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Film Study - Breaking Down Peyton Manning's Last Pass

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Here's a look at the all-22 view of Manning's last pass in Super Bowl 50, and ultimately in his career.

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Remember the good old days (a month ago) when we won the Super Bowl? Heck, remember back when we had a quarterback? That was fun! I figured with all the free agency rumors and reports swirling around, Broncos Country could use a quick break to be reminded again of our Super Bowl 50 victory, and to honor a legend who threw his last pass in that game.

Let's break down the play that was the Sheriff's last throw of his career, and the icing on the cake/final nail in the coffin (depending on how you look at it) to Super Bowl 50.

Situation: Two point conversion play after 4th Quarter TD by CJ Anderson.

Score: 22-10 - This play was key to put us up by two full scores.

Personnel

Denver is in full on "Manning mode", empty backfield with 4 WRs (Left to right: Sanders, DT, Fowler, Norwood) and 1 TE (Owen Daniels) split out in the slot inside of Bennie Fowler.

Carolina is in a nickel look with 2 LBs, 2 safeties, and 3 CBs.

Play

The play is designed from the start to go to Bennie Fowler with the rest of the receivers essentially just running interference (figuratively of course).

Pre-snap

Here's a look at what things look like initially pre-snap.

At first glance it looks like the Panthers might be in cover 0 with Thomas Davis in a blitz position off the edge. DT is not covered by anyone at this point.

Davis eventually walks out to cover DT in the left slot (which is a total mismatch). From here we can see its a basic cover 1 look (single high safety with man coverage underneath) with Luke Kuechly in a spy/middle zone. This is an interesting coverage for the Panthers in such a tight area as most teams almost exclusively play 2 deep safeties in the red zone since the area is so compacted, the single safety has less time and space to cover much area keeping him almost exclusively locked down to covering stuff over the middle. Denver must have seen this on film beforehand as this play exploits that weakness by attacking the area where a safety in 2 deep would be.

One other note: the Panthers have their 3rd CB, Cortland Finnegan covering Owen Daniels in the slot which leaves Roman Harper, a safety, on Bennie Fowler. Even for a 3rd WR, being matched up on a safety favors the Broncos.

Now let's take a look at the route design as it is pretty cool. Starting from the left, Sanders and DT have the potential to do a nice pick route with Sanders going underneath on a drag route and DT running to the corner. I'm sure this is a variation on this play that Denver could run as this would be a touchdown all day. This time though, DT just sort of walls off Davis as the play is designed to go to Fowler; the rest of the routes are just dummies.

Owen Daniel's route is key here. He's going to fake outside for a second and then run a slant route which draws his defender after him and lures the middle safety AND Luke Kuechly over to him. Check out the image below.

Look how everyone is flowing towards Daniels. Kuechly, specifically, is reading Manning's eyes so he starts to flow towards the right side since Manning looks that way immediately, but there is no way he makes it all the way across the field in time. So when the ball is thrown, Daniels is TRIPLE covered. while everyone else is single covered. Now all Fowler has to do is beat his man. Which he does beautifully.

As we saw in the image above with the routes, Fowler is going to do a double move, faking an out route, then crossing the defenders face and turning up field towards the back of the end zone.

Once the ball is snapped, Manning looks directly at Fowler and never looks anywhere else. Harper sees Fowler's outside step (where the poorly drawn arrow is) and bites hard to the outside! This is a great counter play to one of Manning's favorite redzone plays where the inside receiver runs a quick out with the outside receiver running a pick route over the top. Harper anticipates this when he sees Fowler's step and immediately jumps to cut off the out route.

Now that Fowler has quickly turned up field, Harper is way out of position. Couple that with the traffic jam that Owen Daniels created in the middle of the field, and you have nothing but grass in front of Fowler.

Here's a look with the ball in the air. Harper is a full step behind, and Manning leads Fowler up the field as opposed to across the field, potentially into a big hit from Kuechly or Coleman.

Here's that last shot from another angle just to demonstrate how much room Fowler really had. It does not get more wide open than that in the National Football League!

Summary

Great play design by the Broncos, and good execution on the routes by the receivers. The line held up in pass protection and Manning put the ball on the money. Peyton's last pass, much like the majority of his career, made it look easy.