Peyton Manning 55 - Part 1

Dustin Bradford

Hello folks! As promised during our bye week I'm going to break down each and every historic touchdown pass Peyton Manning threw on his way to a record shattering 55. I'll go ahead and break these down into 11 touchdown posts meaning there will be five of these altogether.

Nomenclature

For my own purposes I label the receivers accordingly:

X = Demaryius Thomas

Y = The TE (usually Julius Thomas) When there is more than one TE, every TE will be marked as "Y"

A = Wes Welker

Z = Eric Decker

RB = whoever the back is

If there is a substitution (say Bubba Caldwell), he will be labeled according to the player he is replacing. Remember, I'm keeping it uniform so the information is simple to understand. As far as breaking down the distribution, I will count the TE whether he is inline or split wide. For example 1x3 (X)-(Y)(A)(Z). would hold true if Julius Thomas was next to Orlando Franklin or split wide, doesn't matter. Just like reading a book we read the formation from left to right from Peyton Manning's point of view.

I'm also going to identify the coverage in the secondary as well as the route or concept that was used.

TD #1 - 24 Yards Julius Thomas - 1x3 (X)-(Y)(A)(Z) - Cover 2 - Fake WR Screen

The Broncos have run this concept frequently the past couple of years. The first time I remember seeing it was last year against the Chargers at home. On that play, Manning hit Stokley on a wheel route to the end zone. Here he will hit Julius Thomas down the seam.

What makes this play work is the fake WR screen to Decker. His fake and pump by Manning will effectively hold the outside corner, the nickelback lined up across from Welker (Y), and also the Mike ILB. Once this happens the playside safety is dead in the water. He has two routes coming at him and must choose inside or outside. Initially he floats to the outside to cover Welker on the wheel leaving Julius with absolutely no one on him. By the time the ball is out, it is too late. Easy touchdown.

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TD #2 - 23 Yards Julius Thomas - 2x2 (X)(Y)-(A)(Z) - Cover 1 - Skinny Post

Notice how far off the outside corners are playing. Both Demaryius and Decker will run comebacks against this off coverage and these will be throws that are there if Peyton wanted to take them. But also notice just how far to the right the other safety is. Manning sees this and knows he will have Julius one on one with Michael Huff.

What creates the major separation is the way Julius runs his route. He runs slightly to the outside and more importantly hesitates which gets Huff to yield the inside of the field. Once Julius has inside position on the skinny post, that's all she wrote. Nicely done by Julius.

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TD #3 - 28 Yards Bubba Caldwell - 2x2 (X)(Y)-(A)(Z) - Cover 1 - Go/Vertical

Julius Thomas had a monster game to this point and the Ravens started to do some things schematically to try and contain him. Here, he gets chipped off the line by Upshaw. He then is chucked by the LB as he passes through the short zone. Finally Michael Huff steps up to take him on as he reaches the deep portion of the field.

This is what leaves Bubba Caldwell one on one, and the cue for Manning is how Huff steps up from a deep Cover 2 look presnap. He knows that safety will cover Julius and he knows that Bubba Caldwell has a one on one to the outside. Manning takes this matchup 100 times out of 100. Even more amazing is the fact that the corner on Caldwell has decent outside leverage from the snap. Bubba uses a stutter step to get him to square up and from there uses his amazing speed to cut across to the outside. This is a footrace that Bubba will win most of the time and the ball is beautifully placed.

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TD #4 - 6 Yards Wes Welker - 2x2 (A)(X)-(Y)(Z) - Cover 1 - corner/out

Get used to seeing this combination. The Broncos LOVE to use Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker in the redzone in some sort of two-route combination designed usually to get Wes Welker free. Here they stack Welker behind Demaryius. DT is going to run straight for the corner. Here's the beauty of the design. I'm pretty sure Wes Welker has an option to run a quick slant or to go to the outside. It all depends on what the defenders do. Here the Ravens play it correctly. The deep defender takes Demaryius. Had the DB closer to the LOS scrimmage taken DT, Welker would have an easy read to the inside.

