Just! Do! Your! Job! (No Holes)

    Two of the more repeated quotes from Josh McDaniels came from the Week 4 game versus the Dallas Cowboys.  McDaniels had been wearing a microphone during that game and the following two quotes were noted:

To QB Kyle Orton: "I'm not talking about my bad anymore.  Just make the play!
Right after that, to the entire offensive unit: "Get in here!  When we quit (bleeped) around and just do our job and quit worrying about everybody else's job and doing your own thing.  That's what's killing us right now!  Do! Your! Job! and quit making (bleeped) up.  We haven't seen what we can do because it doesn't even look like a football team out there.  Let's Go!

    Those two quotes came to epitomize McDaniels' attitude throughout the season.  In our first installment of this series, we looked at the truism of keeping your eyes on the ball.  In the second, the focus was the importance of pocket awareness.  This week, we're going to turn our attention to the defensive side of the ball with No More Holes!

    It is a regularly espoused tenet of football that the game is won and lost in the trenches.  When going back to watch the first game against the Raiders.  What leapt out at me was the great job that the Broncos' defensive unit did in closing the gaps.  Below is a list, and thumbnail description of some outstanding plays in which the Broncos shut down running and passing lanes.  Most of these plays took place in the "A Gap" (that space between the center and the guard in either side).  A few took place in the "B Gap" (that space between a guard and tackle).

FIRST QUARTER

15:00: Oakland's ball, 1st & 10 at the Oakland 20.
This was a running play designed to go through the A Gap.  A moment after the snap, the center and guard opened a clear hole in the line.  Andra Davis was able to quickly step into that hole and tackle the RB, holding him to a 1 yard gain.

14:29: Oakland's ball, 2nd & 9 at the Oakland 21.
This was a passing play.  Again, a small hole appeared in the middle of the line, allowing Wesley Woodyard to burst into the back and pressure the QB.

13:45: Oakland's ball, 3rd & 13 at the Oakland 17.
This was another passing play, being run out of the shotgun.  A gap opened in the line, most likely to provide Russell with a passing lane.  Robert Ayers filled that gap and pressured Russell into a bad throw.

5:11: Oakland's ball, 1st & 10 at the Oakland 1.
A passing play in which Mario Haggan and Ryan McBean were able to control the A Gaps and pressure Russell's throw.

2:07: Oakland's ball, 1st and 10 at the Oakland 20.
On this running play, D J Williams and Andra Davis plugged the gaps in the middle of the line, forcing the play to the outside.  On the very next play, the defenders were pushed away from the A Gap and the Oakland running back burst through the line for a 15 yard gain.

SECOND QUARTER

9:07: Oakland's ball, 1st & 10 at the Denver 36.
On this running play, 5 different Broncos including Marcus Thomas filled all of the gaps along the line of scrimmage.  The play was strung out along the line for no gain.  On the following play, the same group accomplished the same thing, but this time also stripped the ball from the RB.  Although Oakland recovered the fumble, they lost 6 yards on the play.

1:03: Oakland's ball, 1st & 10 on the Oakland 16.
Robert Ayers was able to exploit a gap in the offensive line to pressure the QB.

0:04: Oakland's ball, 2nd & 10 on the Oakland 27.
The Raiders attempted a running play through the A Gap.  Vonnie Holliday not only controlled the gap, but was able to get into the backfield and tackle the RB for a loss.

THIRD QUARTER

9:42: Oakland's ball, 2nd & 6 on the Oakland 43.
The Broncos front 5 held the line and allowed no gaps on this running back.  The RB was tackled for no gain.

FOURTH QUARTER

10:52: Oakland's ball, 1st & 10 at Oakland 11.
The Oakland running back thought his line had opened a gap for him, only to find it filled by D J Williams who stopped him for a gain of 1.

10:24: Oakland's ball, 2nd & 9 at Oakland 12.
On this running play, Vonnie Holliday was the first person into the gap and hit the RB in the backfield.  Although the RB broke Holliday's tackle, he was stopped by 2 other Broncos after a 2 yard gain.

9:56: Oakland's ball, 3rd & 7 at Oakland 14.
Russell dropped to pass, but Dumervil shot the gap and sacked the QB.

    In this game, Oakland had a combined 47 rushing and passing plays.  Denver filled the gaps on 25.5% (12) of them.  Overall, Denver a good job in this game of winning the battle at the line of scrimmage.  The Broncos were able to repeatedly close down and/or exploit the gaps.  It is interesting to note that most of the pressure came in the first three quarters as Denver built up a 10 point lead.  It is also interesting to note (as in the play referenced above) when Denver failed to control the gaps, Oakland was successful in their running attack.
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