GB Play Study: First Five Plays

We open the playbook and come out attacking Pittsburgh's modern-day 'Steel Curtain' defense. Eric Huber draws up the plays and provides some video evidence.

Welcome to the fourth Super Bowl installment of Packers Play Study. Once again, the idea is to get the uneducated, average and even highly knowledgeable fans thinking about formations, audibles and the reasons why certain plays are called. This time, though, there is a twist.

Instead of breaking down one particular play, I'm scribbling the first five plays I would call against the so-called "Steel Curtain" if I were Packers coach Mike McCarthy.

There's no blueprint labeled McCarthy's Playbook being sent to my inbox, and spy cameras aren't exactly my cup of tea. However, I have studied some video evidence and have paired it with my football common sense to come up with the top five plays I like in the Packers' offensive arsenal.

Let's draw them up.

Single-back halfback dive

If you missed the explanation of this play, please refer back to the previous "Buckle That Chinstrap" breakdown. The bottom line is that it is imperative that the Packers show right away that they're not afraid to play a little smash-mouth football. Plus, after watching the tape of the last game, and knowing that the tight end motion is usually an indication of a called pass play, the Steelers' safeties will be inclined to take a few steps back at the snap.

Shotgun four-receiver play-action

I'm a big fan of the way McCarthy utilizes play-action.

The split end on the left outside runs a fade toward the sideline, hoping to draw the free safety (Ryan Clark). The left slot receiver runs a short in route just behind the linebackers. The right slot receiver runs a straight fly, with the intention of pulling the safety (Troy Polamalu) away from the targeted part of the field (right middle). The flanker will run the post to the inside, catching it on the break and between the left inside linebacker (James Farrior) and strong safety (Polamalu) with room to run before the free safety (Clark) comes up to help tackle him from the deep left.

The beauty of this play is that it allows quarterback Aaron Rodgers to make one quick read to the outside flanker after the play-fake. The linebackers will cheat up, and the safety will take the slot receiver over the top on the fly route. Overall, it'll be a tight window, but if placed properly, the receiver will get a chance for some good run-after-the-catch yardage.

Big Five

The two hot targets here are the two receivers on the right side of the formation, who are running the inside slant and short post. The far flanker is coming off the line right away in a slant pattern, while the receiver directly to the left is running a short post and finding the open zone behind the linebackers in the middle of the field.

The left outside receiver runs the fake in and then comes back out to the sideline, just in case none of Rodgers' first couple of reads are open. He'll be the final destination too if Rodgers rolls to his left.

The beauty of this play design is that both safeties will hopefully be drawn to the sidelines with post routes being run by the inside receivers. And if they don't, then Rodgers will be able to find the appropriate single man coverage to throw over the top of.

When they used this play against the Jets, Greg Jennings broke free for some big yardage after the catch.

Four-receiver fake dig

This can be a slow developing play, but it is effective with proper protection. The general idea behind it is to draw the safety to the dig route, which should open up the deep wheel being run by the slot receiver.

In the example provided below, it's Greg Jennings as the inside slot receiver and Driver lining up on the outside. This play ends with a big 46-yard catch by Jennings along the right sideline that ultimately set up the game-winning touchdown against the Bears to close the season.

Play 5—Shotgun inside draw

The inside draw is a staple in McCarthy's playbook because of the formation and its deception. It only works to perfection, though, if both guards accelerate off the line and turn the linebackers toward the sidelines. What'll make it even more effective is if the right outside linebacker doesn't blitz and is held up just enough by the slot receiver.

Even if this play doesn't gain much yardage, it'll keep the Steelers' defense guessing every time it sees this formation and will set up play-action passes when the Packers' offense needs them the most.

Thanks for reading!

Feel free to send your favorite McCarthy plays to the e-mail attached below.

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Eric Huber is a contributing writer for E-mail him at

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