Prelude to the Film Studies
At the end of my last article I made a bold prediction about combining the Oakland and Cleveland game studies into one article each for offense and defense. That is until my computer with the Cleveland game was entirely scrubbed, though the article was backed up; it’s with my technician not me.
So, my personal apologies, I will get the Cleveland game review out later in the week with a little luck. In the meantime, the first installment focuses on Denver’s top notch effort against Oakland.
Finally after the film segments I hope to have some interesting thoughts regarding the Dallas Cowboys game with Denver over the coming weekend.
For now, do the mental reps as you recall the game and enjoy the film study segment.
Denver’s Defense Leads the NFL and Earns an A+ Rating in Oakland
On the first possession by the Raiders the Broncos defense established control. On first down the front seven got good penetration to shut down the Raider run in the middle.
The very next play was a screen that proved the Broncos had good lateral pursuit and the play lost two yards. Third down, the Broncos had great coverage and forced the screen pass which they shutdown. The most important piece was that it set the tone early, three and out.
The second series for the Raiders starts at their own one yard line after denying the Broncos the end zone.
On first down JaMarcus Russell shows his lack of touch by throwing the ball a little high and hard off the hands of his fullback Luke Walton. Champ Bailey just misses out on an interception. On second down, the Raiders go deep and it is intercepted by Renaldo Hill who returns the ball to the Raider 23 yard line, putting the Broncos back in business.
While the Broncos did not have a great pass rush on the play, they did have good penetration and that may have caused an early release.
The next possession for the Raiders starts around their 20 yard line. On 2nd-and-8, Darren McFadden runs a middle stretch. Center Chris Morris immediately reaches the second level while right guard and former Bronco Cooper Carlisle cuts down the outside pursuit coming from the middle.
Meanwhile the tackle and tight end allow the Broncos outside contain to over pursue and the running lane is created. McFadden cuts back and gains an easy 15 yards.
True to the Oakland Raider fashion of the last few years, the very next play they shoot themselves in the foot. They decide to mix up the play calling and throw in the area of Darrius Heyward-Bey who runs a deep hook.
Russell may have been trying to hit Louis Murphy in the slot who was streaking. Regardless, the Broncos had the perfect man-zone trap called. These defenses ideally put a triangle of DB’s around a given throwing area.
Defenses like these are what make the NFL hard on young quarterbacks. Essentially the Broncos line up in what could be man or quarter zone coverage. The quarterback really doesn’t know.
The biggest key he has to look for is where the safeties and cornerbacks are rolling to. If there is some of that rotation it’s a zone and he needs to find the receiver in space.
Technically Bey was open; however the Broncos had a perfect blanket coverage which forces the turnover. When young quarterbacks force the ball into these areas they literally are making high risk—reward decisions.
As this play developed, Champ Bailey rolls to the outside from his inside coverage position. Over the top Andre Goodman and the safety Renaldo Hill converge on Louis Murphy’s streak route.
JaMarcus Russell makes an OK read, but wastes his effort with an inaccurate throw that sails too high for Heyward-Bey and behind the streaking Murphy. Andre Goodman makes a great read of the throw and makes an easy interception, returning it 20-some yards to around the original line of scrimmage.
The Raiders best drive of the day occurs after Matt Prater’s 48 yard field goal.
The Raiders start with the ball on their own 14 yard line. On 2nd-and-6, Darren McFadden catches a seven yard screen pass getting Oakland’s drive rolling. Then a couple of recurring vulnerabilities the Broncos have are exploited by the Raiders.
The Raiders' Michael Bush and Darren McFadden are able to run to the outside for a couple of big gains. This will set up their short inside gains that help them to attain first downs.
Then Louis Murphy is able to make like Brandon Marshall on short cross routes to exploit the Denver defense for big gainers. The Broncos defense doesn’t get off to a particularly good start on the pass rush and the release is early in dissecting the defense.
The Broncos benefit from a Raider penalty and a caused fumble by Mario Haggan that was recovered by Oakland along with some hard hitting along the way. Finally on a key third down situation the Broncos show an all-out blitz and force a Raider timeout.
Oakland connects on an underneath route to Zach Miller and advances the ball down to the Broncos 30 and has to settle for three.
On the first Raider drive of the second half, Oakland again works to establish a nice lane for McFadden to use on the outside of the offensive line. A Raider tight end is able to establish contact with Elvis Dumervil and eventually turn him to the outside creating a running lane.
Darren McFadden carries the ball for 10 yards where he is then de-cleated by Brian Dawkins.
Later in the drive the Raiders go for it on fourth down and the Broncos jump offsides to give them the first down.
Dawkins later has great coverage on Zach Miller and the ball goes incomplete. Then Elvis Dumervil shuts down the Raider drive with a sack of JaMarcus Russell.
After the Broncos lose a fumble on their own 16, Oakland then runs a toss play on 2nd-and-5 to the right side. The play picks up seven for a first down, however DJ Williams strips McFadden of the ball and Brian Dawkins makes a quick heads-up play to recover the fumble and snuff the Raiders' last hopes of getting back into the game.
The key here is the defense never quit despite being put in a bad spot and they created some magic of their own. With the turnover, the Broncos came away stealing the Raiders heart as they were pushing towards a touchdown in the south end zone of their fan faithful.
After the replay officials ruled that the play would stand in favor of the Broncos, Brian Dawkins drove home the final nail in the Raiders chance. He simply signaled a slow point in the Broncos direction for a first down with a jubilant slant as an exclamation to the game. There were still five minutes left in the third quarter, but this game was over.
Special Teams Does Things Well But Finds Room for Improvement (Grade: B+)
Eddie Royals' first punt return had very little blocking so the return went for a mere four yards.
After an interception drive goes nowhere. Matt Prater connects on a 48 yard field goal that could have been good from 58 yards off the baseball dirt infield. These are hard kicks for field goal kickers because their plant foot will usually slip a little bit on the swing of the kicking leg.
No matter, perfect form results in a perfect kick and three more points for the Broncos.
On the play, the Raiders were able to get good penetration up front and this is an area Coach McDaniels said specifically the Broncos will be working on this week. That is a real plus, since it happened on the next field goal and extra point try as well.
The Raiders were over stacking eight players to one side and getting good pressure up the middle.
The following kickoff is six yards deep in the end zone and the Broncos stuff the return at the 14 yard line, allowing the defense to be set up for success. On the next kick return for the Raiders they were stopped at the 15 yard line.
Conversely when the Raiders try a 48 yarder the Broncos get very little penetration and Sebastian Janikowski connects on the long attempt.
On the following kickoff Eddie Royal gets the ball out to the 22 yard line, good for a 27 yard return.
On the Raiders kickoff return following the Broncos second touchdown, the Broncos make a touchdown saving tackle at the 30 yard line.
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