Rodgers Play Action Progression leads to long Jordy Nelson Sting Route TD

The first quarter of Week 5’s Thursday Night game featured a 66-yard Aaron Rodgers Touchdown to Jordy Nelson. Rodgers put on a QB clinic on this play with an excellent Play Action fake, going through his progression, looking off a safety, and then throwing an accurate deep bomb to Jordy Nelson on a Sting Route. Green Bay only needed a 2-man route to score a Touchdown. Here is the pre-snap look with the routes: Green Bay is running a Play Action pass faking Outside Zone to the left. Randall Cobb, (#18) at the bottom of the screen is inside releasing and running a deep “Post-Dig” route at 15 yards. Finally, Jordy Nelson, (#87) the Wide Receiver at the top is inside releasing, stemming to the corner, and then running a Deep Post (called a Sting Route):

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Minnesota is in a base 4-3 Cover 2 look, with both Safeties responsible for one “Deep-Half” of the field, and each of the Cornerbacks and linebackers taking an underneath zone for five defenders across underneath:

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The Offensive Line sells Outside Zone left very well, and Rodgers starts the play with an excellent Play-Action fake, drawing the eyes of the Safety that would be immediately affected:

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Next, Rodgers goes through his progression and uses his eyes to affect defenders. Rodgers looks at his first read and checks both Wide Receiver Jordy Nelson and Safety Harrison Smith, who is in good position with a 10-yard cushion. Meanwhile, the Safety originally affected by the Play Action has flipped his hips to go back to his coverage responsibility

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Rodgers then goes to his next read, the 2nd Safety. Here is where the play design works to perfection. The Play Action and Randall Cobb’s Post-Dig route has drawn the attention of the 2nd Safety. Even though the Cornerback is in good position to play the route, the 2nd Safety comes up to play the route because he does not feel his Deep-Half is threatened. In this freeze frame, it is not, because Jordy Nelson is stemming toward the corner. Vikings Safety Harrison Smith (#22) commits to this stem and breaks on the routeSlide5

GIve credit to the Packers’ Offensive Line; this is a long developing play, and without them Rodgers would not be able to go through his progression in a clean pocket for this much time. Rodgers sees the 2nd Safety breaking towards Randall Cobb, but knows Jordy Nelson is going to break back to the Post. Rodgers baits the 2nd Safety into believing he wants to throw the ball to Cobb, which creates a giant void behind the 2nd Safety

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In addition to the great Offensive Line play, Packers WR Jordy Nelson (#87) sets up Vikings Safety Harrison Smith with a great route. At this point, 1/2 of the field is completely vacant, and Nelson has beat the safety. The video below puts together the progression of the play, first in slow motion, then standard speed:

The Sting Route combined with the Dig can be used as a 1 safety or 2 safety beater. Against Cover 1 or 3, the offense reads the single high safety. If the single high safety stays deep, the dig underneath is the throw, and if the safety bites up, the Sting route is the throw.

However, against Cover 2 either the Quarterback must control the backside safety with play action and his eyes, or the dig route must occupy him to create a 1 on 1 matchup with the safety defending the Sting route.

Many factors go into this Touchdown. Aaron Rodgers shows why he is one of the very best Quarterbacks in the game, the Offensive Line protects him for ample time, and Nelson runs a great sting route. Other NFL Analysts breaking down the Sting Route (#8).

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