jordy Nelson [87] running an out from the slot while Ty Montgomery [88] runs a go route to clear out space.

It’s also the type of play you can run a simple variation on and have great success with. If defenses have seen this exact play on tape dozens of times and key in on it, instead of camping in the middle of the field, maybe that linebacker flies over to cut off the route. The Packers can set up a receiver read-option on the play: if the inside man crashes that route, cut back to the middle. With out routes going on either side, the middle is wide open.

Or if the outside cornerback drops down into a robber zone, passing off the receiver to the safety. Suddenly there’s a hole between the cornerback and the safety for a pass to fit in.

That’s what I love. The Packers did a lot of this type of play, but the small variations off of this play are really exciting.

good-o-09_rodgers_dual_outs

Here is the same thing to the left side of the line, with Richard Rodgers [82] and Randall Cobb [18] running the routes. Rodgers is lined up just off the left side of the line. His defender is giving him a big cushion and is playing inside technique. Aaron Rodgers [12] sees the off coverage pre-snap and the inside coverage immediately after the snap. It’s an easy read, so Aaron Rodgers is able to get the ball out as soon as Richard Rodgers comes out of his break. If the ball comes out a little earlier, Richard Rodgers would have a chance to get some more yards after the catch, but let’s be honest here. It’s Richard Rodgers. He was not going to get more yards after the catch.

Once again, the outside is cleared out by Jordy Nelson [87] running a go route, but the coverage on Cobb is tight out of the break. It would have had to be a perfect throw to Cobb, so Aaron Rodgers chose the easy throw to Richard Rodgers.

Something else this route combo does is it puts two receivers in the same line of sight for Aaron Rodgers. He can read the coverage on both of them without having to move his head. It’s a quick and easy way to read a couple of potential open receivers.

There’s something else to notice on this play. We have dual outs on the left side of the line, while the right side of the line is setting up a screen for Ty Montgomery [88]. The action to the left drags defenders to that side of the field. If Cobb, Rodgers or Nelson couldn’t get open, Aaron Rodgers is able to turn to his right and flip a screen pass to Montgomery, which is set up really well.

I’ve seen the Packers do this before and it always makes me happy. They’re essentially running one play on the left and another on the right. It’s extremely hard to defend and I love it dearly.

good-o-02_montgomery_catch

Here we see dual outs to the right side of the line with Richard Rodgers [82] and Randall Cobb [18], with Jordy Nelson [87] running a go route over the top. Is this all beginning to seem familiar?

On the left side we have Trevor Davis [11] running a slant, while Ty Montgomery [88] – who has motioned to the left pre-snap – is simply running to the flat underneath. Since no defenders followed Montgomery across the formation, it signaled that the Bears were in zone. Given the defensive alignment on the left, Aaron Rodgers [12] knows that the outside defender will drop back to take away Davis’ initial move, opening up room for Montgomery to catch and run before the deep defender can drop down to take away that throw. It’s worth mentioning that the defender over Montgomery is likely thinking an out pattern, so he’s staying a bit downfield to try to take away that route. The threat of the out helps to open up this underneath route for Montgomery.

good-o-04_cobb

Finally, we have a slight variation of the dual out. Instead of running them on the same side, we have Randall Cobb [18] running an out on the left while Jordy Nelson [87] loops underneath Richard Rodgers [82] on the right to run an in route, mirroring Cobb’s out pattern.

What we also have here is Cobb running a variation of the straight out route, creating room to catch the ball in the process. He fires off the line and runs an out, which is well covered. He then starts to cut upfield, leading the defender to think he’s running deep. Once the defender commits to a deep cut, Cobb cuts right back to the outside. He’s able to catch the ball without the defender contesting it.

A lot has been said this year about the Packers’ use of “secondary routes.” Basically, the Packers have their initial routes, then a secondary route they run once the play breaks down. It’s essentially a planned scramble drill. So instead of just running to open space and waving your hand, the receivers know where they’re going once the play starts to break down, and so does Rodgers. On a lot of these secondary routes, Cobb’s role seems to be to breaking deep towards the sideline. I’m sure the defender has seen that and had it in mind when Cobb started upfield on his secondary route. It’s a nice little tweak to a route the Packers run quite often.

