GREEN BAY – The Packers' offense began showing signs of life on the final drive of the first half in Denver, and the jump-start was a sequence of plays with well-executed perimeter blocks.
Then, as the offense got rolling better in the second half, some key pass plays worked thanks to route concepts that effectively cleared traffic to create clean openings.
Here's a sampling of both topics.
Play No. 1: Third-and-1 from the Green Bay 37, second quarter, 5:18 left
Result: 6-yard run by RB Aaron Jones
Overall, this play isn't blocked particularly well, but the block to watch is thrown by rookie WR Dontayvion Wicks (13), who locks up S Kareem Jackson (22) on the outside and drives him all the way to the boundary and into the ground. Jones uses his speed to make a couple of penetrating defenders miss, and it's Wicks' block that allows him to get the first down. Jackson looks for a holding flag but no dice, and the conversion finally gets things going.
Play No. 2: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 43, second quarter, 4:39 left
Result: 14-yard completion to WR Romeo Doubs
The next snap is a slip-screen to Doubs, who gets two really good blocks. First, WR Christian Watson (9) turns CB Patrick Surtain (2) so Doubs can cut inside. Then, RT Zach Tom (50) comes into the picture with a head of steam and pancakes CB Fabian Moreau (23) to spring Doubs past the first-down marker.
Play No. 3: First-and-10 from the Denver 43, second quarter, 3:58 left
Result: 7-yard run by RB AJ Dillon
The third play in the get-rolling sequence is similar to the first, except it's a toss to Dillon instead of Jones, and the blocks on the edge are executed quite well. Rookie TEs Luke Musgrave (88) and Tucker Kraft (85) start with a double-team on OLB Ronnie Perkins (51) before Musgrave peels off. Kraft finishes the block on Perkins, and Musgrave picks up LB Josey Jewell (47) to provide a solid first-down gain. Unfortunately, this promising drive ends in a missed field goal, but it foreshadows better offensive efficiency in the second half.
Play No. 4: First-and-10 from the Denver 28, third quarter, 3:12 left
Result: 11-yard run by Jones
One more on perimeter blocking, this one from the third quarter, before transitioning topics. Here, Jones' shiftiness sets up a nice cutback run, as he gets ILB Alex Singleton (49) to overcommit, making the interior block pretty easy for LT Rasheed Walker (63). Then from the outside, here comes WR Samori Toure (83) into the picture to pick off Jackson, essentially doubling the gain on the play.
Play No. 5: Third-and-4 from the Green Bay 31, third quarter, 14:29 left
Result: 17-yard completion to Wicks
On the third play of the second half, down 9-0, the Packers get moving again, now with route concepts that use one pass-catcher to clear out defensive traffic for another. Here the Packers have Musgrave and WR Jayden Reed (11) stacked in the slot with Wicks just outside them. Musgrave's deep middle route concerns Jackson enough that the safety actually turns his back and starts to run with him, opening the window for Wicks' in cut and a big first down. This drive gets the Packers on the board with a field goal.
Play No. 6: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 25, third quarter, 6:17 left
Result: 23-yard completion to Watson
On the first play of the Packers' next drive, now trailing 16-3, it's Reed clearing traffic for Watson in a somewhat unconventional way. But hey, it works. As Reed makes contact with CB Ja'Quan McMillian (29) on his route, McMillian gets bowled over, and in the process Reed also manages to cut off Surtain, who's slowed up as he's chasing Watson across the field. A clean pitch and catch gets Green Bay's first TD drive started.
Play No. 7: Second-and-5 from the Green Bay 29, fourth quarter, 14:10 left
Result: 18-yard completion to Musgrave
Here's the play that gets the second TD drive going, and it's a pretty simple concept. Doubs' deep route down the numbers on the left side occupies Jackson enough to clear sideline space for Musgrave on the over route behind Jewell. The protection for QB Jordan Love breaks down a little bit, but he steps up to buy enough time for Musgrave to clear and delivers the ball. As it turns out, Jackson is so deep by the time Musgrave makes the catch, he gets a full-speed head start before delivering the illegal hit that ejects him from the game and injures Musgrave.
Bonus play No. 1: Second-and-9 from the Denver 16, third quarter, 1:53 left
Result: 16-yard TD reception by Doubs
This is unrelated to the topics of the day, but it's worth showing Doubs' TD catch for the part of the play that got no attention. While the contested grab is tremendous and was correctly called a touchdown (despite the analysis on the TV broadcast), watch the route Doubs uses to beat the first-team All-Pro corner Surtain. With Surtain holding outside leverage, Doubs doesn't give away where he's going. He hesitates and even provides a little hip shake to freeze Surtain just an extra beat to get open. Then he makes the great adjustment on the underthrown pass to get the Packers back in the game.
Bonus play No. 2: Second-and-8 from the Green Bay 27, fourth quarter, 3:11 left
Result: 29-yard reception by Dillon
Here's the big play that gave the Packers a chance on their final drive, but it's being shown not so much for what the offense did, but for what Denver's defense is discussing in its film room that almost cost the Broncos the game. Similar to the idea outlined in Plays 5-7 above, the Packers run a series of vertical routes to clear space, in this case in the short middle area for Dillon, leaving him one-on-one with Singleton. But when Dillon breaks Singleton's open-field tackle attempt, why does this rupture into such a big gain? Because three (circled) Denver defenders – Moreau, Surtain and OLB Jonathan Cooper (0) – all slow up, thinking Singleton will make the tackle and end the play. When defensive coaches talk about "rallying to the ball," it may sound like coach-speak, but this is why.