This film analysis piece covers the effectiveness of the Denver defense in the second quarter of the game versus the Chargers in Week 6.
For the personnel, assume Von is a LB unless otherwise indicated. There is a quick overview of the analysis after the end of the play-by-play. A more comprehensive general analysis will be written at the end of Part 4 for the game as a whole.
Play 1 (Q2 11:19, 1st and 10) Standard 4-3 personnel
Result: Run up the middle for 2 yards.
Why: The Chargers' play is initially supposed to be an off-tackle run to the strong side, but Denver's defense takes out all of the running lanes on that side, and backfield penetration by Wolfe forces the play inside. The RB has a massive gap between the LG and LT, but it appears that the RB trips over the RT that Wolfe forced into the backfield before he could cut to that lane. The RB stumbles forward until Bannan takes him completely to the ground.
Play 2 (Q2 10:15, 2nd and 13) Standard 4-3 personnel
Result: Run up the middle for 3 yards.
Why: The RB has two running lane options and opts for the inside lane. Good push by Vickerson forces the FB to block him with the lineman instead of lead blocking. Wolfe maintains enough inside leverage to disengage from his blocker in time to make first contact on the RB. Woodyard is in perfect position to make a play in both possible running lanes, and he makes the bulk of the tackle.
Play 3 (Q2 9:28, 3rd and 5) 4-1-6 personnel (Von as DE)
Result: Pass complete for 12 yards.
Why: Denver plays a Cover 1 with five guys in man coverage. All but one receiver is well covered. The receiver uses a slow route initially headed toward the inside, and this first move gets Adams to overplay what looks like a poor-effort drag. With Adams' speed and body position going all in on the inside, the receiver breaks quickly and sharply to the outside. This creates separation that allows the receiver to make a clean catch. Moore's position forces the receiver to cut back to the inside after the catch instead of sprinting upfield. The move is enough to gain a few extra yards but Adams recovers well enough to make a solid tackle.
Play 4 (Q2 8:51, 1st and 10) Standard 4-3 personnel
Result: Interception by DEN.
Why: Denver plays a Cover 4 with three guys in a low zone. The key on this play is that Wolfe easily disengages from his blocker, the LT, and has a clean path to the QB. This forces a quick throw without any stepping up. The quick throw forces Rivers to miss a fairly open receiver. Worse yet, Rivers throws it deep. When the ball is released, Leonhard gets in the receiver's grill, forcing the receiver on the wrong side of the ball. Leonhard uses his excellent positioning to make the pick.
Play 5 (Q2 4:20, 1st and 10) 4-2-5 personnel (Von as DE)
Result: Run up the middle for 5 yards.
Why: Denver's front holds its own fairly well and manages to take away the primary running lane. The RB hits a hole that has opened between the LT and the TE. Doom is able to shed his blocker enough to get an arm on the RB, and Trevathan bounces off of his blocker to do the same. Leonhard is in position to help either in this hole or on the outside, and he comes in to help tackle. The RB muscles his way to a few extra yards after the first contact.
Play 6 (Q2 3:42, 2nd and 5) Standard 4-3 personnel
Result: Pass complete for 7 yards.
Why: Denver plays a Cover 1 with four guys in man coverage and two guys zoning low in the middle of the field. The two outside corners are playing way off of their receivers, and both run a curl route. The zoning linebacker closest to the targeted receiver stares down the QB and does not slide over to help cover the route. With about a five yard cushion, the receiver makes a clean catch, but the corner is able to come up quickly to make the tackle.
Play 7 (Q2 3:08, 1st and 10) 4-2-5 personnel (Von as DE)
Result: Run up the middle for 4 yards.
Why: Denver has pretty good gap control but leaves a lane open in the A gap. With some help from Von, Wolfe is able to get an arm on the RB at the line. Woodyard bounces off of his blocker in time to help with the play. The RB spins forward, but Woodyard is able to put another hit on him, ultimately bringing the RB to the ground. The RB ran hard on this play.
Play 8 (Q2 2:25, 2nd and 6) 4-2-5 personnel (Von as DE)
Result: Pass complete for 2 yards.
Why: Denver plays a Cover 4 with two guys in a low zone and one playing man coverage on a receiver in the flats. Miller makes this play happen; from the DE position, he stunts with the DT without being touched by the RT, and his speed, in combination with some help from Wolfe, keeps the RG from doing much to block him. Rivers has two receivers open fairly deep, but the rush forces him into throwing quickly to the check down. The check down receiver starts as a RB in the gun, stays in position to block and then brakes off to a very short route. Two receivers running deep routes keep the zoning defenders from making the play quicker as they have to drop back. After running for enough yards to get past the line of scrimmage, the receiver is tackled by Harris.
