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A heart condition discovered at the combine has put the Michigan lineman's career in limbo, but Hurst had the best film of any defensive tackle in this year's draft class.

03 Nov 2015

Any Given Sunday: Broncos Over Packers

by Andrew Healy

On Sunday night, the Broncos did much more than beat an undefeated Packers team to remain undefeated themselves. They turned in the best single-game overall performance of the 2015 season, with the defense leading the way. That defense held the best quarterback of the last five years to just 77 yards passing, barely half of his previous low in the 108 games he has started and finished. It was the equivalent of a team holding Michael Jordan to 8 points in a playoff game when his previous career low was 15 points. And Jordan putting up single digits in the playoffs sounds only slightly less likely than seeing Aaron Rodgers look as completely hopeless he did against the Broncos.

The game said much more about a now-great defense than it did the Packers' not-quite-so-potent offense. Like the Seahawks at their peak in Super Bowl XLVIII, the Broncos on Sunday seemed to play with 13 swarming defenders. Chris Harris was everywhere and often in Randall Cobb's hip pocket, Brandon Marshall flew around ruining screens that always seem to work against other teams, and DeMarcus Ware consistently created one end of a quarterback vise with Von Miller providing the other.

The 29-10 score misses the extent of Denver's defensive domination. They recovered none of the Packers' three fumbles. They forced another Packers fumble on a great strip by Harris that was incorrectly ruled down by contact. So even their advanced stats for the game could have been even a little bit higher. As it was, the Broncos' single-game defensive DVOA (-62.8%) ranks second this season (behind only Arizona's 47-7 stomp of San Francisco in Week 3).

Sunday's performance pushed the Broncos' defense further towards a pace among the best of any defense in the past 25 years. Denver currently has the No. 4 defense ever measured by DVOA through Week 8. The Broncos' pass defense is even more extreme, with a defensive DVOA of -50.3%. Only the 2002 Buccaneers (-51.9%) have ever put up a better pass defense DVOA over an entire season.

WEEK 8, 1989-2015
1991 NO 7-0 -44.9%
2002 TB 6-2 -43.0%
1991 PHI 3-4 -42.6%
2015 DEN 7-0 -36.0%
1996 GB 6-1 -34.6%
2012 CHI 6-1 -33.4%
2011 BAL 5-2 -33.3%
1997 SF 6-1 -31.0%
1992 WAS 5-2 -30.6%
1998 OAK 5-2 -30.3%
1992 PHI 5-2 -29.2%
1993 PIT 4-3 -28.7%

Like most of the defenses on that list, Denver's will likely fall back a little bit over the rest of the season. But here is one important reason why they are likely to end up somewhere on the list of the greatest single-season defenses: the Broncos are younger on defense than many people realize. By snap-weighted age, the 2014 Broncos had the second-youngest defense in football. By age adjusted for Approximate Value, they ranked fourth. Recent high-profile signings DeMarcus Ware and Aqib Talib are long-time veterans, but the Broncos are young almost everywhere else. Standouts Chris Harris, Von Miller, and Brandon Marshall are all 26. Defensive end Malik Jackson is just 25.

With most of the core players returning from last year, growth from young players is one big reason the Broncos have taken a big leap from the defense that was already very good in 2014 (-13.2% DVOA, ranked fourth). The other big reason is 68-year-old defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who arrived in Denver this year and has continued an uninterrupted pattern of sprinkling magic dust on all the defenses he encounters.

Wade Phillips Improves Defensive Performance
Year Team Prev DVOA Prev Rank DVOA Rank
1995 BUF 3.8% 19 -6.5% 10
2002 ATL 11.8% 26 -4.1% 12
2004 SD 12.0% 30 -4.2% 13
2011 HOU 17.5% 31 -9.5% 6
2015 DEN -13.2% 4 -36.0% 1

On Sunday, Phillips' defense dominated in a very different way than the Seahawks defense that was the best in the league the last couple years. Rather than mostly sticking to one coverage scheme, Phillips constantly varied the looks he showed to Rodgers. Often the Broncos played man, with Harris showing his complete skill set, wiping out Cobb much of the time. Likewise, Talib mostly eliminated even the thought of throwing to Davante Adams when he covered the second-year receiver. As Andy Benoit described in an article at The MMQB, Green Bay's reliance on isolation routes leaves the Packers needing to win one-on-one matchups to avoid relying on Rodgers' improvisations. The Packers miss Jordy Nelson more than other teams that use more rub routes and rely less on receivers creating their own separation would. The Broncos, as on Sunday, will win most of these matchups in man coverage.

