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What You Might've Missed: Creating space underneath

Concepts to open short throwing windows got Packers’ offense rolling vs. Bears


GREEN BAY – When a rough first quarter offensively against the Bears produced two sacks and just two first downs, the Packers got themselves going by taking a very deliberate approach with their passing concepts.

Namely, they began using a number of different calls and route combinations designed to create space underneath for shorter, simpler throws, the rhythm that developed helped produce four touchdowns and a field goal on their next five possessions.

The foundation was established on Green Bay's first TD drive, an 11-play, 75-yard march in the second quarter, and the first five plays here are all from that possession.

Then there's one more example on each of the TD drives entering and coming out of halftime, followed by some bonus plays highlighting the work of a young tight end becoming a valuable offensive asset.

Play No. 1: Second-and-10 from the Green Bay 25, second quarter, 11:02 left

Result: 7-yard completion to RB Aaron Jones

As Jones motions out of the backfield, he moves farther outside than WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling (83), which prompts Bears CB Kindle Vildor (22) to signal to S DeAndre Houston-Carson (36). Presumably, the corner is declaring he'll take whichever route is deepest to avoid a potentially bad matchup. Sure enough, Valdes-Scantling and TE Tyler Davis (84) both run go routes inside of Jones, opening up area underneath for the slant, and Vildor runs with Valdes-Scantling while Houston-Carson switches to take Jones. This is actually a really good play by Houston-Carson, because if he's occupied any longer by one of the deep routes and/or takes a false step, Jones would have the chance to split the seam between him and LB Roquan Smith (58). Instead, it's a solid gain to set up a manageable third down.

Play No. 2: Third-and-3 from the Green Bay 32, second quarter, 10:16 left

Result: 12-yard completion to WR Davante Adams

The next snap is a similar idea, with the far outside receiver – this time Adams – cutting underneath two targets lined up inside and running downfield. What makes this play work for more than just the first down is the route by Jones out of the backfield, which distracts Smith long enough that he overruns Adams coming across from the other side.

Play No. 3: Second-and-4 from midfield, second quarter, 8:55 left

Result: 25-yard completion to TE Josiah Deguara

Two snaps later, Deguara goes in motion and Smith shifts over to take him, leaving two-on-two on that side with CB Jaylon Johnson (33) on Adams. At the snap, Johnson points to Smith but there's obviously a miscommunication, because as Adams' stop route ends up setting a perfect pick on Smith, Johnson is also focused on Adams. That leaves Deguara is all alone up the sideline. After the play, Johnson is still gesturing with his hands regarding the mixup and who should've done what.

Play No. 4: First-and-10 from the Chicago 14, second quarter, 7:24 left

Result: 12-yard completion to TE Marcedes Lewis

This time it's good old-fashioned play-action that creates the space for a short, underneath throw, as QB Aaron Rodgers' exaggerated fake to Jones draws S Tashaun Gipson (38) into all the traffic in the middle while Lewis crosses his face and leaks out into the open. Easy peasy.

Play No. 5: Fourth-and-goal from the Chicago 2, second quarter, 6:04 left

Result: 2-yard TD pass to WR Allen Lazard

This first scoring drive only bogged down in the goal-to-go situation, but the gutsy call to go for it in fourth down pays off with yet another concept that simply creates space for a very basic throw. Rodgers motions Jones from one side to the other in the backfield, which draws Smith just a tad tighter into an 8-man box that is geared up for the run. With all three outside defenders lined up tight and with their feet square to the line of scrimmage, Rodgers knows it's man-to-man coverage. He holds the fake handoff just long enough to make sure all eight box defenders are committed to the run, and Adams' flat route from the inside slot position takes S Eddie Jackson (4) out of the way, opening a door wide open for Lazard to score.

Play No. 6: Second-and-4 from the Green Bay 44, second quarter, :59 left

Result: 18-yard completion to Lazard

In the final minute of the first half, the Bears give the Packers underneath space by being ultra-cognizant of the deep ball. With Valdes-Scantling and Adams both lined up outside right, Gipson bails to provide safety help over the top on one or both. That leaves on Smith to cover Lazard from the inside slot position, which puts the linebacker in a tough spot. He can't cover a short pass from where he lines up, but if he moves up too close, Lazard will take advantage of the mismatch to run right by him. Lazard sees the space vacated by Gipson's shift and Smith's alignment and looks to Rodgers right at the snap to grab the throw and get what he can. One play later, Rodgers does go over the top to Adams for a 38-yard TD.

Play No. 7: First-and-10 from the Chicago 47, third quarter, 13:01 left

Result: 16-yard completion to Adams

One more with the creating space theme, this time with Adams cutting to the right behind the entire formation, which is selling a run to the left, with Valdes-Scantling also going in motion to the left. After Jackson charges up into the box, preventing him from chasing anything on the perimeter, the key defenders to watch are CB Artie Burns (25), Houston-Carson and Johnson. Burns follows Valdes-Scantling, so that leaves one less defender on the right side. Meanwhile, Houston-Carson gets drawn too far in by the play-action, and Johnson sees exactly what's happening but has to take the long way around all the traffic in the middle and ends up way behind the play.

Bonus play 1: First-and-10 from the Chicago 25, second quarter, 8:09 left

Result: 11-yard run by Jones

Moving back to that original second-quarter TD drive, the focus turns to the multi-faceted role Deguara is taking on in the absence of TE Robert Tonyan. His reception on Play No. 3 above has already been highlighted. Here, Deguara is lined up as a fullback, and while the blocks by WR Equanimeous St. Brown (19) and RT Billy Turner (77) are quite effective, Deguara's on Houston-Carson is the one to watch. His own self-contained celebration shows how much he enjoyed that block.

Bonus play 2: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 25, second quarter, 1:32 left

Result: 13-yard completion to Deguara

This is the first play of the TD drive late in the second quarter that cuts into Chicago's 10-point lead, and Deguara starts it by providing a chip block on LB Trevis Gipson (99), which ruins the stunt he's running with DL Angelo Blackson (90). DB Xavier Crawford (21) slips a little while trying to break on Deguara's route into the flat, which allows Deguara to gather enough steam after the catch to run through his tackle for a few extra yards.

Bonus play 3: First-and-10 from the Chicago 15, third quarter, 10:52 left

Result: 11-yard run by RB AJ Dillon

Deguara is at fullback again, but instead of an outside toss play as before, this is an inside power run from Dillon that requires Deguara to throw a cut-block on LB Robert Quinn (94) on the edge. Mission accomplished, and when LB Alec Ogletree (44) runs right past pulling RG Royce Newman (70), Dillon has a nice running lane.