This season, each and every week, I will bring you a film review article, exclusively for Mile High Huddle. Every touchdown that the Broncos score will be broken down for you. Here. On Mile High Huddle.
First, an explanation of my film schematics. The red arrows indicate routes or movement, coverage (as best I see it) will be indicated in squares. Blitzers will have green lines. The scorer’s name is underlined in yellow. Personnel are on the side in white. Once the play begins, I’ll circle things in yellow to bring your attention to them and players’ lines of sight will be in pink. The explanation of routes can be found here:
All this terminology and diagramming will be fairly clear when you see a play broken down. I list the TD# in game.
All images from NFL Game Rewind.
TD 1: 3 yard Emmanuel Sanders pass
Goal line crossing route from Sanders here for the score. Nothing fancy about this, it’s just typical goal line routes from the receivers. Note S Antoine Bethea rolling over at the top of the screen to take away Julius Thomas. Wes Welker runs a great in/out route.
TD 2: 39 yard Wes Welker pass
As they did for much of the night, the 49ers show a Cover 2 shell, but Dan Skuta sneaks in off Welker to an OLB position. The weakside S comes down to cover Welker and strongside FS Antoine Bethea rolls into a single-high. With so much cushion, it’s logical to expect Manning to throw a WR screen left, and the Broncos mock exactly that. Manning pumps the WR screen.
This is a concept the Broncos have used several times, perhaps most notably for Julius Thomas’ first NFL TD last year.
Note LB Chris Borland getting through on a VERY well-disguised blitz despite the attentions of C Manny Ramirez and a (half-hearted) chip attempt from Ronnie Hillman. In fact, Hillman gets pinned behind Ramirez and simply releases without even giving Ramirez any help. Ramirez eases up, expecting the assist. Poor job from both players, who need to cover that blitzer better.
TD 3: 8 yard Demaryius Thomas pass
The Niners rush 3 and drop 8 into zone. Note all the routes extend to the goal line. Three are comebacks, one a post. And one (Demaryius Thomas) an out.
Note the score. The Broncos are up 14-3. If they don’t convert the score on this third-and-goal, a FG still makes it a two-score game. Why not have any underneath routes against this goal zone to try and get a crosser in?
The Broncos went empty-backfield, five-wide and ran goal line routes here for one reason. To give Peyton Manning the very best chance of breaking the record on this play.
Which he did.
Congratulations, Peyton, it’s quite the mark.
TD 4: 40 yard Demaryius Thomas pass
After an Aqib Talib interception, the Broncos set up shop at the San Francisco 40 and take a deep shot. The 49ers once again display Cover 2, but roll into a single-high. Antoine Bethea is the centerfielder in Cover 3 for San Francisco, who only rush 3, dropping 8.
Demaryius Thomas just runs a 9 route against Perrish Cox, who doesn’t flip his hips in time to recover deep. A 4.38 40 trumps a 4.58. Sanders is running the same route concept on the other side of the field. Note that Manning releases this ball when Demaryius is at the 25 and leads him perfectly. He drops this ball in a bucket as Bethea shows some impressive closing speed across the field.
TD 5: 37 yard Ronnie Hillman run
The first of two rushing TDs for Hillman sees Julius Thomas peel across the formation to take out the weakside contain. This play is almost doomed from the start as Ryan Clady fails to get any kind of meaningful block on Ahmad Brooks, who just misses tackling Hillman in the backfield. Clady needs to show more effort to at least slow his defender.
Also watch S Eric Reid, #35. He’s lined up over RT at the 28 just outside the hashes. He also puts on a very weak performance in this play. Notice him visibly jogging down the line as Hillman explodes out of the backfield. As the SS, he has to hustle in to make sure the RB is bottled up.
Hillman shows great vision here to make the cutback and great balance to break Bethea’s arm tackle.
TD 6: 37 yard Ronnie Hillman run
The Broncos run simple power football here. Pull LG Orlando Franklin and run it right up the gut.
For those concerned about C Manny Ramirez working against head-on nose tackles: he manhandles Quinton Dial here. Hillman really has Franklin and RG Louis Vasquez to thank for his score here – they literally push him into the end zone, sending rookie ILB Chris Borland to the ground in the process.
There is no reason for Hillman to be the goal-line back. His shiftiness and speed, his two best qualities as a back, serve no purpose here. Juwan Thompson or C.J. Anderson at the very least should be seeing snaps.
That's all for this week! Check back in next week and find out how the Broncos put points on the board.