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Packers call on 'bread and butter' play at two key moments

Two of the biggest plays in Super Bowl XLV were examples of the 2010 Green Bay Packers executing their "bread and butter" play: The vertical seam pass.

The "seam" is a term generally used to describe the area along the hash marks -- not straight up the middle of the field, nor on the sideline, but in between. It is the area where tight ends and slot receivers make their living, where hard-hitting safeties get fined, and where the Packers make huge chunks of yardage.

Every team runs the seam route and many offenses have great connections -- Peyton Manning-to-Dallas Clark, Tom Brady-to-Wes Welker, Philip Rivers-to-Antonio Gates -- but no one runs it better than Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings.

In the Super Bowl, the Steelers were ready for it and utilized several different strategies to take it away. But on two particular cases, despite outstanding coverage by Pittsburgh, Green Bay's precision won.

Jennings has tremendous quickness, outstanding hands, and a fearless approach to the game. The seam is a timing-and-rhythm pass that utilizes all of these attributes. His rapport with Rodgers makes him especially dangerous.

On this first-and-10 play, Jennings motioned from right to left, making him the inside receiver in a trips formation. When Jennings is in that position, the defense must be alert for the seam.

The Steelers played "quarters" coverage, with safeties Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark responsible for the deep middle of the field. Linebacker James Farrior was an underneath zone defender.

The beauty of the seam route is that it attacks the area between those defenders. Polamalu, Clark and Farrior were collectively responsible for shrinking the seam area, tightening the passing window for Rodgers, and making it unpleasant for Jennings to catch the ball.

Farrior "re-routed" Jennings slightly, giving him a shove to the outside. Clark understood his responsibility in the defense. Because Ike Taylor was locked in one-on-one coveage on the single receiver side with tight end Andrew Quarless, Clark could cheat to the trips side. He read Rodgers and drifted in that direction. Polamalu then delivered a big hit.

The three players collectively did a good job. The passing window was small and the collision after the catch was big, but the pass was thrown too hard and in too perfect a location.

Touchdown, Packers.

It's possible to make an argument that this was the biggest play of the Super Bowl. The Packers led by three points with six minutes left. Because of this play, they were able to eat four more minutes off the clock and add three more points to their lead.

Green Bay again aligned Jennings on the inside of trips. This time, the Steelers played man-to-man coverage, with two deep safeties over the top. Taylor was matched on Jennings.

Taylor couldn't have played Jennings' seam any better. He undercut the route, staying in a trail position on Jennings' back hip, and turned at the correct moment to locate the throw (he even got a fingertip on the ball).

With Taylor guarding Jennings so closely, the throw needed air -- but not too much air, with the safeties lurking deep.

The fact that Rodgers was able to put enough loft on the throw to get it over Taylor, while simultaneously putting enough velocity on it that the safeties couldn't make a play and Taylor's finger didn't break up the pass, is a feat of quarterbacking brilliance -- the kind that's tough to deliver any time, let alone at a critical moment in the Super Bowl.

Jennings caught the ball comfortably, in stride, with a few steps to spare before Polamalu delivered an upending hit.

First down, Packers.

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Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore (12) makes a deep catch as Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker Kyzir White (44) trails on the play during an NFL football game , Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif.

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