Happy Saturday, friends. As mentioned yesterday, I’ve had a tremendously busy week, and couldn’t find four hours to do my All-22 work until this morning. So, it’s been a while since the Giants game, but I have some observations on it.
Knowing our reader base, I’m confident that you all still have interest. Ready… BEGIN!!
1. I don’t have a lot of screenshots on this topic, but I think it’s the most important takeaway from Sunday’s game, so I want to discuss it at some length. The Broncos defense, for the second week in a row, was extremely instrumental in winning the game.
The stats are going to lie about the Broncos defense this season, because when they get teams down in games, they’ll most likely play less aggressively, and give up cheap underneath stuff. The fact is, though, this is a very good unit, even without Von Miller and Champ Bailey. There are five primary reasons they’re so good:
- They stop the run consistently with a light box. The Broncos defensive line group is huge, and those big guys (most often Derek Wolfe, Terrance Knighton, Kevin Vickerson, and Robert Ayers) consistently win against five offensive linemen. Each one of those guys is oversized for the traditional position archetype for a 4-3 defense, and in fact, the scheme plays more like a 3-4 up front.
- The inside linebackers can run and cover very well. By using Wesley Woodyard and Danny Trevathan together, the Broncos have found that they can effectively emulate what San Francisco does with Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman. Neither Kentucky alum is the kind of guy that you’d want taking on a pulling guard one-on-one very much, but they flow to the ball in the run game, and they can both really cover. As an added bonus, they’ve both shown excellent blitzing ability.
- They have a bunch of players throughout their back seven who can man up. When you can play man coverage and be very competitive with it, you gain a lot of flexibility to scheme up pressure, or to use robber concepts in coverage. The Broncos can really mix it up, because they can effectively leave their 11th defender free.
- The Broncos are getting excellent play from their safeties. Rahim Moore bit badly on play action on the early 56-yard completion to Victor Cruz Sunday, but otherwise, he had a really clean game. As mentioned last week, the Broncos have been playing him very deep, and he’s still finding ways to get back into the mix of plays that happen in front of him. Duke Ihenacho has been very active, and Mike Adams has been his normal steady self in coverage.
- The defense works together, and covers for each other. This is so important, and it’s the mark of a good defense. Because defense is fundamentally a reactionary activity, it’s easy to make a misread and have a guy get out of position. Through speed, schematic soundness, consistent effort, and excellent technique by the players, the Broncos wipe out a lot of mistakes.
As I was watching the coaches’ film, I saw something that you can’t see on the TV feed, and I thought it was a good example of how this defense works together to achieve victory. In the second quarter, the Giants face a 2nd-and-8 from their own 47.
This is a classic situation to take a deep shot, and the Giants set up to do so. They come out in 21 personnel, with the backs in an I-formation, and the two wideouts (Victor Cruz and Louis Murphy) in a Twins right alignment. Murphy motions across the formation, and Chris Harris follows him, suggesting man coverage. The Broncos have two deep safeties, although Ihenacho is only about nine yards deep here in the presnap sceenshot:
At the snap, Murphy (who is a 9-route guy, and not much else) blows by Harris off the line, and creates very quick vertical separation. Ihenacho is over the top, but Murphy has gotten great release, and is in excellent position for a big play:
Murphy closes the distance with Ihenacho, gives him a fake to the outside, and breaks it back to the post. He’s wide open. So why doesn’t he get the ball? Look in the upper right quadrant of the following picture, and you’ll see Eli Manning flushed to his right:
Here’s a better view of what happened early in the play. Eli is dropping back, and looking to go deep to Murphy. You can see Harris in the upper left quadrant, so this is very quick after the snap. Terrance Knighton has defeated the left guard quickly, and gotten penetration. Eli sees Knighton, and is forced to escape to his right. The wide open deep route is no longer an option.
Robert Ayers eventually disengages from the double-team he got, and he continues to chase Eli, who throws the ball to Cruz short, in traffic. As it turns out, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie forces Cruz out of bounds before he catches the ball, so the result of the play is an illegal touching penalty.
Harris and Ihenacho screwed up on this play, but they were saved by the good work of Knighton, Ayers, and Rodgers-Cromartie. This sort of thing happens frequently for the Denver defense, and as you remember, it never used to happen in the bad old days.
2. I wanted to break down both Knowshon Moreno touchdowns, and we’ll start with the first one. This was outside zone, and the Broncos really got it blocked. I want to explore how they did so in detail, with pictures.
