Chalkboard session: Manning zaps the Chargers

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning makes a throw during their game against the Chargers in San...

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning makes a throw during their game against the Chargers in San Diego on Oct. 15, 2012. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

JOHN KRYK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:02 PM ET

In this week's chalkboard session, we break down the touchdown pass that put the Denver Broncos ahead in their wild second-half comeback in San Diego on Monday night.

Here's the situation.

The Broncos trail 24-21 with 9:09 left, and have the ball 1st-and-10 on the Chargers' 21-yard line.

Denver comes out in an '11' formation, with one running back, one tight end to the left, and three wideouts -- Demaryius Thomas flanked left, Eric Decker far right, and Brandon Stokley in the slot right.

As was discussed during the telecast by analyst Jon Gruden, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning hurriedly changes his pass protection when it appears San Diego is going to blitz all three linebackers. Manning thus keeps running back Willis McGahee back to block, as well as tight end Joel Dreesen.

None of the linebackers winds up blitzing, though. It's a ruse. The problem for San Diego is, they're not in a nickel (five defensive backs) -- but rather in a 4-3 with three cornerbacks matching up in man coverage on the three Denver receivers, and just one deep safety, Eric Weddle.

The deep secondary is vulnerable to the outsides, and Manning knows this play will work.

With seven blockers on four pass rushers, Manning takes the snap in the shotgun, takes a quick three-step drop from there, and lobs a ball into the right edge of the end zone to Stokley, who is slanting out to that spot.

From the outside Decker runs a post, and that not only takes San Diego's best corner with him (Quentin Jammer), but occupies the safety Weddle. Stokley just has to beat corner Marcus Gilchrist.

Interestingly, Gilchrist seems to be playing a back-shoulder throw, a Manning favourite. But this one is a deep lob all the way. With a step on Gilchrist, Stokley goes up and makes a fantastic grab, barely getting both feet in before falling out of bounds. Touchdown.

It was a bang-bang audible. Manning made it fast because he had to. He got the snap off with one second left on the play clock.

There's your 15 years of NFL experience paying off for Manning and the Broncos. He set his protection in the event the blitz was real, correctly suspected 1-on-1 coverage with Stokley, knew the outside slant would work, and didn't hesitate to throw it to him -- perfectly.

The Broncos got a late pick-six to cap the win, 35-24.

john.kryk@sunmedia.ca

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