The Chicago Bears this week hired Adam Gase as the team’s offensive coordinator. Gase spent two years in Denver in the same position, his only two years as an NFL OC.
With Gase on board, many are wondering what his offense will look like in Chicago.
With that in mind, let’s start with the run game.
In the first of our six-part All-22 series on the Bears’ new coaching staff, we break down coaches film of the Broncos rushing attack from last season.
PLAY I: Zone Left
This will be a zone run from shotgun against the Bills’ 4-3 defense. QB Peyton Manning will hand the ball off to RB C.J. Anderson (red) up the middle. The first phase of this play involves double-teams on both interior defensive linemen (yellow).
As Anderson takes the handoff, notice the two double-teams at the point of attack, with single blocks sealing the edges.
Like most zone runs, Anderson must find and hit the open hole. With the double teams up front driving the defensive linemen backward, the running back has two lanes from which to choose.
Anderson chooses the left hole and hits it hard, picking up six yards on the run.
Analysis: This is a staple of Gase’s offense. In every game from last season, the Broncos ran this play a handful of times. It’s very simple: a shotgun handoff with double teams along the interior and single blocks on the edges. The ball carrier then finds the open hole, typically from a cutback lane, and uses one cut to burst into it.
PLAY II: Zone Right
Here is the same play with Anderson to Manning’s right. Again, two double teams will take place at the snap. Yet you’ll notice on this one, Buffalo’s linebackers will be much more aggressive.
As Anderson takes the handoff, notice the blockers labeled in white. Those are the linebackers being picked up at the snap. Both inside LBs fill their gaps immediately, forcing the interior linemen to abandon the double teams right away.
The single blocks up front get good push, allowing the running back to pick up five yards on the ground.
Analysis: Same play, slightly different formation. With the Bills linebackers crashing the gaps aggressively, Gase’s linemen peeled off their double teams after a split second, which resulted in every defender being blocked at the point of attack.
PLAY III: Red Zone Run
Here is the same shotgun draw, only this time from inside the 10-yard line.
This play is designed to go off-tackle right, which is why both of the weak-side defenders (black Xs) are unblocked. We again see the interior double team (yellow) but the key on this play is the inside linebacker. Anderson has two lanes to choose from (red), yet he’ll be patient and will wait and react to the ILB.
The linebacker crashes the inside gap. The left guard releases from the double-team and picks up the filling linebacker. Anderson sees this and cuts outside.
With a wall of defenders (yellow) behind him, Anderson is able to slip through the hole off-tackle right and into the end zone.
Analysis: Again, same play, only this time in the red zone. As you notice on the last three plays, field vision is crucial for running backs under Gase. These quick zone runs require the ball carrier to read the defense and find a crease, all in less than two seconds. These are simple zone runs, which are the foundation for Gase’s run game.
PLAY IV: 3-4 Offset
Against 3-4 defenses, like the Chargers’ seen here, Gase gets a little more creative with pulling blockers. Here RB Ronnie Hillman will run off-tackle left. The entire offensive line will crash right, with TE Jacob Tamme (white) coming from his offset right position to kick out the left outside linebacker.
The O-line gets great push at the point of attack, yet no hole opens up. Hillman is forced to cut left and follow his lead blocker.
Tamme delivers the kick out, which gives Hillman a tiny crease off the left edge. He hits it, breaks a tackle and picks up 8 yards.
Analysis: We’ll see a pattern quickly emerge in which Gase continually uses backside pulls to kick out the edge defender. On this play, it was the H-back Tamme, who lined up offset right in front of Hillman. His block on the outside linebacker, as well as the offensive line’s push up front, are what make this play successful.
PLAY V: Two Lead Blockers
This will be a stretch run right. The right side of the offensive line will crash down left, with LG Orlando Franklin (yellow) pulling behind. Franklin will kick out first, and he’ll be followed by TE Virgil Green (white), who will serve as the second lead blocker.