That’s one of the things I find so fascinating about offenses. They’ll run the same play dozens of times; perhaps hundreds. If that starts being keyed in on, one or two tiny adjustments could open everything up. You’re not changing the overall play, you’re just slightly modifying one aspect of it.

To close out, we’re going to look at a few rub plays the Packers used this game in an attempt to get their receivers open. I call this section The Rub, because I am not creative.

good-o-07_perillo_rub_right

This is an interesting play in that the Packers ran a similar look on both sides, with a slight variation. On the right side of the line. Justin Perillo [80] is lined up in the slot, while Jordy Nelson [87] is on the outside. At the snap, Nelson runs a slant directly at his man while Perillo takes a couple steps upfield before wheeling to the outside, underneath Nelson’s route. The combination of these routes creates a natural pick for Perillo and it works like a charm. Perillo’s man is caught on the wrong side of Nelson’s route, giving Perillo room to run his route and get some yards after the catch. One can argue whether or not the slow-footed Perillo would have been able to get into the end zone had the ball gone in his direction, but the route combination itself worked exactly as it was designed to work.

Now turn your attention to the left side of the line, where it appears as though Randall Cobb [18] and Davante Adams [17] are running the same route combination, with a twist. Adams begins running a slant from the outside while Cobb takes a couple steps upfield before taking a cut inside. But this is not a real rub route. It is a route designed to look like a rub to fool the defenders. The idea is to make the defenders commit to the rub, then run the actual routes while the defenders are scrambling.

That’s the side Aaron Rodgers [12] was looking, but the defenders played it well and there was no open receiver.

bad-o-01_janis_pick

Here we have the exact same thing to the right side of the line, this time featuring Jeff Janis [83] in the slot and Jordy Nelson [87] on the outside. Aaron Rodgers [12] throws the ball quickly to that side, but a couple things go wrong here. If you rewatch the previous gif, you’ll notice how far Nelson was able to take his man into the middle. On this play, he’s not running as deep. Instead of a slant, he’s running a slant-curl, and it doesn’t take him close enough to Janis’ defender.

Janis also could have run his route closer to Nelson. By cutting a little more underneath Nelson than he has to, it leaves room for the defender to follow him under the pick. The goal is to force the defender to go over the pick, creating room underneath to catch the ball and get upfield. Since Nelson’s defender is able to cut Janis off before he gets to the end zone, he likely wouldn’t have gotten into the end zone even if he ran the route closer to Nelson, but he didn’t do himself any favors by allowing his defender to run under the pick.

good-o-11_adams_td

We’ll finish this section off with Davante Adams’ [17] second touchdown catch of the day. This play gave the Packers a 20-10 lead in the 4th quarter, so it was pretty big. It was also a rub that worked, even if not exactly the way the Packers drew it up.

I’ve already talked about two of these plays, so you all can probably recite the routes by this point, but let’s go through it. We’re looking to the left side of the line, where Adams lines up on the outside and Ty Montgomery [88] lines up in the slot. Adams runs a slant while Montgomery runs to the flat underneath the slant. There is miscommunication between the defenders on that side. The inside defender sees the rub and is able to run under the pick. The outside defender drops back in zone, leaving Adams uncovered. Instead of tying up his defender, Adams finds himself running free. Aaron Rodgers [12] throws a bit behind Adams, but Adams is able to reach back and make a great catch.

The goal of these types of plays is to create a bit of chaos for the defense. Whether that takes the shape of knocking defenders off their assignments or miscommunication doesn’t matter. If a receiver gets open quickly, the design has done exactly what it was meant to do. There has been a lot of hand-wringing among Packers fans, myself included, about how the Packers run a lot of long-developing isolation routes. While they still run their fair share of isolation routes, I’ve noticed more of these types of plays over the past few weeks, and it brings a smile to my face. I’ve also noticed a bit more pre-snap motion. There are reasons to believe the Packers are getting back on track offensively, and it’s due to play calls like this becoming a bit more regular.

Other Thoughts:

– Aaron Rodgers ended with a good final line: 39/56 (69.6%), 326 yards (5.82 yards per attempt) and 3 touchdowns, for a QB Rating of 102.2. Of those 17 incomplete passes, 7 were thrown away and 3 were dropped. That puts his accuracy of aimed passes at 85.7%. Not too shabby.

