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DENVER at oakland - GOOD vs evil edition

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This is it.  There will always be seasons with or without playoffs, there will always be winning and losing seasons.  But there will always be the forces of good, honor, and justice against the forces of whining, excuses, and poor sportmanship.

For the most part, Denver has enjoyed nothing but winning seasons since Mike arrived while oakland has been losing a lot.  Last week oakland broke a 16 game losing streak against AFC West rivals by beating KC.  More importantly, Denver has owned oakland since Mike's arrival.  With the talent at QB, RB, TE, and WR on offense, and the depth and talent at CB and DE on defense, it sure looks like Denver is poised to remain in control for years to come.

oakland, however, just can't seem to make things go their way, no matter how much they try to be like us.  Remember the tuck pass rule and oakland's loss to NE?  The same rule that Al Davis himself was behind, but cried foul about?  Remember the last second second timeout that iced the oakland kicker for a win, and all of the crying that oakland did (even though they did the same thing themselves in the next several games)?  Remember the oakland folks crying about zone blocking (despite the fact that they now use the system)?  oakland (who prides themselves on "just win baby") seems to have a double standard.  They have injured, even crippled opponents, but don't like the legal "cut block".  Have they ever lost a game where they didn't blame the officiating crew?

The truth is we LOVE to beat the raiders because we love to hear the excuses.  You can count on the refs being blamed most times, but sometimes they just blame an existing rule or an existing tactic.  Always we can count on them to mock the physical appearance of our coach or QB (remember the remarks about Elway?).  I can't wait for them to come up with something about Cutler's "Beatles" haircut or sleepy appearance.

My point?  The season still holds some hope for a playoff run, but the door is closing.  oakland is (of course) once again in the basement of the NFL.  But if nothing else, we once again have Christmas a third time during the year: beating oakland twice a year plus the special day in December.  And we Denver fans love that!  (Do oakland fans celebrate Christmas, or do they take their old "Thunder Cats villians" costumes to some sort of pagan worship thing?)

I won't really be able to do the typical Xs and Os format I would like to do, since I don't know what to expect.  Our defense is playing out of system (more of a "base - man out" instead of a "run contain"), and the oak defense is playing inconsistently on defense as well under real-life pirate look-a-like Rob Ryan.  In fact, hate on our rush defense all you want, but oak is dead last at 32.

Denver on rush defense

oak has a good running game.  They have intitiated the zone block system of Denver, but it is much, much less complex.

The zone block system involves a whole host of plays just for the o-line, in much the same manner that the offense as a whole runs plays.  The offense overall becomes trickier for defenses because for each play on the field, there are many more variations for the line than seen in the more common man blocking programs.

The program in Green Bay is probably the closest to Denver's, and is still far less complex.  It is more of a pure "power" system.  The same goes for Atlanta, where the system places on emphasis on a running QB (not anymore), and heavy contributions from RBs, FBs, and the TE.

And while the Denver system is an advanced zoneblock that features a lot of finesse (incorporating "the option", "the bootleg", and screens), the oak system hasn't yet found its identity.  Changes in QB have been an issue here.  But kudos to the oak o-line, and kudos to the RB, all of whom have done extremely well in a system that doesn't go well in the first few years for most teams.  (CAR and BUF are trying the zoneblock this year too).

The key element in oak's zoneblock (in my opinion) is FB Griffith.  He is one of those players that no one notices that is highly under rated.  Griffith is a zoneblock veteran, having played most of his career in Atlanta.  His academic background is teaching/coaching (my kind of guy!).  He is short but powerful, has excellent skills at zoneblock, and is one of those sure things on short downs.  As if that isn't enough, he can catch the ball too on screens.

The line is anchored by the center (Newberry).  The line is very good in rush, but Newberry stands out.

Suffice it to say that with a solid FB and C, oak will be running most cuts near the guards and we shouldn't expect many sweeps to the outside.

How does Denver counter?  

Once again, the run contain system is on hold.  The best news for Denver is that the defense practices against the zoneblock more than any other team in the NFL.  There are several ways to counter zoneblocking, but each way involves a sacrifice.  One method might be for the DTs to hesitate from firing off on the snap (or taking a half step back defensively) to better read the blocks.  This "drop and lunge" gives up short yards, but also protects the linemen from getting cut and can cause o-linemen to overshoot their zones.

