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FMIA Week 3: Broncos’ Coaching Experiment Pays Off, Dolphins Win ‘Beast’ Game, and What We Learned About the NFL in September

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So the first big test in the great Nathaniel Hackett experiment, from 12:48 to play in the fourth quarter on Sunday night against San Francisco. The nines led 10-5. Denver QB Russell Wilson, who needed seven yards for a first down, struggled for what appeared to be six and a half to about a foot short of a first down on the Bronco 35-. But Wilson held out his hand with the ball very close to 35 when it went down.

Hackett has had three years of clock, decision and timeout problems in his three weeks as NFL head coach, so last Tuesday he took the unorthodox step of hiring a former special teams coach. Jerry Rosburg, as a senior assistant/decision maker in the game. Now Rosburg had one or two solutions on which he could advise his boss.

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Decision one: Should Denver contest the challenge that Wilson missed on his first try?

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“This is a valuable challenge,” Rosburg’s voice came through Hackett’s headphones. So Denver challenged and failed; Wilson’s reach for the first down would have mattered if he had broken the flat of the goal line, but not on the field of play. A quirky rule, but on the field the ball is seen where it is when the knee touches the ground. Wilson was obviously short.

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Decision two: Lost five, poor offensive play, should Denver go for fourth with a foot or punt? “Pant,” Rosburg advised, and Hackett agreed. The Broncos’ defense played too well to risk falling short at fourth and short, and so the team lost. When they returned the ball, Wilson drove Denver 80 yards to score a touchdown. All’s well that ends well, at least tonight.

Denver 11, San Francisco 10. Surprisingly, despite the turmoil of the last 14 days – the ridiculous choice to score a 64-yard field goal in Seattle, the mismanagement of timeouts, a league-record four postponement calls in two weeks, a victory that last week seemed like a locker room defeat after a game in Houston – the Broncos are 2-1 and tied for first place in the AFC West.

Such a strange debut in an NFL head coaching career, realizing that you don’t have people on your staff to help you with things like time and game management – the Broncos have a very young staff – and you think you need to leave. outside the building for help. And do it while preparing for the game week. I asked Hackett if all this bothered me.

“No,” he said firmly over the phone from the stadium. “For me, I felt empowered that I was able to make a decision. Hey let’s fix it. I am the team leader. Let’s do it.

“It was the first time in the last two games that I felt like I was hurting my team. Did I have enough information? I dont know. But I knew the setup was wrong. I needed help to make a difficult decision.”

What a whirlwind. Hackett did not know Rosburg, who lived in Florida in retirement. But after a flurry of phone calls and a Tuesday meeting in Denver, Hackett introduced him to the team at Wednesday’s team meeting. He told the players that if he asked them to take a critical look at themselves, if they made a mistake, it was right that he would do the same as the head coach. He made the mistake of not being ready to make all the in-game decisions, and Rosburg was the troubleshooting agent.

There’s another little case: the attack and Wilson. The 12-play 80-yard drive against the sturdy 49er D was the first time in three weak games that the Broncos offense looked good. “Russell is in a new state, in a new organization, with 10 brand new guys in the crowd. This is a completely new look, a new team. He jumped in here and tried to make it as familiar as possible. Of this winning race, he said: I’m comfortable. I’m going to use my legs here. I have to do it. He did. I hope this is a start for him.”

What have we learned

Sunday was the perfect day to illustrate the theme of this column: What did we learn about the NFL in September?

Tom Brady, Aaron Rogers, Patrick Mahomes as well as Josh Allen played on Sunday. They brought their teams to 12, 14, 17 and 19 points respectively. It could be a coincidence, and of course, that’s only three weeks of games (not counting the last games of the month, the Giant Cowboys tonight and the Bengal Dolphins on Thursday). The season is only 17 percent complete.

But the two big national matches featuring offensive geniuses that ended Sunday football ended 14-12 and 11-10. See Rogers and Brady fight like they do Russell Wilson get two touchdowns in three games with a stellar receiving body…something might not be right.

