Another excellent off-season article by National Football Posts' Matt Bowen, this time discussing the changing impact of safety play in the NFL:
Take the Indianapolis Colts as an example. They run their entire offense out of basically two personnel groupings: Ace, or 212 (2 WR, 1 RB, 2 TE), and Posse, or 311 (3 WR, 1 RB, 1 TE). And, when they run 212 onto the field, they use TE Dallas Clark as the No. 3 WR — aligned away from the core.
The easy and quick response from the defense: bring the nickel sub package onto the field. A good play in a third-down passing situation, but what about 2nd and medium or even a 1st and ten situation? Herein lies the issue. The offense spreads the field and forces the defense to bring in a third corner, or a nickel corner, and now the entire playbook of one-back (or "nickel runs") is at their disposal.
Think about it. You are now looking at a defense with a linebacker standing on the sidelines. Easier to run the inside or outside zone, the inside trap, etc
And thus, the genius of the Moore-Manning offense. No trickery. No gimmicks. No silly "Wild Cat" formations, motion plays, or spread-offense-QB-option crap. The Colts simply use their diverse player personnel to drive other teams' defenders and coaches insane.
An example of the "Posse" personnel grouping causing major problems for an opponent was the 2006 AFC Championship Game against the Patriots. Defensive "genius" Bill Belichick had absolutely no answer for the Colts running a three-wide set with tight end Dallas Clark as the fourth wideout. The Colts switched to this base set in the second half after the Patriots built up a 21-6 halftime lead.
Because the Colts opted for their "Posse" formation in the second half, the Patriots (who normally run a base 3-4) were forced to take a linebacker out and replace him with a DB to cover Clark. The results were the Colts scoring 32 points in the second half and completing the greatest comeback in NFL Championship Game history.
Dallas Clark caught 6 passes for 137 yards in that game while Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes ran for a combined 125 yards on 28 carries. Addai's fourth quarter TD run was the game-winner.
I recommend reading the rest of Bowen's article. It's quite good.
Oh, and Peyton Manning is the greatest QB of all time, and Tom Moore is one of the most under-appreciated geniuses ever to coach in this league. Just thought I'd throw that out there.