Given the Broncos' success in man, many coordinators might just have stuck to that scheme. But Phillips mixed in a healthy amount of different zone concepts, too, leaving the normally unflappable Rodgers sometimes looking confused. Those zones generally had Harris dropping outside from his slot position, but Phillips even tinkered with having Harris and Talib play the boundary, Seattle-style.

A long career of coaching NFL defenses (Phillips became a defensive assistant even before Bill Belichick did) may be peaking 39 years after it began. If this run continues, Phillips may get the chance to coach in his second Super Bowl. And any defense that gives up 77 passing yards to Aaron Rodgers is pretty likely to prevent a repeat of what happened the first time Phillips made it to the big game.

The Return of the Peyton

Through the first six games, the Broncos' road to the Super Bowl looked like those traveled by great defenses like the 1974 Steelers or the 2000 Ravens. If they were going to make it, they were going to do it by having the defense carry a crap-weaselly offense kicking and screaming all the way to Santa Clara. The Broncos' defense played well every week, with their worst single-game DVOA (-13.9% in Week 3 against Detroit) still much better than average. At the same time, the Broncos' offense was just as consistently below average, peaking with a still pretty lousy -14.2% in Week 2 against the Chiefs.

Against the Packers, the Broncos' offense went up one of the long ladders, skipping straight from inept to hyper-efficient. They posted the sixth-best offensive day of the season (51.8% DVOA). For the first time all season, Peyton Manning even successfully threw downfield. He was 4-of-6 for 119 yards on deep passes, all of which went to Demaryius Thomas. Before the Packers game, Manning had completed just 16 of his 46 deep throws this season.

This breakout has inspired two responses. The first is the LL Cool J argument: Manning is back and maybe never completely left. Proponents want to ignore the first six games of this season, when Manning looked so limited physically that his other skills and top-end receivers didn't matter. The second is the Bruce Springsteen thesis: Manning's best days have passed him by and those skills aren't likely to return in a larger sample. Advocates downplay the first 17 seasons of his career, when you can make a strong case for Manning as the best quarterback of all time.

Reality likely lies somewhere between those extremes. If we're thinking about Peyton Manning like a Bayesian would -- using every game to update our expectations about how good Manning is likely to be going forward -- the Packers game means more than one game usually would for a veteran quarterback. For any quarterback, a good game would cause us to update in a positive direction. For Manning, a strong game also means that we should put a little more weight on his pre-2015 self, as it suggests that his earlier greatness is not irrelevant.

In the same way, the Broncos offensive line improvement against the Packers might be unusually informative about their future play. Similar to the Patriots last year, a line that experienced turnover may have needed some time to find its footing. We need more games to know about both the line and Manning, but the Broncos' high ceiling on offense no longer looks impossibly far off.

By the VOA

The Packers entered Sunday's game as three-point favorites, but our rankings had the two teams separated by a bigger gap. A series of narrow escapes left the Broncos ranked just 11th in DVOA (6.2%) coming in, while the Packers ranked third (39.0%), less than a point behind the Patriots and Bengals.

In their upset, the Broncos posted the highest single-game DVOA of the season. Their performance didn't quite crack the all-time top 20, but it was the best single-game performance in about a year and a half going back to an Eagles romp in Week 16 of 2013.

The Broncos' dominated in DVOA by even more than on the scoreboard because they could easily have won by more. In addition to not recovering any of the three fumbles, the Packers' only touchdown came from a drive extended by a roughing the passer penalty.

DVOA (Opponent adjustments included)
DEN 51.4% -62.8% 1.6% 115.8%
GB -28.0% 51.3% 2.1% -77.2%
VOA (No opponent adjustments)
DEN 50.5% -54.0% 1.6% 106.2%
GB -52.9% 40.5% 2.1% -91.4%

The Keep Looking at Wins Stat of the Week

Even accounting for the strength of the Broncos' top-ranked defense entering Sunday, the Packers' offensive DVOA (-28.0%) was the worst game for an Aaron Rodgers-led offense since Rodgers' first year as a starter. After a game almost exactly as bad in Week 12 of 2012, the Packers' offense posted single-game DVOA marks over 35.0% in three of the next four weeks, ranking in the top five each time. As a certain Discount Double-Checker might say to those who are concerned about a momentarily sputtering Packers offense, "Relax."

Posted by: Andrew Healy on 03 Nov 2015

82 comments, Last at 06 Nov 2015, 11:00am by PatsFan


by BroncFan07 :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 2:43pm

I wonder how Denver's defense would look had Cincy let their DB coach leave.

by Denverite :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 2:49pm

Not historic, but still pretty good. I mean, they were a top five defense last year, and most of their pieces looked to improve due to age, recovering from injury, or both.

by lrargerich :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 3:18pm

I don't like this analysis at all.

