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NFL Conference Championships: Play of the week

Sunday was full of good performances and good plays - as well as some truly terrible ones - so pic


  Sunday was full of good performances and good plays – as well as some truly terrible ones – so picking just one to highlight was a tough task. In the end though, there was one that stood out above the others. Maybe it’s because it hurt me so much personally, maybe it’s just because it was a phenomenal play from a great player who had one of the best performances of his life, and a terrific play call from a coach who’s put together the most devastating defense this season. 2nd Quarter (14:41) 2nd & 10, Patriots 6 – 7 Broncos…. On the play before this one Von Miller nearly sacks Tom Brady. He lines up on the left hand side and at the snap is left alone by Rob Gronkowski on a play action, but he isn’t fooled by the run fake and dances inside of the pulling Josh Kline to get direct pressure in Brady’s face. Pressure without blitzing was the key to Denver’s success as they hit Brady early and often and on 1st down they get home with just 4 rushers. 1 Circled: Miller makes short work of #67 Kline and pressures Brady, forcing a wild incompletion on 1st down This play was undoubtedly in Brady’s mind on the next snap, when once again Miller was lined up just outside of Gronkowski, but this time, rather than rushing on the snap, Miller takes one step up, and then starts to drop with Gronkowski. The Broncos have called a 3 man rush and Miller is going back into coverage. It’s a tactic Denver employed occasionally in the first half which caused Brady all kinds of problems as they crowded the short, underneath routes he loves to throw so much. 3 Circled: Miller drops vertically with Gronkowski What happens is rather amazing really, Tom Brady simply doesn’t see Miller. Maybe it’s because he’s tied up with the enormous Gronkowski. Maybe it’s because he sees the inside linebackers drop and a 3 man rush on 2nd down is so rare. Either way, Brady is eye balling the right side of the field where the receivers are breaking. It’s a standard Patriots play, creating levels and seams in a zone coverage. What isn’t standard, is that there are 5 defenders across the shallow part of the field instead of 4.   2 Circled: Miller flows to his left with Brady’s eyes, covering Gronkowski’s out pattern. Had Miller rushed, the offense would be perfect. James White has sucked #20 Josh Bush down to the bottom of his zone and #43 TJ Ward, to the inside of Gronkowski the whole play, was never going to be able to get out to him in time. Brady had the coverage he wanted and the route he wanted. But he never considered the Broncos would drop an extra man into coverage to muddy everything up. 4 Circled: Julian Edelman on the back side of the play wide open As you can see here, Miller is directly in between Brady and Gronk when the throw is made, if he isn’t there Gronkowski has a lot of room to run into. On the back side Julian Edelman has come free, and thanks to the 3-man rush Brady has the time to look around and find Edelman, but the great #12 is guilty of deciding where he is going before the snap and not recognising the danger after it. He makes the pass and Von Miller, with the athleticism that has made him effective across the field in the NFL, gets his hands to it and holds on. 5 Circled: Miller steps in front of Gronkowski and gets a vital turnover I’m my preview to how the Broncos could overcome the favoured Patriots I said that constant pressure from Miller and hanging on to errant passes would be key. Turns out Von Miller could do it all himself.

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Toby Durant

A passionate and opinionated writer, I am currently the NFL editor for RealSport. However, I also contribute to F1, WWE, Football, and other sections of the site, and I have covered the NFL International Series for RealSport and previously contributed to SB Nation.

 

I also have 10 years playing and coaching experience in American football, starting at the University of Nottingham and including a stint as defensive coordinator at Oxford Brookes University. I may be a Patriots fan but all aspects of the sport interest me, from guard play to special teams.

NFL Conference Championships: Play of the week

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