Packers Film Room: Cover busts led to both Lions touchdowns

Inside Part One of This Week’s Movie Theater BreakdownI broke some things Packers the defense performed exceptionally well against the Lions. The second part here today shows us that they still have a few issues to work out, mainly communication and playing the right responsibilities in their man coverage in the red zone. The two touchdowns they gave up are an example.

On the Lions’ first touchdown pass, they execute mesh traverses with a quick movement underneath. The tight line right, Shane Zylstra (#84) is the only cruiser left on the right side of the attack.

The Packers are playing 0 coverage with a 6 run. There is a “banjo” coverage check with safety Darnell Savage (#26) and linebacker Quay Walker (#7). In a banjo call, the inside-most defender will take the inside trigger or the receiver that works through the inside court and the outside-most defender will take the first receiver that goes outside .

This prevents defenders from being picked on intersecting routes. They simply change responsibility by reading the route release and distribution.

The Lions send a quick move and immediately after the snap, Savage communicates a call for Walker to take inside receiver, tight end Shane Zylstra. Savage’s responsibility is either running back or fast-moving tight end and Walker never gets the crosser from Zylstra, in part because he’s always watching the running back. Zylstra blocks before releasing so Walker stays in place as the tight end releases and opens wide.

On the Lions’ next touchdown late in the third quarter and early in the fourth, the defense gave up a crucial 3rd and 6 in midfield where a save would have taken the defense out of the field and given the offense a chance. to take the lead just trails 8-6.

The Lions run a double-digging concept called a “pivot” or “Swiss,” a concept Goff had plenty of experience with in Sean McVay’s offense with the Rams. The concept is designed for the high/low strong defender of the apex/strong hook with a pivot route under a deep ‘through’ route and a digging route behind it.

The defense is in a subset nickel staff defense playing cover-9, which is just nickel-3 coverage with the nickel defender at passing strength and safety rotation, similar to cover buzz -3.

The nickel defender has the downside. Krys Barnes (#51), the solid hook defender, should take the #2 receiver. The corner reads 2-1 for any vertical threat (should work with the new #1) and Walker, the “hook” defender at 3 receivers,” should zone under the new No. 3 deep.

The bust is probably on Rasul Douglas, who has the No. 1 receiver on any vertical here depending on the route distribution since the new No. 2 receiver is on the short hook route, but it’s difficult to blame him here for anything as the route doesn’t really go vertical and cut across the field into the space freed up by Barnes covering the short hook. Goff hits the small window and the play gains 25 yards.

On the same drive three games later, the Packers dropped the go-ahead score on the Lions drive concept.

The Lions are executing a training concept inside the five-yard line, designed to take advantage of low hole area defenders or have man cover defenders pressed so they don’t yield no space. “Drive” is a deeper dig route above a shallow traverse route.

The Packers are playing 1 “dog” coverage, a man coverage call with a 5 man rush, a deep safe zone and man coverage everywhere else. There seems to be a sort of banjo call here, but it’s less clear because of the way the routes are distributed.

The Lions get to the line quickly and slam the ball down before the Packers can sort out the formation. The roads split to spoil the banjo call, but Walker correctly goes past the vertical when he sees the first receiver cut inside.

What is less clear is what Alexander and Keisean Nixon do. Alexander gets lost in no man’s land when the point receiver goes vertical, indicating he might have thought Nixon was going to carry him to the seam in the end zone. His footsteps seem to indicate this, setting him late to cover the receiver spot on the dig.

More alarming is that safety Darnell Savage (#26) got caught looking at anything other than the receiver running through the dig in the back of the end zone. He jumps over, then out when the receiver cuts, but there’s nothing to jump that far. Goff’s eyes never take him there. He should have stayed in the middle of Goff’s eyes.


What is clear is that busts occurred and defenders failed to communicate clearly, which plagued the three plays highlighted above. The defense has played better overall, but they need to clean that up and Joe Barry is ultimately responsible for it all so far.

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