Miller’s first sack happened with six and a half minutes left in the first quarter.
Situation: 3rd and 8 at CAR 32
Description: (0:56 – 3rd) (Shotgun) C.Newton sacked at CAR 22 for -10 yards (sack split by D.Wolfe and V.Miller)
Miller’s final sack happened with just over 4 minutes left in the game. The Broncos are up 16-10 and this last strip-sack helps set up the game’s second offensive touchdown.
Situation: 3rd and 9 at CAR 25
Description: (4:04 – 4th) (Shotgun) C.Newton sacked at CAR 16 for -9 yards (V.Miller). FUMBLES (V.Miller), touched at CAR 18, RECOVERED by DEN-T.Ward at CAR 9. T.Ward to CAR 4 for 5 yards (M.Remmers). V.Miller credited with 7-yd sack
This play is controversial due to Newton’s reaction after he gets stripped. Newton first looks like he is going to dive on the football as DeMarcus Ware reaches out for the ball while laying on the ground. Instead, he jumps backwards. Multiple bodies hit the ground surrounding the football where Newton finally dives for it. The ball then jumps out for T.J. Ward to grab it about five yards or so behind the pile.
Why didn’t Newton dive on the football? Without having the privilege of reading Newton’s thoughts, we can only speculate. Was he scared of getting hit? Possibly. Did he think that the football would roll away from Ware’s outstretched grasp? That’s also possible.
Realistically, it was just a bang-bang reaction play and Newton didn’t think logically through it. Considering the brutal beating he received during this game, personally I can’t blame him for the hesitation. With that being said, your season’s likelihood is on the line so the football has to be your first priority. I guarantee you this play will be talked about for the next week or two (at least), but for our purposes it is time to move on and get back to the breakdown!
Miller registered 2.5 sacks this game, but he was constantly in the backfield using his deadly speed rush. I put my favorite three (there were more to choose from) below showing just how effective it was against Mike Remmers:
In the last play that I showed in this grouping, Newton gets destroyed in the backfield on what some may argue is a late hit,which should have resulted in a “Roughing the Passer” penalty. Here is the official rule in the NFL Rule Book seen (Rule 12, Section 2, Article 9a):
once a pass has been released by a passer, a rushing defender may make direct contact with the passer only up through the rusher’s first step after such release (prior to second step hitting the ground)
From my point of view, I counted three steps that Wolfe took to drive into Newton. In my opinion this means #95 Derek Wolfe should have been penalized. Phil Simms seems to disagree. Let me know what you think in the comments!
Edit: Some readers have commented in private messages or below that Miller was being held in all three pressures. I do want to point out that most of these were actually legal since Miller was using a “rip” technique.
(1) When a defensive player is held by an offensive player during the following situations, offensive holding will not be called:
(i) if, during a defensive charge, a defensive player uses a “rip” technique that puts an offensive player in a position that would normally be holding.
Exception: Holding will be called if the defender’s feet are taken away from him by the offensive player’s action
It could be argued the pressure in the endzone was a non-called holding penalty.
When Miller wasn’t pass rushing in Wade Philips’ 3-4 Under defense, he played a combination of edge defender versus the run, strongside linebacker covering tight ends, and quarterback spy.
Here Miller does an excellent job on the far side of the formation covering tight end #88 Greg Olsen in tight man-to-man coverage. Newton completed the pass to Corey Brown for the first down anyways, but Miller clearly was able to nullify Olsen on this particular play.
Miller also chipped Olsen multiple times off of the line of scrimmage, which slowed his pass rush, but helped stopped Newton from making an easy read. Wade Phillips clearly loves the versatile skill set of Von Miller as he trusts him in every facet of the game.
Overall, it was pressure by Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, and the other members of the Broncos’ front seven that stopped Cam Newton and the Panthers’ explosive offense from clicking. In pass defense, Chris Harris and Aqib Talib did a fantastic job of shutting down the Panthers’ receivers, while drops, overthrows by Cam Newton, and turnovers from all parties certainly didn’t help the Panthers’ cause.
Miller is in the final year of his rookie contract and will be a high profile target if the Broncos allow him to enter free agency. I sincerely doubt they let him walk, so I fully expect the Broncos’ front office to sign him to a lucrative contract this off-season.
How lucrative? The two most similar contracts we should look at are the contracts of J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans and Justin Houston of the Kansas City Chiefs. Both contracts were the same at 6 years, $100 millions, and roughly $52 million guaranteed. Von Miller will sign something similar this off-season, probably slightly more with one year of inflation added, all because of his speed rush that he has perfected since entering the league as the #2 overall pick from Texas A&M.
Follow Samuel Gold on Twitter: @SamuelRGold.