Packers among best at making defenses pay for 'free plays'
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) A defensive penalty is called just before the quarterback snaps the ball.
And the official allows play to go on without a stoppage.
Lately, no team in the NFL has been better at making defenses pay for so-called ''free plays.''
''Practiced it a lot. It's in our training,'' receiver Randall Cobb said. ''If we can get free plays, we'll make something happen out of it.''
More often than not, that means a deep pass or touchdown against a harried secondary.
Kansas City was well aware of Rodgers' propensity to take advantage of free plays.
''We just have to know that if we make a penalty or jump offside, we just have to be aware that they're going to go deep ... and take advantage of our mishaps,'' Chiefs safety Eric Berry said before Monday night's game against Green Bay.
And the Chiefs defense still struggled during a 38-28 loss on Monday night.
In the previous week, Rodgers took advantage of an offside penalty on Seattle's Michael Bennett to find Jones for a 29-yard touchdown.
The beauty of the free play for an offense is that it will rarely have any negative consequences.
In the same series against Seattle, Rodgers called for a snap as the Seahawks were trying to switch personnel on third-and-1. An incompletion was overturned into a first down after coach Mike McCarthy successfully challenged that Seattle had too many players on the field.
''Substitution patterns are something that we pay attention to when we're in game-planning,'' McCarthy said. ''I'm sure that's how the opponents view it too.''
Some other notes and details on the mechanics of free plays:
GO DEEP: The Packers aren't unique in taking advantage of free play situations. In his playing days, John Elway used to heave passes deep for the Denver Broncos when a play continued following a defensive flag.
Current Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has a signal that he'll call out when a defender jumps offside. Receivers will usually see the flag or the jump and go into their ''go route'' for the free play. If they don't see either for any reason, receivers will hear Manning call it out and break off their route.
''You're taught that in football if they jump offside, you throw it up and try to get a couple extra yards,'' Broncos receiver Cody Latimer said.
Cobb summed it up more succinctly when it came to a receiver's responsibility.
''Get open,'' he said, ''just get open.''
PROTECTION: A quarterback needs time for his receivers to get open when a free play materializes in order to get optimal results. That means an offensive line must hold up, especially given that in some cases they might be protecting against a penalized defender with a head start to the quarterback.
''The key starts up front,'' Rodgers said after the Chiefs game.
''I think Aaron is the best in the business at that, and you've got to applaud Corey, too,'' Barclay said. ''But we have to take advantage of it.''
THE RODGERS EFFECT: With Rodgers at the helm, the Packers often do.
In his 11th year in the league, Rodgers is in his prime. He has seen almost every everything in his career. He mixes up cadences and snap counts to try to slow down pass rushes and draw offside penalties.
''I look over there and if I see a couple big bodies rolling off the field, I know they've got to go two-for-two. So, that's something we talked about - making them sprint off the field if they want to sub,'' Rodgers said.
To McCarthy, it's all about Rodgers' ability to process information quickly and pick up cues obvious and subtle. It's up to Rodgers to take advantage of a defense on the next free play.
''The free play is unique,'' McCarthy said. ''Really (Rodgers') ability to do that and the way it's practiced, it has become really a part of our offense.''
AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton in Denver contributed to this story.
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