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How the Rams made Peyton Manning play like Eli - Coaches Film

We take a closer look at our favourite play from this week’s NFL action.

Peyton Manning walks off the field after throwing the interception.
Peyton Manning walks off the field after throwing the interception.
Image: Tom Gannam/AP/Press Association Images

Updated at 7.45am

ON SUNDAY, THE St. Louis Rams created a little bit of history.

For the first time in 13 years Peyton Manning didn’t have a single drive reach the redzone – the area of the field within 20 yards of the endzone – and were one blown coverage away from holding the Denver Broncos quarterback scoreless.

Key to their success in a shock 22-7 win was putting pressure on Manning who threw two interceptions, one of which came at the start of the fourth quarter when the Broncos were only nine points down.

For those who didn’t see the play, here’s how it looked on TV:

Source: CBS

As we’ll see below, the Rams used zone pressure to take away the Broncos offensive concept which, in turn, allowed Alec Ogletree make a big play.

Pre-snap read – Offence

At this stage you’re probably noticing that the Posse/11 formation, with three wide receivers (red, blue and orange), a tight end (purple) and a running back (green) is very popular in the NFL.

On second down and with 18 yards to go, the Broncos are almost certainly going to pass the ball and are lined up in their Double Gun formation.

The ‘double’ part refers to the fact their are two eligible receivers to the left of the line of scrimmage and two to the right while ‘gun’ means that Manning is in the shotgun position rather than under centre.

Pre-snap read – Defence

The Rams are in their 4-2-5 defence which means they’ve subbed a linebacker out of their standard – or base – defence and replaced him with an extra defensive back to defend against the pass. This fifth defensive back is known, as we’ve discussed before, the nickelback.

St. Louis look as if they are lined up in the Nickel Fire Zone scheme we took a look at earlier in this series but are in fact running Cover Two with two defensive backs (blue) in zone coverage, four players in man coverage (two linebackers and two defensive backs) on the four receivers and five men rushing the quarterback.

Key here for putting pressure on Peyton Manning is that the Rams generate a gap for the nickelback E.J. Gaines (yellow) to get straight through to the quarterback, forcing him to throw sooner than he would have liked.

At the snap

With 18 yards to make up to get a first down, the Broncos aren’t messing around and revert to an old favourite of Manning, Four Verticals.

You’ll find this play in every playbook in the NFL because it gives receivers a chance to make a play in one-on-one situations.

In this instance, the Broncos run a very quick play action – faking the handoff to the running back but the real focus here should be on the Rams.

As we can see above, the defensive end William Hayes (95) takes an elongated, outside path to Peyton Manning.

This forces the right Guard Louis Vasquez (65) to take a step to his right which – especially with running back CJ Anderson (22) not in pass protection – creates a clear running lane for Gaines (33 and out of shot above) to exploit and get to Manning much quicker than the quarterback would expect.

Source: NFL

What happens next?

With the pressure applied by the Rams, Manning has to get the ball out of his hands quickly meaning he throws to his first target, Jacob Tamme (84).

Because the quarterback has identified the Rams are in Cover Two, Manning knows he can’t throw to Tamme’s far shoulder as that would allow the safety to make a play.

However, what he hasn’t accounted for is linebacker Alec Ogletree’s (52) brilliant technique on the play.

With safety help behind him, Ogletree plays to the inside hip of the Tamme as he follows the seam route upfield and shows great awareness to get his head around in time to intercept the ball before the tight end has a chance to make a play.

Source: CBS

Notes

This is a pretty much the perfect case study of how applying pressure can work in a cover scheme.

Had Gaines not been able to get to Manning so quickly, the veteran quarterback would have been able to make his next read and see Anderson was wide open in the middle of the field with possibly enough room to make the first down.

Originally published Tuesday at 5.20pm.

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Steve O'Rourke

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