2013 NFL Playoffs Film Study: Broncos v. Ravens, Part 1

USA TODAY Sports

Hello Broncos Country! This installment of "Film Study" is going to be a two-parter. In "Part 1" I'm going to look at the how the Broncos attacked the Ravens defense and how the Ravens defended our offense.

Having gone back and studied the first meeting between these teams, a few things became apparent. The Broncos were quick to adapt their gameplan in game, they were able to force the Ravens defense into some favorable matchups through the use of formation and personnel grouping, they were more physical than the Ravens at the point of attack.

The Ravens for their part at least on defense kept things pretty simple. They kept a safety close to the box in rushing situations, played a lot of cover 2 in obvious passing situations and situations in which the distance favored their approach, and off of those looks, they masked coverages such as Cover 1/3 showing Cover 2 the moment the ball was snapped. They didn't blitz much and when they did they only brought one extra defender---they never sold out. They set the edge reasonably well and didn't permit anything big on the perimeter in the run game. In essence, the Ravens approach the first time around was to bend but don't break.

Ravens Defense v. Broncos Offense

If you're new to the team or the terminology, no worries here's a crash course. When I refer to personnel groupings such as 11, 12, 21 etc both numbers tell us specifically how many backs and TE's are in the formation respectively. From there you can deduce how many receivers there are since all three numbers should add up to 5. For example when I say "11 personnel" there is 1 RB, 1 TE, and 3 WR. If I say "12 personnel" there is 1 RB, 2 TE, and 2 WR.

With coverages, and it's still an area I'm improving at identifying, I am giving you the coverage shells over the top. Cover 4 (or quarters) means that both corners and safeties have deep responsibility for 1/4th of the field. Cover 3 is a single high safety with both corners taking a 1/3rd of the field deep. Cover two is two safties responsible for half the field deep (can also play man coverage underneath as in Cover 2 man). Cover one is essentially man coverage across the board with a single safety over the top. At this point there's also a variation on Cover 2 called "robber" and here's a brief description:

Cover 2 robber is a form of invert cover 2, with the OLBs/outside safeties being the curl-flat players and the corners playing a deep half like safeties would be in traditional cover 2. The FS is the "robber", in which the coverage is named after. He will serve as the 9th defender in the run game or be a pass defender, depending on his run/pass read. The FS will read the #2 receiver to the "passing strength", if he goes vertical then he will run with him and play a man technique. If #2 runs to the flat, he will then look to "rob" any inside breaking route from #1 such as a curl or dig. If #2 runs an inside breaking route such as a shallow, the FS's eyes will look for a crosser from the other side or look to help with #1.

These are all looks I saw from the Ravens the first time around. When the Broncos rolled out their 11 personnel and played shotgun, I saw a lot of cover 2. Having two safeties over the top should keep big plays from happening. It worked early on. The Broncos played a lot of dink and dunk underneath and some good tackling and recognition kept big yards after the catch from happening. The Broncos also started off very pass happy. In their first two drives, they passed the ball 10/13 times. They also were in Shotgun 9/13 times. Even given the Broncos tendency to run quick screens or draws from the pass oriented attack, they were looking to attack from the start. In fact here's the evidence:

Drives 1/2, 1st half

Down

Personnel

Coverage

Result

1-10

11, "I" trips right (Dreessen, Moreno)

Cover 2

Incomplete deep middle (Thomas)

2-10

11, "I" split left (Dreessen, Moreno)

N/A

-1 yd run

3-11

11, Shotgun split right (Tamme, Moreno)

Cover 3

6 yd completion short right (Moreno)

4-5

Punt

---

---

Down

Personnel

Coverage

Result

1-10

11, Shotgun, split left/right (Dreessen, Moreno)

Cover 2

5 yd completion short left (Decker)

2-5

11, Shotgun, trips right (Dreessen, Hillman)

N/A

6 yd run

1-10

11, "I" split left (Dreessen, Hillman)

Cover 3

9 yd completion short left (Decker)

2-1

11, "I" split left (Dreessen, Hillman)

N/A

2 yd run

1-10

11, Shotgun empty trips left (Dreessen, Moreno)

? (Missed opportunity)

Incomplete deep right (Thomas)

2-10

11, Shotgun split left (Dreessen, Moreno)

Cover 2

Incomplete deep right (Thomas drop)

3-10

11, Shotgun split right (Tamme, Moreno)

Cover 2

14 yd completion short left (Stokley)

