In consecutive weeks now, Rodgers has thrown a deep..ish ball in a 3rd down and 1-2 yard situation. Both times it’s worked (and both times I suspected he’d audible to this play). The reason this play works is that usually on short yardage plays like these, 9.5-10 defenders play the run leaving our WR with mostly single coverage. (Sometimes the safety rolls over a bit, but he often only half-commits in case of a run play.) Rodgers knows any of our WRs can pretty much take any DB in one-on-one coverage so in each instance he’s elected to go with the far higher percentage short yardage play. It may seems odd that the percentage would be higher doing this, but it actually makes sense if you think about it. Aaron Rodgers’ completion percentage this year is 65% – but his completion percentage specifically to WRs in single coverage has to be even higher. Meanwhile, our percentage of 1st down conversions by running in short yardage situations, has to be below 50%. (Actually, just verified that our 3rd and 1 combined with our 4th and 1 conversion percentage this year is 48% – and I’ll bet if you take out the successful pass play conversions, that percentage drops quite a bit more.)
In fact, thinking further on this, because McCarthy essentially admitted in a recent press conference that he struggles from time to time with short yardage playcalling, I’d like to offer a recommendation for the next short yardage play:
- Go with 2 WRS split very wide – both of whom have the assignment of running a deep sideline route. Then, bring in one TE on the line, five O-Linemen, Rodgers, and then the RB and the FB in the “I” formation. There could be an audible option for Rodgers to have the TE go out for a short route (or better yet, go on a deeper seam route depending on coverage). The beauty of a play like this is that the safeties in particular would have serious decisions to make. Usually on short yardage plays, they like to cheat up and play the run. But if there are two guys split wide and Rodgers has been known to throw in short yardage situations, suddenly, they wouldn’t know where they should focus their attention. All of this would also serve to unclog the running lanes should Rodgers opt to call a run play or even a sneak. Rodgers could assess all of this once at the line. If the safeties fall back into coverage, handing it off, a sneak or dumping it to the TE (or even the FB) on a short out route might work best. If the safeties don’t respect the pass option enough, Rodgers could throw either of the sideline route or a seam route to the TE.
Try it Mike. Seriously.