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Anatomy of a First Play 56 Yard Reception

Earl Thomas was beat, but how many safeties in the NFL could have defended Greg Jennings? The damage started behind the line, where Aaron Rodgers waited for Jennings to win a foot race.
Earl Thomas was beat, but how many safeties in the NFL could have defended Greg Jennings? The damage started behind the line, where Aaron Rodgers waited for Jennings to win a foot race.

A lot of my fears for this defense were distilled into the very first play by the Packers offense.

1-10-GB 29 (13:27) 12-A.Rodgers pass deep middle to 85-G.Jennings to SEA 15 for 56 yards (29-E.Thomas).WATCH HIGHLIGHT

Here's how this goes down:

Green Bay starts in a run of the mill formation: Wide receiver (left), tight end (left), wide receiver (right) and back in "I" formation.

Seattle is in a 4-3 over with Aaron Curry playing up towards the line and "over" the tight end.

Red Bryant is playing the primary pass rush position: right defensive end.

Colin Cole is playing nose.

Craig Terrill is playing the three tech.

Chris Clemons is the "Leo" or weakside or, in this case, left defensive end.

Prior to the snap, tight end Jermichael Finley motions from left to right. This is where the entire play breaks down.

Curry and the linebackers move into a neutral stance.

[Snap]

Finley single blocks Chris Clemons. Green Bay now has five offensive linemen to block three pass rushers, and those pass rushers are Bryant, Cole and Terrill.

Aaron Rodgers motions play action and then rolls to his right.

Greg Jennings runs from the right up and into a very-deep post pattern. He runs past Marcus Trufant. Rodgers just needs to wait for him to outrun Earl Thomas, and Greg Jennings can outrun Earl Thomas and does.

It looks like Seattle is in cover three. Trufant covers the deep right and picks up the left receiver running a cross. Kelly Jennings breaks from the deep left towards Greg Jennings but only after Greg is burning up the middle. With more experience, Thomas could get better depth and better anticipate the deep pass, but inevitably, the player with the best sense of where the ball is going, the best speed and the longest arms is going to make the catch, and that's Greg Jennings. We can expect better out of the secondary, but even a 75% success rate would be damaging. Giving a offense as much time as they need to complete a pass is a recipe for failure.

The Seahawks must be able to create pressure and not allow Rodgers and Jennings time to play catch. Seattle can not hope to field a good defense if a team can neutralize its primary pass rusher with a tight end. After pointing out how effortlessly the Titans responded to Chris Clemons and the Leo package, it was my worst nightmare in action watching him swallowed up by Jermichael Finley.