I usually watch Packers games with three other guys; two brothers and a friend who may as well be a brother. Both of my brothers were out of commission, but my friend was able to join me. So I pulled on my Cobb jersey and met him at our favorite local sports bar. The drink specials have disappeared – a double bourbon and Coke no longer costs $1 – but they have good wings, terrific nachos and a decent beer selection so it’s all good.

The game wasn’t always pretty, but the Packers got a win at Lambeau to open the season against a good team and a hated rival. The offense had their moments, but had trouble finding the end zone. Not surprising, giving the lack of Bulaga on the offensive line and the Seahawks loaded defense. But the Packers defense looked incredible and that was the difference.

The leaves are starting to change color and the Packers are 1-0. It’s a good day.

Let’s go to the film.

I wrote about the Aaron Rodgers to Martellus Bennett play that clinched the game in One Big Play this week. You can check that out here.


The Bad

I’ve only got a couple plays in this section because football season is here and the Packers are 1-0. Ain’t nothin’ gonna break my stride. This is also less “The Bad” and more “Why Isn’t Anyone Open?”

I made a note to look at this one because of the broadcast. The end result of the play is Aaron Rodgers [12] not getting rid of the ball and getting sacked. The broadcast replays showed close-ups of Randall Cobb [18] and Davante Adams [17] and there was a suggestion that they were open. I was thinking that wasn’t true, so I wanted to take a slightly closer look.

2nd and 10. Cobb and Adams are lined up on the right side. Adams runs a deep in (Adams with a solid cut on that route) while Cobb runs an out-and-up behind it. With the Seahawks in Cover 3, Richard Sherman [25] stays with Adams on the cut while Justin Coleman [28] loses his assignment and peels back off inside, allowing Cobb to run free down the sideline. I’m guessing Sherman ran Cover 3 Pattern Match while Coleman was thinking this was straight Cover 3; in that instance, Sherman would pick up Cobb while Coleman peels off under the route of Adams.

So it is a busted coverage on Cobb, but Rodgers was not in a position to take advantage of it. About the time Coleman is peeling off, Rodgers is flushed out of the pocket to the opposite side of the field.

So we look to Adams on the in cut. When Adams comes out of his cut, there is still a linebacker in the middle of the field under that route. He ends up breaking on Ty Montgomery [88] out of the backfield, but that break comes about the same time Rodgers is forced to flee. By the time Rodgers sets back up, Montgomery is covered and Rodgers has nowhere to go with the ball.

Sometimes it’s not always as easy as “just getting rid of it.” I don’t love that the Packers are running 4 late-developing routes against a monster defensive line – especially while having their own issues on the offensive line – but that’s not on Rodgers.

You hear a lot that the Seahawks predominantly run Cover 3, and that’s true, but not always. Here they’re in Cover 2 Man. As you can see, they have great coverage across the board. Again, we see 4 late-developing routes (a little more understandable here, given that it’s 3rd and 11) and a covered checkdown out of the backfield. There is nowhere for Rodgers to go. To his credit, he doesn’t flee as soon as the pocket collapses. He steps up, hesitates for a second, then takes a last, longing glance downfield to see if anything else has opened up. It hasn’t, so he takes off.

As you’ve also no doubt heard, playing man-to-man is at a disadvantage when the quarterback takes off. Unlike zone where defenders are facing the line and can react quicker, man-to-man sees those defenders with their backs turned to the action. So when Rodgers finally does take off, he has a lot of room to run. Kam Chancellor [31] comes flying out of the secondary to guide Rodgers out of bounds, but not before Rodgers is able to pick up 13 yards on 3rd and 11.

The Good

We’re gonna start with the offense today, because I want to close with Mike Daniels destroying every single person on the Seahawks roster.

I don’t have a ton to say about this play, but I wanted to point it out because I will take any opportunity to talk about Randall Cobb [18]. He’s lined up in the slot on the right. The Packers are selling the run pretty hard to the left. Aaron Rodgers [12] bootlegs back out to the right to hit Cobb.

