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Dublin: 14 °C Friday 20 September, 2019

Coaches Film: Here's one way the Packers could beat the Seahawks on Sunday

It’s time for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offence to be brave.

There's a lot going on here, but we'll explain all.
There's a lot going on here, but we'll explain all.

WAY, WAY BACK in week one, in the very first game of the NFL season, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman played the most boring game on his life.

In a game which his team won 36-16, the Green Bay Packers didn’t target him once in 33 pass attempts, effectively reducing the field Aaron Rodgers had to work with by half.

Unsurprisingly, it was far from the finest game the future Hall of Fame quarterback has ever had. And that was fully fit.

This week, Rodgers goes back to Seattle to try best the Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game and he’ll have to do it on – effectively – one leg as he’s still recovering from the calf injury that so limited his performance against the Dallas Cowboys last week.

Sleepless in Seattle

As good as the Seahawks defence is – and they possess, without question, the best secondary in the NFL – they are quite predictable with even Kam Chancellor saying:

“We play man-to-man or Cover-3, not much more than that. It’s not a secret.”

And he wasn’t lying. The beauty of what Seattle does is in its simplicity but before we get into the specifics of how to the Packers can beat Cover-3, lets take a quick look at how their defence sets up.

4-3 base

It occurs to me that I’ve never actually gone into detail on the make up of an NFL defence so here’s the bare bones of the 4-3 defence the Seahawks run. (If you’re already familiar with it, feel free to skip ahead to the ‘Cover-3′ section).

Source: NFL Gamepass

The 4-3 refers to four defensive linemen (blue), three linebackers (red) and the four members of the secondary (yellow) who make up the 11 members of the Seattle defence.

You can also have 3-4 and the rarely seen 4-4 but it’s the 4-3 we’ll focus on today.

Defensive linemen: In a 4-3, you have two defensive ends – at either end of the defensive line – with two defensive tackles in between them. Their job is to stop the run and attempt to sack the quarterback.

Linebackers: We broke down the position and roles of linebackers way back in October.

Secondary: This is the name given to the group of players who make up the defensive backfield. It’s consists of both cornerbacks – who are usually the fastest players on defence – and safeties – who are usually the smartest as their role is to see what the offence is doing and adapt the defence.


Source: NFL Gamepass

Cover-3 is a zone defence where players cover areas of the field rather than specific players.

Three players cover deep areas of the field (in yellow) with the four underneath covering short to medium passes. If teams run the ball against this scheme, it allows the defence to have eight players on or near the line of scrimmage so it a good base defence to run and very simple to learn for players.

However, while it helped the Seahawks to win last year’s Super Bowl and put them back into this year’s NFC Championship Game – becoming the first team in 10 years to win a playoff game the year after winning a world championship – it can be beaten.

Pack Attack

You beat the Cover-3 defence by introducing multiple receivers running into space, an offensive concept known as ‘levels’ and something the Packers ran for a big gain on the Seahawks – albeit when they were losing – back in week one.

The Seahawks lined up in their standard defence with three deep zone defenders, and four underneath. Here are the zones they wanted to cover:

Source: NFL Gamepass

But because they Packers were running the level concept, here’s where their receivers were running to:

Source: NFL Gamepass

When we merge those two images, you can see where the Packers have won this match up (hint: look at the red arrow).

Source: NFL Gamepass

Source: NFL Gamepass

How does it work

Starting with Jordy Nelson (yellow), his route keeps Byron Maxwell (#41 deep defender) and Marcus Burley (#28 shallow defender) busy.

The tight end Andrew Quarless (green) occupies Bobby Wagner (#54) in the middle of the field before his route draws in Earl Thomas (#29) on the right.

With Kam Chancellor dropping back into his deep zone, the movement of his team-mates has left yards of space for Randall Cobb to make an easy catch at the second level and a big gain.

You can see how much space Cobb has to run into from the endzone camera angle:

Source: NFL Gamepass

Why it’ll help the Packers

The main reason I think Green Bay should be looking at these types of plays is because, with Aaron Rodgers in shotgun, it gives him extra time in the pocket to make the right play, something he didn’t have last weekend.

Will it be enough for the Packers to actually beat Seattle? Maybe not, but it should give them more of a chance than sticking with the game plan they implemented in week one.

Oh, and Rodgers will probably have to throw in Sherman’s direction a few times. The league’s best quarterback versus the league’s best corner back. That should be fun.

Read more from our Coaches Film series here

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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