– Rodgers’ 39 completions set a Packers record for most completions in one game. The record was previously held by Brett Favre and set in Chicago in 1993. In that game, Favre was 36/54 (66.7%), 402 yards (7.44 yards per attempt), 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, for a QB rating of 77.9.

– Going back to 1960, Warren Moon was the only other quarterback to attempt at least 56 passes, complete at least 69% of them and win the game. Moon didn’t throw a single touchdown pass in that game.

– I dislike stats that throw that many qualifiers on them. You can make pretty much any accomplishment sound special as long as you put enough qualifiers on it. Still, that didn’t stop me from using Pro Football Reference’s Play Finder and passing along this useless information to you, did it? You’re welcome.

– The Packers attempted 62 passes and only 22 runs. Of those 22 runs, only 7 went to running backs, the rest going to Randall Cobb (5 rushing attempts) and Ty Montgomery (9 rushing attempts). Speaking of Ty Montgomery…

– In weeks 1-5, Ty Montgomery saw a total of 17 snaps, accounting for less than 8% of the total offensive snaps. In that time he saw no balls thrown in his direction and had 2 rushing attempts for a total of 0 yards. Over the past two weeks, Montgomery has seen 95 snaps (accounting for over 60% of offensive snaps) and has caught 20 passes (on 25 attempts, an 80% catch rate) for 164 yards (6.56 yards per target). He has also run the ball 12 times for 66 yards (5.5 yards per attempt). I love that he’s on the field and doing this. This is what I had hoped he would do this year. So now for the question a lot of us have been asking all season: what took so long?

– I mentioned grabbing some scary movies, so I’ll finish this article by throwing a couple recommendations your way. (All the links are for reviews I’ve written on the movie in question.)

Halloween – The original. Sure, it’s a bit tame by today’s blood-soaked standards, but this movie still holds up. There is a great tension that runs throughout, the style is incredible (I love those long, lingering camera shots) and it has one of the best soundtracks of all time. If you feel like rolling with a double-feature, Halloween II is also terrific.

It Follows – In many ways, a spiritual successor to Halloween. It has a lot of the same look and feel, but with a twist on the well-worn slasher genre that makes it feel new and fresh. (If you’re interested, I wrote a bit about how to survive The It. There are spoilers in that post, so don’t read it until you’ve seen the movie.)

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon – A horror comedy. The first hour is a pitch-perfect deconstruction of the slasher genre, as told through a documentary team following around Leslie Vernon, a killer in the mold of Jason Voorhees. If you’re a fan of the slasher genre, it’s a must-see. Even if you’re not, it’s still an extremely funny movie with its fair share of blood and killing.

Severance – This is basically a British office comedy set in the woods with a slasher on the loose.

Trick R Treat – A horror anthology of sorts, following a handful of different stories, all taking place in the same town on Halloween night. It’s mean and nasty and hilarious and dark and I watch it every year.

The Final Girls – A new favorite, following a group of modern day college students who find themselves stuck in an 80s slasher. It’s hilarious, but it also has a really strong heart in the middle, thanks to the two female leads, playing a daughter and (sorta) mother.

The Orphanage – A creepy, heartbreaking, atmospheric ghost story. It’s not out-and-out scary, but it has a creepy vibe that runs throughout.

The Witch – Let’s close with a recent movie. Like The Orphanage, it’s not out-and-out scary, but it’s supremely unsettling. It’s a bit slow moving, so be prepared for that. I think this movie is best served by turning off all the lights and giving it your undivided attention. You’ll be glad you did. While you’re watching, keep in mind that a lot of the dialogue was pulled directly from journals written during that time period.

I could talk horror all day, so if you want more recommendations (or just want to chat), hit me over via email or Twitter. When I won’t stop talking your ear off about a horror film I loved you may wish you had never engaged me, but that’s on you.

Albums listened to: Marissa Nadler – Bury Your Name; Brand New – The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me; D’Angelo – Black Messiah; Elvis Perkins – Doomsday EP; American Football – American Football; Black Atlass – Haunted Paradise; Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker; The Yearning – Evening Souvenirs; Phantogram – Three

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