Of­fense me­thod­i­cally marches to vic­tory

Packer Plus - - Analysis - TOM SIL­VER­STEIN

Ar­ling­ton, Texas — When Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Pack­ers got the ball with 1 minute, 13 sec­onds left in the game Sun­day, trail­ing the Dal­las Cow­boys, 31-28, it must have seemed like an eter­nity com­pared to the last time they were at AT&T Sta­dium.

They needed 75 yards for the win this time around, and given the two ex­tra points kicker Ma­son Crosby had missed ear­lier, they ab­so­lutely needed to score a touch­down to as­sure a sec­ond straight vic­tory here.

In the divi­sional round play­offs in Jan­uary they had only 35 sec­onds to get from the 25 to get into field-goal range.

“We’ve been through that be­fore,” said re­ceiver Da­vante Adams who caught the gamewin­ning 12-yard touch­down pass with 11 sec­onds left. “We’ve been through that be­fore in this build­ing.”

The ex­tra time proved cru­cial be­cause un­like that im­prob­a­ble 42-yard drive that ended up vault­ing them into the NFC Cham­pi­onship Game, the Pack­ers were able to stick with ev­ery­thing that had led them on scor­ing drives of 75, 60, 71 and 73 yards us­ing a com­bined 44 plays.

It meant the emer­gence of rookie run­ning back Aaron Jones, who in his first ca­reer start car­ried 19 times for 125 yards and a touch­down, be­com­ing the first Pack­ers back to gain 100 yards since Ty Mont­gomery had 162 against Chicago on Dec. 18 of last year.

In a mat­ter of a half or so, the Pack­ers went from hear­ing the op­pos­ing de­fense chuckle at their at­tempts at fool­ing it with play-ac­tion to ac­tu­ally fool­ing it with play-ac­tion. Jones did more for the Pack­ers’ of­fense than any­one had since the hero of the 2016 come­back here, tight end Jared Cook.

“I told him be­fore the game, ‘I have zero wor­ries about him back there,’ ” Rodgers said. “He is a great kid, he’s a great rookie. His vi­sion was fan­tas­tic. He gives you a lot of con­fi­dence when you give him the ball.”

Rodgers was miss­ing re­ceiver Jordy Nel­son (ham­string) on the last drive and left tackle David Bakhtiari (ham­string) for a fourth straight game, but it didn’t mat­ter. He ran the of­fense the way it’s sup­posed to look.

Here’s how the fi­nal drive played out:

1-10, GB 25 (1:13 left): Rodgers had Adams wide to the left and tight end Martel­lus Ben­nett and re­ceivers Ran­dall Cobb and Geron­imo Al­li­son to the right. Jones was lined up to Rodgers’ left in a shot­gun for­ma­tion.

The Cow­boys were in a pack­age the Pack­ers call “Dime-32” for the six de­fen­sive backs that fea­tures top cor­ner­back Or­lando Scan­drick (No. 32) in prime po­si­tion to play the run, blitz or cover the slot re­ceiver. It fea­tures three down line­men and two inside lineback­ers up­front and two safeties split­ting the field in the back end.

Adams gave rookie cor­ner­back Jour­dan Lewis a jab step inside and then a move to the side­line. Rodgers threw the ball short and to the out­side to al­low Adams to haul in a clas­sic back shoul­der pass for a 14-yard gain.

“The key to any good 2-minute drive is the first play,” Rodgers said. “You’ve got to get some pos­i­tive yards. (We) ac­tu­ally set up the en­tire fi­nal se­quence to get Da­vante on the back shoul- der to start the whole drive. That ul­ti­mately sets up the ‘wing’ pass.

“Be­cause he’s play­ing high shoul­der on the first play, (you use) the back shoul­der. He’s play­ing low on the last play, over the top.”

1-10, GB 39 (1:09): After blitz­ing Scan­drick on first down, Cow­boys de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor switched things up and blitzed safety By­ron Jones and kept Scan­drick back.

