I mentioned the fact that the Broncos used a wide variety of personnel and looks against Cam Newton to confuse and abuse him. What I saw looking at the film was nothing short of a masterpiece by Jack Del Rio and his defense. He was the puppeteer and the guys on the field danced a beautiful dance. I'll attempt to give you a detailed description of personnel, and as always I will describe their roles on each play. We're going to begin with looking at all 7 of the Broncos sacks.
3rd and 4, Panthers 43
Personnel: LDE Doom, NT Unrein, RDE Wolfe, LB: Von, WW, Trevathan DB: Champ, Carter, Harris, Moore, Adams
Lots of movement from the LB's presnap. Von shifts to his right. Eventually he will drop back and spy Cam. Trevathan blitzes as the 4th rusher. The three lineman rush as well and on the backside, the DB's play man coverage with Rahim Moore playing deep.
At this point, the rush is in-effective, but the coverage is so good on the back-end that Cam can't find anyone to throw to despite the time. He steps up to the left in the pocket and as soon as he does, Von Miller---who's been spying, rushes him and takes him down.
Von Miller: Superman
3rd and 4, Panthers 26
Personnel: LDE Doom, NT Bannen, RDE Vickerson, LB: Von, WW, Trevathan DB: Champ, Carter, Harris, Adams, Moore
On the frontside, the Broncos really only rush 2---Doom and Bannen. Vick steps back as a spy on the right side in case Cam scrambles that way. Von steps back middle and spies Cam there. On the Backside they are in man and Mike Adams floats to Tony Carter's (top of screen) side of the field as help over the top. Woodyard picks up the back from the flat, and Trevathan stays with Olsen underneath.
At this point, Doom makes a beautiful spin move to beat the RT.
Doom reaches out and gets swats the ball out of Cam's arm just as he is about to throw. Seeing this, Big Vick breaks from his spy assignment and rushes toward the action.
Cam gets the ball back. I cannot overstate the fact that this was essentially a TWO MAN rush. The play design was to trust the secondary and contain Cam on the run.
3rd and 2, Panthers 31
Defense: Nickel, variation (you'll see this on 3rd and short where the run needs to be defensed---the difference here is that Bannen is one of the DT, and Brooking is one of the LB)
Personnel: LDE Von, DT Vickerson, DT Bannen RDE Ayers, LB: WW, Brooking DB: Champ, Carter, Harris, Adams, Moore
The Panthers are in 12 personnel and motion Greg Olsen to the left for a trips look (the 2nd TE is nothing more than an extra lineman). The middle receiver (Smith I think) on the LOS is going to run a go----Rahim Moore stays with him (he has Carter over the top for help). The outside receiver is going to run a short curl at the sticks. Olsen is going to run a drag to the outside. Champ stays with Olsen to the sideline, in the middle the Broncos secondary, the Woodyard and Carter/Harris play a short umbrella zone to protect the boundary, Brooking is keyed on the back. On the front side, a standard 4 man rush with Bannen playing set-up man for Big Vick. He pushes his man up the field and to the right and allows Vick to split the blockers in the middle on a stunt. Beautiful design and execution---the Panthers had max protect (7), the Broncos rushed 4 (Brooking only stepped up when he realized the back wasn't getting the ball or coming out of the backfield) and still got there.
2nd and 10, Panthers 22
Personnel: LDE Wolfe, DT Ayers, RDE Vickerson, LB: Von, WW, Brooking DB: Champ, Carter, Harris, Adams, Moore
Now this is a little funky as the Broncos bring a Corner Blitz from Harris. I could be wrong in my classification of 3-3-5----I called it that because scheme wise Von drops back as a spy---he isn't playing the role of a DE rusher on this play. Just one way to disguise a look to a young QB. Woodyard drops back from his LB spot to safety territory, and Brooking crashes the line. The Panthers are running a screen the whole way (fake right screen left), But that fake means that Cam can't see Harris coming from his left. Harris dives at Cam's feet and misses! It makes Cam stumble out of a pivot and he rushes to his left. Big Vick who correctly diagnoses the screen from the snap is in position to chase Cam down. Horsecollar but good effort big man!
