Peyton Manning: The Magnificent 7

Doug Pensinger

The night couldn't have begun more ominous....

A lightning storm, a delay. Peyton Manning said it was the first occurrence during his story book career where the team said a prayer three times and broke down "Go Broncos" three times before coming out to play. No one, not even Manning himself would know exactly what this mysterious sequence of events was about to foreshadow...

TD #1: 1st and 10, Baltimore 24 YL, 11:40 2nd Q

Defense: Nickel, Cover 2, man outside, zone underneath

Personnel: 11 (Moreno, DT, JT, Decker, Welker)

Formation: Shotgun

Alignment Left to Right: 1 by 3, (X) (YI) (A) (Z)*

* The shorthand I will use for WR/TE designations are as follows: DT = X, Decker = Z, Welker = A, TE = Y. For TE's, I will designate "inline" (YI)or "split wide" (YS) as necessary. When there is a substitute for any of those players, I will note it.

Analysis:

Peyton recognizes the Cover 2 shell presnap and calls an audible to his receivers. The safety to the strongside of the formation splits the space between Welker and Decker. DT's man has tight coverage and Decker's man is off which helps Manning sell the fake WR screen.

Tactically, Julius Thomas cuts underneath Elvis Dumervil to slow his pass rush--just a fantastic detail in the game plan. With the cover 2 coverage and the combination of JT's route (out and go up the seam) and Welker's route (wheel to the outside), it is going to put that safety in a precarious position. He has to choose.

The fake screen and pump fake by Peyton cause both corners to that side (Decker's man who is playing man coverage) and the man in the slot (playing zone) to commit to that route. It also holds the playside Linebacker and allows JT to run untouched and wide open down the field. What happened to the playside safety? He jumped all over Welker and left JT all alone. Easy 6.

The four man rush gets pressure and perhaps the best part of this play is Peyton Manning standing in and delivering the ball knowing he is going to get crushed. Zane Beadles was beaten by DT Chris Canty who used a vicious rip move to render Beadles ineffective.

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TD #2: 1st and 10, Baltimore 23 YL, 5:45 2nd Q

Defense: Nickel, Cover 1

Personnel: 11 (Ball, DT, JT, Decker, Welker)

Formation: Shotgun

Alignment Left to Right: 2 by 2, (X) (YI) (A) (Z)

Analysis:

With the single high safety protecting the open side of the field, Peyton from the snap focuses on the side with DT and JT. Both outside receivers have off man coverage and will run comeback routes with all the cushion that is provided. Peyton could make either throw here. I'm thinking Welker probably has an option route, but with his man playing outside leverage, he chooses to run a skinny post. Montee Ball fakes the playaction and run a short out from the middle of the field.

Once again Julius Thomas is used to cut off the path of a pass rusher, this time Terrell Suggs. He doesn't chip him, but the path of his route takes away the outside for Suggs. Suggs has to re-establish the outside once Thomas has passed if he wants to use those tactics.

Michael Huff is the Safety charged in coverage and what can I say? Not much has changed from his play as a Raider. Julius ever so slightly fakes the flat route with his shoulder, but ultimately runs down the seam. It isn't a big enough juke to have fooled Huff completely, just makes him hesitate. Once Huff hesitates, Thomas uses his big frame to gain inside leverage and the safety on the other side of the field takes a poor angle allowing the TD.

Julius makes a fantastic catch as Peyton puts the ball up high for him. I sense a theme between DT and JT.

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TD #3: 2nd and 3, Baltimore 28 YL, 12:55 3rd Q

Defense: Nickel, Cover 1

Personnel: 11 (Hillman, Caldwell, JT, Decker, Welker)

Formation: Shotgun

Alignment Left to Right: 2 by 2, (X-Caldwell) (YI) (A) (Z)

Analysis:

Not sure that the Ravens had all that much respect for Andre Caldwell's speed. The impact Julius Thomas has had on the game thus far has now translated into a new strategy, bracket and chip. Three different players get their hands on him during the course of his route on this play. The first is the end Upshaw, the 2nd is a LB, the 3rd is Huff himself. With the safety over the top rolling to the Decker/Welker side of the field, Caldwell has a one on one.

He gets past the jam on the line of scrimmage with a stutter step and good hand placement.

What makes this play so fascinating other than the tight-rope/juggling catch that Caldwell has made is that Peyton throws this ball extremely early. Caldwell doesn't have even a step of daylight on his man by the time the ball is out. Peyton chooses a spot and throws it there. His timing and accuracy are impeccable.

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TD #4: 2nd and Goal, Baltimore 6 YL, 10:47 3rd Q

Defense: Nickel, Man

Personnel: 11 (Hillman, DT, JT, Decker, Welker)

Formation: Shotgun

Alignment Left to Right: 2 by 2, (X, A Stacked) (YI) (Z)

Analysis:

What makes this play is the wonderful blitz pickups and slide in protection with the Ravens blitzing 3 men to go along with the 4 down linemen. It leaves man coverage and a safety.

