Monday night rewind

Matt Bowen breaks down his game notes from Monday night’s 27-14 Packers win over the Ravens at Lambeau Field and looks at some of the key aspects of the game from a scheme perspective.

Jermichael Finley in the red zone

At the end of the first half, the Packers used two classic red-zone routes and game planning to get Jermichael Finley into situations he could win. On the first play, the Packers came out in Zebra personnel (3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB) and aligned in a 3x1 set to the field. The Ravens were in man coverage, and Green Bay ran the Double China-7 route, which consists of two China routes (two quick in-routes at a depth of five yards) along with Finley running the 7-route (or flag route) over the top. Since the Ravens were in man coverage, the corner and the nickel corner drive the China routes, while the strong safety is left alone with free safety help in the middle of the field. But Finley breaks his route away from the middle-of-the-field help, gains leverage on the strong safety and provides an easy target for QB Aaron Rodgers.

On the goal-line fade, the Packers knew from their film study that the Ravens will play man coverage with the safety when the TE aligns removed from the formation to the weak or open side. Rodgers sees the one-on-one matchup he has and throws the fade. That’s the type of play that’s installed on Friday, scripted in the red-zone portion of practice and run on game day to beat the defense based off scheme and personnel.

The Ravens’ 2-Man

I was surprised how often the Ravens decided to play their 2-Man coverage instead of bringing pressure against Rodgers and the Green Bay offensive line. The principles behind 2-Man are simple: Two deep safeties who drop to the top of the numbers with the underneath defenders playing man coverage with a trail technique — cutting off the inside release and playing under any inside or outside breaking route due to the safety help over the top. The idea behind this against Green Bay is solid from a scheme perspective in coverage due to the deep outs that the Packers run on offense, but it also gave Rodgers time to throw with only a four-man rush. By playing coverage, the Ravens sacrificed multiple pressure opportunities. And, at the end of the first half, this exact coverage allowed Rodgers to pick up a big gain on the ground — because the technique of the defense forces all the underneath defenders to play with their backs to the line of scrimmage.

The pass interference calls

I was shocked at how many flags were thrown down the field that resulted in pass interference calls. When you have two aggressive defenses like Green Bay and Baltimore, there will be contact, and defensive backs will use their hands on receivers. If you watched the game, you saw plenty of tricks that defensive backs use when they’re running with receivers down the field, but, in that same regard, as a player, you know what type of officiating crew you’re going to get during the week of practice — complete with a rundown of what type of calls they make and how often they throw the flag. This was a crew that didn’t like any sort of contact past the line of scrimmage — and it led to an enormous number of deep balls with both offenses looking for flags to pick up big plays.

Baltimore’s flea flicker

NFL teams will take chances with deep balls and exotic plays when they have the football between the 40s. As a defensive player, you know that when you’re in that position on the field, there’s a high probability you’ll see a play like the Ravens ran last night when they called the flea flicker — only they didn’t execute it. The route they ran is a common combination we often see from various teams — the deep crossing route from the strong side that pairs with the 7-route on the open side that’s run with a hard inside stem off the line of scrimmage — designed to create a hole under the corner who has to honor the deep route to his side. But the 7-route wasn’t run at the proper depth, which caused both receivers to be in the same area of the field — and lead to an interception. If you’re going to run a gimmick or exotic play, it has to be executed like it’s drawn up for it to be successful. Very poor execution from Baltimore and a lost opportunity.

Green Bay’s multiple looks

What the Packers did from a personnel standpoint on offense was a direct reflection of preparing to face a pressure defense. They used Quads (4 WR, 1 RB), Kings (4 WR, 1 TE), Zebra (3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB), Tank (1 WR, 2 TE, 2 RB) and their pro set personnel, forcing the Ravens to adjust by having to use multiple sub packages to combat the Packers’ constant personnel substitutions — which they often did within the offensive series. By doing this, you can force a defense to sit in coverage to honor the multiple looks instead of leading with pressure.

The 3-step passing game

When the Packers used those above personnel groupings and aligned in their empty sets, they were able to hit the quick 3-step routes like we saw in their victory last month over Dallas — another pressure team. With Ed Reed on the sidelines for the Ravens, there isn’t the risk of the safety squatting on the 3-step game, and the corners from Baltimore cannot matchup with the Packers receivers. Those 3-step routes were available all night for Green Bay — and when they were covered, Rodgers was able to break contain and allow his receivers to either run away from man coverage or find a soft opening in the zone. Too easy.

Stopping Ray Rice

Ray Rice wasn’t a big factor due to the Packers’ ability to show a wide variety of defensive fronts. What this does to an offensive line is confuse the count. Blocking schemes have to be changed at the line of scrimmage, and what you were preparing for all week in practice doesn’t show up on game night. Rice wasn’t able to press the edge on the outside zone plays, and when they did go to the power game, the Packers had free runners to the football. Baltimore looked unprepared and confused by that defensive game plan from coordinator Dom Capers.

The Packers rush

Clay Matthews and Brad Jones are effective in Capers scheme because they can use their athletic ability to speed rush on offensive tackles who can’t get back off the ball, and because Capers uses enough stunts up front to allow them to come free when the offensive line doesn’t count from outside in. The twist stunt forces the offensive guard to pass the DE to the tackle and pick up the OLB coming underneath on the stunt. It looks and sounds simple, but when the OLB can sell that he’s going up field before the stunt, it’s tough to block. I was impressed with both of these young players because they can rush the passer in this scheme, which is essential to the success of any 3-4.

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