Football 101: Osweiler's 3 'clutch' throws

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When the news first broke that the Texans had interest in Brock Osweiler, I realized I needed to do a little bit of homework. I knew I'd get asked often about Osweiler and what I thought about him potentially being the face of the franchise quarterback that the Texans have lacked for a few years. To be fair in my analysis, I wanted to see both ends of the spectrum. I had already seen him beat Cincinnati and New England back during the season.

So, I cued up the final game of the regular season against the San Diego Chargers. It was arguably Osweiler's worst game of the season, or so the narrative went. I knew the story from a 30,000 foot view - Osweiler struggled in the game, Peyton Manning took over and led the Broncos from there to Super Bowl 50 and the organization's third NFL championship.

But, when I turned on the game, the narrative didn't match the play on the field. Sure, Osweiler threw two interceptions, but neither was his fault. The first one was dropped by Jordan Norwood on a sure first down throw. The other came about as Osweiler's arm was hit by an unblocked Chargers pass rusher. After C.J. Anderson's fumble led to a Chargers touchdown that gave them the 13-7 lead, Manning was reinserted and the rest is history.

When I got to that point in the game, I was a bit peeved. Keep in mind, the Texans hadn't signed Osweiler yet. He actually had made a number of well-placed throws on the day.

When the Osweiler signing finally became official, I decided to go back and watch all of Brock's dropbacks/throws as a starter and find out the why. There are plenty of good ones, but here are three throws that tell a big part of his story as a starting quarterback in this league."Clutch"
One of the aspects of Osweiler's game that I love more than any other is the fact that this man wants the ball in crunch time. Against the Cincinnati Bengals on a Monday night in Denver…

1:32 in the 4th quarter
1st and 10
37-yard line.

The Bengals were playing cover two, essentially leaving the middle of the field available if any of his wideouts could break free into that area. Just prior to the play, Osweiler walked up to the line of scrimmage and altered something, even though it's not crystal clear what he adjusted. But, it worked.

Both of his outside receivers blew up the sideline to draw the safeties off the hashes and his in-line tight end Owen Daniels appeared as if he was just going to run a little option route and circle up between the rolled up corner and the outside linebacker to that side, right at the first down marker. Then, he darted back up the field into the void behind the linebackers and in front of the safeties.

Osweiler had to buy time for Daniels to get out of his break, but once he broke to the middle, Osweiler threw a dime over the top of three linebackers, in a spot where Daniels could still catch and run up field. The 6-7 quarterback had to sit in the pocket for a split second longer to allow the route to open up, which was a bit problematic because his right tackle got pushed, essentially, right back into his lap. But, Osweiler slid forward and, with the rest of the pocket collapsing in his lap, delivered a gem.

Osweiler led his team into game winning FG territory (which was duck hooked badly).

"Throwing receivers open"
There's little doubt that you hear this phrase thrown around A LOT by armchair quarterbacks and analysts alike. The gist of it is that a quarterback, knowing where the open spot is, will throw to the spot and allow his receiver to move into that area to make the catch. In essence, he's "thrown the receiver open". Here's a perfect example of that.

7:09 in the first quarter
1st and 10
23-yard line

The Broncos are aligned in 12 (one RB, two TE) personnel, in what I call a "Tech" set - a TE and WR to each side. It's a balanced set designed to force the defense into a base, head up alignment. But, the Broncos call play action against a three deep zone by the Patriots. Essentially, the Broncos wanted to flood the zone with Demaryius Thomas running deep down the field and TE Owen Daniels running out to the flat. But, to flood the zone, another receiver is needed and that was Emmanuel Sanders. Problem was that he had to come from the other side of the field.

That crossing route took a while, even though Sanders is one of the fastest receivers in the league. So, Osweiler had to hold the ball. But, he released at the perfect time. Sanders hadn't even gotten to the hash on the other side of the field when Osweiler threw downfield. His aiming point was the top of the numbers, just beyond the 4 in the 40 painted on the field. He let it go and allowed Sanders to sprint right into the spot where the ball would be.

Patriots safety Devin McCourty made a tremendous break on the ball from his safety position but because Osweiler threw to the open spot, he was able to make the completion to Sanders for a significant first down gain.

"Scan and Score"
Against the San Diego Chargers (a week after the win over the Patriots), Osweiler had marched the Broncos down inside the San Diego five-yard line on the first drive of the game.

11:19 in the 1st Quarter
1st and Goal
3-yard line

The Broncos were aligned in a bunch set and have a play action pass called. Osweiler had two options on this play.

He first checked Sanders who broke free across the middle of the formation from right to left. When Osweiler looked at Sanders, he noticed Chargers safety Eric Weddle in perfect position to play in front of that route. No go...on to route number two.

Then, Osweiler turned back to the middle to see if Thomas had broken free from the bunch. He had indeed and it was pitch and catch time for a touchdown.

But, what you may miss when you see this the first time is that Chargers linebacker Denzel Perryman was much closer to knocking down that pass than it first appeared. Perryman nearly knocked down the throw but Osweiler placed that ball in the only spot where Thomas was going to catch it. Again, Osweiler threw Thomas into the open spot and as a result, it ended up being a touchdown and not a pass break up.

After studying each of his starts closely, it's clear that Osweiler isn't perfect, but man, he's shown a ton of quarterback dude qualities. These throws encapsulate that more than anything else and got me excited about what he can do in the Texans' offense in the near future.

Check out a collection of the best shots of QB Brock Osweiler.

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