Anatomy of a Play: The Packers 3rd and Goal vs. the Bucs

The Green Bay Packers’ season came to a sudden end on Sunday vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Regardless of the decision to kick the field goal on 4th down, let’s take a look at what would end up being the Packers’ final play and the last snap Rodgers would take in his presumed MVP season.

The Situation

The Packers face 3rd and goal from the 8 yard line with 2:14 left in the 4th quarter down 23-31 to the Buccaneers.

The Play

The Packers, or rather, Aaron Rodgers, dialed up a Levels concept to the trips side and a Smash return concept to the twins side. Based on the alignment and two safeties, Rodgers chooses to read the Levels concept to the top of the screen. The goal of the concept is to simultaneously stress the underneath zones of the corner and slot defender while also attacking the deep zone behind them with the corner route.

The #3 receiver (inner most slot) is running a seam or corner route based on the leverage of the safety. As he gets to the top of his route, he reads that the safety has maintained inside leverage which indicates that he needs to break outside to the corner.

The #2 receiver (middle slot), Davante Adams, is running a fin route or four yard in. He needs to stay flat and cross the face of the linebacker.

The #1 receiver (outside receiver), Allen Lazard, also has a fin route.

Packers 3rd and Goal Play vs. Tampa Bay

The Coverage

The Buccaneers here have disguised their coverage a little bit. Instead of running pure Cover 4 or Cover 2 like they’re showing, they switch the resposibilities of their defenders to cause some confusion and issues.

Buccaneers defense vs. the Packers in NFC Championship game

Normally, the outside corner over #1 would have the deep quarter of the field to his side. However, he is playing the flats in this coverage.

Instead, the slot corner over #2 is turning his hips inside to help bracket the #3 receiver and take him if he goes outside and deep. These two players have switched from their vanilla Cover 4 responsibilities.

The linebacker over #3 is responsible for the hook and seam. Likely off of film study, as soon as he sees the #3 receiver, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, go vertical, he knows to look inside and pick up the #2 receiver Davante Adams.

Normally, this play is keying off of that linebacker. If he stays with the fin route, you should have a window to the corner. If he carries the corner, you have a window to the fin. However, with the slot corner bailing to take away the #3 and the linebacker picking up Adams, the first two reads are taken away.

That does mean, however, that the fin route outside to Allen Lazard is now open. The slot corner has turned his hips and bailed, the inside linebacker is occupied, and you have a one-on-one situation with momentum going towards the endzone.

The Result

There’s pressure and it’s definitely not a guarenteed touchdown if this ball is thrown to the outside fin, but the read is there on the Packers final play. Davante Adams also does no favors by slipping behind the linebacker and taking away any window to throw to him. He now gets bracketed and allows the linebacker to continue to flow and pick up the second fin route while the safety comes down on Adams.