Watch Cobb. He comes off the line and lightly engages with Jeremy Lane [20]. With the action going the other way, he’s not really trying to sell the block because he doesn’t need to. He just make a show out of it. At the same time Rodgers breaks the pocket, Cobb disengages and has a violent cut to the outside. Look at how much room Cobb has immediately. That’s an easy throw for Rodgers and an easy 14 yard gain.

Cobb was great in this game. He led both teams in targets (13), catches (9) and yards (85). He was quick out of his cuts all game. In case you needed a reminder of how good a healthy Randall Cobb is, this game serves as your reminder.

Hey. Speaking of Randall Cobb…

Here is a Run Pass Option (RPO). I’ve talked about them quite a bit in this space before, but a Run Pass Option is exactly that: Aaron Rodgers [12] has the option to either hand the ball off to Ty Montgomery [88] out of the backfield or throw a quick-hitting pass to a receiver. The offensive line is run-blocking which is why the pass needs to be a quick-hitter. If Rodgers holds onto the ball, they’ll get flagged for illegal man downfield.

On this play, Rodgers decided to throw the quick screen to Randall Cobb [18] with Jordy Nelson [87] and Martellus Bennett [80] in front. It’s an easy 6 yards on 1st & 10.

Here’s why I bring this play up: given their personnel over the past couple years, they couldn’t really throw this to Cobb as often as they would like. Cobb is the best perimeter blocker on the team. You don’t necessarily need to have elite blocking on the outside to run this; you just need someone who can engage with the man across from them for enough time for the receiver to catch the ball and get upfield. Over the past couple of years, I saw this play run entirely too many times with Cobb and Nelson blocking for Richard Rodgers. Why was the non-elusive Richard Rodgers the one catching the ball? Because he can’t block in space. Put Cobb behind the blocking of Richard Rodgers and bad things will happen. Horrible things. Unspeakable things.

But now the Packers have Martellus Bennett, and Bennett can block. When the Packers signed him, a lot of words were spoken about how he would open up the passing game by stretching the middle of the field. We also heard how he would be able to help with the running game. Both of those things are true. But this is something that wasn’t really brought up. Throwing Bennett out on the perimeter on these plays opens up a lot of things. It allows Cobb, Nelson or Bennett to catch the ball and turn it into something. All 3 are good blockers out there and all 3 can do damage with the ball in their hands. It’s added flexibility, and it’s something this offense lacked by throwing Richard Rodgers out there.

One more note on this play. Look how quickly Rodgers gets the ball out of his hands. One step back and his body is already turned and firing a rocket to Cobb. The quicker the ball gets there, the more time Cobb has to read and react to what the defense is giving him. Rodgers gave him as much time as he could have asked for.

I just love this play design. Randall Cobb [18] and Martellus Bennett [80] are running dueling drags, Jordy Nelson [87] is running a dig over the top of Cobb, Ty Montgomery [88] runs to the flat and Davante Adams [17] is running a stop-and-go. All that action on the left side of the field is designed to get someone open. Nelson’s dig is designed as a natural pick for the linebacker dropping out to take Montgomery out of the backfield.

And the dueling drags aren’t full drags; both Cobb and Bennett pull up for a curl after passing each other. I have to believe that’s an option: if the defense is playing tight on those routes, the drags are run across the field, as they’re designed to knock the tight defenders off the route. If the defense is in zone, they curl, as the natural inclination of a zone defense would lead to one defender passing off his receiver to the next zone. If the zone defenders read the drag, they may play a little wider, anticipating the route continuing across the field. Pulling up short on the curl in that situation would create more space for both receivers. And, since they’re both in the middle, that’s an easy read for Aaron Rodgers [12]; he just looks down the middle of the field and throws to the guy with more space.