1-15

11, Shotgun split right (Dreessen, Moreno)

Cover 2

8 yd completion short left (Dreessen)

2-7

11, Shotgun split right (Dreessen, Moreno)

Cover 1

1 yd completion short right (Thomas)

3-6

11, Shotgun trips left (Tamme, Moreno)

Cover 2

5 yd completion short middle (Thomas)

4-1

Prater 27 yd FG good

---

---

The Broncos started off very aggressively opting to take a shot to Demaryius Thomas off of playaction deep down the field. A few things stand out. In the first drive a few unsuccessful plays on both 1st and 2nd down made the Broncos face a 3rd and long which is always iffy at best. Next, Fox opted to kick the FG deep in Ravens territory on 4th and 1. The thinking is to take the points on the road but I hated the decision then and I still hate it now. Here's a look at drives 3 and 4 with a film look at both "missed opportunities":

Down

Personnel

Coverage

Result

1-10

12, "I" wing right (Green, Dreessen)

N/A

6 yd run (Moreno)

2-4

12, "I" wing right (Green, Dreessen)

N/A

3 yd run (Moreno)

3-1

11, Shotgun empty trips right (Dreessen, Moreno)

Cover 1, zone underneath

(missed opportunity)

Incomplete short left (Dreessen)

4-1

Punt

---

---

One thing to note here, the Broncos decided to go "empty" on 3rd and 1 after having good success on the ground with the two TE look.

Down

Personnel

Coverage

Result

1-10

11, Shotgun (Dreessen, Moreno)

Cover 2

Incomplete short middle (Moreno)

2-10

11, Shotgun trips right (Dreessen, Moreno)

Cover 2

Incomplete short right (Stokley)

3-10

11, Shotgun trips right (Dreessen, Moreno)

Cover 1

Manning sacked 6-yd loss (McPhee)

4-16

Punt

---

---

Missed Opportunity from drive #2, 1st and 10

Zone for sure.

Obal11_medium

Decker is going to run a vertical up top. At the bottom Thomas is going to run an "in and go" double move. The safety

Obal12_medium

Notice the large amount of space in front of Decker, had the ball been thrown at this point it's a nice gain. But Manning is looking for the double move all the way.

Obal13_medium

Manning still has the ball and the safety up top has committed inside, Decker is in play for a TD. The safety on the bottom also commits inside.

Obal14_medium

Here the ball is out and Thomas has both the safety and the corner beaten badly, it should be a TD, but Manning over throws him by about 5 yards in the endzone.

Missed Opportunity from drive #3, 3rd and 1

Obal21_medium

The Broncos spread out empty in shotgun. It forces the Ravens to match man on man (though the LB's will play zone just behind the 1st down marker to protect the conversion). Both arrowed receivers are the ones to keep an eye on. There seems to be a miscommunication here as Manning throws the short flat route to the TE up top and he runs a double move down the field. A few things here----both arrowed receivers end up wide open on their routes. The safety looks toward the TE up top. Manning hits him it's a 30 yard gain. Manning hits the guy on the bottom it's a TD.

Obal22_medium

Obal23_medium

Like I said the ball is out and it seems like there was a miscommunication.

At this point the Broncos decide to take the game in a different direction.

They move from a lot of shotgun and 11 personnel into a heavy 12 look with Dreessen and Green as the TE's in a wing formation. This does a few things strategically. It forces the FS to respect the run look and make guesses as to run/pass. Shotgun in 11 personnel is most likely going to be a pass. Even when the Broncos line up in "I" formation from this set, you're going to see a defense more prone to defend the pass. In essence it moves the Ravens defense from being able to play Cover 2 almost exclusively to creating more one on one matchups on the outside with only a single deep safety. It almost limits the Broncos a bit in passing concept as Virgil Green rarely has been used in the passing game, therefore you have only Decker, Dreessen, and Thomas as receiving options to go along with a possible checkdown from the back after releasing from playaction. One thing is for certain though, the Broncos and Manning will take man coverage on Decker and Thomas any day of the week. Here is the drive flow for the remainder of the 1st half:

Down

Personnel

Coverage

Result

1-10

12, "I" wing right (Dreessen, Green)

N/A

20 yd run (Moreno)

1-10

12, "I" wing right (Dreessen, Green)

N/A

3 yd run (Moreno)

2-7

12, "I" wing right (Dreessen, Green)

Cover 2

14 yd completion deep right (Decker)

1-10

12, "I" wing left (Dreessen, Green)

