ITP Glossary: Packaged Play

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Packaged Play

Another concept that teams in the NFL and the NCAA are using on offense is the packaged scheme design. This concept allows an offense to stretch a defense both vertically and horizontally, by setting up options for the offense in the interior, along the sidelines and vertically on a single play. These plays typically begin with the quarterback and running back meeting at the mesh point, with the QB able to hand the ball to the running back or keep the football and proceed through the next set of options. These can include running the football, throwing a bubble screen to the outside, or reading the coverage and throwing a route in the vertical passing game.

Running the Football

These plays begin with the quarterback reading the defensive front and playing the numbers game. Should the defense stack the box in anticipation of the run, the QB will choose a passing option. But if the defensive front is susceptible to the run, the quarterback will proceed with the running play. These plays all begin with the quarterback meeting the running back at the mesh point. On this example, the Kansas City Chiefs have Alex Smith in the shotgun with 11 offensive personnel in the game and trips formation to the right. The offense uses a packaged play, setting up a bubble screen option to the trips side of the field, while the QB and RB meet inside at the mesh point on the inside zone option:


Smith reads the defense, and sees that the Buffalo Bills have their base 4-3 defense but walk the outside linebacker over the inside trips receiver. Playing the numbers, he forgos the passing element and stays with the inside zone read:

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The quarterback puts the football into the belly of Jamal Charles (#25) and reads the weakside defensive end. As that defender crashes to the inside, Smith pulls the ball out and cuts to the front corner of the end zone for the score.

Vertical Passing

If the QB sees that the box is stacked, he will proceed with the passing element of the concept. Here are a few examples.

The Green Bay Packers incorporate the run/pass option, or packaged plays, into their offense. Here, Aaron Rodgers lines up in the shotgun with 11 offensive personnel using trips formation to the right. The Chicago Bears have their 4-2-5 nickel in the game showing Cover 1 in the secondary.

Rodgers has two choices on this play. At the snap he meets James Starks at the mesh point and reads the linebackers. If they stay deep, Rodgers hands off to the running back, who then seeks out a hole to the left side of the line. But if the Bears linebackers crash towards the potential run, Rodgers will keep the football and throw to Davante Adams (#17) who is running a seam route:

As the play develops linebackers Shea McClellin (#50) and Christian Jones (#59) bite on the run fake. This opens a window for Rodgers to find Adams:

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What is very impressive about this play is the mental processing speed from Rodgers. Watch how quickly he reads the field and transitions from executing the fake to throwing:

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On this next play Russell Wilson is in the shotgun with Marshawn Lynch next to him, and the Seahawks deploy their 12 personnel with a wide receiver and an in-line tight end to each side of the field. The Packers have their base 4-3 defense in for this play, with the secondary aligned in Cover 1 coverage:


Seattle runs the read option to the left with Wilson choosing to keep the football and attack the right edge of the defense. As he breaks toward the line of scrimmage, he puts cornerback Sam Shields (#37) in a most precarious position. The CB can either stay with the outside receiver or break forward on the QB run. Shields breaks forward:

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The cornerback’s decision is costly. Wide receiver Ricardo Lockette runs a simple vertical route and, with Shields abandoning the WR, Wilson simply dumps the football over the cornerback’s head and into the waiting arms of Lockette.

This is the difficulty faced by a defense when confronting an offense using packaged plays. Shields is on an island with no good choices. If he stays with the WR then Wilson likely breaks this play for a decent gain on the run. Shields decides to collapse on the quarterback, but Wilson is able to get Lockette the football. From there the WR breaks a tackle and scores.

The Packaged Screen Game

The Oregon Ducks implement many packaged plays in their offense, which give the quarterback several run / pass options on each play. Here, they deploy a slot formation to the left and pro formation to the right. The Ducks start with play-action read-option, setting up the bubble screen to the slot side of the field. The tight end and Z receiver run mirrored post routes on the back-side of the play, while the running back carries out an underneath crossing route:

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Quarterback Marcus Mariota executes the run fake and checks the bubble screen. South Dakota runs Cover 0 on this play, with one of the safeties breaking toward the slot side of the field as he reads bubble screen. Seeing this, Mariota works to the backside from the TE to the flanker. He opts for his third read here: the post route from the receiver. Then he delivers a perfectly placed pass. This is a tremendous progression and throw from Mariota.

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Mark Schofield wrote this entry. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.

One thought on “ITP Glossary: Packaged Play

  1. I know the distinction is very blurred, but I think that last play is just straight play action and not an packaged play. I looks like the play detailed by Mariota on Gruden’s QB camp as Bubble Y over, basically a spread version of air raid y cross. The bubble is to draw up the flat defender and open space for the post/deep crosser. You can’t see in the clip, but the playside WR is probably running a go, not blocking for the bubble. It actually looks like the Ducks are suing the threat of the zone read bubble RPO to set up this play

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