Living in Kentucky, I don’t get a ton of chances to make it up to Green Bay for a game. But we had a plan before this season: buy some tickets and make the trip. We waffled for a bit on which game to go to, and ultimately settled on Green Bay/Atlanta. We wanted to watch a cold-weather game, because Lambeau doesn’t feel quite right if you’re in a t-shirt. Even though we knew it would be a battle between two teams having down years in a game that wouldn’t mean too much, we were still hyped.

And we were right to be.

We did all the things we wanted to do. We spent too much in the Pro Shop. We ate at Kroll’s. We drank at Titletown Brewing. When it was time for the game, we yelled and screamed and cheered and jumped. It was everything we hoped it would be.

It was good to see you, Lambeau. We hope the next time won’t be quite so long a wait.

Let’s get to the film.

Play 1: 1st & 10, 10:25 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers trailing 0-7

There are people in this world who are not big fans of Randall Cobb [18]. If you know me at all, you will know that I am not one of those people. I’m a big fan of Cobb. You know who else is a big fan of his? Aaron Rodgers [12]. This is a big reason why.

For the majority of the season, Rodgers has gone into battle with Davante Adams [17] and a group of guys who are either rookies or are new to the team. When there are so many new faces, you don’t quite have that same connection between quarterback and receiver. It’s a learned thing, and Rodgers and Cobb have it.

The Falcons are bringing heat on this play. One of those players they are bringing is safety Brian Poole [34]. who starts this play lined up over Cobb in the slot. Rodgers and Cobb both see this as the ball is snapped.

With the corner blitz and no dropping linemen, that means Cobb is open as the hot read. Cobb recognizes this, so he turns to look for the ball as soon as he releases off the line. Rodgers throws hot and picks up 8 yards.

Cobb recognizes what is happening and Rodgers trusts Cobb to do the right thing in that situation. There’s a trust between those two men that simply doesn’t exist between Rodgers and the rookies. Plays like this are why a healthy Cobb makes this offense operate at a higher level.

Play 2: 3rd & 2, 9:41 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers trailing 0-7

This is a pre-snap read for Rodgers. He’s looking at tight man-to-man coverage across the board, with a single-high safety 15 yards off the line of scrimmage. On the right side, he has Marquez Valdes-Scantling [83] running a curl on the outside and Davante Adams [17] running a go route from the slot.

The curl route brings up the exterior defender, giving Adams a lot of room to work to that side. It doesn’t come into play here, but removing the exterior defender from that area is big in terms of the throw itself. With him gone, the throw can go to the outside shoulder to the sideline. Even if the safety is screaming down from his spot, it would be extremely difficult for him to bother that throw.

Back to this play. With the exterior defender gone, Rodgers knows he has his best receiver one-on-one against tight coverage. He likes that match-up. He believes in Adams to get a release up the field, because Adams has shown an ability to do that time and time again.

Rodgers put faith in his receiver and it paid off here.

Play 3: 2nd & 9, 11:54 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Packers tied 7-7

This is just another pre-snap read. On this play, we have Adams isolated on the left side. Like the play we looked at above, we also have a single-high safety.

Once again, Rodgers is betting on his guy to make a play. Beyond that, Rodgers knows who he’s targeting. The man across from Adams is Isaiah Oliver [20], a second round rookie. But he’s not just any rookie: he’s a rookie who had only totaled 4 defensive snaps over the previous 4 games coming into this match-up. Rodgers trusted Adams to be able to beat Oliver at the line, knowing help wouldn’t be able to get there in time.

Once again it paid off, due in no small part to the release of Adams.

Play 4: 1st & Goal from the 7, 7:16 remaining in the 1st quarter, Packers trailing 0-7

I’ve talked about my love of tight formations in the past, so I don’t want to spend too much time here rehashing everything, but I did want to offer this up as an example of why I was so excited about the inclusion of these formations in the offense. With two receivers on either side of the line, this is basically a four-wide look, but everything is compressed tight to the line. Think of it as a tight-spread.

