All signs seem to point towards the Panthers holding a parade in Charlotte sometime next week. In nature, I would even take the big black cat over a horse any day. However, there is one special caveat the super bowl provides that could throw the results in an unexpected direction. The time between conference championships and the unofficial holiday is a two week layover (which feels more like football hangover). This extra week to prepare can pull the inner chess players out of all four coordinators involved. Now far be it from me to question the tactics of the brilliant Wade Phillips but, given the circumstances, he’s probably looking for whatever help he can get. This is how I think he should readjust his rooks.
The 46 defense was created by Buddy Ryan during his tenure as defensive coordinator of the Bears from the late ‘70s to mid ‘80s. This strategy got the undivided attention of the league when the 1985 Bears went 15-1 and then went on to win the Super Bowl. Since then offences have found ways to counter his tactics by spreading out to three, four, and five receiver sets, making The 46 all but extinct. I, however, think that the talents and skillsets of the Broncos defense make it perfect the base defense to use against Cam Newton. All you have to do is what half of HGTV’s line up does, renovate it.
The 46 was designed as an augmentation of the 4-3 defense to look like this:
(Orange is linebackers, blue is linemen, and white is secondary.)
The only problem is the Broncos run a 3-4 defense that looks like this:
(I put in the player’s initials this time)
So with too few linemen and too many linebackers, here is how the new 46 should be shaped:
Von Miller and Demarcus Ware are linebackers in name only and are among the best pass rushers in the game. So why not line them up together in front of Michael Oher and blindside him with a level of speed and power he’s not accustomed too. They could pull some unreal stunt blitzes in tandem. Cam Newton prefers to scramble to his right. Seeing those two bearing down on his left, Cam could run right into the loving arms of Derek Wolfe (especially if Wolfe plays contain). Also, with the whole defensive line shifted to the left, I feel that Vance Walker would be more comfortable away from the center that Sylvester Williams would.
Now, the Panthers are going to spread out so here is how the formation should adjust to 3-reciever sets:
The other player joining Danny Trevathan behind the line could be either Brandon Marshal or T.J. Ward. Marshal should be used for either spying or blitzes. Alternatively, Ward could be used to help provide more underneath coverage alongside Trevathan. With the way that Chris Harris Junior (well, all the Broncos CBs, but especially him) has been playing, he could probably cover any Carolina receiver by himself. Harris Jr. is talented enough to get the Revis’ Island treatment from Darian Stewart. Stewart should either help Bradley Roby or Aqib Talib.
This should be the Base formation in 4-wide sets:
Ward and Trevathan are skilled enough to cover these Panther receivers so either could line up as the nickel. If Greg Olsen lines up wide, Trevathan should cover him. Either way, Steward should help one of the two out in coverage
Panthers line up 5-wide? No problem (kidding, yes problem). Here’s how to solve that:
This is the main scenario where I see them abandoning The 46 and going with the traditional 4 man front of Ware, Malik Jackson, Wolfe, and Miller. David Bruton would be ideal as the dime back so you could use Trevathan to assist in coverage. But with Bruton’s injury, they’ll just have to deal with Trevathan as the back and Marshall as the Linebacker for underneath coverage.
The whole point of this defense is to put pressure on Cam without giving him the room to escape. This is why the Broncos should often employ a spy or have a defensive end play contain. The Carolina receiving core are not as talented as Newton’s play making ability would lead you to believe. With the talent Denver has in its secondary, they should be able to stack the box as much as they like and get away with just some cover-1, press-man coverage. They just can’t commit the cardinal sin of falling so far underneath the route they can’t make the tackle if the catch is made. Against the run game, those in the second line of defense should focus on the gaps to the left of the Ware/Miller tandem. Those two are good enough to fill their own gaps.
Even with this strategy, I still think that the Panthers will win. The talent and physical gifts Cam holds would even confound his distant relative Issac. Ron Rivera is a genius that should be able to adjust his way around any scheme. Last but not least, the Panther defense is so good; you have to worry about them scoring as well (see Luke Kuechly’s life for more information). Yes, the Bronco’s defense has the exceptional talent to check Carolina’s exceptional offence, but for the team as a whole, this is way too much of an uphill battle.
Prediction: 24-17 Panthers
Photo Credit – http://www.nbcdfw.com/blogs/blue-star/Ex-Cowboy-DeMarcus-Ware-Returns-to-Broncos-Practice-364894571.html