Tales from the Tape: Denver Broncos

After hours pouring over game tape of the Denver Broncos, a number of things were made clear. We discuss what the film shows of Chicago's Week 14 opponent on both offense and defense.

**Below are my notes from my film study of the Denver Broncos. JS


-This is not your father's offense, that's for sure. The Broncos line up QB Tim Tebow about 50/50 under center and in shotgun. They are capable, and willing, of running or passing from either formation. Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy knows that Tebow is limited as a passer and has developed an extremely creative system that plays to his strengths: running the football.

-The Broncos run a lot of zone-read options. These option plays almost always come from shotgun. Tebow will take the snap, then turn to hand the ball off to his running back, usually Willis McGahee. Denver will allow one defender to go free on the play and this is the player Tebow watches, or "reads", as he's deciding whether to hand off the ball or keep it himself. If that defender, typically a defensive end, comes down on the running back, Tebow will keep it and swing outside as a runner. At 6-3, 236, he's a load to bring down.

-Many times, Tebow has a pitch option, usually a wide receiver. Again, running a pitch option revolves around making a defender choose between two ball carriers. On a wide play, the Broncos will let the cornerback or play-side linebacker go unblocked. If the defender crashes down on Tebow, he pitches it out wide. If the defender mirrors the pitch man, Tebow tucks it in and runs with it.

QB Tim Tebow
Kelley L. Cox/US Presswire

-The Broncos use numerous different wrinkles in their offense in an effort to confuse opposing defenses. McCoy isn't afraid to dial up direct snaps to running backs or wide receivers and use them in a Wildcat fashion, to use shovel passes out of an option formation or to run reverses set up with the option. In one snap against the Jets, Tebow was lined up in shotgun with three players behind him in an inverted wishbone. I can honestly say I've never before seen that formation used by an NFL team.

-Yet it's not all tricks with Denver's offense. They rely on a power rushing attack as well. They will often line up two tight ends and pound the ball inside.

-Tebow is not an accurate passer. He misses more open receivers than he hits. Most of his bad throws come up short, which helps his efficiency. A short pass skips onto the ground incomplete, while an overthrown ball is much more likely to get tipped, intercepted or both. As such, he doesn't throw many interceptions and does a good job managing the offense. Last week against Minnesota, he finished the contest with a 149.3 rating.

-The Broncos don't use a lot of multiple-receiver sets, more often passing out of play action than from spread formations. No individual receiver poses a huge challenge. Eddie Royal is a dangerous open-field threat, but it doesn't appear he's going to play Sunday.

What this means for Chicago

The Bears' defense will have to play its most-patient game yet. There will be a lot of movement up front, meant to confuse defenders and get them moving in the wrong direction. The key is for them to stay with their assignments. Individual freelancing will result in big gains on the ground for Denver's offense. Linebackers especially need to be sound in their reads and fill the proper gaps. No overrunning plays. The secondary, especially SS Craig Steltz, must be ready to support the run and stop those five-yard gains from turning into 20-yard gains. But don't sleep on the pass, especially late in the game, as the Broncos often try to lull a defense to sleep by pounding the ball repeatedly, only to lob a play action pass over their heads in the fourth quarter.


-The Broncos use a base 4-3 the majority of snaps but aren't afraid to switch into a 3-4 look for any down and distance. Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen likes to move his linebackers around, both laterally and up near the line. All this is done in an effort to thwart blocking schemes.

-Denver likes to stagger its defensive linemen. On any given play, two to three linemen could be lined up a yard or two off the ball. Again, this is meant to mix up the looks for opposing blockers. This also allows the players to use a lot of stunts and crosses up front.

LB Von Miller
Rob Chenoy/US Presswire

-Rookie LB Von Miller is fifth in the league with 10.5 sacks. He typically rushes from the offense's right side, although he'll slide all over the field. He'll come from both a standing start and a down position, usually out wide of the offensive tackle, so as to pick up speed. He brings a combination of quickness and power that is extremely difficult to block. He can beat you on the edge with rips, spins and stutters, or bull-rush a tackle back on his heels.

-Denver's linebackers are quick to the ball and do a good job reading run plays. As a group though, they are not the best tacklers and struggle in coverage.

-The Broncos like to stick CB Champ Bailey on the opposing team's best receiver, which usually doesn't bode well for that player. Right now, the Bears' most-productive receiver is Johnny Knox. If Bailey shadows him, Knox could be a non-factor.

-Denver will bring the blitz from any angle with any player. Miller and LB D.J. Williams come early and often. The secondary is also a major part of blitz packages. The team likes to bring their exotic blitzes from their dime and nickel sets. S Brian Dawkins has 3.0 sacks this year, good for fourth on the team. Nickelback Jonathan Wilhite has a pair of sacks himself. Allen's blitz schemes remind me of what the Bears faced in New Orleans, when Gregg Williams put on a clinic in defensive play-calling and design. Expect Denver to bring a lot of guys from a lot of different angles, using stunts up front to clear lanes for the second-level rushers.

What this means for Chicago

Communication is crucial. What the Bears lacked against the Saints in Week 2 was proper dialogue and anticipation from the front five. If that happens again, the Broncos will eat up Chicago's offense. Caleb Hanie has shown he's not at his best under pressure, so allowing defenders in his face will surely lead to disaster. Also, don't throw Bailey's way, as he'll surely take advantage of any errant passes.

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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