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CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

After Further Review: Broncos rush benefiting from Allen's creativity


Forget Orange Crush.

More like Denver Rush.

In the old days, when the Denver Broncos wore orange uniforms and played good defense with players like Randy Gradishar and Tom Jackson and Lyle Alzado, they were known as the Orange Crush.

The Broncos now wear mostly blue and they can flat-out rush the passer. So it's time for a new way to describe the defense. Denver Rush?

Maybe something even simple like this: Pretty damn good.

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Now comes the hard part. Name the coordinator?

It isn't coach John Fox either. The guy who leads this defense is Dennis Allen, who came over from New Orleans, where he served as secondary coach under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Like Williams, Allen is creative.

He's also a coaching star in the making.

The Broncos have won six consecutive games in large part because of Allen's defense. Yes, Tim Tebow has done his part, but without this defense improving, we don't have Tebow-mania.

In studying last week's game against the Chicago Bears, I came away impressed with Allen's creativity. It helps that he has two explosive pass rushers in end Elvis Dumervil and rookie outside rusher Von Miller. Both players can stand up and both can play with their hand on the ground to rush.

That allows Allen a lot of freedom.

Here's a look at the different ways the Broncos were able to get their four sacks against the Bears.

  Second-and-10 at the Chicago 38: The Broncos line up Dumervil to the left side, with Miller to the right, both with their hands down. This is different than usual with the two usually on the opposite sides. They flank two down linemen. At the snap, linebacker D.J. Williams comes inside on a blitz. Bears running back Marion Barber can't get to him and Williams dumps Hanie for an 8-yard loss.

  Third-and-7 at the Chicago 23: The Broncos line up with Dumervil on the right with his hand down and Miller on the left standing upright. There are two defensive tackles inside of them. At the snap, the Broncos rush six. Williams starts over the center, but loops around the right tackle and knifes in to sack Hanie just before Miller gets there. It's a nice disguise and Williams comes in clean after his loop to the left.

  Second-and-7 at the Chicago 35: The Broncos have two tackles down, with Dumervil down on the right and Miller standing up on the left side. They rush four at the snap and Miller explodes by right tackle Lance Louis for an 8-yard sack. This is a sack based on sheer athleticism.

  First-and-24 at the Chicago 48: The Broncos show a four-man line with Dumervil down on the right and Jason Hunter down on the left side with two tackles inside. At the snap, defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley drops into coverage, making it a three-man rush. That shouldn't be able to get home as fast as it did, but Dumervil whips JaMarcus Webb and dumps Hanie for a 5-yard loss.

Getting a grasp on how the Broncos will attack in passing situations is tough. It's also nice that Allen has the two speed players on the outside who help create one-on-one battles if he does blitz.

Get to know Dennis Allen. He's doing a heck of a job.

Film Study 10 things I saw on the tape

Gary Kubiak deserves credit for keeping defenses guesses with rookie T.J. Yates running his offense. (US Presswire)  
Gary Kubiak deserves credit for keeping defenses guesses with rookie T.J. Yates running his offense. (US Presswire)  
1. Want to know why the Texans haven't missed a beat on offense with rookie T.J. Yates at quarterback? Yes, they can run it. But a lot of it is play design. They are so good at getting a defense to flow one way, and then come back the other.

The Texans have always done that under coach Gary Kubiak, but now it's even more important with Yates. On a first-and-goal from the 6 early in the third quarter against the Bengals, the Texans pulled off one of their impressive designs.

With two tight ends on the right side of the formation and the fullback offset that way in front of Arian Foster, it looks like a run play to that side. But Yates takes the snap, fakes to Foster, with tight end Joel Dreessen making it look as if he's blocking. He then sneaks out across the formation.

There isn't a defender near him as receiver Kevin Walter runs an inside route from the left side to clear out the defense. It's an easy throw and easy score. The Texans seem to hit two or three plays a game like that. It helps when you can run the ball the way they do with Foster and Ben Tate.

2. Want to know why the Packers are good? OK, besides Aaron Rodgers? It's Ted Thompson.

The general manager has done a great job of stockpiling depth. When the Packers lost tight end Andrew Quarless for the season, it meant they needed someone to step up.