Lynch should play the box, so another technique to watch for is to have players assigned to the blockers (1 or 2 LBs, or a LB and a SAF).  This is done to keep the blockers off of off the tacklers.  The big downside here is overcommitment to the run defense if the play is a pass, and the fear that a blocker goes the "wrong" way and pulls a defensive player off the play.

Denver can also crowd the line and go heads up instead of slanting.  This will only work a few times before the offense adjusts.  It is also open to screens and any pass play.

Who should win this battle?  Denver's rush defense is improving.  oakland's rush offense is very good, but starting to sputter a little.  This could go either way.  I like a hungry Denver team, angered at the CHI situation, to come out big.  Denver has something to play for, while oak is out of the playoff picture.

Denver on pass defense

Denver has two probowl calibre CBs, a new phenom at safety (Hamza), and a nickle back who seems to have emerged recently as a playmaker in his own right.  Add in excellence at DE (Crowder's recent sacks, Doom's consistency, and depth overall), and you have a recipe for success.

On the other side is Culpepper and a stable of decent receivers.  oak is a run first team, so their throws will be designed to do one of two things:

  • Throws to the outside to support oak's runs to the inside, and
  • Deep throws to back off the run support (and because Denver has been prone to big play mistakes).
What should Denver do?

This is easy.  Every CB should play man.  Hamza should play deep zone.  

Beyond that, on pass plays the LBs should blitz more than ussual to allow the DEs a more free hand in coming in from the outside.  I don't like a lot of blitzing, but this match-up calls for it to give help to the DEs on obvious pass plays.  (Be careful; zoneblock runs punish pass blitzes, and so does a mobile QB).

Denver pass offense

Denver continues to shine on passing offense, despite the red zone curse and the third down curse.  All you can really do is keep doing what works.  The third downs and TDs should come when a team does so well in terms of yards gained in passing.

oak has a decent defense with solid players in many positions.  The guys to watch for include Asomugha (an underated CB who plays #2), Schweigert (again, underated in my book, plays FS), and Burgess (normaly a back-up DE, they just let the guy in and he's a sack machine).

But looking at matchups, I think Denver should look great.  There is just too much talent and depth in the pass game, and if Walker returns healthy it just gets even better.  Any of Denver's top three WR's could deserve dbl coverage, and you can't cover them all.

The only wrinkle in game planning is who will have pass block duties in the backfield with our RB squad so dinged up.  Two TE sets are a possibility, with one TE going in motion to the FB position (another Denver trademark).

Denver on rush offense

Denver's pass will need to help our run.  All of our top three HBs are in danger of not starting this game (Henry, Young, Hall).  We will have to rely on a FB to play at HB (Sapp most likely), and he probably won't get the rest under a committee system because the other back will be at FB (likey M Bell).

Who wins?  The NFL's worst rush defense (oak), or a team without any running backs (Den)?  And how does a writer like me game prep such a bizarre match-up?  That's why they pay Shanny the big bucks.  He'll figure it out.

~~~~~~~~~

Key issues for the game.

  1. Don't kick to Hester.  I know, I know.  Hester doesn't play for oak.  I just don't think Denver's STs can hear this enough.
  2. oak is missing STs stand out Cooper (back-up SAF).
  3. Porter (WR) will be playing coming off of an injury.
  4. Despite new coach Kiffens' emphasis on self discipline, oak remains a penalty heavy team.
GO BRONCOS!

(This article is dedicated to the memory of Sean Taylor.  Sean was a 24 year old father who was already an elite safety in the NFL.  He was getting his life in order, and returned home to protect his home, his fiance, and his 18 month year old daughter after a break in from previous week.  We all join Sean's family and the Redskins team and fans in their loss.  Between Darrent and Sean we know that a demon will never score a touchdown in Heaven.  RIP.)

Poll

Denver

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    wins big
    (12 votes)
  • 5%
    wins close
    (6 votes)
  • 32%
    loses close
    (34 votes)
  • 50%
    loses big
    (53 votes)
105 votes total Vote Now