Now here is what makes Wes Welker the best in the game at the slot. He is going to read his defender taking away the inside route. If you look at the 2nd snip, you'll notice he has moved his position to be ready to take the inside route away. Welker instantaneously makes the decision to break to the outside. Protection holds up against the 7-man blitz and Manning delivers the ball to the outside. Welker breaks back to the inside so quickly and violently that his man losses his footing.

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TD #5 - 2 Yards Wes Welker - 2x2 (Z)(Y)-(A)(X) - Press Man - Pick

Yet another DT/WW combination close to the goalline. Similar concept as the last one with the added wrinkle of "sprint right option". If a team is going to play press man against you, this is one of the tactics you use to beat it. You use their aggressiveness to cross up their defenders to spring one of your receivers free.

The key is Demaryius. He is going to drive hard to the inside. This will bring the outside defender with him AND create ridiculous separation for Wes Welker when his man is cutoff. Works perfectly.

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TD #6 - 26 yards Demaryius Thomas - 2x2 (Z)(A)-(Y)(X) - Cover 1 - Go/Vertical

This is what Julius Thomas brings to this team, a monster receiving threat from the TE position and he must be accounted for. Gase/Peyton will move him around in order to create matchups and beat coverages. Duh right? Well here is a perfect example. This time Julius is lined up tight to the line in a three point stance. Split wide to his right is Demaryius Thomas. The Ravens are showing deep cover 2 with press man underneath presnap. Now, if it is Cover 2, it means either Julius or Demaryius will have a one on one. If the Ravens bracket Julius with a LB and the S it leaves DT with a one on one on the outside. If for some reason they decide to man up with a LB, which isn't their style, the safety will have to choose just like we saw earlier.

But here is the beauty of it. Turns out the Ravens are going with Cover 1 and a LB blitz. It is a 6-man rush and their intentions are given away right at the snap. Now, when Manning sees the MILB rush, he knows the safety on that side will come up to cover Julius. That means both JT and DT have one on ones, and Manning almost instantaneously releases the pass. Look at it, the ball is released when Demaryius is at the 20 yard line. Manning is the best in the game at anticipating throws and more importantly throwing to a spot.

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TD #7 - 78 yards Demaryius Thomas - 2x2 (X)(A)-(Y)(Z) - Cover 0 - WR Screen

Does Peyton Manning know the Ravens are going to blitz? Possibly. Does he know that the blitz will put them into Cover 0 over the top? Maybe. What he knows for sure is that both corners to the left are playing way off on 3rd down and you will likely see a WR screen whenever this is the case. I'm just kidding you about what he knows and doesn't know, if I can see it, he sees it 10 minutes ago.

Now, just like with anything execution is key. Execution in this case means a well executed block by Wes Welker. Wes is going to run straight out and occupy the man across from Demaryius. He holds this block for a long time while Beadles and Clady kick out to provide DT with an entourage.

The Ravens bring 6 and one of the LB's stays in a shallow zone. In fact Ramirez gets a quick block on him after getting an initial block on the blitzing ILB. He will eventually get to the 2nd level and cutoff the backside safety. Key block 2. Once Demaryius gets the ball it is a footrace and he had both Clady and Beadles to guide him to the endzone. It is amazing to me just how often this play is effective.

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TD #8 - 2 yards Wes Welker - 2x2 (Z)(A)-(Y)(X) - Busted -Slant

I've reviewed this play before and watched it countless times and I'm still speechless as to what exactly happened on the Giants end. If you think of the Giants as putting an inside/out bracket on Wes Welker on the left, #24 Terrell Thomas on the inside is the one to blame. The safety on the other side sits exactly in that spot to protect the outside so I'm inclined to believe that is what happens.

Regardless, Manning goes playaction, #24 gets his eyes caught in the backfield and is slow to react at Wes Welker cutting behind him on a quick slant. Completely out of position, and I'm nearly certain this play succeeds due to Thomas' miscue. Perhaps they were expecting a different route combination given what the Broncos had shown the previous week, perhaps Manning thought Thomas was going to blitz and the slant would be there.

