DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 18: Linebacker Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos sacks quarterback Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the fourth quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 18, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Last week we looked at key "drive killers" on the Broncos 11 offensive drives. But that game was a loss where the offense's inconsistency led to a lot of points left behind. This week, after a win in which the Denver defense forced a 4 and out on Cincinnati's final drive of the week, it seems only appropriate that we break down Dennis Allen's defensive calls on that final drive.
Welcome to Pressure Points, a video review of that final drive, focusing on how the Broncos brought pressure. You will find the video below the fold, along with some analysis of key points and concepts from the drive.
Keys and Concepts
- Dalton is pretty good for a rookie: The first thing that jumps out to me after looking at that drive in its entirety, is that Dalton consistently read the defense properly, and ran one heck of a 2-minute drill. He started with no timeouts and the two-minute warning, and he didn't have trouble getting lined up or getting into the play once during the drive, even down in the shadow of the goalposts, with Denver fans shaking the stadium. Not only did Dalton appear to correctly identify 90%+ of the coverage Denver was using, but he consistently found the proper target in pressure situations. Kudos to the ginger, and thank goodness we pulled out the win. I enjoy watching young longshots develop in this league, but when they do it at the expense of the Broncos, it always makes it a bittersweet pill. This week was the best of both worlds.
- Internal and External Pressure: the drive can be divided into 3 areas: Coming out Offense (starting inside the 20), Pressuring Field Goal Range, and Desperate for a First Down. During the first phase, inside the 20, Denver focused on bringing pressure in a couple of different variants, in the hopes of forcing a bad decision. these were 5 and 6 men rushes, and Dalton basically lit them up, finding exactly the right option each time. Once CIN started pressuring the FG range, Denver switched up strategies, going with heavier coverage options, conservative underneath zones, basically hoping for Dalton to make a mental error reading the coverages. This tack worked more than it didn't, with Dalton solving most of the puzzles, but simply facing a dearth of options, without the physical abilities needed for the perfect bullet pass or high velocity out, and with good coverage plays from both corners and LBs. This strategy forced the issue on the final set of downs, where Denver flip flopped rapidly between coverage and pressure schemes, upping the intensity and grabbing a couple of key plays.
- A one and a two and a...: learning what works is a huge part of the game of football. The 2 play series where Denver got the sack to force 3rd and long, was the same two defensive pressure calls that Denver used to open up the drive, and were thrown in after Denver had stiffened up with pure coverage calls in the midfield area. That first and second down set of calls was easily the pivotal calls on the drive, ending the chance at a FG and forcing 3rd and 4th and long, two highly favorable situations for the defense.
- Wherefore art thou, Von?: So those two key plays I just mentioned? Guess who wasn't in for them... Von was looking positively gassed as the Bengals crossed midfield, and next thing you know, Bruton is subbing in for him, not as a 3rd safety, but as a rush OLB. In a move that was part opportunistic adjustment and part Von Miller needing to catch his breath, the Broncos managed to pull off two of the biggest defensive plays of the game without the best (active) defensive player on the team. I noted at the end of last week that Von was being pulled late, presumably for rest reps. Though everydown SLBs are expected to be in, well, for every down, it will be worth noting this adjustment as the year goes on. Mile high adjustment, coupled with the fact that Von is essentially playing a DE role the majority of the game (where substitutions for rest are common and beneficial) are both good excuses for him getting rest reps. But it is still worth pointing out that these two plays were critical plays for all the marbles...and he wasn't out there. Hopefully that changes as the season matures.