Playoff Observations: NE vs DEN (20-18)

Great game. Here are some of my observations from the playoff win over New England:

  1. The Broncos DL dominated the LOS.
    • The Broncos front 7 were tasked with the important mission of getting hats on Brady and they were successful 20+ times last game despite Brady’s usually quick release.
    • Normally teams run a 6 man protection in their standard passing concepts. This keeps the RB in a Check pattern where he has to identify if there is a blitz coming and then release into his route. Problem is, when the Pats have to rely on passing the ball as much as Brady does to win his team the game, there are going to have to be some times where he has to get all of his receivers out on routes. This means he has to work with 5 man protections, also known as “Scat”. These are nice for when you want to throw your quick game but, when the secondary is covering their receivers and you leave the Bronco edge rushers one-on-one against the lack of talent at T, you are going to create a lot of opportunities for the Broncos to get to the QB. The Broncos did and they even paired up some of their edge rushers in 6 man protections to get to the QB just as fast.
    • In addition, this pressure visibly affected Brady’s vision, clock, and playmaking ability throughout the course of the game. Brady wasn’t identifying his alert throws until it came to clear fourth down, last chance opportunities and he couldn’t ever get into a rhythm passing the football.
  2. Broncos ran the ball a lot out of bunch early in the game but never capitalized on the running concept that they were setting up.
    • In their first 12 plays, the Broncos must have run the ball out of bunch what seemed like 9 times as a response to the NE Jam front.
    • They ran away from it, they tried to get misdirection out of it, and they even tried to crack the TE down on one of the E’s to see if it could open things up but it never did until the Broncos caved in to two back formations at midfield where CJ Anderson broke off a 30 yard run out of Power, something you never see out of a Kubiak offense.
    • The play that is an absolute home run hitter out of bunch vs the Jam front is the pin and pull toss. Simply put, the pin and pull toss allows for the T to jam down on the DL forcing them away from the play and then it gets two pullers to the perimeter to take care of the Rover and the Sam which leaves the RB on the secondary. I was waiting for them to run it through the course of the game but they never got around to it instead working on trying to get the Pats into their nickel defense. Kubiak and his crew may have seen something to the contrary though, I don’t have the coaches film to see if that was the case yet.
  3. NE’s Defense accomplished their objective today.
    • Coming into the game, they made it a priority to stop Denver’s running game and force Peyton to throw the ball downfield which is exactly what happened with the exception of one explosive run in the fourth quarter. In addition, the NE coaching staff compensated for their lack of LB depth by using the Jam front. This kept their middle linebacker clean and allowed him to roam around and make the tackle on the RB when all other defenders failed to get off their blocks. And when the defenders did get off their blocks, they were able to tackle the runners for a loss of yards. Credit is due where credit is due.
    • Their secondary also fared very well on the back end keeping tight coverage on the Bronco receivers.Whenever the Broncos O needed a big play, it was a tight contest to get the football as Emmanuel Sanders came up with two good catches one for ¬†first down and one explosive over the top of his defender. They also covered the perimeter in the running game very well allowing minimal yards on the edge.
  4. Broncos OL, albeit allowed a couple blitzes inside to get to the QB, played very well for the rest of the game.
    • I have to give it up to the big guys up front, they have done a heck of a job when they needed to get things done the past couple of games. There were no individual breakdowns in pass protection from the OL besides a couple of number mismatches inside on delayed blitzes both of which came from the Mike.
    • If the Broncos were in 6 man protection like I think they were, the RB has to wrap around the QB and clean up the A gap blitzer by either taking him on full blunt or cutting him down. Ronnie Hillman was the such culprit of missed blocks and with his size, I don’t see why he just doesn’t cut these guys down. Regardless, this is probably an issue that is going to have to get fixed by the time the Superbowl comes around.
  5. The Broncos safeties fly down to hit guys.
    • On the other side of the ball, the Broncos defense vouged to limit Brady in the passing game and prevent him from hitting his short throws. When he did do that, the safeties were already gaining momentum towards the receiver and making them pay for going there.
    • It may be just me, but these guys remind me of an old-school Atwater and Smith in their physicality. They may hit like those guys used to, because it is illegal, but they bring a thumpers mentality to the game which is something I hope continues while they are both here.

Final Conclusion:

These guys are built to win the big game. That defense can break just about any offense you put in front of it. They play very sound in the run, the pass rush comes from everywhere, and you got great cover guys back there disrupting the best passing attack in the NFL. They even showed that when the offense plays absolutely anemic, they thrive in situations where they have their back against the wall and the game is on the line.

Guys, the Broncos have a good chance to win it all in a couple of weeks. They’re playing against a great team on both sides of the ball. All they have to do is play their game the way they want to play it and it is in their hands.

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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