3rd and 10, Panthers 35
Personnel: LDE Von, DT Malik Jackson, Wolfe, RDE Ayers, LB: WW, Trevathan DB: Champ, Carter, Harris, Adams, Moore
Another great call, Panthers are in 11 personnel, shotgun. The Broncos are going to drop Ayers into coverage, stunt Jackson and Wolfe, and bring both Chris Harris and WW (delayed) on Von's side. On the back side, they are in zone on the left side of the field and man down at the bottom. Harris stumbles but makes Cam step up right into Wolfe who won his matchup.Harris recovers quickly and takes Cam down.
2nd and 7, Panthers 14
Personnel: LDE Wolfe, NT Bannen, RDE Ayers, LB: Von, WW, Brooking DB: Champ, Carter, Harris, Adams, Moore
Pretty cut and dry here. The Panthers are in 11 personnel (the TE is lined in backfield). The Broncos rush their 3 linemen, along with Brooking and Woodyard. Von drops back in the middle as a spy for either Cam or the back, and the secondary plays man coverage with a single safety over the top on Champs' side of the field (playing press). Ayers shows some great strength and beats his man on his way to Cam.
3rd and 19, Panthers 2
Defense: Dime (3-2-6)
Personnel: LDE Wolfe, DT Jackson, RDE Ayers, LB: Von, WW, DB: Champ, Carter, Harris, Adams, Moore, Leonard
Different look this time. 2-deep safety (Moore, Leonard) with Champ, Harris, Carter in WAY off man haha. Von and WW are the linebackers, Von rushes along with the linemen and Woodyard though he shows a rush backs off into zone along with Ayers in the short middle portion of the field. JDR also brings Mike Adams as a fourth rusher. Cam has 3.5 seconds before Adams gets to him and no one is open. Enter Von with the "safety gyration" Mike Adams is "superman here".
Tackle for Loss 1
3rd and 2, Panthers 29
Defense: Nickel (variation)
Personnel: LDE Von, DT Wolfe, Vickerson, RDE Ayers, LB: WW, Brooking DB: Champ, Carter, Harris, Adams, Moore
Carolina screws up and tries to put Greg Olsen on Von Miller. Beats him and puts a hard lick on Cam Newton. The sound that was made was intense---Cam is feeling this one no doubt.
Tackle for Loss 2
1st and 10, Panthers 2
Defense/Personnel: same as above
Again Von beats Olsen and is in the backfield before Cam even hands the ball off. Beastmode, nuff' said.
1st and 10, Panthers 34
Defense: Base (variation)
Personnel: LDE Von, DT Wolfe, Vickerson, RDE Ayers, LB: WW, Brooking,Irving DB: Champ, Carter, Harris, Moore
Weird defense with only one corner and Carter more or less filling the safety role, but Carolina is in 21 personnel in "I formation". Cam is going to play fake to his left and bootleg right. Problem is, they chip Von with LaFell and attempt to block him with a TE. Von surges straight up field and makes Cam switch directions. Cam is running for his life and sees a wide open (at least he thinks) Lafell open on the sideline. Von dives for Cam's ankles and connects. As he falls to the ground, Cam tosses it up for LaFell. But Tony Carter was playing zone about 10-12 yards off and Cam never sees him. Carter reads the play perfectly, jumps the ball and flies to the endzone for a TD!
Wrapping it up
Kudos to JDR for dialing up a ton of interesting looks to give Cam Newton. Von was a monster but a ton of people contributed. Bottom line, all 11 defenders worked together to execute the plan and they did a masterful job. I really hope you guys enjoyed this breakdown---if you have any questions or comments please fire away, GO BRONCOS!!!