Denver’s trickery working

By FRANK SCHWAB - THE GAZETTE Updated: October 2, 2005 at 12:00 am • Published: October 2, 2005
ENGLEWOOD - Fullback Kyle Johnson insisted he doesn’t laugh when he watches film of a defensive end hopelessly trying to defend the Denver Broncos’ bootleg play. “I’ll tell you why we don’t laugh: What if we’re not booting it and they hit you in the face?” Johnson said. Fair enough. But there certainly is some comedy in watching players chasing a running back who doesn’t have the ball while Jake Plummer is running the other way. The bootleg is one of the Broncos’ most productive plays, and they’ll probably use it again today at Jacksonville. The play begins like their signature play, the zone running play in which the offensive line moves one way and the running back picks his hole, makes one cut and runs downfield. But on the bootleg, the line and running back usually move one way, Plummer fakes a handoff and rolls out away from the flow. From there, he can pass or run. The defense has to be fooled for the play to work. Usually, the defensive end on the side Plummer will be rolling to isn’t blocked. But week after week, the Broncos typically get away with the deception. “He’s sitting there trying to play the boot and when he finally realizes they’re gashing him in his gap (on running plays), he starts to play his gap more aggressively and then they hit him with the boot,” said Jaguars end Reggie Hayward, who played the past four seasons with Denver. “Pick your poison.” “They do a lot of different things to affect your perimeter,” Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. “If you have problems with perimeter defense, they’re going to exploit it.” The play works best when the running game is clicking, and the bootleg worked often against the Chiefs on Monday. Denver finally got its running game going after struggling the first two games and that opened up the bootleg. Chiefs defensive end Jared Allen knows how tough it is to defend. On a fake handoff to Ron Dayne, Allen charged six steps down the line, but Plummer was rolling the other way with the ball. Plummer hit Rod Smith for a 19-yard gain, putting Smith over 10,000 career yards. The Broncos used the bootleg three times on that thirdquarter drive, each time gaining yards. The third time, Plummer ran for a 1-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal. Chiefs outside linebacker Kendrell Bell fell for the fake handoff as if he hadn’t seen the bootleg before. If teams try to stop the bootleg by having a defensive end rush upfield at Plummer, the Broncos don’t mind. When the Chiefs did that, Plummer dumped quickly to Smith and Cecil Sapp for positive plays. If teams consistently rush upfield, that should open a cutback lane for the tailback on running plays. “If you’re going to take a guy or two out of the box to account for me booting out and I don’t have the ball, there are two guys out of position,” Plummer said. “We’ll cut the ball back and there’s big lanes there.” The play needs a good running game and the right quarterback for it to work — and the play fits Plummer’s strengths. Plummer is at his best when he’s on the move, which allows him to throw downfield while rolling out or run the ball. “I feel good out of the pocket,” Plummer said. “I have been doing that since I first started playing football in Pop Warner.” “You see him bootleg and you just say ‘He’s just doing it right,’” Johnson said. “I don’t know the wrong way to do it, but that’s how you’re supposed to do it.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 476-4891 or fschwab@gazette.com TODAY Denver (2-1) at Jacksonville (2-1), 11 a.m., CBS, 740 AM, 850 AM
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