That guy has been Ryan Taylor. He became the 18th player to catch a touchdown pass from Rodgers this season when he grabbed one against the Raiders.

Another example of Thompson's astute talent evaluation is linebacker D.J. Smith. He was all over the field against the Raiders, getting a pick of Carson Palmer and getting 10 tackles. Smith is a backup who started for the injured Desmond Bishop. Robert Francois started next to him for A.J. Hawk. Both played well.

Smith was a sixth-round pick last April, while Francois was claimed off waivers last year from Minnesota. Taylor was a seventh-round pick last April.

These three are reminders of why Thompson is so good at what he does. The Packers lost a lot of guys last year and won it all. They've had key guys go down this year and players always seem to step up. Nice job.

3. The dissection of a big run play usually means a missed run fit and a missed tackle. When DeAngelo Williams ripped off his 74-yard touchdown run against the Atlanta Falcons last week -- untouched, by the way -- the play had both. The missed run fit was by safety Thomas DeCoud, who went too far to the sideline and was blocked. The missed tackle was by safety James Sanders, who dove at Williams' legs to no avail. It also helped that tight end Jeremy Shockey got a great seal on defensive end Kroy Biermann to create the seam.

4. Oh, how the Buffalo Bills need a pass rusher. I've said that many times this season, but watching the Bills-Chargers game, it was more evident than ever. San Diego has had problems protecting the quarterback all season long. But Philip Rivers had all day to throw against the Bills. He was sacked once, but the rest of the day saw a clean pocket. The Bills simply don't have a speed rusher who can win and get home. That has to be a priority this spring. They have to sign a pass rusher in free agency and maybe even draft one early.

5. One of the interesting things the Patriots are doing on defense is when they use a 3-4 scheme -- they use both that and a 4-3 at times -- they are putting nose tackle Kyle Love about 2 yards off the ball. He then reacts to the play before engaging the center. It makes it tougher for the center to get on him right away. In that defense, Vince Wilfork moves to left end and becomes an anchor against the run on that side.

6. What is wrong with Carson Palmer? Four picks last week, and some of them were horrible throws. I know he's missing his speed outside with Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford out, but it's the decisions that are puzzling. I saw him live in Miami two weeks ago and he looked shaky. He was even worse against the Packers. He did have some drops against the Packers -- see Darius Heyward-Bey -- but he never looked comfortable. The Packers did line up and crowd the Oakland receivers, which is easier to do with Ford and Moore out, but Palmer has to be better than he was last week. That trade is starting to look shaky -- at best.

7. The more I watch the Carolina Panthers offense, the more I am convinced that teams looking for a head coach need to consider Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski. He has a creative mind and he puts it to good use. I loved a play call he ran last week against the Falcons. On a first-and-goal play from the 6, he emptied the backfield and made Cam Newton take a direct snap. He made it look like he was running a quarterback draw. But just as Newton got to the line of scrimmage, he stopped, jumped up and threw to Shockey in the back of the end zone. The play froze Sanders, who took a false step forward before realizing Shockey was behind him for the score. Chudzinski is good for one or two of those kinds of plays a game. He is a very creative coordinator in a league where most good offenses are run by the head coaches.

8. The past two games, Rivers has looked like the Rivers of old after struggling for much of this season. A lot of that has to do with Malcom Floyd being back at receiver, but there's something else that has helped. Antonio Gates looks healthy again. Gates has been bothered this season by a foot injury and missed three games. But even when he was back on the field, he looked slower. Against the Bills, he looked much like the Gates we've come to expect over the years. On the first drive, he caught three passes, drew a holding penalty, and caught a touchdown pass when he beat safety George Wilson, one of the better safeties in the league. He beat him with an outside-in move that froze Wilson. He later beat Bryan Scott for another touchdown catch. With Gates healthy, the Chargers could make a run.