Denver's offense is as putrid as we saw it in the first 6 weeks, it looked good this week only because the opponent was Green Bay. Green Bay can't stop the run and has absolutely no defense against crossing routes. Furthermore they are terrible against the #1 WR of the opponent. So Denver only saw film, and exploited a defense that always has the same problems.

And there's nothing to say about Denver's defense either. Denver didn't held Rodgers to 70 yards, Rodgers held himself to 70 yards.
It turns out defending against Rodgers is very simple: you just put a defender in the vecinity of the WRs and the ball is not going to go there.

So the real analysis should be about what is real and what is not about the Packers. You did everything backwards in this article.

by RickD :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 4:03pm

I was disappointed in the Packers' offense. They seemed to have no ideas once the Broncos went into their cover-heavy defense. I would say the coaches held Rodgers to 77 yards. Often they ran when they should have passed, and vice versa. They'd have a great first down play, get 2nd and short, and then slam Lacy into the pile twice, failing to get a 1st down. GB is not a power running team, and they're certainly not a team that will succeed doing that against Denver. Coaches have to be realistic about matchups and go with what works. That's why the Pats passed 90% of the time against the Jets and then turned around and ran a lot against Miami.

by lrargerich :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 6:44pm

Indeed. That's the problem when a team is 6-0, you can think that what you have been doing so far needs to stay.

But Denver showed what happens if you are predictable as GB was.

The Patriots are 6-0 and they change how they play every week.

by dank067 :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 4:13pm

Well shit, if only we had known before this past Sunday that all you have to do to defend Rodgers is put someone on his receivers! He'll be out of the league in no time.

Rodgers is as willing as any QB I've ever seen to make not necessarily contested throws (he definitely tends to avoid those), but throws where receivers have little to no separation and the timing of both the throw and the WRs cut or turn back for the ball has to be absolutely perfect. That he has struggled to hit those this season, and barely even attempted them Sunday night, does say something about the state of the Packers offense and their WR corps, but there's no doubt that Denver had them completely locked down.

by deus01 :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 4:36pm

Who would have thought that to shutdown one of the best QBs in the last few years all you had to do was perfectly cover all of his receivers. Clearly lrargerich should be hired as a coach immediately since none of the other teams to play the Packers seem to have figured that out.

by lrargerich :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 6:30pm

Before making fun of my post think there's some truth even in the most insane comments.

What I meant was that Denver specifically instructed their CBs to stay with the WRs a little longer than usual and that worked very well because the Packer's plan in the first 6 weeks was exactly the same: let Rodgers extend the plays, let the WRs get open with slow developing routes and then just throw to the open guy.

Is not about no one being open because Denver's defense is the greatest, it's about no one being open because Denver's defense just noticed Rodgers won't throw a contested ball, he hates it. So if your DBs stay near the target for just a little longer Rodgers will just eat the ball.

The complete lack of adjustment by both Rodgers and McCarthy is puzzling but it was exactly what happened.

Now granted you need good DBs for this to work but you can't do this against any other team . So while we can say Denver's defense was terrific against GB I think this was because of GB and not because Denver can do this to any other team.

by harril3 :: Wed, 11/04/2015 - 3:14am

Me thinks this guy is a P*ts fan, who is trying to convince himself Denver is not a threat. Maybe a Cinci fan who wants Fear the Ginger to actually mean something. Could be an NFC-North-team-other-than-GB fan who desperately wants to believe GB is on their way down. Or maybe a Packers fan fooling himself that their loss was about bad planning, not plain being beat mano a mano. Talk about clutching at straws...lol

If he thinks the Denver offense, including OL, RBs, TEs, and WR-DT played the same as they did the first six weeks, he hasn't been watching Denver games very closely. It's called growth, progression, learning and becoming more comfortable in a new offense, and DT finally getting serious about cutting out drops. Sunday's game was a complete beat down, and if GB were as terrible as he says, surely another team would have beaten them by now.

His simple defensive strategy of DBs covering WRs for 4-7 seconds at a time, sure any team can do that, and do so every week, don't they? If not, why haven't the other coaches around the league thought of that? Bugs Bunny had a saying about geniuses like this, involving a shade of dark red-purple.

Keep fooling yourself Ivan Ivanovich. Nov. 29 will he here before you can say P*ts cupcake schedule.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 4:27pm

Even if your ridiculous assertions are true... then we should absolutely write that Denver is the only team that realized what you wrote about and did it.

by lrargerich :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 6:25pm

You have a good point.
Denver is not the only team, but Denver is a very smart and well coached team.
San Diego also got some of the GB defense problems well spotted, as you can see Rivers didn't throw for 500 yards in every game he played yet he could have thrown for 700 against the Packers.

