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Tale of the tape: Broncos preseason week 2

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Just before the Broncos take the field tonight, let’s break down some of the key plays from the second preseason game against the 49ers.

NFL: Preseason-San Francisco 49ers at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

I know I am a little late getting this up, but hopefully this will whet your appetite for some football in anticipation of tonight’s contest versus the Rams.

This breakdown will mostly focus on the offense since there were more noteworthy plays from that side of the ball.

Play #1

This first play is a great piece of running by C.J. Anderson. I struggled to identify this play originally, but it looks to be some sort of dive or belly play. Everyone is just straight up man-to-man blocking.

Additionally, Andy Janovich looks to be leading the way into the strong (left) side B gap, and Anderson sees the weak side B gap wide open, makes a cut and bursts through it. Check out the play above. Anderson looks to be in mid-season form with that burst through the hole. Had Anderson not been as quick as he was, the MLB likely tackles him for just a five-yard gain.

The other things I noticed were the MLB (#51) and DE (#92) getting caught watching the fullback and not staying in their gaps, which is why the B gap is so wide open. Watch #92 in particular. He shoots his arms out immediately at the snap to control Schofield and is reading both the A and B gaps. But his eyes follow Janovich, so he leans toward the offense’s left, leaving the right side open for Anderson to cut into. Also, nice job by RT Donald Stephenson on this play.

Play #2

Alright, so here’s the one everyone has been talking about. Siemian’s pick six at the top of the 2nd Quarter.

Kubiak has come out saying that this was a bad play call on his part, and he’s right. The defense is in a quarters coverage shell (meaning each of the four defenders at the top take 14 of the field, despite what my poor drawing may indicate), with man coverage underneath.

Norwood is picked up by the slot corner, which leaves Demaryius Thomas running a deep slant right into double coverage. You’ll see this on the gif below indicated by John Lynch in the broadcast, but once Jordan Norwood goes inside, saftey Eric Reid has no one around him to cover, so he is free to break on anything over the middle.

A couple possible alternatives could be a fly route up the seam from Norwood, which would clear out his slot defender and Reid, while DT could cut underneath them for the slant. Or you could run Booker on a swing pass or wheel route to the right side where there is nothing but green grass, with DT and Norwood drawing the defense’s attention.

Or just a comeback route from DT since the corner is playing so far off.

Now to the decision to throw by Trevor Siemian. There really isn’t anywhere to go with the ball except maybe the other slant route to Emmanuel Sanders once he clears the linebacker. Siemian had been doing really well up to this point with quick, in rhythm throws, but he just has to see this one better and not make this throw.

Another interesting thing to note, is that DT seems to recognize the coverage and almost pull up a bit. If you look at the gif below he hesitates to continue over the middle because he sees the safety, and almost looks like he is expecting Siemian to throw to his outside shoulder. If you look closely, it almost looks like DT is surprised the ball is going toward the middle of the field.

This, to me, is the only throw Siemian should make in this situation. Throw it intentionally behind DT to his outside shoulder. So I chalk this one up to a mixture of bad play call, bad decision, and possible miscommunication between Siemian and DT. This is one Siemian will learn from.

Last thing I’ll say is that this is also the play where Siemian hurt his shoulder. I watched his next two throws to see if he seemed to be favoring his throwing shoulder, and it looks like after the first miss that he overthrew to Latimer, he’s shrugging his right shoulder.

I don’t want to guess or try and make excuses, but I don’t think we should read too much into the next two misses from Siemian as being rattled or not being able to shake off the pick. He missed one throw and Latimer dropped the other. The bigger test for Siemian is going to be how he comes out and plays tonight.

Play #3

I wanted to include this one because bootlegs are just so pretty to watch.

Here you have a stretch zone to the offense’s left. Virgil Green is going to come across the field to the backside. DT clears out his corner on a deep route, which freezes the free safety for a second as well. So Green has literally no one around him.

This is what I love about this offense and makes it easy for young QBs. Everyone flows to the run action from the back and linemen, so the target is wide open; #35 and #41 are the only two who even have a chance at Green and they’re nowhere close.

Look at the highlighted area above. All Siemian has to do is put it somewhere in that vicinity. The only challenge is Ahmad Brooks bearing down on him. He didn’t bite on the run fake and has a free run at the QB. Siemian does a nice job of avoiding him long enough to heave one out there to Green.

Again, the free safety has to respect DT going deep so he can’t fully commit to Green, and Green’s coverage is five yards behind him. Fortunately, Siemian has the arm strength to get it to him.

Play #4

I’m going to pick on the young guys on defense for a minute with this play, but I believe this is a duo we’ll see making plays for Denver for many years.

Rookie safety Will Parks is lined up in the slot in man coverage on this play and fellow rookie Justin Simmons is your single high free safety. I like this alignment and it shows a little peek into how Denver will likely use these guys going forward. Parks was a top-rated corner for a year in college before he switched to safety, so he definitely has the coverage chops to line up in the slot.

The coverage is initially very good and tight, but toward the end of the route, Parks just loses the receiver and drifts way too far inside.

Simmons is doing his job here because the receiver on the other side is running a deep post, so he has to stay in place to cover that route. Parks needs to know this and realize he can’t get that far under the route because while he has some help over the top, Simmons can’t get to him that quick. Good learning opportunity for the young safety.

Play #5

This last one is the TD throw by rookie Paxton Lynch.

Another great bootleg play here from the Kubiak offense. Lynch doesn’t get as much of a response from the linebackers on the play action here. The 49ers are in a 3-3-5 nickel look. Fortunately, the nickel back blitzes and the strong side safety comes down to play the slot, with the FS rotating up top for a cover 1 look, so the FS is further away from the action.

Lynch does a nice job of buying time with his legs and faking the run, which draws in the linebacker (#45 completely leaves his coverage on the TE to chase Lynch). The only person around the TE to make a play is the FS who is behind from having to come all the way across the field.

Additionally, there was some defensive holding on the TE that probably should have been called. Overall, great play by the rookie.

Would love to hear from you in the comments on what you saw in these plays.

Until next time, go Broncos!