Week 9 recap: Broncos dominate on defense

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B-b-b-bird bird bird, b-b-bird is the word....

Crow to be exact, as in Cam Newton ate it all game long. After shooting his mouth off in the offseason about how he would destroy the Broncos, quite the opposite happened. Von Miller and company took him out to the woodshed for some discipline. I put these numbers in my last post, but let me include them here again:

- 8 three and outs (14 drives)

- Perfect on 3rd downs (Panthers 0-12) (Panthers had a total of -12 yards on 3rd downs)

- 52 yards rushing on 21 plays (2.5 yards per carry)

- 250 yards total on 64 plays (3.9 yards per play)

- 2 forced fumbles, 2 INT's (including a pick 6)

- 1 safety

- 7 sacks by 6 different players (Big Vick had two, Chris Harris, Von Miller, Mike Adams, Robert Ayers, Elvis Dumervil, and Tony Carter each had 1).

- Through the air, Cam Newton averaged just 4.6 yards per throw, and was 1-5, 8 yards, 0TD, 1INT, 5 sacks, 2 rushes, 0 yards on 3rd down.

- The Broncos D notched me 26 fantasy football points, oh yeah!

Superman sure showed up and it was Von Miller, not Cam who deserves to call himself that. Von was used all over the place. Early on, he was used primarily as a spy----he notched his only sack of the day when he stepped up and out rushed a hesitant Cam Newton from that exact responsibility. The amazing thing about Von's effort is that all 6 of his tackles went for 0 or negative yards. On the season, here are his numbers:

10 sacks, 16 QB hits, 21 Tackles for loss. In comparison with J.J. Watt who has also had a fantastic year, he has .5 sacks less, 6 QB hits less, and 3 more tackles for loss. I saw a tweet yesterday that Von has 30 QB pressures and that no other 4-3 OLB has double digits. Absolutely amazing the year he's having. Add to that his effectiveness in the run game and this my friends should be your DPOY.

Jack Del Rio has called some great games for the last month. This defense is fun to watch and what's more it is giving us the ability to defer until the 2nd half. Think about it, it gives us the opportunity to score before half and right out of the gate in the 3rd Q. When you can trust your defense to be dominant, this is the result. Also, it may have been due to injury, but seeing guys like Tony Carter and Ayers step up to make impact plays leaves me feeling a lot easier when someone goes down. Honestly, the only guy I think we couldn't afford to lose for an extended period is Von Miller.

On 3rd downs, the Broncos used a variety of 3 man rushes with a spy, zone blitzes, fronts that meandered, safety and corner blitzes and the kitchen sink. You name it, they threw it at Cam. What was great to see was that we actually got pressure on the 3-man rushes. In those looks, they used Elvis on the left side against the RT, and Wolfe in the middle. On the backside, they stayed mostly in man playing some with zone. Cam held on to the ball too long because, well, our guys had blanket coverage. On the pick 6, Tony Carter was some 10 yards behind in zone when he broke on the ball---I had not realized how fast that guy is until after reviewing that play.

The only thing that was disappointing defensively was the fact that another TE ate up our guys in the middle. I haven't looked extensively to see what went wrong here so I won't offer an opinion on who is responsible for it. I will say with DJ Williams coming back we should have another option to cover these guys in those situations.

I really want to highlight the play of Kevin Vickerson. Big Vick notched 2 sacks Sunday and continues to be a menacing force in pass rushing situations. Hell, he's been a solid player against the run as well as he's graded out in the green here.

Coming into the season, or even looking back at last year the D-line was viewed as a weakness on our team. Well not anymore. We have a ton of functional depth here that can step up when a guy goes down. At end Ayers came in and played a great game for Doom. Don't forget that he rotates inside on passing downs from time to time and has gotten most of his sacks from the inside. Mitch Unrein is another unsung hero that has played well and has given his teammates more opportunities to make an impact in the stat column. Lots of flexibility here and Del Rio has used them beautifully.

Now, Sunday's game wasn't all good. There are some things that bothered me, and here they are in no particular order:

- Offense shot themselves in the foot with turnovers.

- McGahee continues to fumble the ball in the open field---it is a habit and problem now.

- Decker dropping a wide open pass on a beautiful double move. I actually think Manning screwed up here by hanging the ball a bit---but it hit Decker in the hands, have to catch it.

- Manning, Von, Thomas all going down with minor injuries but all of which looked they could be much worse. Please don't slide Peyton we need you. Also this is the 2nd week in a row Thomas has hurt his knee, the week before he landed on it pretty hard.

- Prater putting too much English on his missed kick---thing sliced worse than my drive off the tee.

- Defense getting sucked in on screen play too much---they had been fantastic at diagnosing them quickly in weeks past.

- Orlando Franklin allowing the DE to come unblocked for a clean hit on Manning

- Trindon Holliday throwing the ball out of the endzone---glad the replacements were back out there and didn't notice it;)

- John Fox making another questionable game management decision. So, on replay it looked like the spot was bad---should have challenged. If you do, it is 4th and inches and you go for it picking up the first and giving yourself another opportunity at the TD. Way too conservative here for my taste.

Peyton Manning very quietly had another fantastic outing. He once again eclipsed the 300-yard mark for the 6th time this season, and completed over 70% of his passes for the 6th straight game and 7th time overall this season. Just amazing how accurate he is.

Late in the game Demaryius Thomas beat his man on a go-route for a 46-yard reception. So far that makes receptions of 71, 40, 43, 41, 45, 46 to go along with a plethora of 20 and 30 yard catches. Very glad to see such a great talent excelling this year.

Where does our team stack up this year? Ranking wise, here we are both on offense and defense:

2012

Yards/G

Rank

Passing/G

Rank

Rushing/G

Rank

Points/G

Rank

Offense

395.1

4th

292.9

3rd

98.8

24th

30.1

2nd

Defense

316.8

5th

218.4

11th

98.3

10th

21.0

10th

We now have a top 5 offense in yards and points and a top 10 defense in yards and points. That holds true the rest of the season and we'll be looking at a 1st round bye come January. The running game since NO has sputtered, but I'm not too concerned. Manning and co. use it enough and consistently early on and throughout that it starts to open up passing lanes in the middle and playaction over the top---really that should be its role with a QB like Manning.

A Quick Look

For two plays Sunday, the Broncos rolled out Trindon Holliday in the backfield. Now, why the Texans let this guy go is beyond me. Whatever fumbling issues he might have had---those are coachable, speed is not. And a guy that can run a 10-flat 100meter dash is a threat to score everytime. We have a weapon now that can score in the third phase and contribute the same threat to offense. For this look, the Broncos are in 11 personnel with Decker up top, the TE off RT and Thomas/Stokley at the bottom. Holliday is in the backfield to the left of Peyton who's in shotgun. Simple flat route that goes for 15-yards.

H1_medium

H2_medium

H3_medium

H4_medium

Interesting to see what wrinkles might come of this in subsequent weeks. Use him in the screen game and get him into space, points await.

I am proud of the way our guys have gone into enemy territory the last couple of weeks to bring back W's. San Diego awaits and an opportunity to lock things up comes with it. A win would mean a 3-game lead, a sweep (essentially add another game to the lead), perfect in the division and sittin' pretty with 6 games to play.

That's all for now MHR, check back for my film study later on this week, gonna showcase the dominant play of our defense on Sunday. GO BRONCOS!!!

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