What You Might've Missed: Mixing up the motion

Packers ran all sorts of plays with WR Christian Watson in motion, setting up the kill shot


GREEN BAY – The Packers' victory at Soldier Field will be remembered for rookie receiver Christian Watson's game-clinching 46-yard TD run off jet motion.

But a lot went into setting up that knockout blow.

The Packers didn't run Watson in motion until their ninth offensive snap of the game, but from there, he motioned across the formation eight different times.

Green Bay ran a different play on the vast majority of Watson's motions, and all but two were successful. Mixing it up with a variety of calls contributed to that success, and set the stage for the finish.

Here's the rundown. The two unsuccessful plays aren't shown but are included in the narrative.

Play No. 1: First-and-10 at midfield, first quarter, 1:47 left

Result: 5-yard run by RB AJ Dillon

Here's the first time Watson goes in motion, and the Packers run a simple pitch to the motion side. The Bears' inside linebackers, Jack Sanborn (57) and Nicholas Morrow (53), shift to the motion side, and Watson gets a nice block on DB Jaylon Jones (31). Dillon manages to avoid DL Dominique Robinson (91) in the backfield but is slowed up enough that the backside pursuit from DL Al-Quadin Muhammad (55) catches him to prevent a bigger gain.

Play No. 2: First-and-10 from the Chicago 24, second quarter, 13:32 left

Result: 7-yard run by RB Aaron Jones

Five plays later, Watson is in motion again, except this time the pitch goes the opposite way. The motion helps draw Sanborn and Morrow away from the run, while WR Allen Lazard (13) seals DL Trevis Gipson (99) and RT Yosh Nijman (73) kicks out DB Josh Blackwell (39) to give Jones a nice running lane.

Play No. 3: On the Packers' next possession, they try a play-action pass off of Watson's motion, with Watson running a deep route, but the Bears have it covered and QB Aaron Rodgers throws the ball away, incomplete.

Play No. 4: First-and-10 from the Chicago 21, fourth quarter, 14:47 left

Result: 21-yard TD run by Dillon

The Packers go from the middle of the second quarter until early in the fourth quarter before putting Watson in motion again, but when they do, the play hits big. Like No. 2 above, the run goes the opposite way from the motion, except this time it's an inside handoff with the back (Dillon) starting on the opposite side of Rodgers and cutting across. More variety and misdirection, and the Bears get stuck trying to figure it out. Blackwell is manned up on Watson, so he follows him all the way, taking one defender out of the play. Morrow bites up on the Watson option, while Sanborn looks unsure and a little flat-footed. His hesitation doesn't allow him to get to Dillon, and he makes the mistake of going under the block of C Josh Myers (71) rather than over it. LT Zach Tom (50) and WR Sammy Watkins (11) get the blocks on the edge to create the lane for Dillon, and he's out the gate.

Play No. 5: Second-and-6 from the Green Bay 34, fourth quarter, 10:54 left

Result: 8-yard completion to Lazard

On the second play of their next drive, the Packers come back to another Watson motion, and the play is similar to No. 3 in italics above, except it's not play-action. Nobody goes with Watson in motion, so that tells Rodgers it's zone coverage. Watson is running a deep route again, but with the pocket collapsing around Rodgers, he steps up and takes Lazard sitting underneath right at the sticks for a fresh set of downs.

Play No. 6: First-and-10 from the Chicago 19, fourth quarter, 5:43 left

Result: 7-yard run by Jones

This is the same play as the Dillon TD run, except it's Jones taking the handoff instead, and the Bears play it much better. Morrow isn't fooled and Sanborn isn't hesitant. They head right for where this run is going, but the Packers still block it well enough for Jones to make a sharp cut and get a nice gain before Morrow dodges the block of G Jon Runyan (76) to make the tackle.

Play No. 7: On the next snap, the Packers run Watson in motion again to try another Jones run to the same side, this one from under center instead of shotgun. The Bears get penetration at the point of attack to blow it up and run Jones out of bounds for a 2-yard loss.

Play No. 8: Second-and-7 from the Chicago 46, fourth quarter, 2:00 left

Result: 46-yard TD run by Watson

And now for the clincher. So by this point the Bears have seen Watson go in motion seven times, and the Packers have run the following: one pitch motion side, one pitch opposite motion, two shotgun handoffs opposite motion, one under-center handoff opposite motion, one play-action pass, one straight drop-back pass. They've never seen Watson get the ball, and they aren't ready for it on the eighth look. At all.

Blackwell is trailing Watson in man coverage, while Morrow, Sanborn and DB Elijah Hicks (37) think they're all over this. It's just another run opposite the motion, right? Dillon's getting the ball because the Packers are just trying to grind the clock, right? Wrong. Surprise. Watkins gets a simple block on Blackwell, and the rest is, well, elementary for Watson (sorry).


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