Notice at the snap that Julius Thomas has Justin Tuck in front of him in a 7-technique, and that RT Orlando Franklin has a bubble, with nobody in front of him. Thomas is going to block down on Tuck, and Franklin is going to loop around Thomas to lead the sweep.
I’ve been critical of Thomas’s blocking, but look how well he gets into Tuck’s chest here. He’s broken down, with excellent technique, and he has Tuck on roller skates. Also note that Eric Decker has gotten into the body of Corey Webster (23), and that all this traffic is preventing LB Jacquian Williams (57) from getting into the mix.
Franklin has gotten around the corner here, and he gives Tuck a shove to keep him contained. After releasing Tuck, Thomas gets a shove in on Williams. Decker continues to maul Webster, and Moreno gets the edge.
Franklin continues to get downfield, and he finishes the play by hitting DB Antrel Rolle. Moreno finishes the run with power, as usual, pushing his way into the end zone.
Franklin got all the love on TV, and on this site, but Thomas and Decker were also key to getting this play blocked. The Broncos wideouts all block well, and if Thomas starts doing so, more good stuff is on the way.
3. While we’re on a roll, let’s look at the other rushing TD too. This is also outside zone, but rather than a pitch from the shotgun, it’s a handoff from under center. Both the offense and defense have seven men in the box, and the Broncos’ best blocking TE Virgil Green (circled) is on the right side.
While we said this is 7-on-7, it’s really 2-on-2. The Broncos have Green and Franklin matched up against DE Mathias Kiwanuka (94) and LB Spencer Paysinger (52). Green gets an excellent initial block on Kiwanuka, and Franklin again has a bubble. If MLB Mark Herzlich (58) makes an excellent read, he might be able to get outside, but it’s a maybe/maybe not kind of deal.
Green exchanges Kiwanuka with Franklin, and he moves outside to take Paysinger. The inside of the run play is well blocked, and Herzlich (58) has filled inside, for some reason. Franklin has to try to reach-block Kiwanuka, and that’s not an easy thing to do.
Green gets a textbook seal block on Paysinger, but Franklin misses Kiwanuka. Moreno makes the DE miss anyway, with quickness to the edge, and Green’s block has eliminated any ability for 94 to follow Moreno downfield. Note Decker’s excellent block (again) on Webster at the bottom of the next screenshot:
Again, Moreno makes a good run, with a strong finish at the end. The physicality of the Broncos on both sides of the ball was very impressive, against a supposedly “physical NFC East” team. (Funny story – the AFC West is 4-0 against the NFC East so far this season.)
4. Now for some quicker hitting thoughts. Montee Ball has been underwhelming on offense so far this year, but it’s good to see him contributing on special teams. He also did make a nice run on a beautifully-executed screen early in the game.
5. After getting called for pass interference at the end of the second quarter, it was good to see Rodgers-Cromartie rebound with a nice interception on the next play. That speaks to an appropriately forgetful mindset for a corner.
6. You could tell that Trindon Holliday was getting ready to break one from his previous few returns. For the second week in a row, the opponent was directionally punting to him, which shows appropriate fear.
7. Retired for John Elway (TYJE)
8. The officiating was awful, and they basically gifted the Giants their first TD. The 30-yard penalty on Tony Carter for interference was a bad call, because while Carter didn’t look for the ball, he also didn’t initiate any contact. The receiver went into the spot that Carter occupied, and he’s entitled to be where he is.
The interference call in the end zone on DRC was absurd. He played the ball perfectly, and even Phil Simms saw that. That should have forced a field goal, and instead, the Giants got the ball on the one-yard line. Then, Knighton and Trevathan stuffed a run on first-and-goal, and Knighton got called for taunting, in another ticky-tack call. Finally, the Giants made a half-yard with a Brandon Jacobs run.
9. As for bad calls, the late unnecessary roughness penalty on Rahim Moore was bullshit too. You notice how Moore wasn’t fined for helmet-to-helmet contact this week?
10. Finally, I wanted to point out that I’ve been disappointed in the punting work of the newly wealthy Britton Colquitt so far this year. It’s time for him to step it up, even as he isn’t used real frequently.
11. From my brother Chris, during the game Sunday - "That interception by Moore was not a heady play. He gave up 25 yards of field position." Chris is right; the interception came in the end zone on 4th-and-10. Moore knelt in the end zone for a touchback, but if he'd just knocked the ball down, the Broncos would have taken over on downs at their own 45.