The Dude’s Mail Revue: The blame, the package and The Matrix

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Fat Man blogger TJ “The Dude” Johnson posts The Dude’s Mail Revue on Thursdays, in which he takes your questions about the state of the Denver Broncos. Got a titillating question? Put a dollar bill into the Dude’s G-String and he might answer your question—after bowling practice.

TJ, our rushing attack is disgusting so far.  I wanted to just close my eyes last week against the Colts as I watched them try to run the ball into the end zone three times from the 1-yard line.  We couldn’t even get 1 yard on the worst rushing defense in the league.  What gives?  I thought we were supposed to have a beefier and better offensive line this year.  I thought we were supposed to be tougher and angle block instead of zone block. 

And what’s their excuse going to be now that they don’t have Weigmann and Hamilton to kick around any more?  Are we going to start blaming the running backs? 
—Ben, Seattle, Washington

Ben:  I understand your frustration, so let’s see if I can find a scapegoat for you.  But before I do, let’s just say that worst is a relative term.  Worst at what exactly?  If you mean the Colts were giving up the most rushing yards per game, then that’s true from a technical standpoint.  But let’s remember, they gave up 257 yards to Houston in Week 1.  And a 2-game sample size is not exactly something you should write home to momma about.  Further, giving up the most yards per game tells us nothing about the Colts’ goal-line package or defense.  So just for you, I went back to the game film and watched these 3 specific running plays. 

On the first play (1st-and-goal), the Broncos zone-blocked the defense.  Laurence Maroney was supposed to follow the fullback on the play, Dan Gronkowski, off the right tackle and into the end zone.  Zane Beadles and D’Anthony Batiste blocked the play well, but Chris Kuper was pushed into the backfield, which forced Maroney to cut inside of Kuper’s block, negating Gronkowski, Beadles, and Batiste’s work.  Guess who was waiting for Maroney in the hole?  A linebacker and a safety.  So if we are looking to place blame on the first play, we could chose Kuper.  It appears as if he simply got off the snap late.  It didn’t help matters that J.D. Walton tripped as well.

On the second play (2nd-and-goal), the Broncos appeared to man/angle block, although I have heard interviews to the contrary.  Either way, they ran a similar play off right tackle.  Batiste lines up as an extra blocker to the right of Beadles, and Batiste again gets a great block.  Demaryius Thomas gets a great kick-out as well, but then Gronkowski, who had been in motion earlier, decided to block to the outside, unnecessarily doubling Batiste’s man.  If Gronkowski simply blocks the linebacker to the inside of the play, the Broncos likely score on this play.  But Gronkowski also saw what I did on film, which is that Beadles has a good block so there was no need to turn inside.  In that split second, Beadles stops blocking, literally.  It almost looks like he thinks his legs are getting cut from under him on the left side so he stops pushing to protect himself from having his leg rolled up.  Whether he quit on the play or thought the back was through the hole, the bottom line is that his man makes the solo tackle.  So, again if we are looking for blame, on this play, you can assign it to Beadles. 

Of the three running plays on this series, this should have easily went for a score.  All of the rest of the Broncos got great push on this play.

After throwing a poor and incomplete fade route to Demaryius Thomas, the Broncos go for it on 4th down.  They run off left tackle with a zone-blocking scheme.  Batiste is the extra blocker outside of Ryan Clady.  Not much to say on this one other than the Colts fire off the ball well, and Batiste is supposed to combo block to the 2nd level.  When he reaches the 2nd level, the defender is already to his outside shoulder, so his defender is able to get his arm out and slow Maroney down just a bit., and along with a linebacker and safety, Maroney is stopped.  One of the reasons that there are defenders unaccounted for in the first place is that a receiver was motioned to the weak side of the formation, and along with Orton, are really not part of the play.  Clady makes a great block and the fullback Gronkowski gets a stellar kick-out.  However, there are just defenders around the ball and Batiste was a little shy to the 2nd level.  Hard to assign a lot of blame on this play because the Colts flew to the ball so fast.

On all three runs, Maroney could have made a great individual play to get into the end zone.  He was solo tackled twice.  But you can see that there wasn’t one player responsible for a complete breakdown of the Broncos’ running game.  There was a small thing (or two) on each play that made the difference.  First it was Kuper.  Then it was Beadles.  Then Batiste and the scheme itself.  And in defense of Indy, they made no gap or over-pursuit mistakes on any of the plays.  They played all three plays exceptionally well.

Could McDaniels have been more creative and used play action instead of a fade route to Demaryius Thomas in order to take advantage of an overly-aggressive defense?  Quite possibly.

Personally, I blame Al Davis.  But that’s how I roll.

Note:  This question came from our message boards: TJ, The colts have two fast DEs with great open-space moves.  They are deadly when your tackles are desperately backpedaling to form a pocket.  So, why don’t you repeatedly run play-actions, the sole purpose of which is to have your OTs reach forward and lock up the smaller DEs and stay latched on.  The DEs have to at least somewhat respect the run and not just completely run around the OTs, but then it’s too late, the OTs are latched on and the spin move and speed moves are off the table.  I think this was a brilliant adaptation to the unique skillset presented by the colts DEs.  am i crazy?
—Sterto, Fat Man Member

Sterto:  I wanted to answer your question here in The Revue since it was a good one.  That orange leprechaun you see running around at Invesco Field on Sundays is crazy.  But you are not.  Although the Broncos were trying to run the ball out of their 221 personnel package (2RB, 2TE, 1WR) in the first half, they weren’t getting too far.  But McDaniels was showing the defense this look so that he could use it in the 2nd half as a passing formation.  Often a team will show a certain personnel package in one part of the game in order to set plays up from the same package (or formation) later. 

