Orange-Tinted Glasses -- Saints vs. Broncos, 1st Half

Orange-tinted glasses is where I rewatch the game in NFL Game Rewind and chat about whatever strikes me. Generally, I'll look at turnovers and scoring plays, but it might be just something I find interesting, too. I do the best I can, though I don't have the "All-22" premium mode. I'm not a football savant, either, so much as a doofus whose learned enough to fake like I know something, so if you have a correction, let me know.

On to the re-game, as it were.

First play of the game, the Saints come out in an 11 set and line up 5 wide. Drew Brees jets a quick pass to 18 of the Saints working against 24 of the Broncos. Denied! Not what I imagine Sean Payton drawing up for his first play of the game -- to go after the infamous Champ Bailey. (Champ, he's so famous, he's infamous.)

On the same drive, 3rd and 3, the Saints are either in a 12 set or a 02 set, lined up 5 wide, with a tight end flanking left and another tight wide right. My quality is low but I feel maybe Sproles is flanking right. Broncos look to be in man with a single safety deep and another shallow. Jimmy Graham is the TE left, covered by Danny Trevathan. As I said, I don't have the All-22, so their matchup leaves the screen around when he makes his cut, but I think he runs something of an elbow about 20 yards out to the right. Trevathan breaks on the ball with perfect timing, right on his man, and knocks the pass away. Nice to see some guys who can cover an athletic TE. Watching the replay, though, the throw was too late. Graham beats Trevathan out of his cut, but by the time he gets to the ball Trevathan has time to catch up. This could have been caused by the line giving Brees difficulty in finding a throwing lane.

About 10:30 in the 1st quarter, the Saints are in 1st and 5 at the Saints 49 yard line. They come out in a 12 set, a TE on the end of each Tackle. Very much a run set. The Broncos, however, stay with 7 men in the box. A safety creeps up a tiny bit, but then retreats back before the snap. The play is indeed a run. I think I noticed the safety doing something similar earlier, too. This makes me think JDR's strategy was to play the pass, even if it meant giving up a few plays in the run game. Fortunately for us, as we know, our front 7 had a great game against the run.

Next possession, the Broncos are backed up at the 2 yard line. What follows is a Boss set of runs...

-From a 22 set in I formation, the Broncos run what I think is a trap play, and mind this is territory where I'm speaking out my butt. But Orlando Franklin stands his man up, while the interior of the line falls back slightly, trapping all the defenders on that side of the play. McGahee hits the hole off Franklin hard, blowing through the guy the right TE was blocking, and picks up 5 yards on an obvious run play. That's just execution.

- On 2nd and 5, the Broncos come out in a 12 set in a tight formation with the WRs split wide. The Broncos block strong to the right at the snap, with really a decent interior push, but the defense overpursues offensive right. McGahee sees this and bounces outside to the left. The Saints mike linebacker runs himself out of the play, leaving safety Malcom Jenkins to bring down McGahee after he picks up a first down and then some. Teams have to know by now, you have to play the Broncos disciplined because McGahee has great vision to reverse the direction of a run.

- On the next play, 1st and 10, the Broncos come out in a 12 set again, same formation as last time. Seven Saints in the box, then at the snap, again, all Broncos block strong right and get a good push. All 3 linebackers flow to that direction. This time, the Broncos left TE has an even better push than before and McGahee easily breaks it outside to the left. Saints 41 quickly comes up from the defensive backfield to make the tackle, but 7 yards of damage is already done.

- Now, 7:52 in the 1st quarter, Broncos on 2nd and 3, they line up in the same set and run formation as the last 2 plays. Again, 7 Saints in the box, 2 safeties middling deep. Copy everything I said about the last play from the snap, since the Broncos get a good push and the linebackers follow the play to the offensive right. This time, however, two Saints DBs come up early to the offensive left to set the edge and force McGahee into the middle, where he just picks up the first down. Game, set, match. The Broncos rode the same run concept for 3 plays and two first downs to get out of bad field position. Three plays is how long it took the Saints to adjust. Symptom of the disease, do you think?

