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Just! Do! Your! Job! (Feel the Heat)

    In Week 4 of the 2009 NFL season, the Denver Broncos hosted the Dallas Cowboys at Invesco Field at Mile High.  Denver Head Coach Josh McDaniels wore a microphone during the game for NFL Films.  It was a sloppy game in which the Cowboys jumped out to a ten point lead.  Denver tied the score at 10-10.  Late in the 4th quarter while the defense tried to stop a Cowboys drive, McDaniels sat down with QB Kyle Orton to discuss the last offensive drive by the Broncos.  McDaniels was heard to tell Orton: "I'm not talking about my bad any more.  Just make the play!"  McDaniels then called the entire offense together and lit into them with the following words:

    "Get in here!  When we quit (bleeped) around and just do our job and quit worrying about everybody else's job and doing your own thing. That's what's killing us right now!  Do! Your! Job! and quit making (bleeped) up.  We haven't even seen what we can do because it doesn't even look like a football team out there.  Let's Go!"

That speech was followed by the 51 yard pass play from Orton to Marshall that won the game.

 After the fold: Keep Your Eyes on the Pressure!


    This series got its start when Troy (kentuckybronco) raised the thought that it might be fun to take "a chance to reminisce and take a fresh look at the game [Broncos' 2009 football] from a perspective that may have been missed during the regular season."  Thus "Just! Do! Your! Job!" was born.  We will take a brief look at each game from last season.  I'll be sharing a theme, lesson or general football truth that leapt out at me while watching the game anew.

    I want to stress that what catches my attention, may not be what catches yours.  I'm hoping that you will choose to share what stood out for you in the particular game being discussed.  It is the sharing of our diverse perceptions that makes MHR a great place to come and talk about the Broncos, and football in general.

    I would also like to stress that re-watching the games is not necessary for participating in the discussion.  If you've already written a thought on what happened in a particular game, bring that thought to the table when we talk about that game.  By the same token, if you have the time, the inclination and access to a recording of the games, then by all means watch it again and see if anything new or different leaps out at you.  Or, you may find confirmation of a previously held view.

    In our first installment we took a look at the Cincinnati game and I suggested that what leapt out at me was the importance of keeping your eye on the ball.  With that thought in mind, I offer up:

Second Game: Cleveland at Denver -- "Keep Your Eyes on the Pressure"

    In this reminiscence of the Denver-Cleveland game, we will be looking at yet another very obvious statement:  Quarterbacks -- Keep Your Eyes on the Pressure.  No!  Really?  How obvious can one get?  I can imagine that someone is thinking: "Brian, are you kidding me?  Of course you've got to keep your eyes on the rushers when you're dropping back to throw the ball.  Come on, man, give me a break."  Yet . . . this is a point that so basic, it often gets overlooked.  This was a point that was both a highlight and a low point for both quarterbacks in this game. 

    I'm going to focus on four plays from this game: two for Kyle Orton and two for Brady Quinn.  It's important to note that Orton while Orton did not take a sack in the Cleveland game, there were times when he held onto the ball just a touch too long.  We'll be looking at one of those plays, and at a play in which he used his legs to buy himself more time to throw.  We'll do the same for Quinn.  Now, on to the plays.

