The NFC wildcard round ended with a missed field goal, and AFC wildcard round featured a controversial ending of its own. The Green Bay Packers defeat of Washington might have escaped your attention, but Mark Schofield is here to break down the key play: how Green Bay seized the lead before halftime.
The major question surrounding Green Bay as they entered their Wild Card clash with Washington was if, and how, their offense could get back on track. Inconsistent pass protection, floundering passing concepts, the inability of receivers to create separation and inaccurate throws made under duress were a troubling combination for the Packers. Thankfully for Green Bay their offense got back on track, and this touchdown before the half gave the visitors illustrates how.
On a drive that started at their own 40-yard line just before the two minute warning, the Packers faced a 2nd and goal at the Washington 10-yard line. They line up with 11 offensive personnel, with Aaron Rodgers (#12) in the shotgun with James Starks (#44) to his left. The offense has a tight end trips formation right, and Davante Adams (#17) the single receiver to the left, using a short split from the tackle. The defense has a 4-2-5 nickel package on the field, and they show a single-high safety before the snap and both linebacker sugar the A gap:
Throughout the game Washington was able to generate pressure rushing only four defenders, even notching a safety on a four-man rush, but on this play they decide to show Rodgers pressure before the play. The QB makes an adjustment before the play, and the TE stays in to block as the Packers run this design:
Randall Cobb (#18) is the middle trips receiver, and he runs a stick-nod route, faking the short out pattern and then breaking vertically. James Jones (#89) runs a fade pattern to the back corner of the end zone. Starks releases to the flat, while Adams runs a slant-corner route. This sets up a smash concept to the weak side of the field.
Washington runs a soft Cover 3 matching scheme here. The Packers are out of timeouts, and the defense is looking to keep prevent the score. Both cornerbacks and the nickelback in off man technique before the snap. On the weakside, the two defenders, Safety Dashon Goldson (#38) and cornerback Quinton Dunbar (#47) use a combo scheme. The safety is in press alignment over Adams, and he will stay on the receiver should he break inside. The CB will rotate outside and cover the back, if necessary:
As the play begins, Adams takes a step forward and then flares his left leg to the outside. Goldson, who is looking to get a jam on the WR, slides to the outside and fires his hands forward to try and initiate contact on Adams and control the receiver’s movements. But Adams slides to the inside and around the defender, obtaining a clean release:
Goldson now has to try and chase the receiver while maintaining coverage on Adams. With the receiver to the inside, the defender anticipates a slant route and peeks into the backfield, hoping to get underneath a quick throw. But Adams is already turning upfield, and seconds later he bends to the outside:
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Notice how the cornerback reacts to the route from the back. Once Starks releases outside, Dunbar breaks forward to cover the player out of the backfield. Perhaps this was simply a blown coverage from a reserve defender, but in the red zone defenses often use combination coverages to make sure both receivers are covered.
The well-executed release, plus the precise route, adds up to the quick score.
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Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.
All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.
Correction: The article originally said that after the touchdown, Green Bay took the lead for good; however, Washington scored to open the third quarter, giving them a 1 point lead. Thanks to Reddit reader, time_marches_on for pointing this error out.