6:00 in the 1st Quarter, Broncos ball on the Saints 33 yard line. The Broncos I think are in a 02 set, empty backfield, 5 wide, with a TE in the slot left and I think a TE flanking right. The Saints are in a pass rush look with 6 men on the line, with the guy on the offensive left standing up but looking like a pass rusher, the next guy over in a 3 point stance, and the guy after that standing up (the other 3 are in 3 point stances). Presnap, I paused, looked over the formation, and thought to myself, "Whose covering the TE in the left slot?" The answer? The ball is snapped, the middle guy who was upright looks at the TE, then drops into a zone. Nobody is covering the TE, Tamme, until after he catches the ball in the flat, when the two DBs who were just cleared out by the WR running down the field adjust too late to keep Tamme from leaping for a first down

On the Manning pass to McGahee that gets us to the 1 yard line, it seems almost like some sort of Draw-Screen hybrid. Like the announcers said, that was a super tight window for the throw. For the touchdown, the Broncos come out in a 23 set, with Mitch Unrein as the Fullback. Tamme is the TE left, Joel Dreessen and then Virgil Green the TEs right. Zane Beadles pulls from left guard to make the key block that gets McGahee through for a touchdown. Unrein also makes a good block further outside, while Green makes a good block, too.

On the McGahee fumble, it looked like the guy came off a Beadles block. I'm not going to advocate holding, but you can't let D-linemen get off their blocks so easily.

Saints Driving, end of 1st Quarter...

On the Saints TD from the Broncos 29 yard line to make it 7-7, the Saints are lined up I think with a 12 set in a 2 back shotgun set where I'm guessing one of the backs is a TE. If not, it was a 21 set. Anyway, Darren Sproles I think runs a wheel route and exploits the hole between Trevathan and Wesley Woodyard's zone. Woodyard might have been slightly out of position, as he can't make a tackle, and from there no one can stop Sproles from getting into the end zone. On watching the replay, I think Woodyard played his zone correctly but Trevathan let Sproles go too early, creating a larger hole. But what do I know.

14:04 in the 2nd quarter, the Broncos have 2nd and 6 on their own 40 yard line. The Broncos in an 11 set, single back shotgun, 3 wide left and a TE wide right. I have another "Whose gonna cover this guy?" moment. This time, it's the flanker on the left, which happens to be Decker. Sure enough, nobody covers Decker off the snap. A safety has to come up to cover Decker, but not before he is hit for 4 yards. It's no show stopper, but that's called taking what the defense gives you.

(If in doubt, I will just say that the Broncos are in an 11 set personnel package. Firstly, this gives the classic Manning versatility where you can run so many plays out of that set. Second, I don't think we're too big on our 4th WR, and heck we've got TEs who can catch pretty good anyways.)

This Broncos drive ends in a failed 3rd down conversion that shows how the Saints are trying to hide their presnap looks. The safety comes down just at the snap and sets the edge, forcing Hillman inside where Curtis Lofton plugs up the gap. If Manning sees the safety coming down, he probably audibles.

10:49 in the 2nd Quarter, Saints ball, 2nd and 13 at the Saints 27 yard line. The Saints line up in a 12 set I think, shotgun single back, TEs in the slot left and right, WRs right bracket the slot TE. Once again, Jimmy Graham beats Trevathan on his cut. This time, Brees is not late with the ball and hits Graham for a 1st down. Trevathan looks like he needs reps and just general NFL experience to decide whether to take inside or outside leverage. It seems like he hesitates with his hips squared to the line of scrimmage, leaving himself open to be beat either way.

9:27 in the 2nd Quarter, Saints ball, 2nd and 2 at the Broncos 47 yard line. Saints in a 22 set I think, I formation. I can't see the play as it takes place off screen, but I think Irving makes a great read off of play action to cover Courtney Roby, and his visual interference may have caused the drop.

