Sunday, September 13 2009 was a great day for many of us. The football season had finally returned.
As a fan in Europe, the only way to watch the game is by the video feeds, generously provided by Americans for us unlucky people who cannot watch the game on TV. With the not so great quality feed I was watching, and ofcourse constantly chatting on MHR, I missed a lot of details from the game. Luckily as I am to be able to download the game in Tuesday, I converted it to put it on my iPod for a long trip by train that I had to make yesterday. And while I was watching the game yesterday in the train, being able to focus on the plays and playcalling, the people sitting around me noticed the occasional smile on my face as I was watching our defense take on the Bengals.. the reason: mr. Brian "Wolverine" Dawkins....
Don't get me wrong. There are a lot of reasons this defense excites me... as much as the free agent additions have been discussed (and sometimes praised), I truly think one of the major additions this season is Mike Nolan. I know game 1 might be too early to tell, but I just love his attacking style defense. I used to not bother to pay too much attention to our defense when I became a Broncos fan 2 years ago. I realized back then that I'd much rather watched the Steelers or Ravens play defense, then the Broncos. But it's starting to look like the Broncos are gaining ground. Our defense is exciting to watch and fun to watch. The attacking style defense Mike Nolan implemented is a true change from previous years. We have reasons to be excited about a defensive line that is doing a pretty good job with the personel available. An athletic linebacker core with young players and vet to combine for a solid unit, and an experienced secondary that should benefit from more pressure on the QB than in previous years.
As excited as I am about players like Champ Bailey, Wesley Woordyard, Spencer Larsen, Chris Baker, Alphonso Smith, and all the other great players/personalities that we have on defense nowadays (man I can name them all if I have to haha), I noticed one thing which in my opinion is one of the keys to the success of this Broncos defense so far. I realize it's too early to call this defense a success after game 1, but let's be honest. We havent seen this kind of a defense in the past few years.
The key: Brian Dawkins.. Weapon X.. Wolverine..
In my first fanpost, I want to take you through the game, and look at some key plays with the Wolverine in the backfield.
For those of you who have the game downloaded as well, or have NFL Rewind or something similar, follow along:
Disclaimer: as a fan for only 2 years, who has never played football, forgive me if I accidently mix up a term or player.
1st Quarter: 12:15 min left
Situation: It's 2nd &9 on the Cincinnati 13 yardline. The Bengals are in a one back set with Benson in the backfield. The Bengals have Coles wide left, and OchoCinco wide right, with 2 tight ends on the right side of the offensive line.
As Coles comes in motion from wide left, Brian Dawkins takes up the spot between the Kenny Peterson, the defensive end, and Elvis Dumervil who is the outside linebacker. As Palmer takes the snap, Dawkins takes on the left guard for the Bengals. The left tackle let's Dumervil pass, who is able to rush along the line of scrimmage, and drop Benson for no gain.
Obviously this is part of Mike Nolan's defense, and could have been done by any safety. Yet I wanted to point it out as it shows the attacking (exciting) style of our defense.
1st Quarter: 10:50 min left
Situation: It's 1st & 10 on the Bengals' 30 yard line. The Bengals are in the I formation with a tight end left of the offensive line. OchoCinco wide right, Coles wide left.
The Broncos rush their defensive linemen together with Haggan and Dumervile, but they are not able to get to Palmer before he get's to throw.
As Champ Bailey misssteps and has to let OchoCinco go, Palmer fires over the middle where OchoCinco manages to catch the ball and take a step or two before Brian Dawkins comes flying through the air to spin OchoCinco to the ground by making the open field tackle.
1st Quarter: 3:55 min left
Situation: 1st & 10 on the Broncos 18 yard line. The Bengals are in a 1 back set with a tight end right of the offensive line, and 3 wide receivers to the left of the line of scrimmage. Renaldo Hill is playing about 7 yards away from the line of scrimmage, Brian Dawkins at least 12 yards. As the Broncos rush 5, Palmer throws the screen pass to Caldwell. Renaldo Hill and D.J. Williams make the tackle, but Brian Dawkins comes running in and were I believe most safeties would have stopped, thinking the play was over already, Dawkins wants to make sure and jumps right on top of the pile.
2nd Quarter: 15:00 min left
Situation: This was the play that made me realize I wanted to write this post. It's 1st & 10 on the Broncos 34 yard line. The Bengals are in the I formation with a tight end right of the offensive line, and two wide receivers, one wide left, one wide right. As Palmer is getting ready to take the snap, Andra Davis and Brian Dawkins run to the line of scrimmage, Davis between Dumervil and McBean, Dawkins right behind Dumervil.
