UnPack The Play: Rodgers to Nelson Game-changer

jordy nelsonJordy Nelson was named by his peers the number 18 player in the league. John Kuhn was interviewed on the piece and called to mind a play that I wrote about after the Patriots game last season. Kuhn said this was a huge play and a momentum shifter. Let’s UnPack the play:

So many moving parts have to be in sync for a team to win at the highest level in the NFL. Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson just before the half was a true game-changer. The Patriots had just marched down the field and scored a rare touchdown against our defense inside of two minutes before halftime. Then the Packers offense went back out on the field and we all know what happened with just 23 seconds left on the clock. But here is how it all came together, and it started with a…yeah you guessed it…a timeout.

The Patriots defensive set showed a lot of pressure with the safety playing up and over the front side of the initial set. Aaron didn’t like this set and called a timeout. Note the position of the Patriots safety and that James Starks is in for the run or pass pro:

Before TimeoutAfter the timeout, a couple things happen. First of all, check out the new position of the safety:

After timeout midfield open

This is a peculiar position for the safety on a third and two. Obviously the Patriots respect the Packers receiving corps and want a center fielder but this is quite deep. But the Patriots are still showing pressure so Rodgers sends Starks out in motion to force a linebacker out of blitz position.

Starks takes a blitzer

This creates a trips left formation which gives the safety a lot to think about. At the same time, Rodgers now knows that the linebackers left at the line of scrimmage no longer have to worry about a run play. In this motion, Aaron Rodgers slides his chips to the middle of the table, trusting his line and his legs to buy him the time he needs. Now, singled up with the safety fifteen yards deep, it is time for Jordy Nelson to do his magic.

Nelson knows exactly where the weak spot on the field is, and he also knows that a veteran like Revis will likely be playing outside leverage to avoid a reception and clock stoppage, this is even more true as Revis knows he has a safety playing center field to crash on anything across the middle. However, it is a disadvantage too because it means that Revis can’t use the sideline as a defender (which rarely works against Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson anyway). It is interesting to me that right before this play, the safety drops even a bit deeper and also gets caught way outside, allowing Jordy not just a play, but a touchdown. This happens in part because the Patriots have seen so much tape of Jordy burning safeties from the sideline in, but Jordy forces the issue.

Jordy’s first step is a chop step that establishes Revis’ outside technique, then there is a subtle, almost double move straight up and then across the middle. The safety is so focused on Jordy that he too ends up way out of position and after Cobb took Revis completely out of the play with a downfield block, it was Jordy off to the races…and we all know who won.

Jordy's route

This game is a game of inches and while there were still 14 seconds on the clock as Jordy was taken out of bounds, Had Jordy not had the athleticism to finish this play and touch the pylon just before his knee went down out of bounds, there is no guarantee that the Packers would have gotten in the endzone agains the stingy Patriots red zone defense. Because of Jordy Nelson’s elite athleticism…this is what we saw:

Jordy TD

What a fantastic game Packernation was treated to yesterday evening! And what a fantastic, gamechanging play!




UnPack The Play: Rodgers to Nelson Game-changer
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