Some teams are not good preparing for a game, some teams don't have the talent they need to execute the plan and the Packers can certainly work to fix these issues. So what will happen next I don't know but I do know this game was not about Denver but about how bad the Packers planned the game and how smart Denver was to exploit the weaknesses in GB offense and defense.

by Rodsoldier :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 5:07pm

The Broncos couldn't run against the Browns.
GB,didn't sack Manning once even though they are top 3 in sacks
Rodgers couldn't find receivers after they finished their routes,something he often does.
This was on the Broncos,not the Packers.

by Denverite :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 5:15pm

The Broncos ran for 150+ against the Browns.

They gained 440 yards on the day. It was a pretty good offensive performance marred by three Manning picks.

by Rodsoldier :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 5:08pm

The Broncos couldn't run against the Browns.
GB,didn't sack Manning once even though they are top 3 in sacks
Rodgers couldn't find receivers after they finished their routes,something he often does.
This was on the Broncos,not the Packers.

by sfinman :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 5:50pm

@lrargerich: You're out of your mind. Chew on this for a second... if not for two easily avoidable mental mistakes by Denver that turned what otherwise would have been Green Bay punts into 1st downs, the Broncos would have SHUT OUT Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. To be honest, your post really doesn't merit a response because you clearly don't understand the game but I was looking for an excuse to post this very impressive fact.

by lrargerich :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 6:23pm

So you think the first 6 games played by Denver were just "bad luck" and they have such a wonderful team they can hold the best QB in the league to 70 yards.

I don't think so.

I think this game was an exploit. The Broncos exploited a weakness in the Packers defense and offense. The analysis can't be around how good Denver is, it should be on how SMART Denver was against GB.

You might think my post is ridiculous but analyzing how great a team is because how they played ONE game is even more ridiculous.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 6:33pm

You keep arguing with stuff that nobody asserted. I know it's easy to win an argument that way, but the purpose seems a bit puzzling.

by lrargerich :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 6:41pm

I'm not trying to win anything, it's just an opinion.

If you think Denver's first 6 games should be dismissed and this is the real team then the argument would be as weak as mine.

You have two powerful spaceships one of them has a hole in its hull if you put a missile in that hole there's not much to be analyzed you just exploited a weakness. And I'm claiming Denver did just that, we can conclude Denver is well coached, we can conclude Denver is a smart team and that they have the talent needed for the exploit. But that's it, next game will be different.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 6:45pm

I think predicting the future with accuracy is really damned hard, and people who do so with an air of confidence are very, very, likely pretty foolish.

by lrargerich :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 6:54pm

I'm not predicting anything. I'm analyzing what already happened.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 10:26pm

Perhaps you don't understand the meaning of the sentences you wrote, but, yes, you made some predictions.

by mehllageman56 :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 9:43pm

Perhaps your comments hold water referring to the Broncos' offense, but over the first seven games of this season the Bronco's defense has played better than any other defense of the last ten years, including the last two Seahawks teams, the 2009 Jets, the 2008 Steelers and Ravens. The gulf between Denver and the second best defense in the league is enormous; witness what Derek Carr did to the Jets on Sunday, whereas he torched the Broncos' defense to the tune of 6.3 yards an attempt, 1 touchdown and 10 total points. The Bills had a pretty good game against Rodgers last year, but they didn't hold him to 70 yards, and discounting what the Broncos just accomplished is absurd.

by harril3 :: Wed, 11/04/2015 - 3:24am

None of Denver's previous games should be "dismissed", the defense has been balling out in every one of them. This was a team pissed at being dissed, playing at home for only the third time this year, wanting to show America what they're all about, and winning one for their owner.

It was also an offense that had a bye to work on timing, since they switched offensive approach in week 2-3, get a few players healthy (CJ Anderson, and several OL), and all practice together for the first time in weeks. It takes time for a new OL to gel, and they need to be able to practice. Knowledgable football people know this.

You can take the average, I'll take the trend line. Average will always trail trend.

by Denverite :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 7:23pm

*I* think Denver very well may have the best defense of the past thirty years (the '85 Bears falling just outside of that window) and it shouldn't be surprising when they stone cold blank an opponent, even one with an excellent QB. They've given up more than 300 yards precisely once this year. They've held opponents under 200 yards twice.

by TXinsider :: Wed, 11/04/2015 - 10:09am

Given that in today's game it's more important to stop the pass, I'd say this DEN defense is the best I've ever seen. It's the '85 Bears with fantastic defensive backs.

by mehllageman56 :: Wed, 11/04/2015 - 10:45am

The 85 Bears had a great secondary too; Doug Plank was their weak link, and they named the defense after him.

by Eddo :: Wed, 11/04/2015 - 1:43pm

Plank was retired by 1985. The starting defensive backfield was Leslie Frazier, Mike Richardson, Dave Duerson, and Gary Fencik.