Play #1: First Quarter, Cleveland Ball

    With Denver ahead 7-3, Cleveland faced a 1st and 10 at their own 34 yard line.  The Browns broke the huddle and came to the line.  In addition to the 5 down o-linemen, Cleveland lined up a TE on the right end of the line.  Quinn came under center as his RB lined up behind him.  There was one WR split out to the right side and 2
to the left.  Denver countered by adding a LB to the 3 down d-linemen.  1 LB lined up halfway between the LT and the slot WR.  The remaining 2 LBs lined up in the middle of the field, 5 yards off the line of scrimmage.  The CBs lined up opposite the outside WRs, but 8 yards upfield.  1 safety set his position halfway between the TE and the WR on the right, but 8 yards upfield.  The other safety dropped back 15 yards from the line and opposite the slot WR.
The outside WR on the left goes in motion to the right.  He stops in the backfield between the RG and RT.
The ball is snapped.  The WRs on the right both head upfield.  The WR who had motioned into the backfield from the left sets up to block.
The TE slants left as the WRs head upfield.  Quinn fakes a handoff to the RB who dives into the line.  The WR who had come into block slants right as Quinn drops back to the Cleveland 27.
Dawkins comes unblocked on a blitz up the middle.  Williams evades a blocker on the right side of the offense.  Quinn pulls ball down and retreats backwards and to his right towards the 20 yard line.
Dawkins dives, just missing Quinn's feet.  Quinn sprints for the sideline with Williams close behind.
Quinn parallels the 20 yard line while he is being chased by Williams.  Dawkins comes back to his feet and gives pursuit. 
Quinn is able to turn upfield and get ahead of Williams.
Quinn sprints towards original line of scrimmage with multiple defenders closing in.
Quinn steps out of bounds after a 5 yard gain & before he can be hit by any of the defenders.

Quinn, IMHO, showed two things on this play: (1)Calmness under pressure, and (2)A good burst of speed.  He saw the blitz (though I don't know how anyone could miss Dawkins charging in on them from directly ahead and untouched.  Quinn did not panic, he simply pulled the ball down and sprinted to his right, and showed enough speed to get around D J Williams who as giving pressure from the right side of the o-line.  The result?  A five yard gain.

Play #2: Second Quarter, Denver Ball

    Denver was ahead 7-6, and had the ball on the Cleveland 14.  The Broncos were facing a 2nd and 8 situation.  They lined up in a shotgun formation with 5 on the line, a RB just to the right of the QB, 1 WR left and 3 WR right. The Broncos broke the huddle and came to the line.   Orton had  his RB lined up to his right.  Cleveland countered by adding a LB to the 3 down d-linemen.  1 LB lined up halfway between the LT and the slot WR.  The remaining 2 LBs lined up in the middle of the field, 5 yards off the line of scrimmage.  The CBs lined up opposite the outside WRs, but 8 yards upfield.  1 safety set his position halfway between the TE and the WR on the right, but 8 yards upfield.  The other safety dropped back 15 yards from the line and opposite the slot WR.

Ball is snapped.  Cleveland rushes 4.  Defenders bump WRs on right. 
O-line fails to pick up blitzing LB who comes through the middle untouched.  All WRs are being bumped within 4 yards of the line of scrimmage.  The LB has an unobstructed line to Orton, and he's directly in front of the QB.  He lunges at Orton who pulls the ball down.
Orton ducks under the upraised arms of the blitzer, though the defender does gat a hand on Orton's right hip as the QB scrambles to his right.
Orton runs towards the right sideline as the WRs struggle to get open.
Royal comes open but has a defender closing quickly on him.  Orton throws for Royal, placing the ball low and away form the defender nearest  Royal.  The pass falls incomplete.

Orton showed enough mobility to escape a blitz. While it might be easy to criticize him for not completing the pass, it is also helpful to know that on the very next play, the situation was similar -- Orton again was forced to sprint out to his right, only this time he completed the pass for a 1st down.

Play #3: 3rd Quarter, Cleveland Ball

    Trailing 10-6, the Browns received the kickoff opening the 2nd half of the game.  The ball was run out to the 23 yard line.  On 1st and 10 from their own 23, the Browns came to the line.  They placed the TE on the right side of the o-line, split out 1 WR to either side, and set up 2 RBs in the backfield in an off-set I formation as Quinn came under center.  Denver faced them from across the line of scrimmage with 5 on the line, a CB 5-6 yards upfield over each of the WRs, 1 safety 10 yards off the line and just outside the LT, the other 15 yards upfield across from the RT.  The remaining 2 LBs were 4 yards off the line and across from the LG and the RG.  Prior to the snap the WR on the right goes in motion to the left until he is next to the TE.

