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From the Coach’s Office: Saints–Broncos Analysis

Critical Call Analysis

Critical Calls was a statistic I kept and tracked to tell me why we were successful or not on crucial downs.  A Critical Call is any play where you have only one play to make a first down or touchdown, or two plays in the four down zone.  The success percentage was not the only thing noted, but more importantly, why the play failed or succeeded.  I always wanted to know why something happened.  That is the difference between video study and watching TV.

This is not to excuse the New Orleans defense.  This was the worst example of tackling I can remember witnessing in an NFL game.  Tackling can be improved through coaching and repetition.  The Saints are failing at both.

Here is my analysis of the Saint Critical Calls against the Broncos.  Note: + or – indicates field position.  (+) equals plus side of field or in your opponents territory.  (–) indicates you are on your side of the field.

1st Quarter

3-3 -27 Brees pass incomplete to Graham.  Missed 0/1

Brees got moved off his spot as short receivers are covered.  Having to move laterally, Brees is late on throw and slightly behind Graham.  Graham could not separate from Broncos rookie linebacker Danny Trevathan.  Ankle injury may have kept cut from being sharp.

3-8 -46 Brees pass incomplete to Henderson.  Missed 0/2

Sproles and Thomas are both in the game.  Pass rush does not allow Brees to step up into deep throw down the middle.  Edge pass rushers are knocking the offensive tackles back into throwing spot, and not running by him outside as so many teams do.  John Fox’s familiarity with Brees is showing.

3-7 -23 Brees sacked for -12 yards, fumbles and recovers his own fumble at -11.  Missed 0/3

Weak linebacker Wesley Woodyard (who would later be named AFC Defensive Player of the Week) comes on a delayed blitz and gets to Brees.  Broncos lined up in a Cover 2 shell, but were actually playing Man Free.  When Thomas released, Woodyard blitzed, and a safety jumped Thomas.

2nd Quarter

This became the key series of the game.  After an eight yard run by Pierre Thomas, the Saints faced a second and two from the Denver 47.  While the second down play is not in the Critical Call calculation, I am including it in the commentary:

2-2 +47 Brees pass to Roby ruled incomplete after a Denver challenge.

Using bootleg action, Brees tries to take a shot down the middle to Graham against 2-deep, but the middle LB jumps into the passing lane.  Not much of a window to Roby in the right flat, but he almost came away with a great catch.  Took a shot; came up empty.

3-2 +47 Brees pass incomplete to Moore.  Missed 0/4

Brees sprinted to his right to avoid pressure and shorten the throw to the out-breaking Moore.  Similar to the 2-point play in Super Bowl XLIV, this throw was slightly behind and perhaps tipped by corner back Chris Harris.

Timeout #1 by NO at 09:17.  A key call in the game.  Calling this timeout showed that the Saints had not determined beforehand that they were in four-down territory.  If pre-determined that you will go for it on 4th down, you can run the ball on 3rd down, knowing that you still have another down to try and pick up the first down.  The hesitation allowed the Broncos to match personnel. I cannot question the call to go for it since the Saints really needed to score on this drive, but this time out showed a lack of planning and conviction.

4-2 +47 Brees pass intended for Graham intercepted by Woodyard.  Missed 0/5

Technically this drive was stopped by an interception, while in actuality the Saints were halted on downs.

Out of an empty set, the Saints call the same play as on their first third down, and it is covered just as well as the first time.  Once again, Graham cannot separate from Trevathan, and Brees cannot get the ball over Woodyard.  This was one situation that Brees could have considered keeping the ball himself to get the first down.  It is difficult to criticize him, but teams know he will not run and leave their rush lanes.

3-11 -34 D.Brees pass incomplete to Moore.  Missed 0/6

Catching the Broncos in man coverage, Brees takes a shot down the field to Moore versus a blitz.  For once, Brees was able to step up in the pocket, and just slightly over throws Moore down the left sideline.

3rd Quarter

3-4 -37 Brees pass to Colston for 9 yards.  Made 1/7

Finally!  Brees was able to step up into the pocket for the first time and hit Colston on an in route behind a shallow cross by Henderson. Center de la Puente and left guard Grubbs do a good job in blitz pickup.

3-6 +50 Brees pass incomplete to Henderson.  Missed 1/8

Brees throws it low and behind Henderson on an in route.  Once again, Woodyard constricts the throwing lane.

3-9 -17 Brees pass incomplete to Colston.  Missed 1/9

Brees tries to back shoulder Colston down the right sideline, but his heel touches out of bounds.

4th Quarter

3-1 -29 Brees pass incomplete to Moore.  Missed 1/10

Brees bootlegs away from pressure to throw a short out to Moore.  Coverage by Tony Carter is too good, and there is no outlet open.

3-3 -9 Brees pass incomplete to Henderson.  Missed 1/11

An attempt at a sight adjustment to Henderson on an outside blitz is tipped at the line of scrimmage by Bronco lineman Kevin Vickerson.

3-9 -41 Brees pass incomplete to Sproles.  Missed 1/12

No one is open downfield versus 2-man coverage, and Brees misses Sproles in the right flat.  Once again, pressure around Brees’s feet keeps him off balance.

4-9 -41 Brees pass to Colston for 14 yards.  Made 2/13

The second Critical Call made.  Brees drops the ball in to Colston on the mid-level route on a three-layered flood pattern.  Brees is hit hard in the back as he delivers the ball.

3-15 50 PENALTY, False Start on Bushrod.  Missed 2/14

Even though there was no snap and no play in the statistics, this count in my calculations.

3-20 -45 Brees pass to Moore for 12 yards.  Made 3/15

The Saints get credit for a successful play since it set up a manageable 4th down.

4-8 +43 Brees pass to Sproles for 11 yards.  Made 4/16

Brees is able to dump the ball to Sproles in the right flat and he runs for the first down. Under great pressure, Brees is able to get to Sproles with no one open downfield.

Critical Call success was only 25%, which is not good at any level.  The Broncos were able to execute their plan of keeping Brees off-balance with disguising coverages while being able to pressure Brees.  Anytime you can collapse the pocket where Brees cannot step up, you have a chance against the Saints.


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