I do think that part of what we’re seeing is a reflection of how the defense plays, with a consistent look at two deep defenses, which is part of the modern D game fad, a pattern that makes the offense win from the bottom with long shots. Perfect example: Sunday in Tampa: in the middle of the third quarter, the Bucks had two defensemen lined up for 18 yards against Aaron Rodgers, and they showed nothing before the snap or at the very beginning of the snap. Tampa Safety Logan Ryan waited, waited, waited, and then, when Rogers threw, Ryan jumped onto the receiver’s route and blew it off.

Have you seen the sharpness between Patrick Mahomes and offensive coordinator KC Eric Beniemi Sunday, shortly before Indy’s break? This was caused by Mahomes misfiring two shots from the field because, as he later said, “The Colts were in deep cover.” (Of course, it is logical for situations at the end of the half.) But the Colts are like many other defenses. They’d rather you try to beat them with 13 game discs than eight. Logic: Offensives are more likely to flip or go to fourth and long in 13 plays than in eight.

Rogers’ reaction on Sunday. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via )

Now, two-deep latches are used about the same as they were for three weeks last year. But, as one team analyst told me, offensive play is much more difficult than defensive play. So it is quite logical that at the beginning of the season the attacks will not be as synchronized as the defense. Again, three weeks is not the time to make final judgments. It’s just time to raise an eyebrow.

As Mike Vrabel once talked about defensive football, coverage is about figuring out the worst thing that can happen to you and doing whatever it takes to make sure it doesn’t happen. Deep security cloaking isn’t the only reason the scoring is down 5.0 points per game for three weeks, of course, but it’s worth looking into.

Three other September stories that stand out:

Miami is good, and Miami isn’t afraid of the big bad Bills. When I watch football every Sunday, I try to focus on one game per window and follow one of the Red Zone channels to keep up with the other games. In the first window, I settled on Buffalo Miami and was rewarded with a dramatic, intense game with a January competitive spirit. It really had playoff energy, right down to the Buffalo offensive coordinator. Ken Dorsey went crazy in the coach’s box upstairs when the clock ran out in the Dolphins’ 21-19 win. September NFL history is Miami 3-0, answering a ton of questions on offense, winning with a quirky and smart coach, and playing fun and intense football on both sides of the line.

This game it was amazing and perfectly illustrated that nothing lasts forever in the NFL. It doesn’t even last a month. We all thought Buffalo were the top team in the sport (I still think the Bills are) and would walk away with the AFC East title. But after three weeks, Buffalo is trailing Miami. Think about it: on a sunny day in south Florida with a nineties heat index, the Buffalo offense was on the field for 40 minutes and 40 seconds and took 90 snaps to beat Miami 497-212 yards. And Miami won the IV Bowl.

“Honestly, it was a battlefield, to be honest,” said one of Miami’s heroes of the day, a security sophomore. Jevon Holland. “People were falling. People came to you who actually played little. It was chaotic. The fans were loud. Convulsions people. Disks going to 10 plays, 14 plays, 20 plays. The game was a beast. Just a beast.

“It’s difficult because the Bills offense is so electric that they can score at any moment. And so, you must be constantly, constantly in touch. It’s draining, constantly working at a very high level. But that’s what it takes to beat a team like this. You have to be perfect, and that is the standard you have to rise to.”

Holland started early, making a dash midway through the first quarter, dismissing Allen in a strip and setting up Miami’s first TD. Flexible yet flexible Holland hits like Polamalu and his ability from sideline to sideline is amazing. Ten tackles, two passes defended, 1.5 sacks. The man was everywhere.

– What hurts now? I have asked.

“Everything,” Holland said. “Everywhere.”

(And that team somehow has to get on a plane and play Thursday night in Cincinnati, playing 90 snaps against the best offense in football in 90 years of heat and humidity. Brutal.)

“Preservation Josh Allen from scrambling was important,” Holland said. “When he climbs to the right, he is very efficient, the best quarterback in the league. That’s what we were trying to do, constant pressure from his right side to make him move to the left. Trying to keep the pressure on his face, mix up the front alignment. Just make him guess what defense we’re on, what cover. one-dimensional. You measure your love for teammates by how close you are to the ball in…


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