Packers Movie Theater: Randall Cobb’s Big Day, The Spark of the Racing Game, and Defensive Arrows Up
The Green Bay Packers hosted another full game Sunday afternoon at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers in what was the first clash between Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger since the 2010 super bowl. The Packers won 27-17 easily, but for much of the three quarters after the first quarter, it felt much more overwhelming than that. The Packers did almost everything right, and the Steelers had to deal with an aging quarterback who doesn’t look well.
The running game racked up 129 yards between Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon and Rodgers threw for 268 yards and two touchdowns, both to Randall Cobb. Cobb’s last touchdown pass from Rodgers came on December 9, 2018 at home against the Falcons. 41 of Rodgers’ touchdown passes were picked up by Cobb. It was like the good old days.
The racing game continues to dominate
AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones combined for 30 carries total, each having 15. Dillon had 81 yards versus 48 for Jones (Jones added 51 more yards on reception) and that helped the Packers stay balanced on offense. The offense remained in 12 staffers (one running back, two tight ends) most of the game and forced the Steelers to stay in their 3-4 basic offense.
Often, the Packers’ offense would then expand the lineup, fielding Jones, Tonyan and Mercedes Lewis off and attacking midfield with Adams.
Aaron Jones’ best run of the day, however, was against the Steelers’ nickel staff against the Packers 11 staff. Jones’ quick cutting ability and ability to set up blockers to overengage allowed him to transform. a potentially short gain in a 15-yard gain on a strike at the end of the second half.
The play call is a single strong wide zone in the limit. If you’ve never seen the game before, you can see the pre-snap where Jones is going to go with the ball. The alignment of the Steelers’ defensive front leaves the advantage vulnerable. Jones will read from the outside into the wide zone and see that he has a way to the edge because the defender from the edge jumps inside the tight end.
If the edge defender were to jump on the outside, Jones would cut the inside hip of the tight end. As he gets to the edge, he cuts about two steps as the defensive backs engage too much and he pulls away from the field and turns a potential gain of four yards into a gain of 15 yards.
Jones’ quick efficiency has been evident in the last few games since week one. Pay close attention to how he prepares the defender before he cuts.
In the wide zone diagram, the running backs must also have vision to see their running lane and know that by their third step in which direction they are going to either bounce outside towards the rim, hit the fairway between the edge defender and the first defensive tackle, or fold it back to the middle if the first two linemen are too far on the outside.
AJ Dillon showed his quick processing and vision on his long 25-yard run that set up the Packers’ third touchdown of the day. By the time Dillon reaches his third leg, he sees he has no path to the edge and immediately leans down midfield as the defense engages. He does not show lost steps and instead he plants his outside foot on the third step and walks up the field.
Vision combined with the ability to press the line of scrimmage and be patient gives the Packers a nice complementary piece to pair with Aaron Jones.
Randall Cobb returns to action
Randall Cobb has seen a lot more action against the Steelers than he has seen together in the previous weeks. In the fourth week, he caught five passes for 69 yards and two touchdowns, exceeding both his catch total and his yards total in the first three games.
Cobb had several big catches, but his biggest win came in the middle on a post road where he split the safeties and Rodgers placed it perfectly on him. The Steelers are on cover 5 (cover-2 men) with the defenseman cantilever in cover men on Cobb. Cobb beats him to the seam and leans over the road to the post.
Cobb is barely out of his break as Rodgers throws and splits the safeties. The pass beat the hand of the diving defender the same way Rodgers beat Fred Warner in the final practice of Week 3.
Earlier in the game, Rodgers found Cobb for a 23-yard touchdown a few plays after a Roethlisberger fumble in his own territory. Most of his catches were from the lunge and on his touchdown catch he crossed right to left on a dig road, opened up and Rodgers hit him in stride.
On two more catches early in the match, Cobb opened up on a route called a “lookie slant”. In the Kyle Shanahan tree, the play call is called “Lookie Squirrel” or “Choice Jaguar” (Sean Mcvay). Whatever LaFleur’s name was, it was a nice compliment to the passing attack that had answers for a soft blanket.
The Packers called him twice on the same drive and Cobb racked up 20 yards on plays. The “slant lookie” is often referred to as “slant til you can’t” where the coaching point is to cross the defender’s face if possible or to cut on the outside if the receiver cannot cross. Cobb was able to bow in the middle on both games against the defender’s leverage being on the outside and on the outside.
Defensive Arrows Up: Kenny Clark, Rashan Gary, De’Vondre Campbell
The Packers’ defense is picking up steam with Joe Barry at the helm as he and the players feel more comfortable with defensive facilities. Justis Mosqueda of Acme Packing Company has broken down the nickel staff groups which are structurally very strong over the past two weeks and this gives the Packers defense the flexibility to play the pass with a nickel defender in the slot, the indoor racing with basically a bear front interior, and the outdoor running game with linebackers walked to the edges. Now that the Packers can dedicate specific players to certain missions, the results have been overwhelmingly positive.
Kenny Clark had a huge game against the 49ers During the third and fourth week, while not generating as much pressure, was still a disruptive force down the middle of the defensive front, penetrating and attracting doubles teams, which allowed others to secure lead clashes -headed. He also had a salvage fumble (made possible by Rashan Gary) which led to a scoring campaign.
Rashan Gary suffered three pressures in total against the Steelers (one sack, one hit, one rush) in addition to three tackles and three assists.
Gary got a mistake that essentially gave the Steelers a shot down, but after that forced some nice squeezes and saves into the running game for minimal gain. I included the fumble that Kingsley Keke gets credit for because it’s a manual speed rep where Gary pulls his hands inside the tackle’s chest plate and shoves it back into the quarterback. . Keke hits the ball with the quarterback’s hand almost as Gary pulls it down.
De’Vondre Campbell was instrumental in several saves in the 4th quarter, including a two-game streak where he had a pass break on the third down and then a tackle before the sticks on the fourth down.
Perhaps his best play, however, came just from a scramble and high effort when he ran from the opposing hash to make a tackle along the Packers sideline in a third play. at the start of the fourth quarter. The Packers are running a four-man pressure group with a corner out of the rim. The defense turns to Cover 2 behind it with linebackers Campbell (No.59) and Oren Burks (No.42) knocking down at the snap in the hook areas above the scramble.
Diontae Johnson (No.18) catches the pass and tries to go up the field, breaks a tackle, retreats to the outside where Campbell is in pursuit and tackles him without gain.
In the two-game streak on the Steelers’ next record, Campbell showed why the Packers took a chance on him and it paid off.
In the first play, keeping JuJu Smith-Schuster in the lunge, widened to gain outside leverage and as Smith-Schuster cut inside on the oblique, Campbell rushed over and hit the past. In the next play in the video above, fourth after breaking his pass, Campbell keeps the lunge against Smith-Schuster. It looks like a man cover pre-engagement and the Steelers have a man cover batsman, Mesh Cruisers, called in to get the first down.
Except it’s not a men’s blanket. Campbell passes the cruiser away from him as Smith-Schuster crosses. He files with Smith-Schuster and tackles, preventing the receiver from gaining ground on the fourth down.
The Packers will look to roll that train against the Bengals on the road on Sunday. Cincinnati has yet to have a real test this season, but still ranks 5th in defensive DVOA (with opponent adjustments not yet in place) and 10th overall by Football Outsiders. They are coming out of an extended rest period after their recent Thursday night game. The Packers arrive after remedying their week one shortcomings with key players on both sides of the ball contributing significantly and will need to continue racking up successive wins.