While teams often regress after winning a Super Bowl, the defending champion Green Bay Packers have simply gotten better. They’ve gotten back injured stars like tight end Jermichael Finley and they’ve added talented via the draft that is contributing immediately. In Week 13 it was the familiar combination of Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings that was the difference as the explosive Packers survived in a close game against the New York Giants.
Early in the third quarter, the Packers came out in 11 spread personnel on a third-and-nine. To the right side, the strong side of the formation in this case, fullback John Kuhn was lined up as well as Finley in the slot, making it 11 personnel. On the opposite side of the formation, the weak side, the Packers had Donald Driver lined up as the No. 2 receiver in the slot, while Greg Jennings was outside as the no. 1.
The Giants countered this with a single safety walking down into the box, signaling that it could be some sort of pressure package against the offense. There were several possibilities in coverage behind the pressure, perhaps Cover 0, Cover 1 or Cover 3. The cornerbacks were aligned inside of the pass catchers, signaling that it would likely be man coverage, which meant it would be either Cover 0 or Cover 1.
When the ball was snapped, the Giants would end up calling Cover 0.
Cover 0 put the cornerbacks on an island, as they were not going to get any help from the safeties in coverage. Instead, the single safety in the middle of the field would be spying on Rodgers to prevent a first-down scramble from the mobile pivot. This is something that we’ve seen in the past, including by the Atlanta Falcons in last year’s playoff game. That didn’t work out well for Atlanta, and it wouldn’t work out well for the Giants in this case either.
The Packers would go to their often seen pass concept, the Double Post on the weak side with the Hi-Lo on the strong side. For starters, on the strong side, the Hi-Lo concept run by the two pass catchers would serve as a horizontal stretch on the defense. It put two pass catchers running routes at different depths toward the middle of the field. In this case, the slot receiver ran a shallow route at three yards replacing the heels of the defensive lineman. The receiver at the top of the screen, the first from the sideline-in, would run a Dig route by releasing inside and then turning it upfield before breaking it toward the middle of the field at 10 yards.
The backside of the formation is the key on this play, as the two cornerbacks are left on an island against two quality pass catchers. The slot receiver near the bottom of the screen released outside before getting on top of the route and breaking it inside for the Post route. The same is done by Jennings, the number one receiver furthest outside.
What made this play effective was the protection by the offensive line as well as the great route running by Jennings.
Jennings started his route by exploding upfield aggressively, closing the cushion between himself and rookie cornerback Prince Amukamara. Once he closed that gap, Jennings stuck his foot outside and attempted to use his head and shoulders to move Amukamara from inside position to out.
Once Jennings made his moves, Amukamara turned his head expecting a fade route and bit hard outside, allowing Jennings to have a free path inside and into the end zone.
At that point, Rodgers delivered a beautifully thrown ball into the back of the end zone for the touchdown.
The Giants cornerbacks had to be very disciplined in their footwork in this game, and at times they failed. It is very difficult to play man coverage against the Packers, especially without safety help, because of the great route running of the receivers as well as the chemistry they have with Rodgers.