Woodson creates problems for Vikings

Returning Packers defender can force QB into making risky hot reads

With defensive back Charles Woodson returning from injury, the Packers will have opportunities to pressure Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder on Saturday night in their NFC wild-card game. Think of zone blitz schemes that force the young quarterback to throw hot and unload the ball in third-and-7 and longer situations.

As shown here, the Vikings have their Posse personnel (three wide receivers, one tight end, one running back) on the field in a Doubles alignment. The Packers counter with their 3-2-6 Dime package (six defensive backs) running double A gap zone pressure. The idea is to rush five, drop six and challenge the hot reads from Ponder.

Flip the game plan

On Sunday, Ponder threw for 234 yards and three touchdowns against Packers coverage looks in the Vikings' 37-34 victory. Working with a comfortable pocket, Ponder had time for routes to develop and that put stress on the secondary. Now that Woodson is back in the mix, Packers coordinator Dom Capers can lean on his blitz packages, show some exotic looks at the line of scrimmage and attack Ponder with pressure in passing situations.

The blitz

The Packers want to create confusion in the Vikings' protection count by stemming to the blitz look. Woodson (D) shows from an off-man position over tight end Kyle Rudolph (Y) and hits the closed (strong) side A gap with Mike backer Brad Jones (M) blitzing the open (weak) side A gap. This gives the Packers two inside rushers plus an overload look to the closed side of the formation with Clay Matthews (S) and the right defensive end (RE) getting up the field. To the open side, Will backer Erik Walden (W) drops into coverage and the left defensive end (LE) scoops to an outside contain technique to keep Ponder in the pocket.

The coverage

The defense is showing Ponder a two-deep look (2-Man or Cover-2) before the snap and rolling the coverage to create a three-deep, three-under zone. Free safety M.D. Jennings works off the top of the numbers to the deep middle of the field and both cornerbacks play an outside fire zone 1/3 technique (match to No. 1). Underneath, Morgan Burnett (SS) and the nickel back (N) are responsible for the seam-flat technique (match to No. 2) with Walden dropping to the middle hook (match to No.3).

Take away hot reads

The Packers want Ponder to throw hot (blitz read). That's the goal behind sending zone pressure. Burnett drives downhill on the stick route from Rudolph to the closed side with both the nickel back and left corner (Tramon Williams) playing the two slant routes to the open side. With Sam Shields (RC) matching to the 9 (fade) route versus Michael Jenkins (Z), the Packers can challenge the underneath three-step concepts, make a tackle and get off the field™Sending pressure at Ponder is the right call from my perspective, but to get to those crucial third-down situations the Packers must limit the NFL's top running back. Watching the tape from last week, this defense struggled in their run fits, took poor angles and didn't finish tackles versus Adrian Peterson. That has to improve if the Packers want to create blitz opportunities and dictate the flow of the game.

Twitter @MattBowen41

Special contributor Matt Bowen, who played at Glenbard West and Iowa, spent seven seasons in the NFL as a strong safety. You also can find his work at nationalfootballpost.com.

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