Fencik and Duerson were very good safeties and Frazier was a very good cornerback. Richardson was pretty average, definitely the weakest of the defensive eleven.

by mehllageman56 :: Wed, 11/04/2015 - 10:08pm


by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 11/04/2015 - 3:52pm

Still go with the '02 Bucs. They held QBs to a 48.6 passer rating. That's like a 1970's stat.

by tuluse :: Wed, 11/04/2015 - 4:06pm

I think the 02 Bucs defense gets overlooked for some reason.

by theslothook :: Wed, 11/04/2015 - 6:09pm

I think the offensive climate is different today than even 13 years or so ago. I feel like modern passing concepts would force the bucs to at least diversify away from tampa 2. We can make reasonable arguments about how well they'd do implanted in todays nfl(Probably still be one of the best defenses ever).

by Sweatpants00 (not verified) :: Thu, 11/05/2015 - 1:31pm

The Bucs were great. I was rooting for the Raiders (Bo Jackson fan with lingerning Raiders fandom) over the Bucs in 2002, but my money was heavily on the Bucs in the Super Bowl. I've never been more sure of a blowout between good teams and apparently so were many others. It was no surprise. With that Bucs defense and Gruden being the former coach of the opposing offense and the Bucs' defense excelling in stopping what made the Raiders offense great the Raiders destruction was inevitable.

by Sweatpants00 (not verified) :: Thu, 11/05/2015 - 1:40pm

The '02 Bucs defense and '00 Ravens defense, unfortunately for them, will be small footnotes in history. Probably because they play in Tampa and Baltimore. The '00 Ravens seem to have a bit more of a footprint in NFL history because of the points record and that the Ravens defense remained strong for over a decade.

That all being typed, QB rating is a bad stat. It places too much importance of completion %, not enough on turnovers, none on yardage gained via running, and ultimately is arbitrary and doesn’t use enough data (and properly weighed data) to produce accurate gauge of a passer’s performance or the performance of a group of passers against a defense.

by tuluse :: Thu, 11/05/2015 - 1:50pm

The 2000 Ravens are clearly not a footnote. They are constantly brought up by everyone in the context of best defenses ever.

by theslothook :: Thu, 11/05/2015 - 1:58pm

The ravens are a prime example used by people to show you can win a superbowl w a journeyman qb

by Hummingbird Cyborg :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 6:03pm

Denver looked this putrid against bad defenses prior to this game. As for the Packers, defenses like the Seahawks didn't stymie Rodgers to that degree.

I mean, hell, it's hard to hold Blake Bortles to 77 yards on 22 attempts.

Yes, this game also brings up questions about the Packers, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't question previous reasoning about the Broncos as well.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 6:14pm

Well, then, we can certainly expect the Packers to go 0-9 from this point on, as every opponent guts them for 6 yards per carry, in between 100% completion rates on crossing routes, as Rodgers is held to 80 yards passing per game, when opponents take your sage advice, and thus cover the Packer receivers! Would you say the average spread on Packer games from here on out should be -20, or -30? Should Mr. Discount Double Check immediately open a insurance agency in Sheboygan, so grim are his prospects for future employment by tossing a pigskin?

by lrargerich :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 6:36pm

Of course not, your comment is even more funny than mine!

First we can assume that after going 6-0 with the same plan and failing miserable in game 7 the Packers will make some changes.
Second not all teams have the talent Denver has to nullify the Packers. GB can send their gameplan to Detroit, Chicago, Minnesotta and many others before each game and still those teams won't be able to do much.

Third not all teams have two weeks to prepare and a smart coach like Denver.

This game was a very strange coincidence of a team with weaknesses that repeats the same script for 7 weeks and a smart team that has 2 weeks to prepare for those weaknesses. It was a exploit, a hack.

Denver is what we saw in the first 6 weeks.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 6:42pm

Thanks, Carnac.

by theslothook :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 11:50pm

I dont get this guys arguments in the least. Its like hes arguing that denver discovered the skeleton key to stopping the packers...cover the receivers!

Pray tell...which qbs does this sound strategy fail against?

by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 11/04/2015 - 2:34pm

Second not all teams have the talent Denver has to nullify the Packers.

This game was a very strange coincidence of a team with weaknesses that repeats the same script for 7 weeks and a smart team that has 2 weeks to prepare for those weaknesses. It was a exploit, a hack.

Aren't you contradicting yourself? Denver has great talent, no they don't, they're just smart?

by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 11/04/2015 - 7:52pm

Could it be that what he's really saying is something like this?

