GREEN BAY – Offensive scheme at its core is a numbers game.
If they've got more somewhere, take the ball somewhere else. If we've got more over here, let's make them stop it. Or if things are even, win the one-on-ones. That sort of thing.
The Packers played that numbers game very effectively in beating the Rams in the NFC Divisional playoff. With the Rams insisting on keeping two safeties back almost all the time, the Packers emphasized where they could generate an advantage, or won the matchup when things were even at the line of scrimmage, producing a very efficient performance against the league's top defense.
Here's a sampling, followed by two bonus plays that are just too good to not see again.
Play No. 1: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 42, first quarter, 12:13 left
Result: 9-yard run by RB AJ Dillon
This is the Packers' third offensive snap, featuring a personnel package unveiled in the regular-season finale at Chicago with both RB Aaron Jones and Dillon in the backfield. QB Aaron Rodgers signals for Jones to motion away, which draws LB Troy Reeder (51) out of the box. With the Rams keeping both safeties back, it sets up a clear 5-on-5 for the Packers' offensive line against a five-man defensive front, with a huge void behind. The Packers will take that anytime, and Dillon slashes through a hole between C Corey Linsley (63) and LG Elgton Jenkins (74) for an easy nine yards.
Play No. 2: Second-and-9 from the LA 46, second quarter, 8:50 left
Result: 14-yard completion to Jones
This time the numbers game is dictated by the Rams' coverage decisions. As both WR Allen Lazard (13) and TE Robert Tonyan (85) run shallow in-breaking routes, they attract two defenders each. Combine that with a deep safety staying back over top to help on the two outside routes, and the Rams have committed seven in coverage to four downfield pass-catchers. Against a four-man rush, Jones doesn't need to stay in the backfield to help pass protect, so he leaks out where there's all kinds of open space.
Play No. 3: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 25, third quarter, 15:00 left
Result: 60-yard run by Jones
Talk about a numbers advantage. On this one, the motion of WR Davante Adams (17) pulls Reeder out of the middle. With S John Johnson (43) back, CB Jalen Ramsey (20) flanked outside OLB Leonard Floyd (54), and TE Marcedes Lewis (89) in line, the Packers effectively have a 6-on-5 at the point of attack. Then at the snap, both Floyd and Ramsey hesitate to guard against Lewis releasing on a route or Jones bouncing outside, Linsley charges ahead to pick up Johnson, and Jones is off to the races.
Play No. 4: Second-and-10 from the LA 15, third quarter, 14:15 left
Result: 8-yard run by Dillon
Two snaps later, the Packers run close to a carbon copy of Play No. 1 above. Rodgers again signals for Jones to motion out of the backfield, which draws away Reeder, and it's 5-on-5 in the box. Even though nobody blocks ILB Kenny Young (41), Dillon has enough head of steam to drag him for four yards after contact.
Play No. 5: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 29, third quarter, 9:15 left
Result: 11-yard run by RB Jamaal Williams
Here's an example with no motion needed to give the Packers a look they like. With the Rams continuing to insist on keeping both safeties back, Green Bay's two tight ends on the right side creates 7-on-7 in the box. On the strong side, Lewis seals Floyd and TE Dominique Dafney (49) does the same against DL Sebastian Joseph-Day (69). T Rick Wagner (71) takes on Reeder in the hole, and WR Equanimeous St. Brown (19) runs enough interference on Johnson to prevent him from squaring up on the tackle.
Bonus play No. 1: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 46, second quarter, :24 left
Result: 33-yard completion to Tonyan
The productive rhythm and timing of the Packers' offense has reduced the number of extended plays QB Aaron Rodgers has been forced to make, but he makes a beauty here. Other than the pass protectors sticking to their blocks – watch how Williams from the backfield ends up steering a defensive lineman with at least 60 pounds on him, DL Morgan Fox (97), around the back side of the pocket – the key is Tonyan's awareness. He starts out with a chip block and is really just a safety valve on the play. But notice how he constantly keeps turning his eyes back to Rodgers to know where his QB is located and looking at all times. That vision allows him to break at the right moment into an area of open space where Rodgers has a chance to find him. Amazing play.
Bonus play No. 2: Second-and-17 from the Green Bay 8, third quarter, 10:03 left
Result: 21-yard completion to Lazard
If there's a pass-protection play of the game, this is it, with Rodgers throwing out of his own end zone. As Wagner and RG Lucas Patrick (62) double-team DL Aaron Donald (99), it's Linsley's remarkable recovery from a quick slip – watch his feet – against a stunting Floyd that allows Rodgers to shift to the right and reset on a clear platform. The rocket is right on target to Lazard, who has beaten Ramsey on a deep cross.