There was Venus and the Inverted Double-Double and the Two-Deep Squeeze. The Broncos defense threw the whole package at Falcons quarterback Chris Chandler. "We used 10 different blitzes, two of which we've never shown before," said Denver defensive coordinator Greg Robinson after Super Bowl XXXIII.
"We showed zone and then blitzed 'em, " said Broncos cornerback Darrien Gordon, who cut off two second-half Atlanta drives with a pair of interceptions worth 108 return yards. "We showed blitz and then pulled back to a zone. We confused them."
As for stopping the Falcons' fourth-and-one try in the second quarter—Jamal Anderson was tackled for a two-yard loss—defensive end Neil Smith said, "We read their pulling guards; that's how we got the jump on them."
Atlanta came into the game with the big-play defense, but on Super Sunday all the big plays on that side of the ball belonged to Denver. One touchdown was all the Broncos' D allowed, and that came in garbage time. In the AFC Championship Game the Jets got one touchdown against the Denver defense, set up by a blocked punt on the one-yard line, and in the divisional playoff the Dolphins got none.
Venus was the blitz used to sack Chandler at the Denver 15-yard line on Atlanta's first possession, turning a potential touchdown drive into a field goal. "Don't ask me about the name," says linebacker Bill Romanowski, who made the sack (above). "It was here before I came," Venus was put into the game plan against the Jets and carried over to the Super Bowl. The receivers take off, Gordon blitzes from the corner, and Romanowski follows him. Time it right, and the offensive team can't block it. The Broncos timed it right.
The Inverted Double-Double? Robinson paired his blitz package with standard double-zone coverage, the corners playing up, the safeties backing them deep. That's a Double-Double. Then, on the fourth-quarter play that snuffed out one of the Falcons' last remaining chances (Gordon intercepted on the two and returned the ball 50 yards), Denver inverted the scheme. "Steve Atwater [the free safety] came up, and I dropped back," Gordon said. "I surprised Chandler. He thought I'd hang outside, but I dropped to the deep middle. The ball came right to me."
The Squeeze? A two-deep (the safeties) zone, except that nickelback Darrius Johnson squeezed, or jumped his coverage early on an inside route to Terance Mathis, and came up with a third-quarter interception. The giveup in these coverages was the short underneath pass to the wideouts, and Chandler completed his share of them. The payoff was the trio of interceptions. "Everything we were doing," Robinson said, "was designed to not let Chandler go deep. We kept our distance at all times. We counted on our rush to disrupt his timing."
Cerebral football in the coverage, plenty of heat from the blitzes. It all paid off on Sunday.