Green Bay is generally talented enough to expect to either overwhelm or at least smother an opposing defense. Because of this, they didn't install an adequate backup plan for when their initial efforts failed.. If they had, they could have countered what Denver was doing and not looked so inept.

This seems to get all the points in. It credits Denver's talent while also recognizing talent alone doesn't fully explain the disparity between the teams. I'd say that hypothesis even has a whiff of plausibility to it, though we obviously can't draw any conclusions at this point.

I'll leave it up to the OP to confirm whether that was what he was trying to say.

by theslothook :: Wed, 11/04/2015 - 9:24pm

His remarks feel completely after the fact though. Also, what exactly was GB supposed to do? They were losing and had to pass. They actually pass protected ok, but the routes were covered. Unless he specifically watched the gb offenses run a bunch of go routes over and over, its impossible to say it was purely a game plan issue. Frankly, there's nothing anyone can learn about stopping GB purely by watching the Denver game.

by nickdanger :: Thu, 11/05/2015 - 6:05pm

I think you don't understand what Denver actually did to the Packers. Rodgers' big plays most often come when he he evades the rush, gets outside the pocket, gets the DB to commit to stopping his scramble up the sidelines, and then hits the receiver who having finished his route, now comes open when the D-back commits to Rodgers. But Rodgers he had zero big plays off scrambles vs. Denver. Why? Denver's pass rush was intentionally designed to contain Rodgers in the pocket. How do I know? Besides the fact that you could see Denver's rush collapsing the pocket over and over, rather than taking inside routes or stunting, you could hear Vonn Miller and D Ware talking about it when Ware was micc'd in the first half. With Rodgers unable to get outside the pocket, Denver's truly excellent corners were able to stay on the receivers. This happened because of Wade Phillips' defensive game plan, discipline on the part of Denver's D line, and Denver's stellar personnel's ability to execute, not because Rodgers is unwilling to take risks.

by jriegel@gmail.com :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 3:22pm

DVOA does not go back quite far enough, but 1989 was Phillips' first first year as the Broncos' defensive coordinator, and they radically improved that year as well; they went from 22 points allowed per game to 14, a SRS of -3.4 to +5.7, and rank in yards from 22nd to 3rd, per pro-football-reference. Their DVOA in '89 was 4th. Of course, they then gave up 55 points to the 49ers in Super Bowl 24...

by ammek :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 5:09pm

I'm not relaxed about the Packers offense. It hasn't looked consistent in a while; it hasn't looked good on the road since before Rodgers got injured in 2013, with the exception of the big win in Chicago last season. There isn't a lot of versatility: whereas Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson could run every route in the playbook from every formation, James Jones has a much more limited skillset and the young receivers aren't ready. The Other Rodgers – the tight end, Richard – has been a particular disappointment so far. He is being covered easily by linebackers, and not always ones as good as the Broncos'. Next week the Panthers might be able to cover him with a mascot.

The Packers' offense has also had fewer drives per game than any other, and fewer plays than all but one. The longer you can keep Rodgers off the field, the better your prospects, and recent opponents have been able to run on the Packers (Rams, Broncos) and convert with short passes (Chargers). If the Packer offense doesn't have the chance to run many plays, McCarthy and Clements have to burn those second-down runs.

by Rick_and_Roll :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 7:01pm

Green Bay's offensive summary.

1. The Packers have relied far too much on the hard count / free play. It seemed like they have got at least 1 to 2 huge chunk plays per game. On the road, this strategy is a lot less likely to work. Additionally, I think coaches will have their defensive players do what it takes draw a whistle when they jump offsides, either hit a lineman or continue unabated to the QB.

2. Rodgers seems to be overly cautious with the ball, because he's usually able to escape to throw to a wide open WR. Denver applied a contain rush, which I'm sure will be copied.

I think Carolina will give them fits as well.

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 7:10pm

NE used a containment rush as well last year, but without Denver's front it wasn't nearly as disruptive.

by harril3 :: Wed, 11/04/2015 - 3:29am

Exactly. NE had a couple of killer DBs last year, and I'm not sure even they were able to stay with GB receivers as well as Denver did. Granted, Packers are without Nelson, but Packers were doing pretty well without him.

by theslothook :: Wed, 11/04/2015 - 3:36am

I'd rather read this as ...Denver has awesome personnel rather than there being some kind of blueprint to beating Aaron Rodgers. In fact...Seattle didn't put a blueprint on how to beat Peyton Manning either. Cover receivers and rush the passer. When you have that combination, its really hard for any qb or any offense to work.