9. Watching the Cowboys on tape and live, it's obvious they need to move right tackle Tyron Smith to the left side and move Doug Free from the left to the right. Smith has been a big-time player the past seven weeks, while Free has struggled in a big way the past two weeks. Free was whipped by Calais Campbell against the Cardinals and then had his problems against the Giants. Jason Pierre-Paul had two sacks against him, although the guard didn't help him enough on an inside move on one of them. Free was a right tackle before moving to the left side last year. He played well in 2010, got a big contract (left tackle money), but hasn't done the job this season, especially the past two weeks. I expect the Cowboys to make that move next season.

10. Early in the Denver-Chicago game, defensive end Julius Peppers got the better of Broncos left tackle Ryan Clady. But in crunch time, in the fourth quarter and overtime, it was Clady who won. Peppers was a no-show on the Broncos' final three drives. Clady did a nice job handling him man-to-man and also had a little help. Peppers is paid big money to get sack-fumble-game-over moments. Just one of those would have ended the Broncos' game late. But it didn't happen. He did get a sack earlier in the game, beating Clady.

Hot Tub

1. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski -- He makes the tough catches look easy. And that catch where he ran over a bunch of Redskins players was truly impressive. How do you cover this guy? The Redskins tried DBs on him and he's too big. He's too fast for linebackers.

2. Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga -- He had a huge hit on Ben Tate to force a fumble near the goal line and made a lot tackles against the Texans.

3. Falcons receiver Julio Jones -- He had the 75-yard touchdown catch and another shorter one. But the thing that impressed was how much better he ran his routes.

4. Giants WR Hakeem Nicks -- I know he drops a pass now and then, but he really impressed against the Cowboys. He's a big-time player.

5. Jaguars DE Legar Douzable -- Who? This guy is starting because of injuries, moving from tackle to end. He isn't a great pass rusher, but he was impressive against the Bucs. Who is he?

Cold Tub

1. Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick -- He was picked off for a touchdown by Steve Gregory and missed a wide-open deep ball when he underthrew it against the Chargers. He seems to be floating a lot of passes.

2. Sanders -- He not only missed the tackle on Williams' big run, but he missed one on Greg Olsen's touchdown catch on a screen pass.

3. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton -- Two horrible picks against the Falcons last week. One was a terrible decision to try and flip the ball to a back when he was wrapped up. The other was a bad overthrow.

4. Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty -- After seemingly looking like a star as a rookie last season, McCourty has disappointed this season. He got beat for a big play by Donte Stallworth last week and gave up some other completions.

5. Steelers WR Hines Ward -- Is he being phased out or what? He is fourth in a four-receiver rotation when they are all healthy.

Three and outs

My top free agents in 2012 (if they make it to market)

1. Texans DE/OLB Mario Williams -- The Texans will likely tag him, but what if they don't?

2. Lions DE Cliff Avril -- He is a good pass rusher who is just now coming into his prime. They get paid a lot.

3. Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe -- He's a No. 1 receiver who does have some baggage, but he could be special with the right quarterback.

Second-tier free agents I really like

1. Jaguars DE Jeremy Mincey -- He is one of those players who doesn't have a lot of great ability, yet somehow seems to dominate his man.

2. Colts receiver Pierre Garcon -- He has speed and has played in a good passing offense. Yes, he has drops. But he can fly.

3. Cardinals DE Calais Campbell -- After a disappointing season in 2010, he has bounced back with an impressive season. Not a great pass rusher, but good enough and an anchor against the run.

Three free agents I would avoid

1. Patriots receiver Wes Welker -- Yes, he's a damn good player. But he fits the Patriots system and he isn't a kid anymore.

2. Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson -- His antics this year speak volumes about him as a player.

3. Cowboys OLB Anthony Spencer -- He isn't nearly as good as his reputation and he has DeMarcus Ware on the other side.

Tweets at Me

1. From @jagmedic81: @PriscoCBS with everything that Tebow supposedly "delivers" I just want to see him "deliver" an accurate pass. He can't do that right now!

2. From @DonOlmstead: @PriscoCBS @nfldraftscout Hey Haters, did the sun rise in Hatersville this morning? At least Charles Barkley is as miserable as you today!

3. From @UCLABoyd: @PriscoCBS You're attempting to use rational arguments and logic with irrational people. It is futile.

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.

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