There is only one possible play that could go here. I don’t like it. You don’t like it. But what we like doesn’t always matter. Let’s get to it.
I probably don’t need to set the stage, but I’ll do it anyway. 1st and 10, 1:55 remaining in the game, Packers down 31-24. A successful onside kick kept the Packers in this game, and kept their playoff hopes alive.
Davante Adams  was knocked out of the game earlier, so the Packers put Geronimo Allison  as the isolated receiver to the right of the formation. Allison’s job is to beat the man across from him on a slant, and he does it well. He takes an outside release, turning James Bradberry  to the sideline. Allison jumps underneath Bradberry and gives Aaron Rodgers  a target to hit. The Panthers are bringing pressure, but Rodgers is able to get the ball out quickly and avoid a big hit from Thomas Davis . Allison makes the catch, turns upfield and has the ball punched out. Panthers recover. Game over.
Let’s talk routes. On the left, Jordy Nelson , Randall Cobb  and Richard Rodgers  are all running digs at the same level: breaking at 3 yards and angling slightly upfield. Allison’s break is at 4 yards, running at the same angle. This does a couple things. Since Allison – the isolated man – is running a shade deeper on the angle, it gives him a lane to pick up some nice yards after the catch, especially if he burns his man at the line.
It also allows for a natural pick as the routes cross each other. Obviously that wouldn’t work here with the pressure bearing down on Rodgers, but look at the path of Richard Rodgers. His man is forced to either fall behind in coverage, try to fight over the top or try to jump under the route. If the initial read isn’t there and there’s no pressure, that point of converging could free up a receiver.
It’s a good call and it’s well-executed. Well, it’s well-executed right up until the moment the ball is bouncing around on the turf.
Just imagine that’s Adams instead of Allison over there. He likely creates more separation off the line – because Adams excels in that aspect of his game – drawing a quicker throw from Rodgers and finding himself with more room to operate. Maybe it ends the same way, or maybe Adams holds onto the ball. Or maybe Adams – with quicker feet and more space – is able to break this for a bigger gain.
It’s a hypothetical scenario I know better than to play, but I’ll play it anyway. Because I’m never happier than when I’m miserable.
Album listened to: Sharon Van Etten – (It Was) Because I Was in Love