The Denver Broncos were able to come up with a 24-21 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday by blocking the Chargers’ field goal attempt to send the game to overtime.
For the Broncos, the block, made by defensive lineman Shelby Harris, was only made possible by their decision to “ice” Chargers kicker Younghoe Koo before his first attempt.
“Icing” the kicker is common strategy in football in which coaches call timeout right before the kicker attempts a field goal, just to try to get in their head.
In the case of the Broncos and Chargers, it may have been worthwhile, as Koo is a rookie kicker, but still unlikely to work — there isn’t maths that suggests “icing” leads to missed attempts.
However, the Broncos’ late timeout actually had another benefit — extra time for defensive end Derek Wolfe to design a play for Harris to get to Koo.
During the snap for Koo’s first kick — at which time the Broncos called timeout — Wolfe blew past Chargers offensive lineman Dan Feeney. Wolfe said after the game that he had been getting past Feeney easily all game and knew that on the second attempt Feeney would concentrate on blocking him. Wolfe said he told Harris that he would attack Feeney and create room for Harris to get to Koo.
“We were kicking that guy’s (butt) the whole game,” Wolfe said. “We were knocking him back the whole time. Every time they tried to kick a field goal, we were getting a push …. I was like, ‘He’s going to lean on me. Shelby, just go. Just go.'”
Here’s the Broncos’ block on the field goal that sealed the win:
Another angle shows how Wolfe attacked Feeney’s outside shoulder, creating the gap for Harris.
And though the movement is tough to detect, a gap opened up for Harris and he broke through and got a finger on the ball. Meanwhile, Wolfe was still being blocked, as was the plan.
Harris said afterward: “If it wasn’t for Wolfe on that play, I wouldn’t have had any chance at all. It was a two-man job. We dominated the guard and made the play.”
He added, “I’m sure my fingers will hurt tomorrow, but I’m good.”
While line play is often the most subtle and perhaps driest part of football, it’s nonetheless crucial and detail-oriented. As a result of the Broncos’ preparation and smart defensive line play, they picked up a big win over a divisional opponent.
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