Packers Playbook (aka Hobbjective Analysis): Week 16 vs. Tennessee Titans
My, where should we go for Hobbjective analysis this week? I mean the entire game was essentially a highlight reel for the Packers, and to be honest, I’m not entirely sure how accurate much of the second half is in terms of execution because it’s pretty obvious that the Titans have stopped trying at some point and just want to go home.
One play that I think hasn’t gotten as much attention as perhaps is warranted is Ryan Grant’s first TD in the 4th quarter. The reason why I say this is because it’s one occasion where the Titans should be 90% sure that it’s going to be a run but they still manage to get blocked out of the play.
The Situation: The blowout is almost over at 41 to 0 and the Packers just need to burn 12 minutes as the Titans stopped trying back in the 2nd quarter. To make matters worse, WR Jeremy Ross (he of the “punt, pass and puke” play from last week) rips off a 58 yard return subbing in for an injured Randall Cobb. The Packers start the play off at the 7 yard line.
The Formation: The Packers are in a “jumbo” 1-2-2 formation (1WR-2TE-2RB) where OG Greg Van Roten (64) is eligible and has lined up as a tight end inline with the right tackle. Offset to the right of OB Van Roten is TE DJ Williams (84), one of their better run blocking tight ends. RB Ryan Grant (25) is lined up 7 yards behind QB Graham Harrell (6) with FB John Kuhn (30) lined up directly behind the right tackle. WR James Jones (89) is the lone receiver split out wide left and isn’t in the screen cap, and for all intents and purposes for this play is irrelevant. On the offensive line, a further permutation has emerged with LT Marshall Newhouse (74), LG TJ Lang (70), Evan Dietrich-Smith (62), RG Josh Sitton (71) and RT Don Barclay (67) going from left to right.
The Titan’s, obviously suspecting a run, come out their standard 4-3 alignment with former Packers DE Jarius Wynn (79) playing the wide-9 technique, DT Sen’drick Marks (94) playing the 1-technique, DT Kamerion Wimbley (95, who typically plays OLB or DE) is a little out of position as he lines up as a 3-technique DT and DE Derrick Morgan (91) lines up in the “super” wide 9-technique (presumably the Titans are counting Van Roten as a RT, in which case Morgan is lining up in the 7-technique; for more information on defensive line technique, click here). In the linebacking core, all three linebackers OLB Zach Brown (55), MLB Tim Shaw (59, starting MLB Will Weatherspoon was injured during the punt return) and OLB Akem Ayers (56) and bunched to the core of the formation with S Michael Griffin (33) and S Al Afalava (38) looking to provide help on the edges.
Blocking Assignments: This gets a little complicated, so I’ve diagramed most of the blocking assignments on the play. The key to this play is the pull that RG Josh Sitton must make, not only going from RG position all the way to block Jarius Wynn who is playing the wide-9 technique on the other side of the field this isn’t an easy pull and it’s just one more reason why Jeff Saturday thinks Sitton was more deserving of the Pro Bowl than he was.
In order to cover for RG Sitton pulling, C Dietrich-Smith and RT Barclay double DT Wimbley, who was heads up to RG Sitton. To cover for RT Barclay covering for Sitton, TE Van Roten now in essence becomes the RT as he blocks DE Morgan with help from TE Williams. This in itself is a very smart way to cover for a pulling guard.
Perhaps most importantly, it limits the risk of having C Dietrich-Smith and RT Barclay having to reach block to get to DT Wimbley. Secondly, the Packers also protect TE Van Roten from having to reach block DE Morgan by having TE Williams help out; this way TE Van Roten just has to get inside of DE Morgan and not worry about having DE Morgan loop around him. The only offensive linemen to go man-up is LG TJ Lang who has to block DT Marks.
On the left side of the formation, LT Newhouse appears to be blocking DE Wynn, but instead with RG Sitton pulling to block Wynn, LT Newhouse advances to the second level and blocks OLB Brown. Finally FB Kuhn, leads to the hole and then goes to block MLB Shaw. Overall, the Packers now have blocker for every defender on the left side of the field, excluding the safeties. If you figured that all in your head, you should be commended as there’s some pretty crazy blocking going on.
For the rest of us, I’ve included some pictures that hopefully show what’s going on.
Newhouse and Lang creating a crease:
Kuhn sealing the crease:
Grant running to daylight:
Conclusions: The end result is neither safety is in much of a position to fill in the crease (nor were they really trying at this point), which essentially leaves Grant one of the biggest holes he’s probably seen in his career. Overall, I think the Titans were caught a little off guard by the play; considering that this is Graham Harrell’s first snap, a 2 back set, the score, the time, the spot and the formation, everything screams that it’s going to be a running play.
Strangely however, the Titans don’t bunch the box and leave the safeties in a position to defend against the pass. Either they haven’t seen head coach Mike McCarthy’s MO when he’s protecting a lead (which essentially is run the ball three times and kick), or they are actually afraid of Harrell completing the pass (I would think it would be harder for Harrell to throw a touchdown than Grant to run one in), or finally they were caught off guard by the complexity of the blocking the Packers pull off.
One way or the other, this is a good example of what the Packers offense can do when they actually want to run the ball. Hopefully, they can continue this trend into the post season.——————
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.