Clady jumps outside to get the blitzing safety Huff, Beadles jumps outside to take on Suggs, Ramirez takes on Cody, Vasquez on Ngata, Orlando Franklin picks up the blitzing LB #56, Julius Thomas stonewalls Courtney Upshaw, and Hillman is there just in case for the extra LB #51 who executes a twist with his compatriot. Everyone holds their block beautifully.

Get used to this Broncos fans, they will use Welker a ton in the redzone and almost always in two-route combinations with Demaryius Thomas. Here they line up stacked with Welker behind Thomas. Demaryius is going to run a fade route to the corner, Welker will run a short out behind him. It is good design because it may confuse the corners as to which man to take.

Here both corners play disciplined, they do not commit any errors. Welker simply beats his man and makes him miss a tackle back to the inside. Decker runs his route very lazily which leads me to believe both of Peyton's reads are to this side depending on how the DB's pick up the coverage.

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TD #5: 2nd and Goal, Baltimore 2 YL, 10:47 3rd Q

Defense: Goalline, Man

Personnel: 11 (Ball, DT, JT, Decker, Welker)

Formation: Shotgun

Alignment Left to Right: 2 by 2, (Z) (YI) (A) (X)

Analysis:

Sprint Right Option....remember that from the preseason? Same route combination. The two route combo on the right side is beautifully designed and like the last Welker TD, designed to confuse the men in coverage. DT on the far side is going to come across just enough so that when Welker makes his break to the sideline, they will "cross over" in front of each other.

Decker is coming playside from the backside of the formation with a crosser. Thomas will eventually provide Peyton with another target when he turns his route back to the corner, but there is no need. The DB that lined up on the outside initially went with Thomas and left a huge opening for Welker.

Protection wise, Montee Ball takes off after a second to chip the end. With the blitzer also coming that way, it put Orlando Franklin in a tough spot to reach back and try to get him. Not sure what the protection calls for so I'm not saying either player committed an error, just pointing it out.

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TD #6: 3rd and 9, Baltimore 26 YL, 13:25 4th Q

Defense: Nickel, Man

Personnel: 11 (Moreno, DT, JT, Decker, Welker)

Formation: Pistol

Alignment Left to Right: 2 by 2, (Z) (A) (YI) (X)

Analysis:

"Hey 56 is the Mike, RHYNO RHYNO, 56's the Mike, (directing Knowshon Moreno) get over here get over here....HURRY HURRY!!!"

This was my absolute favorite TD of the night. Why? Because Peyton Manning KNEW they were going to blitz the A gap on the left side of the formation. After setting the protection and alerting his receivers he then puts Knowshon Moreno next to where he is. Why is that important? It's right in the path of the blitzer.

With the blitzers, Peyton knows that the safety on the playside will have to step up and cover Julius Thomas down the seam. It leaves a one on one with Demaryius on the outside. He takes that matchup everyday of the week because Demaryius is a beast. Like with the Caldwell throw, Peyton gets the ball out fast and just picks a spot to throw to. The ball lands softly in the outstretched hands of DT.

This offense is so much fun to watch. Four verticals against man coverage is a win any day of the week for Peyton and Co.

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TD #7: 3rd and 8, Denver 22 YL, 4:25 4th Q

Defense: Nickel, Man

Personnel: 11 (Moreno, DT, JT, Decker, Welker)

Formation: Shotgun

Alignment Left to Right: 2 by 2, (X) (A) (YI) (Z)

Analysis:

This is the WR screen to DT. The Ravens blitz the slot corner and a LB. It leaves one LB short over the middle a deep safety to Decker's side of the field, and off man coverage on the opposite side against Welker and Demaryius. Watching the play over and over, though there are three DB's to the playside, the depth of S Michael Huff gives it away that the slot corner is blitzing. He's only at a depth of about 9 yards from the LOS protecting the down marker when he would normally be further back if he were insurance.

Welker fires off and stonewalls the corner lined up across from Thomas. Both Ryan Clady and Zane Beadles get out in front and make crucial blocks. Once Demaryius gets into the open field, that's all she wrote. Beadles seals off the back side pursuit, and that is #7.

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The Magnificent 7

For decades, the number 7 has been synonymous with John Elway to all Broncos fans. On Thursday, September 5th, 2013 the number 7 took on a different meaning. For generations to come, those that were lucky enough to have witnessed this masterpiece performance by Peyton Manning, Julius Thomas, Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, and Andre Caldwell will retell the story of the night when our Broncos made history.

Let September 5th forever be referred to as "The Magnificent 7"

A Mile High Salute to our Denver Broncos Offense!!!

A heartfelt Thank You to Peyton Manning

GO BRONCOS!!!

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