Observations: CIN vs DEN (20-17)

Here are some of my observations I saw throughout the game:

  1. Levels and Spacing out of “Dice” (2×2 formation with one TE and three WRs) and quick game concepts out of Empty sets were great concepts to use in the 2nd half of the game.
    • This was perhaps the biggest adjustment made by the Broncos from the first half to the second half and it worked when executed.
    • At first glance, I think the 2×2 sets worked well for two reasons:
      1. The Seam by the TE (Y) in those kind of passing concepts seperated the two safeties in Cover 2 one of which was a backup to a good but injured George Iloka. Brock found Owen Daniels late in the fourth quarter on that seam ball and delivered a strike to him for a key play.
      2. 2×2 sets are unique in that the defense will usually play their base defense to it. This allows the QB to get a stable defensive look which will give him an idea on where the defenders will be. From what I have seen, the Bengals were mainly in their 4-3 Over Front with 6 in the core and their Will walked out. This allowed Brock to see a familiar picture and it showed when he made quicker decisions with the football.
    • I also think the Broncos are seeing that the offense is doing a good job executing quick game concepts out of Empty. This allows Brock to get a man to man picture and pick his target or read the safeties, understand the defensive checks the defense will have out of empty sets, and then throw to the hole in the zone. When the Broncos have gotten one on one coverage, the WR’s have won but Brock has overthrown every one to date. That is something he will have to work on.
  2. The Broncos also took advantage of some soft corners with a “smoke” call early in the game and some screen calls later.
    • Early in the game, the Cincinnati corners were playing soft vs some looks and the Broncos took advantage of that in the passing game. Brock hit one presnap read in particular on an early down when PacMan Jones was lined 7 yards off the receiver and Brock hit the quick dump to DT for small yards. After seeing this, the coaching staff found ways to get his players the ball off of screens to Daniels, Norwood, and Thomas out of every set and DT broke a screen for a long gain late in the game.
    • This has been a Broncos staple for the past three to four years, no reason to quit now.
  3. The Broncos defense had trouble in man to man coverage tonight.
    • The Broncos decided to keep an eighth man in the box vs the run for most of the game today and trust their perimeter defenders to defend Green and Sanu on isolation routes. Sometimes it worked, most of the time it didn’t, and sometimes, they receiver didn’t haul in the catch. Whatever it may be, teams that have WR talent are going to pose problems for the Broncos if they don’t give those corners safety help.
    • It also didn’t help them much that the Bengals offense decided to incorporate slide and max protections to account for the Broncos edge rushers. Had the Broncos edge rushers been able to get to the QB, this problem may have been mitigated a little bit.
    • This is a problem they are going to have to explore. Are their corners good enough to get the job done, or are they going to have to take a defender out of the box so that they can give their corners some help.
  4. When the Broncos still fit really well vs the run, even when they get outnumbered off the snap.
    • The Bengals did what they always do and ran some power, counter, G-Lead, and pin and pull schemes to get extra hats to the play side. They even ran speed option to get the ball to the dead side and take one of the Broncos edge rushers out of the game. They were executing well early in the game, finding the perimeter on multiple occasions which led to some key first downs and an increase in time of possession.
    • The Broncos had trouble stopping it in the first half but came up with some big plays in the second half to mitigate some of the damage. The play by Brandon Marshall to come through the trash on a toss crack with two pullers in front of the runner ready to get him to daylight was probably the biggest defensive play of the game besides the fumble recovery by Demarcus Ware at the end of the game.
    • One thing I will say about this defense is that they play so cohesively. It is unlike anything that I have ever seen at this level. Everyone fits their gaps at the right time and everyone does their job. Stunts are called at the right time and guys are getting free because of it. It doesn’t come with some bumps in the road, but Wade has done a great job creating a system that adjusts to the personnel he is working with and it has shown the whole season.
  5. CJ Anderson is an integral key to the running game. 
    • When he carries the ball, there are things that can happen that could not happen with any other runner out there. Running plays that are busted can still break for big gains as long as you got that guy carrying the rock for you.
    • He ain’t a Marshawn Lynch by any stretch of the imagination. But, he can still create some space for you and I think its important that he keeps getting fed the football in the weeks to come. Right now, you don’t have an OL that functions very well in the running game as a unit and if you have a RB that can create some big plays and make the first guy miss, your running game can still be effective enough to set up some play pass.
    • This will also help in the case of the four minute offense which the Broncos were executing well late in the fourth quarter until CJ fumbled the football and gave the ball back to Cincy. If it is late in the game and you need to run out the clock to win, a RB like CJ can close it out for you even though he wasn’t successful tonight when he needed to be.
    • Ball security is paramount***
  6. Broncos coaching staff has shown they will adjust the gameplan when needed, which is a given because they are coaching at the NFL level.
    • I don’t think people know how much coaches work during the season just coming up with adjustments to the team they are playing against.
    • The Broncos coaching staff decided to install a two back pure zone running game this week to get an extra hat in the run game. Juwan Thompson however, was not the guy for that role as he was blown backwards on one inside zone and then seemingly missed his assignment on one early in the game.
    • The Broncos also adjusted slightly by pressuring McCarron late in the game with some timed blitzes and stunts with three deep behind them. Man coverage still ruled the day for the most part.
  7. The coaching staff as a unit has clearly given control of adjustments to the players which is unique of its kind in the NFL landscape.
    • Brock Osweiler is allowed to check out of certain looks if he sees something that will conduce it. He was able to check to an outside zone to the TE against an Under Front, an outside zone away from the TE vs an Over Front, and he even canned to a pass play vs a look I couldn’t identify very well.
    • On defense, it is easy to tell it works the same over there as well. Whenever the Bengals motioned or shifted to another formation, the defensive players were in control of changing their alignment. Von Miller even corrected one of the members of the secondary on a particular shift to Empty that the Bengals used.
    • You normally see one side of the ball on a team have it like that but with the Broncos, it seems like it is a team philosophy that the players are given the keys to the car so to speak and it pays off when it pays off.
  8. Broncos OL still has a multitude of problems. 
    • I admittedly need to watch some more film to see if I can confirm it. From what I saw:
      • Schofield let a defender inside pretty bad on one pass protection
      • Broncos OL did not execute when Brock checked to some run concepts in favor of numbers and leverage vs a specific defensive front.
      • Broncos OL were saved by some good bounces by CJ Anderson.

What are some of your observations? Feel free to comment below.

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I am a former film coordinator for a FCS school. Currently serving in the Navy. I was glad to be around the game of football and had the chance to learn from a lot of great people. I wouldn't be where I am without the gracious support of my family, coaches, assistants, players, and friends. I also greatly appreciate you guys who take the time to read my stuff and show genuine appreciation. It means a ton! You guys are awesome! Twitter Handle: @FBDubs