The ball is snapped.  The TE and both WRs head upfield, the FB swings out to the right.  Denver rushes 6.
The WRs and TE all have defenders within a step of them.  A LB moves to pick up the FB.
The WR on the right turns outside as the other WR, the TE and the FB all continue upfield, with defenders in position to make a play.  The RB, still in the backfield, moves left to pick up a blitzing Dawkins.
The right side of the pocket completely collapses, the defenders pushing the RG & RT in behind the C, all of these players directly in front of Quinn.  The RB is able to deflect Dawkins causing the blitzer to fall.  Quinn has clear space to his right, but chooses to try to step up into the pocket behind the RT who is being pushed backwards.
Quinn is sacked.

On this play, Quinn did not demonstrate the same clear thinking nor show the speed that he had displayed on the 1st quarter play described above.  IMHO, given the angle the rusher/RT were moving, I believe Quinn could have spun out to the right and perhaps have escaped the pressure and avoided the sack.  But that's also based on watching a play in slow motion.  Given the speed and quickness of reactions by rushers, I could be dead wrong.  Instead, he attempted to slip in behind the right side of his line.  In all fairness, there was a crease open on the left side of the line and he may have been trying to get into that spot.  Unfortunately, the line was pushed back into him, keeping him from escaping the rush.

Play #4: 3rd Quarter, Denver Ball

    Denver was holding a 13-6 lead at this point, when they faced a 2nd and 8 at their own 45 yard line.  The Broncos broke the huddle and brought 6 to the line with 2 receivers (a RB and a WR) to the right, just off the end of the o-line.  Orton came up under center with a RB directly behind him and 1 WR split out to the left.  The Browns placed 3 down linemen at the line of scrimmage with 2 LBs on either end showing blitz.  1 CB lines up opposite the WR, the other is up near the end of the o-line's weak side.  The remaining LBs are lined up over the offensive guards.  1 safety is 5 yards off the line across from the RT, the other safety is off the screen.

The ball is snapped.  The WR on the left heads upfield, everyone else stays in to block.  Orton fakes towards Buckhalter.
WR continues to head upfield as Orton drops back behind his blockers.
The 5 o-linemen and TE Graham continue to block, as does Buckhalter.  WR on left is being bumped by CB.  WR right and outside RB on right release to move into pass routes.
All receivers are off the screen, Graham has lost the block on his rusher who is now between Graham and Orton.  Orton has an open field to his left.
Orton steps up into the pocket as Graham is able to reestablish the block, pushing the rusher to his knees.  RDE is being double teamed by the LT/LG, the NT is  being doubled by the C/RG, the RT is keeping the LDE in place.  Hillis --having released upfield -- is curling back towards the line, while Buckhalter has released and is behind the NT/o-linemen.
Orton pulls the ball down and takes of straight upfield, just to the left of the NT/C/RG.  The NT spins out of the double team right next to Orton as the LB covering Hillis releases the RB to move on Orton.
The NT hits Orton from behind just as the QB reaches the line of scrimmage.

This, IMHO, is a case of Orton making a less than optimal decision.  I've been told that it is difficult for a right-handed QB to roll to his left and make a good throw -- someone with more expertise than I would need to confirm/debunk this.  Even so, it appeared that as Orton began his run upfield, he had a virtually open field to his left and could have bought himself some time by sprinting out to the left, in the same way that he rolled to his right earlier in the game.  By the same token, it appeared as though most of his receivers were on the right side of the field, so that might not have provided him with a high percentage throw.

    These four plays are simply examples of what I saw throughout the game.  Both defenses were, at times, able to bring strong pressure on the QB.  Both Orton and Quinn had numerous plays (sorry, I didn't bother to actually count them) in which they were able to recognize the pressure and either step up into the pocket, or roll out of the pocket to make a throw.  Quinn also had occasions in which he was not quick enough to get away from the pressure -- he was sacked 4 times, all in the 2nd half.  Orton, likewise, had plays where he failed to elude the pressure.  Although he was never sacked, he had multiple times in which he was hit as he threw.