Packers on Offense – The Fade to Finley
At 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, running anywhere from 4.6- to 4.8-second clockings in the 40-yard dash from the Scouting Combine to his Pro Day and grading out as a fourth-round pick pre-draft, Texas' Jermichael Finley was taking a chance by declaring early for the pros.
He could have waited until his college experience caught up with his incredible physical gifts, but family concerns took precedence, as they often do. After only two collegiate seasons on the field, Finley was taken in the third round by the Packers, who certainly would have seen him as a good fit in the hybrid spread formations they run more than most teams.
Finley's rookie year was a challenge. He was the third tight end behind Donald Lee and Tory Humphrey and caught only six passes for 74 yards and one touchdown. However, it was that one touchdown in the finale against the Lions that showed Finley's potential.
At the snap, Finley took a fake step inside, only to explode outside. Detroit cornerback Daniel Bullocks was beaten right there (if you want to know why the Lions are so bad, start with their pass defense – yikes …), as Finley hit a fade route to the right side of the end zone. Aaron Rodgers threw as pretty a pass as you'll ever see; he displayed perfect touch and timing on his throw, and Finley ran the route cleanly.
The assist goes to Lee, who ran a slant inside that cleared cornerback Travis Fisher off the side and to the middle. The Lions were easy pickings for a simple combo like this, and the principals worked it to perfection.
Packers on Defense – Johnson's Slant to Paydirt
The Lions had second-and-13 at the Green Bay 14-yard line with 10:32 left in the third quarter. Johnson was side right, with cornerback Tramon Williams playing just off. Quarterback Dan Orlovsky was lined up shotgun, with running back Kevin Smith to his right and tight end Casey FitzSimmons off right tackle.
At the snap, Johnson came inside just a bit, which backed Williams off to a 5-yard coverage. Johnson saw an opening and ran a tall slant inside. FitzSimmons headed upfield, gaining the attention of Williams, and ran past A.J. Hawk and Brandon Chillar (who Smith went outside to engage). Nick Collins was ready for Johnson over the middle — or so he thought. Johnson slipped Collins' tackle, then Hawk's attempted takedown, then Charlie Peprah's kamikaze shoulder-tackle. (Is it just me, or do those never work?) That made the score 14-all, and Johnson was the star.
In the end, the Lions were who we thought they were. Still, you have to believe that anyone facing Johnson must be haunted by the prospect of what this guy could do on a real NFL team. He showed a lot of it against the Packers in the finale.
Doug Farrar writes for FootballOutsiders.com. He is also a panelist for The Washington Post and a contributor to The Seattle Times.
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