Then there’s Nelson. If the drags pull defenders up into those zones, the defender on him may be playing a little bit off. If Nelson doesn’t throw off the defender on Montgomery and the defense pulls up on the drag routes, Nelson can simply run behind it.

Lastly, we have Adams, all by his lonesome on the right side. Against a single-high look, it seems natural to assume that the safety would be looking to the action on the right. If Adams can shake his man on the double-move, there’s no safety help. There’s a chance at a huge play if his defender bites hard on the dig.

It plays out well here, with two linebackers sprinting at Montgomery out of the backfield, leaving Cobb wide open with room to run (since Nelson has dragged his man away from the middle). But even if those linebackers don’t sell out on Montgomery, this is a solid concept, meant to get at least one of those receivers open, with the option to take a shot down the sideline. I really like this a lot.

I don’t have any analysis here. I just want to put this here because look at how incredible this throw and catch. That’s Aaron Rodgers [12] to Martellus Bennett [80] for a third down conversion. Rodgers puts that ball in a place only Bennett can make a play – while protecting Bennett from getting killed by Earl Thomas [29] on the outside – and Bennett goes down and gets it. It’s beautiful. I’m so excited about this offense.

Aaron Rodgers [12] catches the Seahawks with 12 men on the field – insert joke about “the 12s” here – and finds Jordy Nelson [87] on a post route over the top. Nelson gets behinds Bobby Wagner [54] dropping from the middle and takes advantage of the fact that Earl Thomas [29] was looking at Randall Cobb [18] on the outside. By Thomas being turned, Nelson is able to get inside position. Rodgers lofts a beautiful pass over Nelson’s left shoulder.

Here’s something that is often left out of the conversation when talking about Rodgers catching the defense while substituting: the Seahawks are not set. Look at where Thomas and Kam Chancellor [31] are when this ball is snapped. They’re not in position. They’re gathered in the middle of the field, probably talking about the ending of Twin Peaks or something. You can see Thomas and Chancellor bailing at the snap to where they’re supposed to be positioned. That leads Thomas to facing the sideline instead of facing the line. If this ball is snapped when Thomas is in position, I doubt Nelson is open on this route. Thomas could have backpedaled and read the routes in front of him. As it was, he bailed and faced away from the line and Nelson was able to sneak in behind him.

Catching a defense in a substitution is more than just getting a free play; it’s catching them before they’re ready to defend. The Packers took advantage here in a big way.

One more thing to bring up. You can see Rodgers looking left before coming back to the middle, which led Aaron Nagler to posit that he was looking off the safety. A decent assumption.

He was checking to make sure the official had thrown a flag. Rodgers doesn’t miss a trick, man.
I wonder if he had visions of the 2014 NFC Championship Game in his head. In that game, the Seahawks jumped offside so Rodgers took a shot to the end zone that was intercepted by Richard Sherman. But the officials didn’t throw a flag so the interception stood. Given Rodgers’ memory, I’m betting that factored into his glance here.

Also, shout-out to Nelson on the slide. He did that twice in this game, which leads me to believe it’s something he worked on during the offseason.

Nothing like the offensive line plowing the road. David Bakhtiari [69] down blocks to holds the edge while Lane Taylor [65] and Corey Linsley [63] pulls underneath to open a hole off the end of the line. Taylor does a good job chipping Michael Bennett [72] out of the play, while Linsley runs through and gets a body on KJ Wright [50] at the 5. Wright does eventually make his way back into the play, but not in time to stop the touchdown. And, of course, Martellus Bennett [80] takes his man completely into the end zone. I like Martellus. I like him a lot.

On the right side, Jahri Evans [73] has a little cut block while Kyle Murphy [68] keeps an eye on the edge rusher and gets up to the second level to cut off any chance of a tackle coming from the back side.

Finally, we have Ty Montgomery [88]. He reads the blocks perfectly, cutting underneath Taylor, maneuvering behind Bakhtiari, cutting behind Bennett, putting his head down and finding the end zone. There should not be any doubt that Montgomery is capable of playing the running back position. But, if there was, plays like this will change your mind soon enough.

