While the loss to the Falcons was obviously very rough, there was a lot of good to take from it. Now obviously there was a lot of bad in there as well, but I hope that the digging we do in this article can point out a few bad, and good, things that may have been glossed over or not noticed so far in the game reviews.
Now as I mentioned last week, this is purely what happened, I can't comment on what was said or what the coaches were thinking, but when you watch the game, this is what you'll see if you dig deep enough.
Running Back Use
After Knowshon Moreno's fumble he mostly sat out the 2nd and 3rd quarters, being replaced by Lance Ball, but he came back into the game in the 4th quarter and finished the game. Moreno played a total of 11 snaps, split mostly between route running, pass blocking and run the ball, Ball took 13 snaps but was much more active as a receiver. Now neither was effective in the run game, but both had key receptions that converted for a 1st down. Ball had a nice open field catch and run while Moreno made a clutch decision to get open after Manning broke the pocket.
Now my issue isn't the number of snaps these two guys took, it seemed about right, it's how they were used. Anyone who has watched the Broncos know Moreno's best feature are his shiftiness in the open field and his speed. This usually means he's best used in the screen game and outside runs, the problem is all of his runs were planned for the inside, when there was no hole, he bounced outside where he was tackled. The same goes for Ball, who is a good inside runner (as we saw last season) but he lacks any burst for breaking away on the outside. Now the issue for Ball is clear, he isn't an outside runner or pass blocker but he's being used that way, the opposite is true for Moreno, he isn't an inside runner but he's being used that way.
It may have just been the situation, but the use of our backup running backs isn't very good. You switch the snaps of Moreno and Ball and both of them would have been more effective. Let's hope this trend changes.
Player Misuse on Both Defense and Offense
I already mentioned the misuse of Moreno and Ball, but this trend extended beyond these two men. Eric Decker spent most of the game running deep out routes, and anyone who watched last season knows that's one area he isn't amazing at. Same thing for Jacob Tamme, who is at his best when running seam routes, instead he's running screens and shout out-slant routes. That's just on the offensive side of the ball.
On defense we see a similar situation. Tracy Porter, a high quality outside corner, spent almost half his snaps in the slot, where he has struggled for the past two seasons. Both Derek Wolfe and Robert Ayers were lined up against the right inside part of the line, the strongest side of the Falcons line, and were absolutely shut down. The 69 snaps between them yielded zero quarterback pressures. These two players have had success running against guards rather than tackles and centers, who they were lined up against this week.
Overall, as I said last week, the players did very well. I think this defense is a top 10 defense, we held a very high quality offense to 17 (10 of the final point count came on "automatic" points, where a team gets the ball in scoring position, not much a defense can do). This is also a good offense, I've just spent two weeks seeing players used against type, Moreno isn't a bruiser, why are they using him like it? Wolfe and Ayers aren't meant to compete against top guards, why are they being used that way? These players are being used ways that don't maximize their skill set. This is a very talented team, the real question is "can the coach staff help the talent we do have be used effectively?"
Outside Run Blocking
Early in the game the Broncos came into the situation with the plan to run the no-huddle and go deep in the passing game. Tight end Jacob Tamme saw nearly all of his 27 snaps in the 1st quarter. During this period the run game struggled behind an offensive line that struggled to get a push. But once the Broncos changed their game plan to a short pass and strong run game, things turned up for the offense. One of the biggest changes was the insertion of tight end Joel Dreessen into the game. After the first quarter Dreessen was in on nearly every play and was a huge reason for the success of the outside run game. On run downs that were planned behind Dreessen averaged 4.1 yards per carry, compare that to 3.7 yards per carry on all other runs, that's considerable.
Dreessen is a good tight end because he can do it all, run and pass block as well as catch the ball, but what set him apart from Tamme this week was that run blocking which helped McGahee have a monster game.
Von Miller's Preparation
Everyone knows Von Miller is a physical beast who has had so much success, even so early in his career. That trend continued this week despite constantly drawing double coverage from a tight end/running back and tackle on nearly every play. But what set Miller apart this week was his ability to read Matt Ryan. Of Miller's 27 pass rushing attempts, on 20 of them he beat the snap count, meaning he started moving towards the quarterback before the lineman were able to react. I was in awe, I have NEVER, in my entire life, seen a pass rusher have such an understanding of the offenses snap count. Miller was just mind blowing.
Now this ability comes from watching a lot of snaps in very slow motion over and over again, this came through hours of film watching. Now has always been a hard worker, but in every game I've watched of Miller, he was never prepared for a team. Now I hope this work continues because it could put Miller in a class alone. We all knew Miller was good against the Falcons, but I wanted to make sure I shed some light on what made Miller so good this week.