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TD #9 - 11 yards Julius Thomas - 1x3 (X)-(Y)(A)(Z) - Tampa 2 - Dig

A little different coverage than I've seen played against the Broncos to this point. The Giants will play two deep safeties and zone underneath. We have a 1x3 formation after Wes Welker comes back to the right in motion. The MLB is going to drop to the deep middle just as in Tampa 2. Julius gets a slight advantage on positioning once he runs his dig over the middle and Manning makes a fantastic throw over the WILL and to the outside where the Mike cannot get to it. He had Wes Welker open on a whip route for an easier throw, but Peyton trusts his big men to use their frames to their advantage.

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TD #10 - 2 yards Wes Welker - 2x2 (X)(A)-(Y)(Z) - Blown - Playaction

Everything about this play screams run, and this is why it is successful. Under center, singleback formation. Manning is going to motion Decker tight to the line. At the snap, Beadles pulls around to seal off the edge, and Manning fakes the handoff. That holds the Corner on the outside (orange) and the run blitz from the linebackers leaves Decker wide open. Decker added a nice touch by crashing down as if he were going to block, instead a chip with very little contact.

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TD #11 - 12 yards Wes Welker - 1x3 (X)(A)-(Y)(Z)(RB) - Cover 2 Zone - corner/post

This one highlights the absolute beauty of Wes Welker's route running. He's going to get bracketed by a corner playing a short zone and a safety over the top in Cover 2. Once Wes passes through the zone of the corner, he makes a cut as if he's going to break for the corner. Almost a stop and go. This gets the safety to plant his left leg and get his hips turned to the sideline in anticipation--he is completely out of position coming back to the middle. Wes cuts back to the post and is wide open. Well executed!

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Raw Data

TD

Down

P

Formation

Alignment

Play

Coverage

Route/Concept

1

1-10

11

Shotgun

1x3 (X)-(Y)(A)(Z)

23 yd (Y)

Cover 2

Fake WR Screen

2

1-10

11

Shotgun

2x2 (X)(A)-(Y)(X)

20 yd (Y)

Cover 1

Skinny Post

3

2-3

11

Shotgun

2x2 (X)(Y)-(A)(Z)

28 yd (X)

Cover 1

Go/Vertical

4

2-6

11

Shotgun

2x2 (A)(X)-(Y)(Z)

29 yd (A)

Cover 1

Corner/Out

5

2-G

11

Shotgun

2x2 (Z)(Y)-(A)(X)

2 yd (A)

Press Man

Pick

6

3-8

11

Shotgun

2x2 (Z)(A)-(Y)(X)

26 yd (X)

Cover 1

Go/Vertical

7

3-8

11

Shotgun

2x2 (X)(A)-(Y)(Z)

78 yd (X)

Cover 0

WR Screen

8

2-G

11

Shotgun

2x2 (Z)(A)-(Y)(X)

2 yd (A)

Blown

Slant

9

3-8

11

Shotgun

1x3 (X)-(Y)(A)(Z)

11 yd (Y)

Tampa 2

Dig

10

2-G

11

Singleback

2x2 (X)(A)-(Y)(Z)

2 yd (Z)

Blown

Playaction

11

1-10

11

Shotgun

2x3 (X)(A)-(Y)(Z)(RB)

12 yd (A)

Cover 2Z

Corner/Post

Wrap-Up

Overall the Broncos used quite a bit of different concepts to beat the coverages they faced. Closer to the goalline, they liked to use two route combinations with Wes Welker and Demaryius Thomas. Further away they used Julius Thomas and Demaryius Thomas to exploit one on one's and split that safety against Cover 2. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, they used knowledge of their own tendencies to fool the opponent. Whether that be the fake WR screen or the playaction pass to Decker against the Raiders.

I'm excited to bring you this series and celebrate an historic performance that has given Denver and our Broncos the most prolific offense in the history of the NFL.

GO BRONCOS!!!

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