Beside the fact that the Broncos handed the Patriots their first defeat of the season on Sunday, Denver rushed for more yards than any other team has against the New England defense this year. When you look at how the Broncos successfully ran the ball, you’ll find that it wasn’t through a sustained ground attack, but, rather, through four big plays.
If you take out those big plays, the Broncos performance seems somewhat lackluster, and the outcome of the game may have been much different. On Sunday the Broncos accounted for four of the fifteen longest runs given up by the Patriots this year, which collectively totaled 97-yards. Without those runs, the Broncos totaled 82 yards on 28 carries for 2.9 yards per carry.
The Broncos key to victory was obviously the big play, and the breakdowns that follow will look at how three of those big plays happened and concluded in the end zone.
(Patriots: 14 – Broncos: 0) 2nd and 1 – 2:15 in the 2nd
- On second and short, the Broncos line up in 11 personnel with Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler, and Vernon Davis set as the #1, #2, and #3 receivers to the closed side of the formation in a bunch look.
- Ronnie Hillman ultimately breaks free for a 19-yard touchdown on the play, but the success of the play is a direct result of the blocks made out of the bunch look by the Broncos skill position players.
- Because of the great angles they have, Bennie Fowler and Cody Latimer successfully crack block Rob Ninkovich and Patrick Chung, while Vernon Davis and Michael Schofield simultaneously pull to the outside; Vernon Davis executes his assignment to perfection because of the mismatch against Malcolm Butler.
- Because the Broncos execute their blocks to perfection on this play, Jerod Mayo is the only Patriot defender that has an opportunity to make a play on Hillman, and while Mayo quickly recognizes the play design, he isn’t able to get to the point of contact fast enough to make a better tackle.
(Patriots: 21 – Broncos: 7) 1st and 10 – 13:07 in the 4th
- The Broncos run a power run play to closed side of the formation as Max Garcia pulls from his right guard spot.
- Jon Bostic does a good job of stepping up into the whole where Max Garcia pulls into and forces C.J. Anderson out of his run lane. Vernon Davis makes a great block against Jabaal Sheard and forces him to the ground.
- Devin McCourty misses a tackle against Anderson around the line of scrimmage, but he would have been in a better position to contest the tackle if he wouldn’t have slightly over perused to the inside on the power play (you can get a good look at this from the end zone view on the All 22 angle).
- The reason that McCourty over peruses is because Anderson sells hard on the inside run, presses the hole, and then bounces the play to the outside. Chris Collinsworth points out Anderson’s jump-cut on the broadcast, and I’ve edited that broadcast footage into the video below.
(Patriots: 24 – Broncos: 24) 3rd and 1 – 12:42 in OT
- This play—C.J. Anderson’s game winning touchdown—is the same exact play that Ronnie Hillman scored his touchdown on. The only difference is that the Broncos ran this play to the left side of the field.
- Emanuel Sanders and Bennie Fowler execute their down blocks from their #1 and #2 wide receiver positions, while Vernon Davis and Ryan Harris get great matchups against Patriot defensive backs as they pull to the outside. One key to the play is the block made by Matt Paradis; watch as he works up field and blocks Jonathan Freeny just enough to free Anderson all the way to the end zone.
For the second week in a row the Broncos rushed for at least 170 yards, and while Brock Osweiler found success against a Bears defense that’s currently ranked 16th in pass defense DVOA, he struggled against a Patriots defense with 6.4 yards per attempt. Luckily or unluckily for Broncos fans (depends on how you look at it), Owseiler won’t face another formidable test until week 16 against Cincinnati. Between now and then, the Broncos play the Chargers, Raiders, and Steelers who rank 28th, 20th, and 19th respectively against the pass by DVOA.