Smart Play Calls You Don’t See the Packers Make

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Mike McCarthy

If you’re a fan who watches mostly Green Bay Packers games and playoff games, you’ve seen some great plays, and some colossal blunders, the last two weekends. I’ll bet you’ve seen several effective plays that you just don’t see the Packers run. Here’s a few of them.

Multiple Option Patterns

I can’t let this play go by without a mention. When the Patriots found themselves at midfield, down by a touchdown, they perfectly executed a double fake. QB Tom Brady first faked a handoff to the running back going up the middle, then he pretended to handoff to speedy receiver Brandin Cooks, who proceeded to sweep around the left side.

With the defense drawn to Cooks, Brady then tossed a short screen to Dion Lewis, who took off down the right side. You could tell by the play’s precision and the way the fakes were executed that the Patriots fully expected this play to fool the defense and go for big yardage.

The play was originally called a touchdown, but was changed to being a 31-yard gain. This led three plays later to the tying touchdown, and the Patriots never looked back as they cruised to a 21-point win.

Wide Receiver Sweep

Almost all the top teams resort to this play at least once per game, and they fake to the play another three or four times. The play usually can be relied upon for five to 15 yards, and on occasion it can get you into the end zone.

Even when the sweep is only faked, it forces the other team to defend against it – except for Packers’ opponents. Though they often fake the sweep, Green Bay almost never actually hands the ball off.

When the Patriots were trying to even the score against the Titans, after that double-fake play they got down to the 5-yard line. They simply sent James White in motion, and Tom Brady shoveled the ball to him – White swept wide and went untouched into the end zone.

Here’s how announcer Tony Romo described it: “This is a (Patriots’ offensive coordinator) Josh McDaniels special…. That’s why Josh McDaniels is getting courted by these other teams right now. Tom Brady didn’t need to do anything, the running back didn’t have to do anything for that play to be a touchdown. (McDaniels) is special – for those teams out there, you want to go get him if you have the opportunity.”

Last year, the Packers used Jeff Janis on two wide sweeps, and they garnered 38 yards and a touchdown. So Mike McCarthy apparently erased it from his play sheets. The play does call for a speedy receiver.

The Saints’ Ted Ginn Jr. gets good results from the play almost every game – he gained 11 yards on a sweep against the Vikings. In 11 years, receiver Ginn has rushed 62 times for an average of 7.1 yards per carry.

Should the Packers follow my advice and draft a speedy receiver in the first round, this is a play that should be added to Green Bay’s play book.

Quarterback Sneak

Drew Brees, along with several other QBs, routinely goes to this play on 3rd-and-1 or 4th-and-1 situations. Though he’s neither big nor strong, Brees picked up first downs with ease using this play on both of the last two weekends. With a yard or less to go, it’s the simplest and most sure-fire play you could ask for.

Running Back Leap/Dive

I’ve previously advocated for this play. It’s useful whenever you need up to two yards. When the Jaguars were on the 2-yard line and had a fourth down, instead of settling for a field goal, they simply handed the ball to Leonard Fournette and the big guy went airborne for the first touchdown of the game.

It wasn’t an ideal play, as Fournette was lined up too deep, so by the time he reached the line of scrimmage a linebacker had arrived to partially fill the gap. I’d have the back line up almost to the side of the quarterback and get him to the line more quickly.

About The Author

Rob is currently twiddling his thumbs on Whidbey Island in Washington. He likes to do research, although he has no shortage of opinions. He saw his first live Packers game in 1958, the only win of the year.

24 Comments on "Smart Play Calls You Don’t See the Packers Make"

  1. Ferris

    Coach McTubO’Shit, is “Highly Successful” without those tricks. He says…”We’ll just line up and hand it to the first man through, the fullback…they’ll never see that coming. Every time we need one yard…. fullback… nobody expects it.” Man he’s creative.

      • Ferris

        True, they never got to the goal line after Rodgers was out. They also had few 3rd and 1 plays it was 3rd and 18 after a sack or a throw behind the line of scrimmage.

    • MM²SUCK

      Wow! I didn’t know that the Packers had an all inclusive “homer” bus that handed out blinders as well . . . that would explain your comment . . .

  2. Robster

    Even a casual fan can recognize plays that are consistently productive, and ones that consistently fail. I’ve also observed that teams with the more creative play callers usually have the most success. It’s not rocket science, and I’m not aware of McCarthy taking any courses or having a degree in play calling. As it’s been said: common sense – it ain’t so common anymore.