Davis runs right, taking up the right tackle, leaving only the tight end to block Dumervil. As the fullback moves to the left flat, the only person between Dawkins and Palmer is Cedric Benson. With a SPECTACULAR leap, Dawkins tries to jump over Benson who is trying to block Dawkins low. By the time Dawkins get's up, Palmer is on his back after being sacked by Davis with the help of Dumervil.
This play to me stands for everyting Dawkins is. His passion and willingness to do anything in order to make the play is what this defense needed for a long time, and by leading by example, his teammates will catch on to that attitude.
2nd Quarter: 10:05 min left
Situation: 1st and 10 on the Broncos 44 yard line. The Bengals are in what looks like a power formation, with 2 tight ends lined up right of the offensive line. One wide receiver lined up next to the tight ends, and one wide receiver 2 or 3 yards left of the offensive line. As on of the tight ends goes in motion to the left side of the offensiveline, Palmer hands of to Benson turns the corner on the left side of the line, with Davis being able to stop him. While both players go to the ground, Dawkins is still coming in full speed and dives on top of Benson again, to be sure he won't get up.
2nd Quarter: 8:05 min left
Situation: 1st & 10 on the Broncos 32 yardline. The Bengals show on I formation with a tight end right of the line, one wide receiver left, and a tight end moving in motion right to left. Palmer hands off to Benson who follows his blocks and gets piled up by a group of Broncos. While Benson is piled up already, you see Brian Dawkins however, trying to push him back as far as possible to keep as much field position as he can.
4th Quarter: 14:35 min left
Situation: 2nd & 8 on the Bengals 17 yard line. Palmer is in the shotgun with 4 wide receivers, 2 left and 2 right. Benson is next to Palmer in the shotgun.
The Broncos have 4 linemen. Dawkins is playign again about 12 yards from the line of scrimmage. As Palmer takes the snap, Dawkins moves at least 3 yard more away from the line of scrimmage. Palmer shuffle passes it to Benson who makes his way through a whole but meets a Dawkins who comes flying towards to halfback. Result: 3rd &2.
4th Quarter: 3:42 min left
Situation: 1st & 10 on the Bengals 23 yardline. The Bengals are look for a game winning touchdown. The Bengals line up with 2 fullbacks and a halfback, and one wide receiver on each side of the line of scrimmage.
Dawkins lines up about 5 yards of the line of scrimmage, right of the line of scrimmage between the middle linebackers and Champ Bailey. Palmer hands off to Benson, who goes left of the line of scrimmage and breaks through the hole. Even though he's far away, as soon as Dawkins sees the play develop, he takes the right angle on the runner and manages to take him down together with Renaldo Hill to prevent a touchdown.
4th Quarter: 2:00 min left
Situation: 1st & 10 on the Broncos 32 yard line. The Bengals go 4 wide, 3 on the right of the line, 1 left. Leonard is left of Palmer who is in the shotgun. Palmer takes the snap, and Leonard pretends to block, before moving up the middle where he is uncovered. Palmer dumps the ball to Leonard who is able to pick up 16 yards before Dawkins makes a flying tackle that showed a little similarity to the famous flying tackle he made against the Giants.
I realize that many of the plays mentioned here are plays that any safety should have made. However, it's been a while since we have seen such a spark of passion and intensity on the field wearing Orange and Blue. And I believe that passion and intensity will be the key to the success of the 2009 Denver Broncos on defense. Brian Dawkins was the leading tackler in the first game, with 7 tackles and 4 assists. He might be getting older, but his leadership and passion will set an example for the younger generation of defenders that are currently on the roster.
Remember that Tweet from Wesley Woordyard?
I just heard a B Dawk (Brain Dawkins) speach... Man almost had me ready to knock down a wall. you gonna do yo dog gone job? I KNO I AM
We finally have a defense to be excited about again!
Before finishing this topic, I wanted to draw on one more thing, unrelated to Dawkins, but another thing we saw during the game.
I was watching HBO's Inside the NFL this morning, and during the replay of the Broncos game, they showed an interesting camera angle after Stokley's touchdown. It was Stokley going crazy, walking in the endzone, with Brandon Marshall next to him, his arm around him. For those of you who listened to MHR Radio, the postgame show, will know what I talk about, as mr John Bena also touched upon the matter in his show. I think the way the game ended lighted a spark of enthousiasm back with Brandon Marshall. He looked a little down at the start of the game, but the game finish made him smile and happy, and I think it will carry on to this weekend when we play the Browns.
(Another angle during the game, right after Cincinatti's kick off, before the last play of the game, you see Marshall with an orange cap, having fun with Stokley and Orton).
This was the first time for me breaking down the game by not looking at the ball, but at specific players and formations, and I really enjoyed. I wanted to share my thoughts with you about it, but would ofcourse love feedback from Broncos fans who are more knowledgable than me. There is always room to improve right?
That being said: Cleveland tomorrow!! Show them what we got Orange and Blue! Go Broncos!