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NFL

Broncos' '4 verts' poses threats

| Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The NFL has transformed into a quick-throw, underneath crossing route league, and nobody does it better than the Denver Broncos.

There surely will be more than a handful of “rub” routes run by Broncos receivers against a physical Seattle defense Sunday in Super Bowl XLVIII, but if the Broncos win, it will be because their “4 verts” created critical plays in the middle of the field against the Seahawks' stop-the-run-first cover-3 defense.

Against this scheme, the “4 verts” comes down to a 2-on-1 with the free safety. Incidentally, Seattle's free safety Earl Thomas is considered the best in the NFL, but he will be tested, mostly by slot receiver Wes Welker and tight end Julius Thomas.

Earl Thomas must not cheat to one side or break until the ball is on the air. It also is imperative for the linebackers and/or strong safety in the box or the nickel back to re-route the slot receivers.

The Broncos set up in 11 personnel (one tight end, one running back, three wide receivers) with Welker in the slot to Manning's left, receiver Demaryius Thomas wide left, Julius Thomas on the end of the line to the right and receiver Eric Decker wide right.

Manning lines up in the shotgun with running back Knowshon Moreno to his right.

At the snap, Demaryius Thomas and Decker get an outside release to force the corners away from the middle, making more ground for Earl Thomas to cover.

Julius Thomas and Welker — who must get off the line cleanly — have options in what to run depending on the free safety.

How Earl Thomas reacts will determine whether Julius Thomas and Welker run down the seam, cut off the route with a curl or come across the field to the corner, the latter of which is difficult for the free safety to cover.

The play isn't designed to be a deep pass, but it can be effective, and its success depends on the free safety. However, a good quarterback-receiver combination with “4 verts” can be successful against the cover 3 regardless of the safety.

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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