Asking a qb to make tough throws to covered receivers is asking a lot. Very few qbs can do it. To ask them to do it over an entire game is probably too much for anyone.

by Hummingbird Cyborg :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 5:31pm

Was thinking maybe Raiders over jets figuring the weekly DVOA article would discuss this game plenty.

by mehllageman56 :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 9:46pm

Would have liked that, except that I'm hoping I, as well the team I root for, forget that game as soon as possible.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 6:20pm

I have no idea whether the Broncos' o-line approximates, for the balance of the season, the productivty it showed on Sunday night. If it does, however, they aren't losing at home, which means they are getting HFA in all likelihood, which means Archie's 2nd son is going to get another chance to catch his 'lil brother in the RINGZZZZZ!!!! bragging rights contest.

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 7:08pm

As someone who spent October and part of November shouting that NE's first four games provided no predictive value, I'm not ready to dismiss the idea that Denver's performance was due to tightened some screws during the bye week. I'm *hoping* that isn't the case, and that is something I'll be watching closely during the next couple weeks.

by lrargerich :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 7:17pm

Right, the next weeks will give us a hint of what happened in this game.
It will be an interesting experiment.

by Denverite :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 7:30pm

Good news is the schedule over the next three games is pretty favorable. Bad news it gets really tough after that.

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 7:41pm

Sure, but the schedule was favorable for the first six games as well. If Denver hit the accelerator, we should see it even against the Jacksonvilles of the world.

by MarkV :: Wed, 11/04/2015 - 2:10am

I don't think looking at schedule differential is generally useful in mid season. Denver's average opponent is 7% better rest of way than previous. That's not nothing... 7% worse would have probably been 2 losses or so for Denver so far. Furthermore, the error bars are big at this point on sos averages, enough so that is pretty hard to predict Denver's future schedule will stay so tough.

For some teams sos should really matter. Minns is unreal, and no's, nyg, and chi have big differentials, but the rest of the league seems somewhat too uncertain to predict much about.

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 7:39pm

Ugh, typos

"As someone who spent October and part of November LAST YEAR shouting that NE's first four games provided no predictive value, I'm not ready to dismiss the idea that Denver's performance was due to tightenING some screws during the bye week....."

by Anger...rising :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 10:24pm

Proponents want to ignore the first six games of this season, when Manning looked so limited physically

This is about the laziest analysis imaginable. It's literally Bill Simmons-level stuff.

A quarterback doesn't throw the ball to a spot where there is no receiver or directly to a defender sitting under a route because of physical limitations; it happens when, in the midst of breaking in a new offense, he doesn't know where receivers will be or doesn't trust they'll be where he expects and thus stares them down, losing sight of the defense. People who are actually watching the mistakes being made instead of reflexively falling back on the narrative they've expected to come to fruition for four years recognize this.

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 11:03pm

It's not the interceptions that make it clear Manning has declined physically, it's the gritted teeth and total body thrust he's needed to throw an 8 yard out.

by harril3 :: Wed, 11/04/2015 - 3:39am

You mean like those long completions to DT on Sunday? Denver had 16 plays of 15 yards or more. Many of those were passes, and they weren't 5 yd outs with 20 YAC, either. Manning is not 2013 Manning. But neither is he late 2014 Manning. And something in between with this defense is enough to hoist the Lombardi.

by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 11/04/2015 - 8:53am

He looked better on Sunday, but that doesn't change the fact that he *was* late 2014 Manning for the first six games of the year. We'll see where he goes from here.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 11/04/2015 - 3:54pm

I actually think he looked similar to this against Cleveland - the only issue there was that may have been the worst game he's played from a mental standpoint ever. Also a few DT drops and a Sanders drop made his stats worse.

I'm holding my breath that this was the beginning of something different, but we don't know yet really until he can string 2-3 games without physical or mental issues.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Wed, 11/04/2015 - 6:43pm

People are CERTAINLY underrating this, but of course a 39 year old is still also declining physically. (Even if that is being largely overstated.) It's allowed to be both.

This is why Manning's quote the other day was "I don't put much merit in what you're saying." It's easy enough to point out the differences in the stats and results, but the only people who truly know why it's happening are in that building.

I think it's entirely reasonable that part of the flawed decision making Manning has shown is simply that it's taking his brain a split second longer to figure things out now that the offense is totally [stubbornly, stupidly, whatever you want to call it] different and that with one off-season of learning it he's not showing the same instincts as he did in the previous iterations of his offenses where he had 12 years of Moore and 3 years of the McCoy/Gase E-P/Moore Coryell hybrid. In 2014 when he was hurt and old, he still made fine choices because his brain just knew. Now he's got an extra millisecond or two of extra thinking to do to be as certain of himself as before, and that matters.