The next play, Chris Harris makes an incredible play as WR 16 of the Saints motions across the formation to offensive right, and Harris, in Man coverage, follows. WR 16 just barely sets before the snap then runs a quick out. Meanwhile, Harris is still inside of his man at the snap and must close quickly on a quick throw to make a play on a ball to the outside. Incredible. On replay watching, Brees doesn't throw off a 3 step drop. Instead, its a somewhat quick bootleg to the right, probably again on account of his size and needing to find a throwing lane. Hate to rag on Brees, but if that ball came from a 3 step drop it might have been indefensible. Still an amazing play by Harris, however.

On the 4th and 2, Saints ball, in the play where Woodyard intercepts the ball, I believe he begins positioned in a mid-level centerfield zone, pretty much where he was at when he picked off the ball. He didn't show rush and drop back or anything. Brees should have seen him. This could again be the effect of the front 4 causing chaos at the line, as there was a mashup in front of Brees right at his launch point. I think our disruptive line helped keep Brees from seeing the field all game long, and made him late on some throws as he struggled to find passing lanes.

9:00 in the 2nd quarter, Broncos ball, 1st and 10 from the Broncos 44 yard line. The Broncos come out in another 12 set, single back with the TEs on each side just off the tackles. This time, it's a big play action that the Saints bite on hard, resulting in a huge gainer to Demaryius Thomas. Both the CB who had Thomas at the line and the Safety who was supposed to be over the top bit on the fake, leaving Thomas to make the catch uncontested. The chess match continues. Peyton Manning is winning.

6:49 in the 2nd quarter, Broncos ball, 1st and 10 from the Saints 13 yard line. The Broncos are in an 11 set, shotgun single back, TE off tackle left, WRs slot and wide left, and Eric Decker wide right. Decker runs an angle route, the DB falls down at the cut, and Decker is hit by Manning for an easy TD. Like the announcer says, Decker sells the inside slant hard, causing the DB to commit to the interior, and also possibly holding the safety off in centerfield. Decker is just a good route runner, which makes him a nice threat in the red zone.

First play of the next Broncos drive, around the 4 minute mark of the 2nd Quarter, the Broncos are in another 12 set run formation. This time, the linebackers seem to be showing pass blitz presnap. Sure enough, the Saints play pass, the WR are covered, but luckily McGahee picks up a smashing block from Thomas after taking a dumpoff, and he's able to run for a 1st down. So much interesting stuff has happened in this half from this two tightend single back formation.

In the neighborhood of 2 minutes left to go in the half, still Broncos ball. Broncos are driving on Saints territory. Manning has already hit his thumb and isn't really looking to pass the ball too much at this point. The Broncos come out in that 12 set run formation over and over. The LB on the left defensive side seems to be a tell; he cheats up to the line of scrimmage, and the Saints seem to be thinking pass. Again and again, the Saints seem to play pass. Meanwhile, "Seems, McGahee! nay he runs; he knows not seems." ("No, nor the fruitful Rivers of the eye...")

Unfortunately, we miss on a couple passes at the end of the drive and are forced to settle for a field goal.

Well, I think that about wraps it up for me right now. Took me about 3 hours to do the first half. Maybe I'll do the second half tomorrow.

Points of Orange-mphasis

* It's kind of neat that Mitch Unrein was the fullback on McGahee's touchdown. I wonder how many plays they have for him to play fullback.

* Despite the glowing reviews I read of Trevathan, I saw a really mixed performance in this first half. I'm chalking a lot of that up to experience, as he was in the right place generally, but made a bad read or didn't anticipate the cut in a TE's route correctly.

* A lot of cool stuff happened in that single back two tight end set. It was a chess match throughout the 1st half. The Saints often failed to contain our runner or cover our WR, whichever it was they needed to do.

This is a Fan-Created Comment on The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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