The defensive backfield against TCU…what went wrong?

This is a tough blog to write coming off the loss, which occurred on my birthday of all days, and the first game I ever watched from the stands as opposed to the sideline or skybox, also it was the first time since I’ve ever even heard of Boise State that we lost a conference game on the Blue field…so I will try to analyze why this happened with the position I’m most familiar with…defensive backs.

Being a former safety, I watch the game still reading offenses and breaking down defenses. And I have to say, it was rough and frustrating to watch. I tried making it a point in my playing days to never make the same mistake twice…but watching the same mistake 5 times was driving me crazy. The way to properly read an offense in my opinion..is to first watch the tight end and tackle. Watch for a run/pass read, than zoom to the first 5 yards the tight end runs, and if he continues moving vertical continue backpeddling and shift your eyes to the QB really quick to watch his shoulders, eyes, and feet. If his feet are still moving quickly, shift your eyes back to your receiver and continue backpeddling. If the feet are slowing down, watch the eyes, as QB’s will look off receivers generally before their feet are set. If they continue moving back and start slowing down, wait for that front left shoulder to raise or turn to indicate he is starting the throwing motion. When their is a pump fake, the shoulders don’t usually move, (unless you’re facing a very experienced NFL intelligent QB) so until the shoulders actually dip and raise indicating a high trajectory pass…don’t stop backpeddling and certainly don’t make a break in the ball.  This is the experience and I believe mistakes BSU defensive backs made against TCU. The lack of experience on the cornerbacks were exploited. They haven’t played enough games and spent enough time in the film room to really understand that proper read progression, they still think that any forward body motion from the QB means pass, so when they see that they hone in on the QB and make a break in the direction where the WR was running. However, on a double move, the receiver breaks up field the moment they see the Defensive back’s feet stutter and stop moving backwards…and then…touchdown.

The lack of experience and depth hurt us big time. We started shifting to having a safety over the top and that still didn’t help. I’m not sure what they were reading, I’m not sure on the exact defense, but I would say that we usually run a lot of zone blitzes and therefore almost always have at least 1 safety deep. I saw that the QB was starring down the receivers big time, which means the safety should have broken toward that side of the field early to help over the top. Also, the corners kept biting on the double moves. They should have known the game situation, and they should have learned from the first few times they got beat…but unfortunatly all that comes with coaching and game experience. Because I know Coach Marcel Yates is a fantastic coach, and he was coachin them up on the sidelines and at halftime, I know the problem wasn’t the coaching. I personally would have liked to see them run a more of a “apache” type defense. This means that the corners and linebackers are supposed to trail the receiver by a few yards, and the safeties are playing over the top deep to take the long pass out of play. Now it’s not great for getting pressure on the QB, and it’s not great if you have a quick tight end or running back that gets up on a linebacker, but TCU didn’t have those things, and our guys could run with theirs. Now this also usually takes pressure away from our rush on their QB. But I thought that our D-line could have and should have gotten to the QB more often on their own. It was one of my favorite coverages to run, and seemed to be the best true pass defense. It would have guaranteed the long pass at least was contested by a safety.

What happened on the 2 point conversion?

So the most frustrating play for me was the go-ahead two point conversion that TCU scored on a quick out to their motion receiver. I called the play as the receiver was in motion, so easy to read. The corner that went in motion has to know that leverage is the most important thing of all time in that motion. He had 10 defensive players inside, and because the ball was snapped with the WR so close to the tight end still, there is really only 3 routes he can run…a fade, a back-shoulder fade, and an out. He knows that if he stays on the outside shoulder of the fade where the QB will throw the ball, he will contest the pass, he knows that if he uses the endline and sideline as extra defenders, he can really squeeze to that outside hip and eliminate the back shoulder ball. Now the out route is the easiest, you stay on that hip, or stay on the outside shoulder. The receiver caught it on the 2 yard line which was actually a mistake on their part as the receiver is supposed to get to the endzone before breaking out. Our corner had pretty good position, however something happened. He went for the pick or simply misread the ball and had bad hand placement and as the pass was thrown, the receiver slipped his reach. He had to take better leverage, and had to jab his hand straight in the gut of the receiver to knock the ball away instead of swiping at it with a more risky angle, and he had to simply make a tackle and we would have stopped that play. So ultimately again, it’s experience, it’s the mental intelligence and preparation that takes years of studying and experience on the field to develop. He should have known before the ball was snapped…”3 routes, squeeze his hip, get proper leverage, knock the ball down while shooting his gut, if late, attack upfield hip and wrap up arms to eliminate a score.”

All in all, it was injuries and lack of experience…experience in football comes from making mistakes, and vowing to store those exact plays in your mental vault that will never be let out again…they will forever be eliminated the next time that route or situation happens…a good DB stores and builds that vault from film study and practice…and TCU can be a learning experience to build that “vault” for our DB’s for the rest of their careers…so let’s hope they learn, and vow to never give up those same plays in those same situations again.

Still love my DB’s, just an off day…doesn’t happen too often…still love our Broncos and believe in their ability to make big plays!

GO BRONCOS!!!

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