I know most of Broncos Country (myself included) is still reeling from the loss on Sunday night, but there are some positives to take away from the tape.
Our pass rush, led by Von Miller, put on an absolute show on Sunday night, sacking Alex Smith six times and pressuring him on 17 of his 51 drop backs. On those drop backs where he was pressured, Smith boasted a 36 percent completion rate, 28 yards, and 2.5 yards per attempt.
On the entire evening, we held Smith to only 5.0 yards per attempt, which is even lower than his normally terrible 6.6 YPA.
Let’s explore one of the ways that Denver kept the pressure on Smith.
Back in 2007 when the New York Giants made their Super Bowl run, eventually beating the New England Patriots, they did so on the back of a ferocious pass rush.
One of their staples was what they coined the NASCAR package, or their speed package. This consisted of three or four edge rushers on the field at one time with some lined up as DTs.
In 2007 the Giants sported the trio of Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora. In 2011, during their second Super Bowl run, in which they also beat the New England Patriots, they would rush Tuck, Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka and Jason Pierre-Paul together.
So why the history lesson, other than the fun fact of pointing out that New England lost twice?
Well Wade Phillips broke out his own version of the NASCAR package on Sunday Night Football against Kansas City, and it worked wonderfully.
Here you have Von Miller, Shane Ray and DeMarcus Ware all standing around waiting to attack. Derek Wolfe is also standing. Not one player is in a 3-point stance on the line for Denver.
So here’s the first time we saw it. The first third-and-long of the game.
Ray, Ware and Miller all in on that 3rd down. Denver's version of the Nascar package pretty effective.— Jeffrey Essary (@JeffreyEssary) November 28, 2016
Denver would go on to use this on every third-and-long of the game, holding KC to 2-of-12 on third-and-long.
The beauty of it is that it puts your best pass rushers on the field at the same time, and Denver has such crazy depth at edge rusher, its criminal to only have two of those guys rushing at a time.
The other thing it does is open up the a lot of 1-on-1 opportunities for your rushers.
Someone once said that Phillip’s defensive philosophy is to create 10 1-on-1 matchups on his defense, and that’s what this package does for the pass rush. Plus, these guys coordinate their rush so well, they stay spaced out enough where you have edge rushers taking on a guard with plenty of space to work.
This time, we bring out all four horsemen of the apocalypse - plus a fifth. Left to right you have Ware, Ray, Wolfe, Barrett and Miller.
Throw in a late blitz by T.J. Ward, and Alex Smith wanted nothing to do with trying that pass.
With the athleticism and speed this package possesses, it allows us to do a lot of different kinds of rushes and stunts. Check this one out.
Ware and Miller are both going to start outside and distract the blockers just enough, then circle around inside while Barrett and Wolfe are going to shoot right up the B-gaps to create space for them.
So Miller and Ware each get chipped and must fight through those to start working inside. But look at the shot above. Looks like a normal rush, and Wolfe and Barrett are creating enough havoc inside that Smith will step up into that huge A-gap between the center and guard.
Right into the waiting arms of Von Miller. The center and LT are focused on Ware so Von has a free run at Smith. Also, pay no attention to the hands to the face on Barrett.
Here’s a more traditional E/T stunt.
You have Ware, Ray, Wolfe and Miller. Ware and Miller are going to crash down and seal off the edge blockers leaving Ray and Wolfe free to loop around and chase the QB.
Again, the initial surge by the first wave of rushers, flushes the QB right into the second wave.
Check out how Von just launches himself into the fray to take out the guard blocking Wolfe, and to create havoc to force Smith out of the pocket. Ware is also spinning inside and taking his tackle with him, so Ray has a clean shot.
Both inside guys are now free around the edge to hunt the QB, and Smith has Wolfe bearing down on him and just has to get rid of it.
This last one is probably my favorite.
This highlights the sheer power that Ray has and the fruits of his offseason training where he bulked up and added strength.
He just absolutely destroys the center and creates a mess in the middle of the pocket, which allows Wolfe to power through and drag down Alex Smith. Also, Von is just ridiculous fast.
I think we will see this package as our go-to pass rushing set in obvious pass situations moving forward. Another added benefit is that it keeps Jared Crick on a lower snap count, which hopefully keeps him more fresh for run downs. He looked a little better in run defense Sunday, and our run defense overall looked solid. Plus, it gets our most talented rushers on the field more.
Pro Football Focus had a crazy stat on our embarrassment of riches at the OLB position.
The Broncos have four of the top 17 3-4 outside linebackers in pass-rushing productivity this season.
Von Miller, Shaquil Barrett, DeMarcus Ware, and Shane Ray are all among the top 17 of 57 3-4 OLBs with a qualifying number of snaps. Even when the starters are on the field, their backups play better than most starters do.
What do you think Broncos Country? More NASCAR Package?