Hiding in plain sight: Denver’s “Delay-Follow” Boot Concept
I just want everyone to know that this post has absolutely nothing to do with a certain Seahawks defender who had a very memorable postgame interview with Erin Andrews last night, but I need page views, so if you’ll excuse me, I have to boost this site’s SEO visibility:
RICHARD SHERMAN RICHARD SHERMAN RICHARD SHERMAN RICHARD SHERMAN RICHARD SHERMAN.
Sorry about that. Anyway, Peyton Manning had by far his best day against a Bill Belichick defense in the postseason, posting a 118.4 passer rating against a defense that struggled all day long against the veteran quarterback.
One of the plays that caught my eye was Manning’s first touchdown pass of the game, a one yard throw and catch to TE Jacob Tamme, a former team mate of Manning’s in Indy as well. Even in a simple naked bootleg on the goal line, there is often a lot detail and deception hidden.
The interesting thing about this play is that it’s a very good tendency breaker when it comes to boot concepts. It’s common to see a receiver, tight end, or back coming from the backside to run to the flat after faking a wham block, and you’ll occasionally see the tight end to that side run a quick delay pattern with the backside guy following him into the flat, but it’s not every day you see the two routes switched. (You can watch the play HERE)
The play call was a perfect example of not only great playcalling by Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase, but also of great organization and planning during the week. The two previous play on first and second and goal were both run plays that started with tight end Julius Thomas (#80) motioning to the left side just like he does here. Even Manning’s trademark vocals and gestures at the line of scrimmage were exactly the same. That doesn’t happen by accident.
As Brian Billick has said, preparation “allows you to make decisions in the cool and calm of your office during the week after a thorough analysis of your opponent.” What you don’t want to be doing is making those kinds of decisions on the field during the game, since you’ll rarely be as disciplined and calculating with everything going on around you. That’s exactly what Adam Gase did with this first scoring play of the afternoon. Now, on to the play itself.
The Patriots are a two-gap defense, meaning they will attack not so much the gaps of the offense, but instead the man in front of them. As a result, the Patriots have every offensive player on the line covered up, with a man head up on each of them. The coverage is man with no safety help, since New England will be selling out on the run from the one yard line.
The Broncos bring big defensive tackle Mitch Unrein (#96) into the game as an extra blocker in the backfield, and Monte Ball (#28) is the tailback. Julius Thomas comes in motion from right to left as he has done the previous two plays, and then at the snap will run what some call a “sneak” route coming out of the backfield into the flat from the opposite side of the formation. Virgil Green, the tight end to the side of the fake, will run a drag route, sitting down deep in the back of the end zone, aligned right about ten yards on top of where Jacob Tamme was lined up at the snap. An interesting thing to note is that Green gave himself some room to operate by staying about a yard away from the boundary in the back of the end zone. This allows him to move around and gives Manning room to “throw him open” if Tamme and Thomas are covered.
Meanwhile, Jacob Tamme runs about the slowest delay route in history, blocking down on the defensive end an extra long time. He does this for a couple of reasons:
- (Obviously) To give a great fake and sell the run action.
- To make sure there is no leakage on his inside into the backfield that could disrupt the action
- To time up the route with Thomas so that he ends up coming out of his delay block after Thomas has already passed him into the flat.
Tamme runs his delay route, pivots out of his block, gains about two yards worth of depth, just enough to get him a yard deep into the end zone, and gives Manning one of his easiest throws of the day.
With all of the backfield action, the Patriots actually do a good job, at least initially, of covering the pass. LB Rob Ninkovich is aligned head up over Tamme at the snap, and LB Jamie Collins is the overhang outside of Tamme. When Tamme blocks down, Ninkovich squeezes and keeps himself parallel to the LOS, but when he sees Thomas coming from the other side in the backfield, he tries to disrupt his path, but takes a poor angle. Collins widens out in the flat and covers Thomas, but in the process of trying to make sure Thomas doesn’t get a clean release out of the backfield, Ninkovich widens himself too much, and gives Tamme a nice big window to site down in, which is exactly what he does.
This play was the result of repetition in practice, proper fundamentals by Denver’s offense, and a well-thought-out offensive game plan by the Denver staff. All of these factors were essential on Sunday for Peyton Manning to have the kind of game he had. Two weeks from now he’ll have to do it again in New Jersey (and against a much better Seahawks defense) if he wants to get his second championship ring.
Want more from Life After Football including free playbooks, exclusive content, and more?
Sign up below and get access to all kinds of great coaching materials. It’s completely free and always will be.