Firing head coach Mike McCarthy last season and replacing him with 39-year-old Matt LaFleur seems to be the Green Bay Packers' weapon for success this season.
That could be due in part to the fact that LaFleur is an understudy to coaches like Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay, two of the game's sharpest minds when it comes to offense.
Kyle Shanahan is excels in ‘protecting’ his base offense. Builds counters that look exactly the same until they don’t, taking advantage of what defenders are coached to do. Here’s a counter off his base Wide Zone capitalizing on Breida’s cutback ability & Juszczyk’s mobility pic.twitter.com/fTrmqIzu1z
— J Moyer (@JMoyerFB) July 29, 2019
Justin Rogers of the Detroit News says each play ran by the Packers is a run-first attack, but each play call is designed to be deceiving.
LaFleur says he wants to have plays that start out looking the same but are different, while also using different personnel packages, to make it more difficult on the opposing defense.
“We want to have like plays, meaning, plays that start out looking the same, that are different,” LaFleur, a Mount Pleasant native, explained early in the offseason. “We also want to create what we call an ‘illusion of complexity,’ meaning we’re going to run the same concepts, but how many different ways can we run them? Whether it’s out of 11 personnel, 12 personnel, 13 personnel, just to make it a little more difficult for the defense.”
Deceiving plays and versatile personnel grouping isn't the only change Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia has noticed about the Packers.
Patricia says the Packers have increased their pre-snap movement, which is used to both read and confuse a defense.
“I think one of the things that teams do when they do different types of motions, different types of formations, alignments — whether it is wide alignments and they move a particular receiver or a tight end or a back — sometimes it’s to gather information at the line of scrimmage for a quarterback,” Patricia said. “Sometimes they’re trying to identify maybe different fronts, different coverage, different adjustments, from that standpoint. It gives them information.”
While they ranked in the bottom quarter of the league for pre-snap motion last year, the Packers rank in the top half this year.
“Sometimes, when they condense the formations down and they give some of that faster motion going across the ball — a lot of times with that, when it’s combined with the run game, you can wind up with maybe players not in the proper gap, wrong responsibility gaps and (they) create extra space in the run game that way, too,” Patricia said.
“Also, (they use it) to create space in the zone coverages,” Patricia continued. “Once you condense everything down, things become a little bit more difficult from that standpoint, whether it is zone drops and getting your spacing correct or also man coverage and trying to work through traffic. They do it for a lot of different reasons. I think when they mix combinations of all of it, that’s when it becomes tricky from that standpoint. You’re trying to do everything you can defensively not to get caught in a bad situation there.”
However, the statistics don't do well to support the Packers' success with their offensive scheme.
After five games, they rank 13th in points and 25th in yards per game, but they rank ninth in offensive DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average), which is used to measure play-by-play efficiency against the league average.
Patricia obviously doesn't want to expose how he plans to prepare his team for the Packer's sneaky offense. He only says that he wants his players to understand what the Packers are trying to do with their offensive plan so it doesn't affect his players' reaction times.
“Once you can get a good grasp of that with the players, then I think it slows everything down from that aspect of it,” Patricia said. “Again, one of the things (why) teams do that – with the personnel’s and the motions and the shifts, is just to keep the speed of the game at a high level. We all know that when we can get the game to slow down a little bit, everybody can play a little faster. That’s the challenge with that.”