But yeah, he's also physically declining.... which doesn't mean he's completely cooked. It never did. He had plenty of fine throws, even deep, in the first six weeks, some of which failed due to timing, defense, luck, and/or just the fact that not all deep throws get completed. Not because he's suddenly crippled. But also, yes, some of the passes, including short ones, looked like they were thrown by a crippled guy.

And some of the picks, like the 1st and 3rd in Cleveland, are some combination of both (plus some credit to Dansby himself on that first one for the leap).

I think if they still had Gase in charge of the offense, we wouldn't have had to hear all this stuff about Manning all year long, but he'd still certainly be worse than he was last year. (But better than the end of last year.) Pretty much everything came together to make this year worse than anyone imagined, but as time passes, they'll get more comfortable, and he'll get more confident and quicker with the decisions, and the goal is that in the end they'll be clicking pretty well in all phases by December. Growing from week 1 to week 19, just as New England tends to do.

Still, just how lucky is it that the defense was THAT good for those first six weeks of the adjustment, to have them so well set up to contend for HFA despite all that worst-case scenario offense playing out...

by PatsFan :: Wed, 11/04/2015 - 9:37pm

This is really from the other thread, but I was wondering...

What do you have specifically against Jonathan Kraft? (As you called him out for particular hatred in the other thread.)

by harril3 :: Thu, 11/05/2015 - 6:29pm

You mean besides the fact that when his HC was caught cheating, all he did was call him a schmuck and tell him not to do it again?

When hoodie's protege was caught doing the same thing several years later, that owner fired him...a slight difference in integrity level there. Nor did said owner complain about the lost draft pick.

A man who will leverage buy out his own father-in-law's company , the father-in-law who hired him, isn't one I would hold up as a role model. I think all that talk about the Patriot Way is a publicity spin job designed to make him look more ethical than he is.

by PatsFan :: Fri, 11/06/2015 - 11:00am

Please try to keep up, son. I was talking about Jonathan Kraft, not Bob Kraft.

BTW, Mr. Integrity*, exactly how many Superbowls have your Broncos won without cheating the salary cap (which they lost draft choices for)? Hint -- it's a non-positive integer.

by ClavisRa :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 11:45pm

The Packers coaches asked themselves "what would Belichick do?" and then did the exact opposite on both sides of the ball. Make sure we keep Manning clean in the pocket and don't move him off his spot? Check. Make sure we only run our receivers in obvious routes they have to win 1 v 1 against superior defenders? Double check.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 11/04/2015 - 12:59am

Eh, 23 months ago, Darth Hoodie brought his minions to Mile High, in a high stakes contest. His team, despite Hoodie's machinations, was smoked, losing 23-3 with 12 or so minutes left. The opponent was in turn smoked two weeks later.

The other guys being better players is usually a better explanation

by harril3 :: Wed, 11/04/2015 - 3:38am

And you know what's great about that story? We're now the team that smoked the opponent. :)

by Will Allen :: Wed, 11/04/2015 - 9:45am


by harril3 :: Thu, 11/05/2015 - 6:33pm

Huh? The Broncos D is now like the Seahawks D. That's what I meant.

by harril3 :: Wed, 11/04/2015 - 3:52am

You know what's great about this? All the P*ts fans posting comments on articles about the Broncos. A little whif of competition and they're freaking out, trying to deny it. How dare the Rebels rise up and challenge Darth Hoodie and his Empire?

They know the force is strong at Mile High, where Hoodie and the Sith have lost many times before.

November 29...The Force Awakens!

by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 11/04/2015 - 8:51am

Why would it be surprising that a primary competitor who had a dominant performance this past week would pique NE fans' interest?

by harril3 :: Thu, 11/05/2015 - 6:43pm

I don't think I said I was surprised. It's more like schadenfreude.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 11/04/2015 - 9:45am

I have a lot of fun with this theme, until I try to imagine who wears the midriff baring harem girl outfit, chained to a giant, slobbering, slug. Bob Kraft will do for the latter part, but then I keep seeing, in my mind, the pale belly of Wade Phillips!

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 11/04/2015 - 3:55pm

How about that 28-year old 'actress' he's dating / giving acting tips too?

by PatsFan :: Wed, 11/04/2015 - 9:36pm

I heard she recently dumped him. Dunno if true.

by harril3 :: Thu, 11/05/2015 - 6:36pm

Giselle, of course!

by Will Allen :: Thu, 11/05/2015 - 10:34pm

No, no,no, the character chained to the giant slobbering slug is fundamentally a nemesis of the slug!

by LionInAZ :: Fri, 11/06/2015 - 12:36am

I will never accept the image of Princess Peytonleia with Krafta the Hut. It's just too much even for my old jaded imagination.