Play 9 (Q2 1:54, 1st and 10) Standard 4-3 personnel
Result: Off-tackle run to the field for 10 yards.
Why: Both DTs are double teamed (the one closest to the play is in 1-tech), and Doom is playing too wide of a technique (about 7-tech) to make an impact in the running lane. These combine to leave a massive hole in the B gap. Denver's tendency to keep the linebackers in position to attack two gaps costs them here as Brooking comes up too far inside, which allows the LG to leave the DT and block him. Brooking bounces off but it is too late to make meaningful contact with the RB. Champ is able to read the play and comes into the running lane after the RB gets by Brooking, but the RB makes a nice cut to evade Champ's low tackle. This slowdown allows Woodyard to come up and make the tackle after a few more yards are gained.
Play 10 (Q2 1:23, 1st and 10) Standard 4-3 personnel
Result: Strong-side off-tackle run for 3 yards.
Why: Wolfe easily gets by his blocker by coming off of the line faster and then establishes outside contain, keeping the RB from hitting the open running lane. Woodyard quickly shoots into his gap and takes on the two main blockers. He bounces off of both of them in the direction of the RB, and from here he makes first contact and the tackle. Bannan brakes off of his blockers and assists in the tackle.
Play 11 (Q2 0:59, 2nd and 7) Standard 4-3 personnel
Result: Weak-side off-tackle run for 6 yards.
Why: Doom is again playing a wide 7-tech, and the nearest DT gets double teamed, leaving a wide gap for the RB. Von is manned on a receiver, who jots out to the flats. The nearest linebacker, Brooking, plays a 10-tech, which becomes an issue when he makes the play. The RG breaks off of the double team to take Brooking, which costs the Broncos a few yards. Brooking is able to slide off the block to make the tackle, but the block prevented him from getting to the RB earlier and from having more power on the tackle, as the RB went a few more yards after first contact.
Play 12 (Q2 0:47, 3rd and 1) 5-3-3 personnel
Result: Off-tackle run to the boundary for 1 yard.
Why: The Chargers use an I-formation with a TE on each side and a wingback on the boundary side. Talk about power football. Denver puts eight guys on the line. The Chargers get good push where it's needed, as the RB has enough space to get that yard. The RT and RG double team and push back the DT that's directly in the running lane. Denver has two guys in 1-tech, and this positioning helps create some penetration. The FB blocks the DT, who is closest to the play, enough for the RB to get the yard. The DT is able to wrap up the RB and gets some assistance from Leonhard, but the RB pushes enough to get the 1st.
Play 13 (Q2 0:29, 1st and 10)(RZ) Standard 4-3 personnel
Result: Pass complete for a touchdown.
Why: Denver plays a Cover 1 with three guys in man coverage. The Chargers have two WRs toward the field and one toward the boundary. All defenders in man coverage are playing off. The lone receiver fakes to the inside but proceeds toward the corner of the endzone; the single SAF bites on the fake (the corners are in off-coverage, so any slant is a particular threat) and moves too far out of position to help cover a post route by the slot receiver. With the SAF too close to the boundary side and the defensive back keeping a 5 yard cushion on the receiver, and with the Chargers' blockers picking up the blitz well, Rivers throws accurately between the DBs for a touchdown.
This was another solid performance by Denver's defense, although it was not as stout as the first quarter. Denver still swarmed to the ball against the running game, but the coverage was much softer in this quarter than the previous one. The coverage only forced one incompletion with the interception. The pass rush was pretty good; a few guys had open field between them and Rivers, and overall the line got enough push to pressure Rivers on most plays. Denver is very good at clamping the pocket; however, Rivers was often able to find an open receiver before the rush could affect him too much.
Denver's run defense relies heavily on the ability of the defensive line to stay in their spot and not get pushed out by the offensive linemen, and typically it does this very well. The guys stay strong against their blockers, and while they typically do not get a lot of penetration they are able to keep the gaps under control. Denver's linebackers typically do not attack a gap off the snap and instead stay back so they can slide with the play and be in position to hit two gaps. This may be a product of having only two linebackers behind the line on most plays, which minimizes how many gaps can be controlled by direct attack. This style of play is fairly conservative, as few big plays are given up but often times some yards are sacrificed during each small play. This is especially true with off-tackle runs, since the LBs delay before sliding to a gap, which can allow an offensive lineman to break off and block the linebacker.
Thank you all for reading! If any of you have questions, comments or want to talk football I encourage you to leave a comment.