Something has caught my attention for the last several weeks. It is the amount of big passing plays downfield that our offense has netted. Like clockwork it seems like we can count on at least one or two pass plays of 30-40 yards plus and another measure of 20+ pass plays. It is interesting to note (even though these categories are completely arbitrary) that Peyton Manning is leading the league in these plays on the season with 55 of them (tied with Joe Flacco). Next closest is Andrew Luck ironically enough with 54. But I digress, the point is, the Broncos passing game and their shots downfield have been very successful in 2012.
When reviewing many of these big plays in past games this season, I noticed a pretty strong trend: Most of them are in shotgun off the play action fake. Do you remember all those draws Manning has checked to from this look throughout the season? Even when the play has been stuffed or blown up, it has had an overall positive effect. Let's take a look at the film.
Demaryius Thomas is lined up at the bottom of the screen, Stokley and Decker in the slot, and Tamme on the left of Clady. I diagrammed the routes ran by the receivers in this play. DT has a post, Decker a comeback, Tamme comes to the left flat, the back takes the fake and clears to the right flat. Stokes runs a deep crossing pattern over the middle.
DT's man is playing outside leverage knowing he has safety help over the top, it appears to me that this safety is in zone rather than a more traditional Cover 2 look, just based on the spacing and reaction I see--I could be wrong. Back to leverage, this means that he lines up to the outside of DT's left shoulder and is going to use the boundary to help him cover that space. Decker's man as the same help and is showing bump and run.
Here we have the fake and it is effective because the safety on DT's side of the field has his eyes in the backfield. He doesn't seem too concerned about DT but considering the fact that there is a huge open space vacant right behind him, he should be.
We see that illustrated here as DT's man has protected the boundary and the safety has yet to react to DT splitting in the middle.
The ball is out and DT has about a 5-yard cushion above and below him.
Manning puts the ball a little high to get it over the safety and to ensure DT has a clean shot at it. Works beautifully.
Bad safety play here, but nonetheless, the play fake served it's purpose. It helped create more space for DT even though he was being bracketed in coverage.
Defense: Cover 2 man under
First let's clear something up. If you are confused about what "Cover 2" means, it is just a term that explains the coverage shell. It indicates the responsibilities of the DB's in the play. It means that the safeties take a half of the field. In the play above there was a mix of coverages underneath (zone/man). In this play however, the underneath coverage is entirely man.
This time Decker is up top, Tamme is lined up off Franklin, and Stokely/DT are at the bottom of the screen. The back takes the fake and stays in to block. The 3 WR's all run verticals, and Tamme runs a crossing route. Verticals against this coverage makes the safeties choose which man to hang on to.
In the snip below, the safety locks on to DT, but he already has his man beaten by a stride and is too fast for the safety to cover ground.
Manning places a great ball over the top for yet another big play.
As far as other things I've noticed on these plays:
- About 90% of the time they go to DT. Whether this is an indication of Manning's trust in his big WR, or because of design, I'll let you decide. I will say that the ball he threw to DT when he was bracketed shows a lot of trust.
- There is some level of communication in the form of hand gestures between Manning and his receivers presnap. I could see Manning checking into the 3 verticals with his receivers after seeing cover 2. Stokely might have been the better option here strategically because he was essentially left man to man, but DT had has man beat so bad that Manning didn't think twice about getting him the ball. Very excited that DT seems to be dominating competition.
- Manning throws to spots, and his awareness of the minute details inform him on the best spots to throw to. Again the level of anticipation and accuracy are what makes these plays work. A lot of QB's wouldn't make these throws because they couldn't.
- I have seen these plays called on first down and 2nd and manageable situations. Anywhere from 2nd and 4-7 yards to go.
As we continue to progress throughout the season, I want you guys to keep a look out for this!
Before I wrap things up, there are a few other plays that I wanted to take a look at. One is an extension of the play fake I've covered, and another was just so damn beautiful, I wanted to include it here;)
For this next one, I can't remember which member, but they posted a fantastic analysis of this in the Horse Tracks earlier in the week. If you're out there, I'm not trying to steal your thunder at all bro---you did some great work and I hope we see some more stuff like that from you in the future. I'm dissecting it here in case folks didn't notice, and also to illustrate a point.
Call this the playaction screen;)
v. San Diego
I kid I kid....so definitely some changes made by Manning to his receiving corps presnap. The Broncos have run this play so much this year that teams have adapted to it and have shut it down more or less in previous weeks. It is the quick WR screen out in the flat---the same one DT took to the house against Pittsburgh earlier in the year.
Here though, they fake it to Decker. Stokes next to him runs a wheel route outside of the coverage.
What really sells it though is the pump fake. It causes Stokes' man to peel off and pursue it, and causes both the safety and off corner to step up.
Here we see them pushing up field. Stokes splits them easily and is wide open for the TD.
The things that the Broncos passing offense do, it isn't rocket science. As Topher covered in the offseason, all of those route concepts are in play here. When defenses adapt to them, Manning and co. add a new wrinkle. This is chess not checkers, and one of the sharpest minds in the game can take a weakness and flip it around. Remember Sun Tzu? Know thy enemy and know thyself... We see this advice in motion here.
Finally let's look at a play from this last week. The green indicates the leverage DT's man up top indicates inside leverage meaning he'll stay on the numbers and protect the area toward the hashmarks. This tells me that he knows there is no safety help. I mean they have Berry playing deep centerfield with a LB and the other safety essentially in zone.
Decker's man is showing outside leverage--if need be the safety on his side of the field can help him out. We get a four man rush with the other defenders locked in on the players I highlight.
Looks like man on the outside with zone underneath/in the middle. This might have been an in game adjustment by the Chiefs as they had been gashed over the middle with crossing patters when they were in man coverage.
We have is pretty tight coverage on DT. He doesn't have but maybe a half step on his man. But remember when I said Manning throws to spots? He places the ball beautifully over the outside shoulder for a spectacular pitch and catch, TD!
There you have it Broncos country, hope you enjoyed this week's film study! I'm going to work on another one for Saturday that takes a look at some key individual matchups between the Bucs and Broncos.
Until then, if you have any questions and/or comments, fire away---let's get some good discussion going, cheers!