Here we see Franklin (yellow) lining up the outside linebacker. We also see Green (white) racing behind the line of scrimmage to get in front of Hillman.
Both lead blocks are executed, which allows Hillman to bounce the play outside.
Hillman is able to turn the corner for a nice gain.
Analysis: I really like this play. The offensive line crashes left with two lead blockers running right. Hillman had a number of options on this play, as the run was designed to create multiple rushing lanes.
PLAY VI: Shotgun Trap
This is a 3rd-down play. The Broncos use a four-receiver set to spread the defense out and keep the Chargers from loading the box.
This will be a shotgun run similar to the three bread-and-butter plays we analyzed above. Only this will be man blocking, with Franklin (white) again pulling behind the line.
The push at the point of attack (yellow) is great, giving Franklin room to slide down the line of scrimmage.
Franklin kicks out, giving Hillman two lanes through which to run.
Analysis: This is a variation of the three zone plays we covered earlier, only it’s the single-block version with a pulling lineman.
PLAY VII: Fullback Slam
With the Broncos on the goal line, Green motions from the left side until he’s directly behind the right tackle. In front of him will be a double team (yellow) on the nose tackle. FB Juwan Thompson (black) will take a quick handoff running right behind the double team, while Hillman (red) will serve as a decoy simulating a pitch run.
The double team (yellow) crushes the nose tackle. Green also gets a solid block on the linebacker, which clears a lane for Thompson. Notice the safety and corner (blue Xs) who are too preoccupied with Hillman to notice Thompson has the ball.
The key on this play is Franklin, who comes off the double team and gets a piece of the inside linebacker, giving Thompson a clear path to the end zone.
Here’s a different angle of Franklin’s block (yellow) and Thompson (white) following him in.
Analysis: This is another well-designed goal-line play that combined trickery – Hillman the stretch decoy – a nasty double team and solid single blocks to lead the score.
PLAY VIII: Pistol TD Run
On this play, Manning is in the pistol with Hillman behind him. It’s a three-receiver set with a stand-up tight end on the left edge.
This will be a B gap run with man blocking along the line of scrimmage. TE Julius Thomas (white) will clear behind the line for the backside kick out.
The outside linebacker (black X) immediately crashes off the left side, yet he’s allowed penetration, as he’s essentially taking himself out of the play on an inside run. The rest of the offensive linemen (yellow) all man up on a defender. Thomas is lining up the weak-side OLB in case Hillman cuts right.
By the time Hillman hits the line of scrimmage, both of the OLBs are non-factors. Even though Thomas whiffs on his block, the act of forcing the OLB to stop and maneuver around the block gives Hillman the time to race past him. The key on this play will be the second-level block of G Manny Ramirez (yellow) on the inside linebacker.
Ramirez blocks the ILB inside, while Franklin seals the DE outside, giving Hillman a huge lane. He’ll cut back across the field and scamper 37 yards for a touchdown against the 49ers, one of the toughest defenses in the league.
Analysis: This pistol look is a slight variation, yet the concept is the same: single blocks up front with a pull behind. Hillman is able to find the hole and the quality blocking at the second level springs him for the big score.
For the most part, Gase uses a zone-blocking system. The three runs that began this article are his bread and butter, runs he’ll likely use 10 or so times each game with the Bears. They are not fancily designed, yet their simplicity is what makes them effective.
Runs that use man-to-man blocking are where Gase gets creative. He almost always deploys a backside pull, yet it comes from a different player every time. He’s also not afraid to use double leads and misdirections, as well as the fullback near the goal line.
Under Gase, the Broncos never finished better than 15th in the NFL in rushing, yet there is potential within the system for much more. If Gase and head coach John Fox make the wise decision to keep the ball out of QB Jay Cutler’s hands as much as possible, Matt Forte and Ka’Deem Carey can have a lot of success in their new rushing attack.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter.