Peyton Manning is such a multitalented quarterback with such a formidable set of receivers that even the Seahawks' No. 1-ranked defense will be challenged. Manning can find receivers on long routes, short routes, intermediate routes -- you name it, he'll throw completions.
On this particular play, "The Skinny Post," which the Broncos used successfully against the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, Manning (No. 18) will look to his favorite target, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (88). With Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman expecting to give single coverage on Thomas, the receiver can take advantage of the small seams in the Seahawks' defense.
On this play, Manning takes the snap in the shotgun formation, and drops back to pass. Running back Knowshon Moreno (27) stays in the backfield to provide extra pass protection, since Thomas will need some time to get up the field.
Thomas lines up in single coverage to the left of the formation, while Julius Thomas (80) is at tight end and Wes Welker (83) is in his usual position as the slot receiver. Outside of Welker is Eric Decker (87). Tight end Thomas runs a crossing route from right to left that not only allows him to get open, but clears out some space behind Demaryius Thomas. Welker heads about 10 yards upfield, and Decker runs what's called an "out'' route, deep up the field and then breaks sharply to the right sideline. Demaryius Thomas has a relatively simple assignment: run straight up the field and then angle toward the middle. Unlike a conventional "post'' pattern, where the receiver runs on a 45-degree angle toward the middle, Thomas runs at a less severe angle as a way to get himself between Sherman and the safety -- in this case Earl Thomas. It's a very narrow window that Manning must fire the ball into, but as long as the timing is right, the seam should show itself.
Manning needs to make sure that Earl Thomas doesn't get over in time for the interception, which is the biggest danger of this throw. But Manning can keep him out of the area temporarily by looking to his right and acting as if he might throw to Decker, and then hitting Thomas in stride toward the middle of the field.