Packers Playbook (Hobbjective Analysis): Week 4 vs. New Orleans Saints
If you don’t listen to “Tuesday’s with Aaron” (hosted by Green and Gold’s Jason Wilde), I highly recommend that you do so (it’s free on itunes to boot). One thing that always surprises me is how much Aaron Rodgers remembers about each specific play; not only does he remember the blocking assignments and routes, but he also remembers the context, the past tendencies of the defense and historically how’s it’s worked for the Packers in the past. This week, he detailed the first touchdown play in the game versus the Saints and how James Jones stole a touchdown from Jermicheal Finley. As it’s often hard to follow Rodgers when he’s describing a play on the radio, I have decided to diagram this play with what Rodgers stated (so presumably this is about as accurate of a play analysis as I can possibly do)
The Situation: The score is tied 0-0 in the 1st quarter with 9 minutes left to go. The Packers are in the red zone with 2nd and 10 after LB Scott Shanle ripping the ball out of TE Jermicheal Finley’s hands on first down wiped out a potential touchdown. So far, both Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees have had their way with the opposing defenses and it’s pretty obvious that the Packers offense is going to take another shot at the endzone.
Pre-snap: The Packers are in a 3-1-1 formation (3WR-1TE-1RB) with WR James Jones (89) aligned out wide to the left and TE Jermicheal Finley (88) inline to LT Marshall Newhouse (I’ve left the numbers off the picture for offensive linemen simply because there isn’t enough space with them all packed together; the line consists of the regular starters of LT Marshall Newhouse, LG TJ Lang, C Jeff Saturday, RG Josh Sitton and RT Byran Bulaga). WR Greg Jennings (85) is in the slot to the right while WR Jordy Nelson (87) aligns out wide to the right. QB Aaron Rodgers (12) is set out of the shotgun with RB Cedric Benson (32) to the right of him.
The Saints defense responds with their base 4-3 personnel: 4 defensive linemen (2 DT-2DL), 3 linebackers, 2 cornerback and 2 safeties. Pre-snap it appears to be a pretty vanilla defense, both corners are about 3 yards in front of the receivers out wide and one safety has aligned on top of WR Jennings (who strangely as the slot receiver is given about 5 yards of open space) No defender motions or moves once set (honestly, I have nothing to write about after the insanity of a Dom Capers defensive formation). Overall, a very standard personnel and formation.
At the snap: The Packers decide to go with a passing play with RB Benson staying back to block. The initial route assignment are a curl (4 route) for WR Jones, a post (8 route) for TE Finley, a corner (7 route) for WR Jennings and a out (5 route) for WR Nelson
Pass protection: The Saints add LB Shanle into the pass rush to make a 5-man rush, but luckily the Packers have 6 blockers. The Packers decide to leave both LT Newhouse and RT Bulaga out on an island, which is actually pretty surprising considering how many sacks both tackles gave up in the previous game against the Seattle Seahawks. This time around however both tackles do their job and direct the defensive ends out of the play. In the middle of the line, the Packers have 4 blockers to 3 rushers (DT Brodrick Bunkley, DT Sedric Ellis, LB Shanle); LG Lang handles DT Bunkley one on one while C Saturday blocks DT Ellis. Initially RG Sitton blocks LB Shanle before passing him off to RB Benson and then goes to double team DT Ellis with C Saturday.
At the scramble: With so many blockers up front and both tackles moving their defenders past the quarterback, QB Rodgers steps up in the pocket to buy some more time, but as the pocket begins to collapse, QB Rodgers is forced to escape to his left, nearly getting sacked by DL Will Smith in the process. At this point, the receivers are supposed to break off their routes and help their quarterback by getting open. I’ve diagramed the general direction where they decide to go once they see their quarterback is in trouble. WR Nelson doubles back from his out route and heads back towards the quarterback where there is a large empty space. WR Jennings appears to maintain his original route, either he is a decoy on this play or he doesn’t see the pressure on Rodgers (which is possible since he’s on the opposite side of the field and he’s in the process of doing a double move). TE Jermicheal Finley appears to have slipped by the defense and ends up all by himself in the endzone (he starts waving his hands), considering that he’s already as open as he possibly could be, he continues his original route as well. WR Jones takes perhaps the oddest route by going around the two defenders covering him and then running in parallel (but in front of) TE Finley (I’m not sure why Jones wouldn’t also run towards the center of the field as it is open and he’s already going in that direction). QB Rodgers manages to keep the play alive and throws the ball to TE Finley, only to have it “intercepted” by WR Jones right in front of TE Finley’s eyes
Conclusion: Something that I had never considered is during a scramble drill, receivers are supposed to break off their routes and find an open spot to help their quarterbacks, but since it’s not designed into the play, it’s surprising that this doesn’t happen more often where two receivers end up in the same place (which is a big no-no as two receivers often means 2+ defenders, which increases the odds of getting intercepted). Rodgers mentioned the Jones had “stolen” another pass in the 2010 post-season against the Falcons, and I seem to recall one of Jordy Nelson’s first touchdowns going along the same situation. This does beg the question; how much of a precision offense is the Packers? Are the Packers just as good winging it? I think one of the reason’s why the Packers offense is so special is because they can score when the play is executed perfectly, but they can also score when all hell has broken loose.
Here’s the play:——————
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.