The Broncos were able to get a ton of pressure on Tom Brady in the AFC Championship game. How did Wade Phillips do it? He did it without blitzing very much…
In case you didn’t know, the Denver Broncos’ defense is ridiculous.
Some might call it ‘ridonk’.
Over the course of the last five years, John Elway and the Broncos’ front office have built what is, at least for this season, the top defense in the NFL. The Broncos have been dominating opponents all year, specifically in terms of rushing the quarterback, stopping the run, and closing out football games.
If we’re honest, the defense has won a lot of games for the Broncos this year that the offense was otherwise completely useless in.
In the AFC Championship game, it was a full team effort, and the defense was off the charts great, perhaps one of the best performances I have ever seen. To defeat Tom Brady, you have to be creative. You have to be at your best. You have to do. Your. Job.
Thanks to Wade Phillips’ game plan, the Broncos were able to completely stifle Brady and the vaunted Patriots offense, which ranked 3rd in the NFL this season in points scored (they’ll take on the highest scoring offense in the Super Bowl next).
How did they do it? Was it some sort of secret formula?
Well, in addition to being incredibly talented at every level and virtually without weakness on that side of the ball, Phillips’ scheme against the Patriots was probably nothing they expected, and the Broncos took advantage. Let me show you what I mean…
The Broncos did this throughout most of the game, blitzing under 18 percent of their snaps (per Pro Football Focus) getting pressure with three or four guys the entire game. When those four guys are DeMarcus Ware, Derek Wolfe, Malik Jackson, and Von Miller, it’s not that hard to believe.
You’ll notice in that picture above that Jackson and Wolfe are lined up between the tackle and guard on either side. They are about to occupy the inside blocker so that the Patriots have no choice but to leave a back or tight end in to block, or they risk leaving Miller and Ware in 1-on-1 matchups all game with their offensive tackles.
Did we mention the Patriots fired their offensive line coach on Monday? Not even 24 hours after the game?
The Patriots had no answer throughout this game, and eventually would have to bring in an extra tackle — Cameron Fleming — into the game to defend against the vaunted pass rush of the Broncos…
To no avail.
Even when the Patriots thought they might have had an advantage over Denver, then Phillips drops Von Miller into coverage. Here’s what happened…
The Broncos sacked Tom Brady officially four times, but it felt like he got sacked a lot more than that. He was hit almost every time he dropped back, and every single one of them was legal. I don’t think that can be understated. The Broncos got Brady greener and bloodier than he’s probably ever been in his career, and they did it all without picking up a flag.
In today’s NFL, that’s about as impressive as it gets, and Wade Phillips deserves a ton of credit for putting together the pieces and proving (to Jack Del Rio) that you can get in a man’s face and create pressure without blitzing in the playoffs.
The Broncos are going to need to be at the top of their game again in the Super Bowl against Cam Newton, who has been knitting sweaters in the pocket all season. Newton can obviously run when needed, but the Broncos need to make sure he doesn’t have enough time to think back there.
I can’t wait.