Now, to why I love seeing these. Davante Adams is the widest receiver to the left side. Even as the widest receiver, he’s able to run an out route and still have enough room between himself and the sideline to make a move to get inside the pylon. Compressing the defense to the middle of the field helps to open up the edges of the field.

Play 5: 1st & 10, 14:26 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers leading 20-7

What’s the old West Coast adage? Touchdown to checkdown? That’s on display here.

The Falcons come out with a single-high safety look. The Packers are running their two outside receivers on go routes and run the tight end on a dig over the middle.

Now let’s talk coverage. The Falcons are playing Cover 3 Zone Under (with one defender in man, but we’ll get to that in a moment). At the snap, the outside cornerbacks run down the field with the receivers, keeping their eyes on the quarterback. Now turn your attention to the two widest linebackers as they drop to the outside. The cornerbacks take care of the deep stuff to that side, while those linebackers will take care of anything intermediate. If the receiver runs a comeback route, those defenders dropping to the outside will pick it up.

While all that is happening, Deon Jones [45] sprints back at the snap to pick up Jimmy Graham [80] in the middle of the field.

So we basically have three deep zone defenders, three intermediate zone defenders, and a man defender on the tight end. Check out the depths of these drops and see how much room that creates underneath.

The two go routes help to clear out the edges while the intermediate dig pulls the linebackers back. If the outside linebackers come towards the line, Rodgers knows he has man-to-man with a chance for a big play. When they bail, the Packers have the numbers. If the two remaining defenders pull up to pick up the receivers out of the backfield, Graham will be open behind them. If one of them sits back on Graham while the other comes towards the line, he’ll hit whichever one the defender isn’t shading towards. It’s a 3-2 advantage for the Packers

Rodgers is looking for a big play on the outside. He sees the outside defender dropping, and he also sees the deep drops from the linebackers. He knows he doesn’t have the big play, but he knows a checkdown will give the ball to Aaron Jones [33] in space. So after a quick look down the field, he checks down and Jones picks up a cool 14 yards on the play.

Touchdown to checkdown.

Play 6: 3rd & 10, 12:49 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Packers leading 20-7

Once again we find the Falcons in Cover 3. This time the Packers flood the left side of the field.

On the left side, we’ve got Valdes-Scantling running a post from the outside while Cobb runs an out-and-up from the slot underneath the post. That route combination works nicely as a Cover 3 beater, but Sharrod Neasman [41] picks up Cobb and carries him down the field. On this particular play, Rodgers ends up throwing to Cobb, Neasman doesn’t get his head turned and it turns into a highlight touchdown (and the pass that broke the record for most consecutive passing attempts without an interception). But let’s talk about what else is happening here.

Graham is also lined up on the left side, just off the end of the line. He runs slightly angled to the middle of the field and runs a curl. This can do a couple different things. It can draw the attention of the single-high safety (which would help open up the post to Valdes-Scantling) or it can act as a clear-out route for Adams, who is running a crossing route from the right side.

Let’s talk flood concepts vs. zone coverage for a second, specifically how it relates to the Adams route. I will apologize in advance for getting overly simplistic. Unlike in man coverage, zone coverage calls for defenders to be responsible for a certain zone. There are a ton of variations to this (even on this play we have some underneath defenders in zone and others in man), but that’s the general idea. What a flood concept does is basically overload a zone, sending more receivers to an area than there are men to cover it. You can see this in play with the defender who starts over Adams on the right. He’s not following Adams across the formation: he’s sitting in his zone. On this play, the Packers have four men running routes to the left side of the field. Unless the Falcons overload that zone with defenders, they will be outnumbered. A flood concept is a nice way to get the numbers in your favor, and it works for the Packers here.

Rodgers doesn’t hit Adams on this play, but Adams is open specifically because of this scheme.

I’ll always love a good flood concept.

Albums listened to: Hammock – Universalis; Lubomyr Melnyk – Fallen Trees; The Prids – Do I Look Like I’m In Love?