What You Might’ve Missed: Second-level blocking

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GREEN BAY – To put together a 34-point performance on the road that included over 100 yards on the ground, the Packers needed to be stout at the point of attack.

That they were, but what also stood out in the victory over the Cowboys was the offense’s second-level blocking – the blocks on the linebackers and defensive backs that turned positive yardage into more productive gains.

Here’s a sampling.

Play No. 1: Second-and-2 from the Green Bay 42, first quarter, 3:53 left

Result: 7-yard run by Tra Carson

The key blocks on the second level here are thrown by TE Marcedes Lewis (89) and RG Billy Turner (77). Lewis’ responsibility is S Jeff Heath (38), who never gets close to making the tackle. Turner deftly sticks his backside into DT Maliek Collins (96) to help for an extra moment on the double-team block with RT Bryan Bulaga (75) before releasing to the second level and picking up LB Leighton Vander Esch (55) as Carson gets well beyond the first-down marker.

Play No. 2: Second-and-8 from the Dallas 24, first quarter, 1:35 left

Result: 15-yard run by Aaron Jones

Again, in showing these second-level blocks, don’t ignore that Dallas gets no penetration at the point of attack. That’s where it starts. But the downfield blocks are the ones that turn a good play into a really good one. Later that same drive, on a simple run to the left side, TE Jimmy Graham (80) drives Heath backward, practically out of the picture, while LG Elgton Jenkins (74) gets a free release to go after LB Sean Lee (50). Jones gets one of his six runs of 10-plus yards on the day.

Play No. 3: First-and-goal from the Dallas 9, first quarter, :50 left

Result: 6-yard completion to Geronimo Allison

On the next snap, the Packers run a quick shovel pass to Allison that functions as a jet-sweep run. The blocks on the LBs and DBs are executed by TE Robert Tonyan (85) on Vander Esch, WR Jake Kumerow  (16) on Heath, and RB Aaron Jones coming out of the backfield to get a piece of CB Byron Jones (31). This also appears to be the play on which Tonyan hurts his hip, and he doesn’t return to the game. Jones runs in his second TD of the game on the following snap.

Play No. 4: First-and-10 on the Green Bay 35, second quarter, 7:47 left

Result: 22-yard completion to Jones

This is the rare case where missing the block the first time actually results in probably a better block on the second try. As Jones scoops QB Aaron Rodgers’ low throw just above the turf, Graham at first believes it’s an incomplete pass and doesn’t block Heath. But when he sees that Jones caught it and is able to make Vander Esch miss the initial tackle, Graham knocks Heath into the sideline as Jones cuts back inside for a big gain.

Play No. 5: First-and-10 from the Dallas 25, third quarter, 5:07 left

Result: 15-yard completion to Lewis

Sometimes you catch a break on the second level, too. One play after a 39-yard pass interference penalty on the Cowboys puts the offense in scoring range, the Packers run a play-action screen pass to Lewis. As LT David Bakhtiari (69) leaks out to get a block on a linebacker, he ends up taking out two when Vander Esch and Joe Thomas (48) collide in the middle of the field. Two-for-one is tough for any defense to overcome, and the Packers are back in the end zone two plays later.

Play No. 6: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 25, fourth quarter, 7:46 left

Result: 11-yard run by Jones

The last of Jones’ six runs of 10-plus features both Green Bay guards, Jenkins and Turner, getting clean looks at Heath and Vander Esch, respectively. Toss in the block by FB Danny Vitale (45) on LB Jaylon Smith (54) in the hole, and Jones goes over 100 yards for the game on this play.

Bonus play: Second-and-8 from the Dallas 49, first quarter, 2:36 left

Result: 23-yard completion to Tonyan

This is a bonus selection because it’s off-topic and has nothing to do with second-level blocking, but it’s worth seeing how much was going on to make this off-schedule play possible. First of all, Tonyan pulls double duty here, starting the play by blocking DE DeMarcus Lawrence (90) before releasing into his route. Lawrence is then picked up by Lewis, who comes across from the back side and holds him off long enough for Rodgers to slide forward and get the throw away. But to see why there was such a big void in the middle of the field for Rodgers to step up into, watch the clear-out block thrown by Bulaga on DT Trysten Hill (97). Talk about taking a guy out of the play.

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