Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio dove deep in his bag of tricks during Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots.
It helped the Broncos pull out a 18-12 victory at Gillette Stadium, their second consecutive win on the season. Denver’s victory couldn’t have happened without a stout defensive effort, perhaps highlighted by the game-winning play on fourth down with a minute remaining.
The Patriots had possession of the ball starting at their 28-yard line, trailing by just six points with 3:14 left. Eleven plays later, with 59 ticks remaining, New England was staring at a fourth-and-10 from the Denver 24.
Quarterback Cam Newton stood behind center after having already converted on fourth-down play earlier in the drive.
What did Fangio decide to dial up? A play he said he’s never called prior, in a career which stretches back more than two decades.
The Broncos blitzed safeties — Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson — at Newton, who had the pocket around him collapse as running backs James White and Rex Burkhead did their best to help an injury-depleted Patriots offensive line. The blitz, though, led Newton to make a quick decision and his pass intended for N’Keal Harry, who was in 1-on-1 coverage, was far from the receiver’s reach.
Turnover on downs. Game over.
“…The final one today was one we put in for this game, we had never run before. I had never run before in my career and we put it in and I called it there,” Fangio told reporters after the win.
“Well, I just think at times during the season you have to come up with something new, on a week-to-week basis. And that’s one that I’ve been looking at and just decided this was the time to do it,” Fangio said. “I mean, this was the week to put it in plus this was the time to put it in as our package evolves here. … We’ve got to add guys sometimes to contain a good quarterback that’s a good runner, it’s just where we’re at right now. I just thought the timing was right for it.”
Simmons, a second-team All-Pro in 2019, expressed how the play call depicted Fangio’s instincts for the game.
“That’s very Vic-esque,” Simmons told reporters. “… He’s just the type of guy that just has a great feel for the game in terms of play calling. He just felt it was the right time to call it, we obviously never called it before, and you know that’s a lot of trust in the players to be able to go out there and execute it. So, Kareem (Jackson) and I were sent on the blitz, and it was just well-executed around the board.”
It was one of the many noteworthy plays by the Broncos defense, which forced three turnovers including two interceptions.