Since the Broncos ran out of that package in the 1st half, they were going to stick with the game plan.  This meant play-action passing out of that same package in the 2nd half.  And you are correct in your assessment of how it affected the Colts’ DEs.  It’s much harder to leave your gap running responsibility on play action and bear down on the QB if you are uncertain.  That’s why offensive linemen line up with their hands on the ground on play-action passes.  Just another way to sell the run. 

If you’ve got the time and inclination, always scan the Broncos formation right before the play and look for the personnel package.  Since there are always five linemen and a quarterback on every play, you’ll only need to scan for 5 bodies.  The combinations range from a 005 package (0RB, 0TE, 5 WR) to a 230 jumbo package (2 RB, 3TE, 0WR).  If you see the same personnel package over and over in the 1st half, keep a mental tally of the run/pass percentages.  You can bet they will reverse themselves in the 2nd half.

Duuuuude. My brother-in-law is coming this weekend from Nashville and he’ll be at my house for the game.  I’m going to have to hear all weekend about Chris Johnson, Vince Young and the Titans defense.  Give me some stat I can throw back at him to denigrate the Titans and make him look like a complete meathead.  Thanks!
—Bill, Castle Rock, Colorado

Bill: Two things I enjoy more than anything else in the world: 1) Bowling; 2) Brother-in-law throw-downs.  Since I’m not about to let you lose, I went to the vault for this one. Hit him with this, right before kickoff: the Titans run the ball 66% of the time on 1st down (51 times), which is even more top-heavy than the New York Jets, and it’s up from 58% in 2009.  What is the Titans’ strategy?  To run Chris Johnson into the ground or to protect Vince Young like a rookie quarterback?

You might also consider “accidentally” dumping beer into his lap as well during the 4th quarter.  Offer to help him clean it up, but don’t mean it.  There’s too much football still to watch.

As a side note, although the Titans will be heavily favored, I think the Broncos match up well with them.  I think the Broncos are actually going to beat them handily.

Hahaha, Mr. Lebowski, I’m so glad you guys traded away your franchise quarterback.  Now that we’ve got a real offensive coordinator, Jay Culter’s true skills are showing.  We’re 3-0 and all you have is Kyle Orton.  The Bears are into the playoffs for sure, while your finishing 7-9.  Mark that, pal. Bears rule!!!
—Johny, Chicago, Illinois

Johny: We may have to make the Mail Revue a Bears-Free Zone, but this kind of email was coming—eventually.  But nothing prepared me for how stupid it would actually sound.  If you didn’t notice, Jay Cutler could have easily had 4 interceptions last week, which would have been par for the course.  Cutler himself has warned you the interceptions are coming this year, but apparently, you’ve closed both your eyes and your ears.  If he lasts the entire year behind that line, I will be shocked.  And nothing shocks me after seeing the Raiders in the last decade. 

What else?  You brought in Julius Peppers and overspent on free agents, but right now you rank last in the league in sacks per pass attempts.  You’re only averaging 22 points a game, which is barely above the league average for such a supposed explosive offense. Last time I checked, Matt Forte isn’t Marshall Faulk.  Once other teams stops making mistakes in the return game and on penalties, you’ll discover the games get much harder to win.  Nobody rides for free, and by the end of the year, penalties have a way of averaging out. 

But you’re 3-0.  Go crazy.  Act like CC Deville in the Talk Dirty To Me years.  By the end of the season, you’ll still finish behind the Packers and Vikings. 

It doesn’t do either of us any good to review for the 1,000th time the Culter saga in Denver, but let’s just say if they threw a flag for excessive sulking and pouting, he’d have a lot of calls go against him.  Suffice to say that he didn’t want to be here, so the Broncos got what they could for him.  He’s yours, big boy.  Enjoy, but please refrigerate after opening. 

Now, get back to your den before I put you into hibernation for the winter. 

Dude, should I play Kyle Orton or Philip Rivers in my fantasy league this week?  I love Kyle, but he could struggle against the Titans’ defense.  Rivers, though, is playing Arizona. It’s a tough decision because I love the Broncos. So who should it be?
—Bart, San Francisco, California

Bart:  Neither.  Unplug from the Matrix.  The last thing we need here is another fantasy geek.  It’s just not becoming of you.  It strikes of sloth.  Because you’re a Broncos fan, I’m going to cut you some slack.  But you’re not doing Broncos Nation/Country a service here.  Quite frankly, you need to stop playing Halo Reach so much, too.  Get out of the house.  Hit the coast.  Un. Plug. 

I see you live close to enemy territory.  What an opportunity to do me a favor.  If you can make it to The Coliseum this year, tell that lady with the spikes coming out of her head that I don’t appreciate the way she stares at me on TV.  It makes me feel a little dirty inside.  And objectified. 

What?  That’s not a lady?

Unplug from the Matrix, Bart.  But that being said, start Orton. I’m starting him this week in all 10 of my leagues. 

Unrelated Glam-Rock Bit

This Week’s Glam-Rock 80’s Song/Video: Round and Round

Artist: Ratt

Why It’s So Bad It’s Good:  1) Rats—literally; 2) Guitar solos on the dinner table; 3) MIlton Berle with breasts; 4) Silver-haired chicks digging Ratt;  5) Rats—literally

Best Existential Lyric: “I knew right from the start,  you’d put an arrow through my heart’”

If you like to see The Dude slack off 24/7, you can always follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

I’m glad we had this talk.  Now, vaya con Dios, Brah.

Agree, disagree, just like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter so I can quit my day job.

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