Identity crisis over? How LaFleur put stamp on offense in Packers' win
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The key to simplifying the Green Bay Packers offense was to … not simplify it at all. In fact, a return to some of the more complex principles that tend to drive head coach Matt LaFleur’s offense worked wonders for his young team as they rang up almost 400 yards en route to beating the Los Angeles Rams.
What we saw was the version of this scheme we expected coming into the season, one that perhaps the “Brat Pack” wasn’t prepared or consistent enough to play week to week. But if that has changed, LaFleur could be right: Green Bay is a play or two away from unlocking what could be a dynamic group.
Crossing routes vs. man or zone
When the LaFleur offense truly hummed in 2020, teams daring enough to play man coverage saw every variation of “mesh” under the sun and a few LaFleur pulled from deep underneath rocks and caves. He created space for his playmakers as well as muck for defenses with players moving across the formation in seemingly every direction.
Defenses handle man-beaters like mesh with more aplomb now that every NFL team stole it from college systems that major in it. That forces offenses to evolve and find variations or tweaks to still create separation, preferably against zone or man looks.
On the first third down of Sunday’s game against the Rams, LaFleur dialed up a man-beater with Dontayvion Wicks running a crossing route off pre-snap motion.
The beauty of this design comes with the stacked formation that allows Wicks to run underneath his pair of teammates, creating trash (the “muck”) to sift through for defenders. LaFleur likely expects man here because Los Angeles, going back to Brandon Staley’s stint as defensive coordinator there, tends to play more vanilla two-high zone coverages before bringing exotic pressures and playing more man coverage on third down.
Current Rams DC Raheem Morris sends a designer zone pressure look but ends up dropping 300-pound linebacker Michael Hoecht into the area where Wicks is running on a dead sprint. There’s no way that’s going to work, but it likely wouldn’t have worked in a more traditional zone drop linebacker and would have killed man coverage.
This section could just be “new ways to scheme guys open,” but so often that seems to come down to something like a crossing route merely being dressed up in new clothes.