N/A

9 yd run (Moreno)

2-1

12, "I" wing right (Dreessen, Green)

N/A

3 Yd run (Moreno)

1-10

12, "I" split left (Dreessen, Green)

Cover 1

Incomplete deep middle (Thomas)

2-10

12, "I" split left (Dreessen, Green)

N/A

9 yd run (Moreno)

3-1

12, "I" split left, motion (Dreessen, Green)

N/A

2 yd run (Moreno)

1-10

12, "I" wing right (Dreessen, Green)

N/A

3 yd run (Hester)

2-7

11, Shotgun trips left (Dreessen, Hester)

Zone

14 yd completion short right (Decker)

1-1

22, "offset I" (Clark, Dreessen, Unrein)

N/A

1 yd TD run (Hester)

Down

Personnel

Coverage

Result

1-10

12, "I" wing left (Dreessen, Green)

N/A

5 yd run (Moreno)

2-5

12, "I" wing right (Dreessen, Green)

Cover 1

12 yd completion short left (Decker)

1-10

12, "I" wing right (Dreessen, Green)

N/A

7 yd run (Moreno)

2-3

12, "I" wing right (Dreessen, Green)

N/A

5 yd run (Moreno)

1-10

12, "I" trips left (Dreessen, Green)

Cover 3 (disguised Cover 2) blitz

Manning sacked 11-yd loss (McClellan)

2-21

11, "I" trips right (Dreessen, Hester)

N/A

7 yd run

3-14

11, shotgun trips right (Tamme, Hester)

(Cover 2)

4 yd completion short right (Thomas)

4-10

Punt

---

---

Now, I know in the passing plays you see a lot of different things. The 2nd completion to Decker in drive #5---the Broncos were inside the Raven 20 and the defensive backfield was protecting the endzone. In almost every other run play I saw, the Ravens ended up cheating a safety in the box to protect against the run.

In these two drives, Knowshon Moreno ate the yardage up in good chunks running for 5 or more yards 7 times in 12 attempts. There's nothing really noteworthy to take a look at here as the Broncos just manned up and ran it straight between the tackles down the field.

One thing that was apparent, the Ravens were really hesitant to blitz Manning. On the two occasions that they did, they only brought one extra defender. On the two sacks they registered in this half (and the only in the game), one was a coverage sack.

Another thing to look for, Tamme is used almost exclusively on 3rd downs in obvious passing situations. He's also used in the redzone in both 11 and 12 personnel.

Moving on to the 2nd half, the Broncos continued their preference to use the 12 package with Dreessen and Green. There were 5 drives total, but the last two were just junk drives with the game in hand. I'm going to examine the first 3 drives. They yielded two TD's and a FG, with the last chewing up almost 7 minutes in the 4th quarter.

Down

Personnel

Coverage

Result

1-10

12, "I" wing left (Dreessen, Green)

N/A

4 yd run (Moreno)

2-6

12, "I" wing left (Dreessen, Green)

Cover 1

15 yd completion deep left (Decker)

1-10

12, "I" wing right (Dreessen, Green)

N/A

8 yd run (Moreno)

2-2

12, "I" wing right (Dreessen, Green)

N/A

5 yd run (Moreno)

1-10

12, "I" wing right (Dreessen, Tamme, Hester)

Cover 2 robber

51 yd TD pass deep left (Decker)

I and others have already detailed the 51-yd bomb to Decker in previous articles. If you missed it, The Broncos had victimized Cary Williams on some comeback routes----so Decker ran a double move sucking both Williams and Ed Reed in and leaving himself wide open on a go route for an easy TD. In fact let's look at the 15-yd completion as an example of just how they were set up.

Obal31_medium

The Broncos are just running a two receiver route with Moreno as a checkdown. Decker is up top, notice that Cary Williams is showing outside leverage. This is important because when he bites on the "in", he is out of position when Decker turns it back outside.

Obal33_medium

Williams is turned one way, Decker is off the other way.

Obal34_medium

Now this was not a "comeback" but it showed Manning and Decker something very important, it showed that Cary was susceptible to a double move.

