Vic Fangio took a slew of questions about the “unprecedented” amount of blitzing he did Sunday against the Patriots.
Of course, if you had been paying attention the way MHR’s Jeffrey Essary had been, you’d have realized two weeks ago how many players Fangio was sending to the quarterback as one way to survive without Von Miller this season.
To underscore how big of a departure this is for Fangio:— Jeffrey Essary (@JeffreyEssary) October 8, 2020
In '18 with the Bears, he blitzed ILBs 90 times all year.
In '19 with Denver he blitzed them 75 times
In '20 they've already blitzed 66 times and on pace for 264. https://t.co/kKNesmEK4b
But as Fangio pointed out, “unbeknownst to the media,” the defensive-minded coach was once known as the “leading blitzkrieger in the NFL.”
“I’ve been calling defenses now for 20-something years but the last few years with the defenses that I had in San Francisco and Chicago we didn’t need to,” he noted, “but it’s there when it needs to be had and obviously it was there [Sunday].
And that famed fourth-down blitz to keep the lead in the waning minute on Sunday was a special call neither Fangio nor the Broncos’ defense had never run in a game before.
“I just think at times during the season you have to come up with something on a week to week basis—and that’s one that I’ve been looking at,” Fangio said. “I just decided that this was the time to do it.”
It certainly was.
Cam Newton and New England had only that 4th-and-10 play on Denver’s 24-yard line standing between them and a full set of downs to make a go-ahead touchdown. But sending two safeties is always a gutsy call.
“With Cam Newton, as you guys saw, I think he was their leading rusher and I don’t think many of them were called runs, most of them were scrambles,” Fangio said. “We’ve got to add guys sometimes to contain a good quarterback who’s a good runner and that’s just where we’re at right now, so I thought the timing was right for it.”
There were no complaints from the defense. In fact, Justin Simmons noted that there was “no reason” for the defense not to be confident in pulling off that play. After all, the defense had been “stopping the run, challenging in the pass game” and winning one-on-ones.
“That’s very Vic-esque,” Simmons said of the double-safety blitz. “I remember the Browns game last year at home he called a safety blitz and we hadn’t called it the whole game, but we had worked on it so much throughout the week. He’s the type of guy that just has a great feel for the game in terms of play calling and he just felt it was the right time to call it. We obviously had never called it before and it’s just a lot of trust in the players to go out there and execute it. [S] Kareem [Jackson] and I were sent on the blitz and it was just well executed around the board.”
Rookie cornerback Michael Ojemudia also liked the confidence from the head coach.
“We just kind of new that [the play] this was it; this was the play,” he said. “It’s an all-out blitz and we have to cover for about three seconds. Thanks to Vic for having the trust in us to cover our guys for that. That definitely takes some guts and we appreciate that call.”
Probably the guy happiest to see the defense pull that off was quarterback Drew Lock.
After all, it was Lock’s second interception - in back-to-back throws - that put the Pats in striking distance for the win.
And the quarterback was just a little bit nervous in that final minute.
OK, “very, very anxious” actually.
“As an offensive side of the ball and an offensive group, we have a lot to work on,” Lock acknowledged. “We appreciate our defense and our special teams.”
Any quarterback would have appreciated that defense yesterday - four sacks, two interceptions, six batted balls, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Although this defense didn’t created any turnovers against the Jets, Simmons noted the feeling of making a defensive stand at the end to get the win had a similar motivating feeling.
“It’s huge. ...It’s all about momentum and riding that wave,” he said. “Coming out here and finding a way to get turnovers and our offense moving the ball down the field, you just ride that type of momentum. I was just really proud of the way that we battled. I felt like we were very physical this game on both sides of the ball, running the football, and winning our one-on-one matchups.”
Although fans and critics obviously made a lot of Lock’s two interceptions and low QBR thanks to several very catchable drops, the head coach actually felt quite good about his QB.
“The big thing I was looking for with him was to see if he looked like a guy who was nursing an injury and playing through it, and I didn’t see that at all. I saw a guy that was out there looking normal, into the game, and a guy that you would have no clue he was getting his first action since getting hurt about a month ago,” Fangio said. “That part was a big thing for me.”
Regarding the interceptions, Fangio doesn’t want to see it, but he liked the aggressive play call for a first down.
“Obviously there’s a throw or two that [Lock] would like to have back. We were trying to be aggressive. We were trying to make first downs,” Fangio added. “We’ll analyze that and see if it was the right choice—not so much run or pass—but where we were throwing it and how we were throwing it.”
For his part, Lock took said the first INT miscommunication was “100 percent on me.” The second one was just trying “to squeeze it back shoulder “ and got caught with the defender falling off.
“If I just throw it the way I’ve been throwing it the whole game, fit it in a hole in Cover 2, that was just man to man, just throw it like it did the first play of the game to Tim and it would have been fine,” Lock said. “We would have held the ball, possibly score, kick another field goal and I would have been sipping Gatorade on the sideline, relaxing, instead of biting my nails.”
All’s well that ends well, and this game ended well - Brandon McManus beat a team record by kicking six field goals in the game; Phillip Lindsay rushed for 101 yards; and Tim Patrick caught four passes for 101 yards.
“Rock ‘em, sock ‘em, bop ‘em Phil with the hair rolling today,” Lock laughed. “He was ready, he was excited, and it felt good to finally have him back on the field again. He brings an energy that is infectious without a doubt. Having him back is huge for our offense. I’m just excited to hopefully get everyone back eventually; offense and defensive side of the ball, and just really show how good this team can be.”
Of course, now the test is the defending Super Bowl champs. Fangio noted that the problem with defending the Chiefs is that the quarterback is only one of many weapons so neutralizing all of them is a big ask.
But it is the ask that will be on the table next week.
“[Andy Reid] has got such a Star Wars offense over there,” Fangio said. “A lot of weapons, a lot of speed, and a great quarterback (Patrick Mahomes) who is operating this offense at a very, very high level. He’s very hard to sack, he doesn’t throw interceptions, or very rarely does. The guy is at the top of his game.”
And if you are lucky enough to get Mahomes out of rhythm, there are a few other start to contend with - Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce Mecole Hardman, rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
Updated blitzing numbers for Sunday's game - Vic Fangio blitzed Alexander Johnson 10 times, Jewell 7 times, Callahan 6 times.— Jeffrey Essary (@JeffreyEssary) October 20, 2020
That's 54 blitzes for the season for Johnson, now surpassing his total from all of last year (50).
AJ is essentially a situational pass rusher now.
“They’re actually a better offense right now than they were last year because of the addition of Edwards-Helaire,” Fangio added. “And they’re better because [QB Patrick] Mahomes is a young quarterback who just keeps getting better and better. I know that’s hard to believe, but he is getting better and better. He’s a creator with his legs, he buys time, he makes great decisions.”
Mike Klis of 9News asked Fangio if the team was better prepared to face the Chiefs than it was at this time last year - anticipating a turn-around in their season that instead began fizzling when the Broncos couldn’t even stop the Chiefs behind their backup quarterback who had to finish the game for an injured Mahomes.
“We’ll find out. We certainly hope so,” Fangio said, noting the Broncos have a completely different make-up than the last meeting in Mile High.”We’ll see where we’re at, it’ going to be a great challenge. They’re the defending champs. ...We know who they are and they’re a great, great team.”
Will the Broncos compete better (win or lose) with the Chiefs this time compared to the Mile High game in 2019?
This poll is closed
Oh hell yeah they will!