    • Cheese

      Here’s a play that consistently fails. When they pass the ball to a wide receiver behind the line of scrimmage and he has a CB directly in front of him. Holy potatoes do I hate that play. Yet McCarthy loves the shit out of it. Once in a great while the WR will break a tackle and maybe get 5-10 yards, but it fails 90% of the time.

      • Empacador

        Well, to be fair Cheese, when they were practicing this during the season, it was against a Capers led defense. Everything on the BK menu is a winner against a Capers led defense!!

  3. Cheese

    They gained 38 yards and a touchdown on a WR sweep? Oh it was Jeff Janis, that’s too bad. We’re gonna have to axe that play since his place is on the bench. What’s that, Aaron Jones is a monster play waiting to happen? Don’t be silly, his place is on the bench too.

    • Cheese

      I remember in Rodgers early years, they called QB sneaks like once a game. Sometimes more. It was ridiculous,

  4. Nick

    If anyone out there thinks the packers win games because of the Buffoon they are sadly mistaken, they actually win in spite of his best efforts to screw things up. He maybe a good coach in other areas but game management is not one of them

  5. PF4L

    This shit is kind of serious for this time of the year, considering our teams non-participation.

    But, i like that photo above, every time i see it i think Van Pelt and McCarthy have a wager on who can have the biggest beer belly after week 17.

    And the always comical Denny’s menu in McCarthy’s hand.

    Then you have Hundley showing of his guns, contemplating what team will be giving up a #1 pick in a trade for him.

    I love this team.

  6. Kato

    If a team is reliant on trick plays to win ball games that isn’t good. This team isn’t losing games because they don’t do QB sneaks or wide receiver sweeps. They are losing games because a bad defense, or at least one that has been situationally bad, and an eroding talent base around Rodgers. They have no speed on offense, and not much physicality either. There is no identity on offense, just Rodgers.

    • PF4L

      I see it the other way Kato, i think with Rodgers the offense has an identity, it can score, and keeps getting the Packers to the playoffs, when Rodgers is healthy.

      The defense doesn’t have an identity, hasn’t for years.

  7. jeremiah

    or how about a fucking screen pass against the rush… every other team uses that to keep rushers honest. we go to it when its too late and we are down 2-3 tds, if at all….mm overthinks things. aaron jones averaged 15 a carry on 3 carries… why no 4th carry??? he missed a block?? pull Bulaga when hes healthy then, that guy can do no wrong in mikes eyes…..

  8. Ted Hawthorne

    And let’s not forget the 3 straight handoffs to Lacy, with 5 minutes to go, in
    the 2014 Meltdown. Of course Lacy got buried. Very creative, Buffoon!

    • Cheese

      Play calling at its finest. Plus he will still swear up and down that it was the right choice, despite having the best QB in the league.

    • MM²SUCK

      I remember Buffoon saying that he had to hit a “number” of running plays for the game as well. This coach (and I say that lightly) is no better than a small town H S coach who plays favorites, gives in to petty behavior and treats many players with unfairness. His game management skills are subpar for any coaching standard. The mere fact that M. Murphy has kept this Buffoon speaks volumes for Murphy’s lack of awareness as to the “football” side of his job description. McGlurpy has consistently performed poorly since 2010, whether it is repeating the same mistakes in management style, a severe lack of game time “adjustments”, next game preparation or playing to the skill sets of each individual (personally, I believe that Buffoon fails miserably at this one). The players must be beside themselves at times with his buffoonery and locker-room favoritism. Murphy should be ashamed of himself for giving this Buffoon even more time to waste A. Rodgers window of opportunity. If anything, Murphy should have fired this fucker way ahead of everyone else, and that includes Capers! Because not firing Capers qualified the Buffoon for termination years ago.

  9. Kato

    I will say one thing that has bothered me about the offense is it doesn’t seem like the offense is as unpredictable/multiple as it was. It seems like the offense from 2008-2012 was far more diverse, and you would have Rodgers hitting at least 8 different receivers a game. I don’t know if that was due to personnel or what. It seems like ever since McCarthy put an emphasis on an uptempo offense like what Chip Kelly was doing, the offense hasn’t been as explosive or diverse. I think the only reason it was successful from 2013-2014 was the physical presence of Lacy that forced teams to drop a safety in the box to respect the run.

    Idk, I guess in short I miss the days where McCarthy would utilize 7+ different personnel groupings.

  10. Empacador

    You know what I want in the next coach above all else? A guy NOT named Mike. Except for that 1 year with Ray, it has been the “Mike” show since 1992. I think a coach named “Mike” whose pedigree is specializing in offense has run its course in Green Bay.

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