This is well-blocked and Montgomery does exactly what he’s supposed to do. It’s lovely.

Let’s turn our eyes to the defense and let’s make it snappy. It’s been a crazy week.

Opening Seahawks drive. Go!

First play of the game. Nick Perry [53] destroying Rees Odhiambo [70] is the star here, but that entire offensive line is immediately collapsed by each and every member of the defensive line. Mike Daniels [76] shoving Luke Joeckel [78] into the backfield is what forces Russell Wilson [3] to flee the pocket and into the waiting arms of Perry. Kenny Clark [97], Dean Lowry [94] and Clay Matthews [52] all get a good initial push, making Wilson feel extremely uncomfortable as soon as he gets to the top of his drop. Great effort all the way around, and it set the tone for what would be a dominating performance by the line.

Also of note: Wilson broke the pocket but I don’t think he got this ball past the line of scrimmage. Mike McCarthy was so upset about it that he called a timeout after this play – again, the first play of the game – in order to talk to the officials about it. At the time I was upset, but it turns out that was just one fewer timeout he had to take with 2 minutes left in the first half, so I guess burning a timeout there wasn’t the end of the world.

Second play of the game. After getting antsy after a three-step drop, Wilson decided on a one-step drop here. It didn’t work.

I will invite you to watch Jimmy Graham [88]. Graham starts on the outside, then motions off the end of the line before the snap. The call is a wide receiver screen to Doug Baldwin [89]. Graham’s job is to run down the line and seal the edge for Baldwin. He…uh…he does not do that.

Davon House [31] is the man on the edge and he does his job. He stays wider than the widest receiver on that side. At the snap, he doesn’t immediately attack and risk losing contain; he approaches the outside shoulder of the wide blocker to keep the edge, then attacks once the ball is in the air. He beats Graham to the edge and tackles Baldwin for a loss of 3. Terrible job blocking by Graham, but a good job by House of being patient, watching the play develop and attacking.

It’s also worth pointing out that Clay Matthews [52] does a good job of not being overly aggressive. He takes a wide rush, sees the quick step of Wilson, avoids the cut block and runs down the line. If Graham is able to seal the edge against House, there’s a good chance Matthews could have run down Baldwin from the backside.

Blake Martinez [50] does a good job here as well. He takes a jab step in before running to the edge and taking a wide route. If Baldwin gets the edge, Martinez is in a good position to make a tackle after a minimal gain.

Third play of the game. Once again, total devastation of the offensive line. Nick Perry [53] gets great leverage on Rees Odhiambo [70], ducking down to power up then hitting him with an upward punch that sends him flying. After that, it’s pretty much over.

But, again, there’s domination all down the line. Clay Matthews [52] is rushing from the inside. He gets around Mark Glowinski [63] by getting inside and ripping to the outside and ends up splitting Glowinski and Germain Ifedi [76] on his way to the backfield.

Mike Daniels [76] gets a good initial push before being hit with the double team. Seeing Perry streaking into the backfield, Daniels loops back to the inside of the field to help close an escape route.

Lastly, we have Ahmad Brooks [55] getting a good push against the long arms of Ifedi. He gets chipped by C.J. Prosise [22] and ends up backing into Wilson.

Immediate pressure with a four man rush is a beautiful thing.

I made this gif of Perry destroying Odhiambo.

It’s hypnotic. Like a lava lamp.

Eddie Lacy’s [27] triumphant return wasn’t so triumphant. He carried the ball 5 times and gained 3 yards, good for 0.6 yards per attempt. But it wasn’t all his fault. I don’t even want to say much about this; just watch the defense. Watch every single piece. It’s like…have you seen Train to Busan? It’s a South Korean zombie movie and it’s terrific. Anyway, there are these great scenes of all the zombies – of the running variety – coming together to form a huge, wave-like mass of bodies. It’s horrifying.

