An Early SB50 Glance at the Denver Broncos’ Defense

Posted by Aaron . on January 27, 2016 in

It was the Denver Bronco defense that willed the team past Tom Brady and into the franchise’s eighth appearance in a Super Bowl, rattling all sorts of emotions for virtually all NFL betting fans everywhere. If they want to win a third world championship, their defense will have to pull off another historic performance in Super Bowl 50. The majority of the burden rests on the Denver defensive front.

When: Sunday, February 7, 2015
Kickoff: 6:30 PM ET
Where: Santa Clara, CA
Stadium: Levi’s Stadium
Spread: Panthers -5
Moneyline: Carolina -220 vs Denver +190
Game Total: 45
Watch: CBS
StreamCBS Sports 
ListenCarolina vs Denver

So Derek Wolfe, Malik Jackson, DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller will be under the spotlight again this week. The Panthers won’t use the five-man protections that the Patriots used — New England likes to send five eligible receivers out each play in their spread offense, so they keep just five back to block for the quarterback. The Panthers, though, are oriented around the run. So they use seven-man protection schemes (called “max protection”) a lot, bringing in a fullback or an extra tight end to give Cam Newton and the running backs more protection than what the Patriots provided. So you can expect to see Ed Dickson in as the extra tight end, or fullback Mike Tolbert tight in the formation to provide more protection.

Because Newton will have two more people in front of him than Brady did, he will have more time to look down the field. He’ll have fewer targets, but they will have more time to get down the field, which is why the Panthers complete a ton of passes down the field, as opposed to the Patriots, who focus on quick, short passes.

Denver has one of the absolute best defenses in the NFL.

The Broncos do bring the blitz some, but they hardly brought it against the Patriots. We can expect to see more blitzes against the Panthers, as they send fewer receivers out. However, if the four pass rushers can bring pressure, the Panthers might have to resort to max protection in order to keep the passing game going. The offensive linemen for the Panthers are not elite athletes, and given that the Broncos do not have a weak link among their pass rushers, they could make the day a long one for Cam Newton.

If the Panthers go to max protection for four rushers, that means that seven defenders get to guard three receivers. This is what gave the New York Giants such success during their marches to the Super Bowl, as their coverage would blanket the three receivers, giving their rushers time to get through the max protection and sack opposing quarterbacks. If the linebackers assigned to the tight end fight that he stays into block, they could do a “green dog blitz” or spy on Newton, keeping him from scrambling.

So if you’re the Panthers’ offensive coordinator, this is your nightmare — a four-man pass rush that bedevils your max coverage packages, keeping your offense shut down in the pocket and limiting your opportunities to use your vertical passing game. If that scenario can force Newton into some bad decisions (and a strip-fumble or a pick-six), the calculus of the game could change from an easy Carolina win to a real dogfight — and that’s the type of game the Broncos have feasted on all year long.