UnPACK the Play: Morgan Burnett INT Return

Packers SafetyThere has been a lot of negative talk about the defense in the Atlanta game. But here’s a play that needs to be remembered. It reminded me of Nick Collins’ INT return in SB XLV. It wasn’t returned for a touchdown but a lot of good things happened during this play. Of course, the best thing was the interception itself. The Packers had great coverage and Matt Ryan had to hold the ball too long until Nick Perry got free up the middle. Feeling the pressure, Ryan made the decision to force the ball rather than take a sack. The ball went high and downfield on him and Devin Hester had no chance against Morgan Burnett. But an important aspect of a turnover is what is called “transition” the defense becomes the offense and in this case, the Packers transition was exceptional. 

Morgan Burnett makes an athletic play on a pass that may have been an attempt to throw the ball away. But Burnett high points it, taking away any chance Hester had at the ball:Burnettinthighpoint

In this picture, you can see that both Peppers (Packers) and Toilolo (Falcons number 80) see exactly what happens. Toilolo will have no less than two shots at Burnett but some excellent blocking keeps him from making the play.

So the Packers are now on offense and it is important in transition to get the ball moving up the field (toward Green Bay’s endzone now) but also create cutback lanes to take advantage of the fact that everyone on the field is racing toward one side of the field. A cutback with a lane is what turns interceptions into pick sixes. Here’s what we see:Burnetttransition

Julius Peppers takes Toilolo upfield, leaving only Matt Ryan for Morgan Burnett to beat as Mike Pennel gets the all important backside cutoff block. This creates the all important lane. Morgan Burnett beats Ryan and then cuts back against several would be tacklers in the open field. He is patient and directs traffic, pointing out his blockers next target, number 32 Jacquizz Rodgers. Now for those of you who think Sam Shields head may not have been in this game, check out this block that, for all intents and purposes, should have sprung Burnett to the endzone:

BurnettinttoilolojackedhydepeelsShields accelerates to contact and absolutely DESTROYS Toilolo who has come all the way across the field and has an angle on Burnett because Burnett had to cut back behind all those would-be tacklers (Shields is NOT circled in this pic) as Burnett cuts behind him. But he is once again denied…this time in grand fashion. Love this block by Shields. But here is where the would be pick six begins to go away. The red circle shows that Micah Hyde, while doing an admirable job of blocking on Rodgers, gets peeled to the outside. This should not be a problem because the Claymaker is on his way with a follow-up block that will leave Burnett on the 20 yard line with two blockers in front and two defenders, one of which is a lineman to beat to the endzone for the pick six. Both defenders are pushing hard to the outside as Burnett cuts back in. This would have created another perfect lane and the last one Morgan Burnett needed to reach the endzone. But Rodgers gets low, forcing Clay to bail over the top, and at the same time (to his credit) makes the one-handed shoestring tackle:Burnettinttackled

That is just how close this play was to a pick six but it was a great play anyway. The Packers defense is showing that they are fast and smart in transition and our defensive backs know how to direct traffic, seal off lanes, and use them. What a great play by Morgan Burnett and the Packers defense, and what an important play for the eventual outcome of this game.




UnPACK the Play: Morgan Burnett INT Return
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One thought on “UnPACK the Play: Morgan Burnett INT Return

  • December 17, 2014 at 12:50 am

    If it’s apparent the refs are going to let them play (no calls), McCarthy needs to stress aggression! Our receivers need to get some separation and help Rodgers out. And catch the damn ball!!!


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