That’s what this looks like. It’s just a mass of bodies falling over anything and everything, all in pursuit of their prey.

You know what? I’ll just show you.

Just like that, but the zombies are on our side in this analogy.

Another Lacy run, another time with the line stacked up.

I’ve been hard on Kyler Fackrell [51], so I wanted to point him out on this play. Rees Odhiambo [70] advances to block wide, Fackrell sees it and gives Odhiambo a little bullfighter move to get into the backfield. The line is totally collapsed and the cutback lane is nonexistent – thanks to Mike Daniels [76] and Jake Ryan [47] – but it’s Fackrell who is able to take out Lacy’s legs behind the line.

I’m still bullish on him going forward, but this was a nice play from him.

I just wanted to put this here and say how happy I am that Morgan Burnett [42] is able to play in the box and cover tight ends. In the past, this likely would have been a linebacker – like, say, Julius Peppers – and it may not have ended so well. Having quite a bit of talent at the safety position has been huge, and Burnett has been incredible in this role.

Alright man. Enough with the pleasantries. Let’s watch Mike Daniels destroy some folks.

This one might be my favorite. Playing straight over Justin Britt [68]. He just runs straight ahead and mauls. Every time the poor guy tries to get reset, Daniels hits him again. When Daniels is finally done with him, he tosses him to the ground. Like trash.

But, just like I am more than just a pretty face, Mike Daniels is more than just a mauler. Mark Glowinski [63] throws a quick punch to Daniels, but it puts him over his feet a bit. Daniels leans towards Glowinski’s outside shoulder then quickly swims back inside. With Chris Carson [32] looking at the rush from Blake Martinez [50], Daniels has a clear path to the quarterback. Russell Wilson [3] is able to slide away from Daniels, but it doesn’t matter; Perry easily gers around Rees Odhiambo [70] on the outside and is able to clean up.

The strip sack. He simply glides over the block from Luke Joeckel [78], easily gets into the backfield and makes a nice play to bring down Wilson and poke the ball out.

Daniels gets around Joeckel so easily I had to check to make sure that anyone lined up at the right guard position. I thought it may have been a figment of my imagination.

My second favorite part of this play is the terrific recovery by Kyler Fackrell [51].

My third favorite part of this play is when Justin Britt [68] looks outside to double-team Fackrell before looking back to Daniels.

Last up, we have Daniels once again man-handling Justin Britt [68] and shoving him nearly all the way back to the handoff point. Blake Martinez [50] runs through the hole Daniels created and Nick Perry [53] sets a hard edge. Eddie Lacy [27] never has a chance.

Train to Busan, man.

Random Thoughts

  • In all seriousness, Train to Busan is a great movie. A little cheesy at points, but it has a great heart, some great comedic moments and some great zombie scenes. It’s currently on Netflix, so check it out if you get a chance.
  • While we’re talking horror, I saw IT last weekend and absolutely loved it. The cast was terrific and there were a number of creepy and off-putting moments. It wasn’t quite as terrifying as I hoped it would be, but it’s still great. It certainly surpassed my expectations. It had the feel of a child adventure movie/show (The Goonies, Super 8, Stranger Things, etc.), but with a creepy, child murdering clown. Something the whole family can enjoy! (Please do not bring your children to this movie.)
  • I caught the Bears/Falcons game this past weekend and chalk me up as someone who doesn’t want to go up against the backfield of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen twice a year.
  • The drums on the new Mogwai album are insanely good. The entire album is great, but the drums blew me away.
  • My church league softball team is sitting at 4-0 right now and eyeing that #1 seed in the playoffs. Probably all due to my .200/.200/.200 line.

Albums listened to: The National – Sleep Well Beast; Partner – In Search of Lost Time; Siv Jakobsen – The Nordic Mellow; Alvvays – Antisocialites; Zola Jesus – Okovi; Mogwai – Every County’s Sun; Kane Strang – Two Hearts and No Brain; Leif Vollebekk – Twin Solitude

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