I had a good time this offseason kicking around the NFL, seeing what there was to see outside of my beloved Green Bay Packers. And though I had fun and learned a lot, there’s nothing like sitting down to write about a Packers win. I’m excited. You’re excited. Let’s get to One Big Play.
(If you’re interested, you can find my non-Packers writing on this very site! Just head to Run The Film for a few short pieces.)
I was tempted to just put a bunch of gifs of Mike Daniels destroying people in this spot and call it a day, but I ultimately decided against it. Because, if we’re talking about one big play in this game, there was a very clear choice: Aaron Rodgers throwing to newly acquired tight end Martellus Bennett to clinch the game.
Here’s the situation. Packers are up 17-9, facing 2nd and 6 with 2:45 left in the game. The Seahawks are out of timeouts, so a first down that stays in bounds allows the Packers to take a few knees and head to the locker room with a 1-0 record.
Martellus Bennett  lines up off the edge of the line. The Packers are in a heavy look with no wide receivers to that side, so the Seahawks pinch their defense in. Richard Sherman  is playing the outside, angled towards the line.
At the snap, Lance Kendricks  fakes a down block before curling back to the outside. Sherman sees this and runs with Kendricks. Bennett also fakes a down block and runs a quick out.
The Seahawks are thinking the Packers are going to run this out of the heavy look and the Packers play off that thought. The play action gets the defense moving to their right, while Aaron Rodgers  bootlegs back the other way. That play fake to the left side of the offense ensures that the middle defenders won’t get a good jump to either route on the outside. Since neither Kendricks or Bennett are blocking, he knows he’s going to have to get this pass off quickly if the defenders on that side are rushing, which they most certainly are.
Jordy Nelson  is running a dig on the other side of the formation if Rodgers has time and/or needs him, but it doesn’t come to that.
The play design works perfectly, as Bennett is open with room to run under the Kendricks route. But there’s still the pesky issue of the edge rushers. Rodgers has to get the ball out quickly, but he also needs to make sure it’s not batted down by the fast-advancing Michael Bennett .
Rodgers is able to pull up short, fade back on the jump and deliver the ball from a 3/4 arm slot to get the ball over and around Bennett. Watching the play live, I didn’t quite realize how impressive this throw is.
Bennett catches the ball, gets upfield, picks up the first down and stays in bounds. Ball game. A perfect call at the perfect time and expertly executed. This is beautiful.
Brace yourself for a second, because I’m going to bring up a painful memory of Packers past: the 2014 NFC Championship Game. You ready? I swear, it’ll be fine.
That’s a screenshot from the Packers final offensive possession in 2014. The alignment is different, but they’re in a heavy look with a single receiver. The Seahawks are banking on the Packers going with a run to keep the clock rolling and they were right. It’s a completely loaded box.
That’s on 1st down. Let’s look at 2nd and 3rd down as well, just to drive the point home.
Packers are spreading out their receivers, but look to the safety. The Seahawks are still loading the box as much as they can, with the safety not looking for a pass. They were right, and it ended up being one of the things that killed the Packers in that game.
This is the alignment before the play this week. Loaded box, single-high safety 10 yards off the line. The Seahawks aren’t looking for a pass because the Packers have never given them a reason to.
One of the reasons this play call was so perfect is because of this history. The Packers showed the Seahawks what they do in these situations. The Seahawks bet on that happening again and it burned them.
Album listened to: Matt Jencik – Weird Times