Rodgers, see­ing both safeties way back, swung the ball out to Ben­nett, who broke line­backer Justin Du­rant’s tackle and got up­field for a 14-yard gain.

“It comes down to the lit­tle things be­ing ex­e­cuted per­fectly,” Rodgers said. “Marty did a great catch on that ball at his an­kles, get­ting the first down. It was the im­por­tant plays at the most im­por­tant time by those guys.”

1-10, Dal­las 47 (0:47): The Cow­boys brought a blitz to Rodgers’ left side with Jones and line­backer An­thony Hitchens.

This time it caused his slant to Adams to be tipped at the line and fall in­com­plete set­ting up a sec­ond and long.

2-10, Dal­las 47 (0:45): With only Al­li­son lined up to the right, Rodgers called a quick-hit­ting run play to the right.

The Cow­boys had their lineback­ers up at the line of scrim­mage, so when right tackle Bryan Bu­laga kicked out end DeMar­cus Lawrence and right guard Jahri Evans walled off Hitchens, Aaron Jones had a hole to run through. Not only did he gain 15 yards, but he got out of bounds.

“They had a lot of DBs in the sec­ondary, re­ally no back­ers in the box,” Jones said. “He was like, ‘We’re go­ing to hand this off and go get some yards. (Al­li­son) gave me a great block and that al­lowed me to get out of bounds.”

Had Jones not al­ready topped the 100-yard mark the prospect of giv­ing him the ball in a clutch sit­u­a­tion seemed un­likely.

“I would have been a lot more hes­i­tant to,” Rodgers said.

Said Bu­laga: “They were play­ing their ‘ Dime 32’ the whole drive so there were some runs that were avail­able. When you have that op­tion, es­pe­cially with some time left you have a chance to get some yardage.”

1-10, Dal­las 32 (0:39): Rodgers got pres­sure up the mid­dle from David Irv­ing and got rid of the ball down the right side­line just be­fore get­ting knocked down. The ball sailed over Al­li­son’s head.

2-10, Dal­las 32 (0:35): With a pair of re­ceivers to each side, Rodgers liked the way the Cow­boys were lined up and chose to go with Jones.

How­ever, left guard Justin McCray missed his block on Du­rant and Jones man­aged just 2 yards, forc­ing coach Mike McCarthy to use his fi­nal time­out.

“That was one of those ‘RPOs’ as they call them,” Rodgers said of a run-pass op­tion called at the line of scrim­mage.

3-8, Dal­las 30 (0:29): Rodgers wanted Ben­nett on a short route to the left, but Ben­nett was cov­ered, so he scram­bled to the left to buy more time. He avoided the arm tack­les of Benson May­owa and Irv­ing as he pulled the ball down and ran for the first-down marker.

“I was talk­ing to him af­ter­ward and he told me he was think­ing he could have scored there,” left tackle Lane Tay­lor said. “He was fly­ing out there and he de­cided to get out of bounds.”

The 18-yard gain gave the Pack­ers a cru­cial first down and a chance to go for the vic­tory.

1-10, Dal­las 12 (0:21): Rodgers called a ‘wing’ pass – thrown to the out­side that the re­ceiver spins around to catch on the op­po­site side of the cor­ner­back – but his throw to Adams was low and out­side.

Adams came back to the hud­dle and gave Rodgers a look that said, "Try it again."

2-10, Dal­las 12 (0:16): Adams runs the same route and this time the throw is on the money.

“Great play by Da­vante and Aaron run­ning the 2-minute drill,” McCarthy said. “I don’t know what else to say.”

GETTY IMAGES

Da­vante Adams of the Green Bay Pack­ers pulls in the game-win­ning touch­down pass from Aaron Rodgers as Jour­dan Lewis of the Dal­las Cow­boys de­fends on the play. The 12-yard touch­down pass came with 11 sec­onds left in the game and led the Pack­ers to a 35-31 vic­tory at AT&T Sta­dium on Sun­day.

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