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Scout's Notebook

Mind-blowing plays by Broncos, Cardinals and more

Posted: Sunday November 25, 2007 9:57PM; Updated: Sunday November 25, 2007 10:18PM
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Devin Hester returned a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns in the Bears' overtime win over the Broncos.
Devin Hester returned a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns in the Bears' overtime win over the Broncos.
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• The Broncos inexplicably decided to kick the ball to Devin Hester down the middle of the field on both of his return touchdowns. By putting the ball in the middle, the Broncos gave Hester too much space to set up his blocks on the return. Most teams attempt to pin the returner near the sideline to squeeze the field and limit his cutback options. For the Broncos to make two critical mistakes in the kicking game against the most dangerous returner in the game is unbelievable.

• Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier effectively complemented his five-man pressure package with two-deep coverage to completely confuse Giants quarterback Eli Manning in the pocket. The pressures, which featured E.J. Henderson and Chad Greenway on inside blitzes, forced Manning to make quick decisions under duress. And the effectiveness of the pressure early in the game allowed the Vikings to bait Manning into mistakes against their two-deep coverage with bluff and drop tactics. Each of Manning's interceptions was the result of a poor throw against two-deep coverage.

• The Browns used a different approach to get their offense going against the Texans. Instead of relying on their high-octane passing game, the Browns fed Jamal Lewis the ball on an assortment of power runs to soften up Houston's defense. Though the ground attack wasn't productive early, it eventually wore down the Texans in the second half.

• The Bengals protected their vulnerable defense by using less no-huddle on offense. The slower tempo allowed Cincy to win the time of possession battle and limit the Titans' offensive possessions. With their defense struggling mightily, the decision to slow the game down proved to be a wise one.

• The Titans' defense continues to struggle without Albert Haynesworth in the lineup. Haynesworth's presence in the middle drew double- and triple-teams in the running game, and Tennessee's linebackers were able to flow freely to the football. But without Haynesworth, Keith Bulluck and David Thornton are having difficulty getting off blocks and teams are shredding the Titans on inside running plays. Tennessee's pass rush is also suffering from the loss of Haynesworth in the middle. The Titans have only recorded three sacks in the past three games, after tallying 22 in the first eight weeks.

• Despite their reputation as a two-deep team, the Bucs have subtly moved away from the concept this season. Monte Kiffin is calling more three-deep coverage on early downs to stuff the run. The three-deep zone places one of their safeties in the box, which limits the cutback lanes in the running game. The increased use of three-deep coverage (eight-man front) has been one of the reasons Tampa Bay has returned to the ranks of the elite on defense.

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