Down

Personnel

Coverage

Result

1-10

12, "I" wing right (Dreessen, Green)

N/A

5 yd run (Moreno)

2-5

12, "I" balanced (Dreessen, Green)

Cover 2

28 yd completion deep middle (Dreessen)

1-6

12, "I" wing right (Dreessen, Green)

Man

Incomplete short left (Thomas)

2-6

12, "I" wing right (Dreessen, Green)

N/A

5 yd run (Moreno)

1-10

11, "I" wing right (Dreessen, Moreno)

N/A

6 yd TD run

This dive was set up by a nice return from Trindon Holliday. The play of importance here is the big completion on 2nd and 5---and I want to shot it to you to exhibit the effects that playaction has on the safety and in this case how it exploits Cover 2 over the middle.

Obal41_medium

Dreessen on the seem route is what we're looking at. The Broncos are showing a balanced look with a TE over each tackle and a WR split to each side.

Obal42_medium

The playaction moves the safety up about 5 yards and since Dreessen is running up the seam, it means that he will have poor leverage against a well placed ball.

Obal43_medium

The receiver is bracketed but Manning puts the ball precisely where it needs to be for a big gain.

Obal44_medium

Down

Personnel

Coverage

Result

1-10

12, "I" wing left (Dreessen, Green)

N/A

3 yd run (Moreno)

2-5

12, "I" wing right (Dreessen, Green)

N/A

5 yd run (Moreno)

3-2

11, "I" bunch right (Dreessen, Holliday)

N/A

3 yd run (Hillman)

1-10

12, "I" wing right (Dreessen, Green)

N/A

3 yd run (Hillman)

2-7

12, "I" wing right (Dreessen, Green)

N/A

8 yd run (Hillman)

1-10

12, "I" wing left (Dreessen, Green)

N/A

3 yd run (Hillman)

2-7

12, "I" wing right (Dreessen, Green)

N/A

5 yd run (Hillman)

3-2

12, "I" wing right (Dreessen, Green)

N/A

3 yd run (Hillman)

1-10

12, "I" wing left (Dreessen, Green)

N/A

0 yd run (Hester)

2-10

12, "I" wing left (Dreessen, Green)

N/A

2 yd run (Hester)

3-7

11, Shotgun split left (Tamme, Hester)

Cover 2 robber

13 yd completion short left (Decker)

1-10

12, "I" wing right (Dreessen, Green)

N/A

5 yd run (Hillman)

2-5

12, "I" wing right (Dreessen, Green)

N/A

-2 yd run (Hillman)

3-7

12, "I" wing right (Dreessen, Green)

N/A

-4 yd run (Hillman)

4-11

Prater FG

No screenshots here folks---all I can say is this team has shown the ability to string together time chewing drives at the end of games. 10 straight runs netted three first downs and ate up close to 5:00 minutes off the clock. The thing is, the Ravens knew it was coming and they were futile in stopping it until runs #12 and #13 of the drive.

Key Matchups for Gameday:

Offense

Peyton Manning v. Ed Reed

Reed has never tasted victory against Manning. He has also picked him off multiple times throughout his career. Manning was successful last game by setting Reed up early on in the game, and later on through the use of playaction. Bernard Pollard will also be healthy this time around so look for the Ravens to have better secondary play overall.

Orlando Franklin v. Paul Kruger

Kruger is a nice edge rusher. While Franklin is much improved this season in pass protection, he's also struggled more with speed rushers. Look for Dreessen or any TE for that matter to line up off RT to help him out.

Eric Decker v. Cary Williams

Cary did a very poor job defending Decker the last time. He was so frustrated at times that he received two personal fouls for late hits. If the Ravens are going to play a lot of cover 2, the flats and outside the numbers will be ripe for gains again.

Ravens LB's v. our TE's

The Ravens are slowing down at the LB position. I don't believe they have the lateral quickness to cover crossing patterns over the middle. In fact they played a shallow zone much of the game last time. Part of the Broncos reluctance to test the middle was due to coverages that favored working the sidelines and flats.

Wildcard

Virgil Green. He was used extensively last time in the running game as a blocker. Look for the Broncos to exploit some matchups in similar looks if we get the running game going.

Final thoughts

I'm not sure what to expect tomorrow. Will the Broncos come out of the gate in 11 and run the no huddle from the shotgun? Will weather and previous success in the running game dictate the heavier 12 personnel? My gut feeling is that the Broncos will look to get the running game going early. I also expect the Ravens to do a better job than last time between the tackles.

Though the Ravens were hesitant to blitz the last time around, they did have success with it. If Ngata and Kruger are unable to get things going, look for them to bring an extra rusher to help out.

Keep an eye out early tomorrow on gameday when I break down our defenses' domination of the Ravens' offense.

GO BRONCOS!

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