The Denver Broncos Defense - The Truth About The Kansas City Loss

It seems like every week the same people say the same thing about the Broncos defense.  We hear how horrible they are, how they can't stop the run, how they can't defend the pass, how they can't put pressure on the quarterback.  Some of that is true, we all know that, but something has become a disturbing trend, something that continues to be overlooked.  Much of the problems with the defense start with the offense and special teams.  No, really, it does. 

Specifically against Kansas City, I'd go so far as to say the defense, for over 3 quarters, played as well as it did against the Raiders Week 1.  Unfortunately, the offense didn't give them much of a chance. What is certain is the Broncos defense is by no means a dominant defense in any facet, run defense, pass defense, pressuring the quarterback, none of it.  The defense as a group is average at best, but with the offense the Broncos put on the field this team should be able to win, unless the offense, the strength of the team, let's it down.  On Sunday, that is exactly what happened.

Take a look at the drive chart for the Chiefs on Sunday --

 

1st Quarter
Start
Time
Time
Poss
Drive
Began
# of
Plays
Net
Yards
Result
15:00 5:55 KC 11 9 84 Field Goal
08:24 3:46 DEN 26 7 23 Field Goal
01:16 3:36 KC 48 8 22 Missed FG
2nd Quarter
Start
Time
Time
Poss
Drive
Began
# of
Plays
Net
Yards
Result
08:53 2:59 KC 19 6 23 Punt
03:26 0:43 DEN 2 2 2 Touchdown
01:18 0:43 KC 20 3 4 Punt
00:11 0:11 KC 40 1 -1 End of Half
3rd Quarter
Start
Time
Time
Poss
Drive
Began
# of
Plays
Net
Yards
Result
12:13 3:30 KC 37 7 38 Field Goal
07:32 0:11 DEN 43 1 -2 Fumble
06:29 1:25 DEN 47 3 7 Punt
03:26 5:46 KC 27 10 73 Touchdown
4th Quarter
Start
Time
Time
Poss
Drive
Began
# of
Plays
Net
Yards
Result
07:58 4:09 DEN 49 7 34 Field Goal
02:06 0:29 DEN 43 3 43

Touchdown

A couple things stand out almost immediately. First, the Chiefs average starting field position was it's own 47 yardline. Think about that for a minute. The Chiefs had the ball 12 times in the game(not counting the drive right before halftime), and basically started every possession, on average, at midfield. Not Good.

Let's look a bit deeper.  First, a bit of my own opinion.  To me, solid kick-off ocverage is determined by where the opposition starts their possession after the kick.  In fact, the key to winning football games is winning the battle of field position.  Case in point are the 2006 and 2007 Broncos who were dead last in average starting field position.

Obviously, a touchback is the best case scenario, forcing a team to start at their own 20.  Not trying to be too diificult, I'll give the Broncos another 10 yards to play with and call any drive started by an opponent inside their own 30 is solid.  That forces a team to go 50-60 yards to reach the Broncos Red Zone.  5 to 6 first downs.   Tough going against any defense in the NFL, if you have to do it over and over again.  Let's look at it.

The Chiefs started offensive possessions inside their 30 yardline just 4 times out of 11 drives.  The results of those drives -- FG, Punt, Punt, TD.  10 Points Allowed.  Acceptable.  Let's give the Chiefs 10 more yards and look at possessions started inside their own 40.  Now there are 5 total possessions out of 12.  The results - FG, Punt, Punt, TD, FG.  13 Points.  Sure, there were some big plays in there, and every defense will surrender big plays now and then.  The key to playing defense, especially against a team like the Chiefs, is to force them to have to go the long way to score.  When the Broncos, as a team, did that, the Chiefs scored 1 TD in 5 possessions. 

How about the other 7 possessions that started accross the 40 yard line.  Incredibly, 6 of those drives started in Denver territory.  SIX TIMES the Chiefs began an offensive possession across the 50 yard line.  This is where the offense and special teams really let the defense down.

The first two possessions that started in Denver territory - (Den 26, Den 2), were on the fumbles by Eddie Royal and Brandon Marshall.  Both of these came in the first half and at the point the Chiefs took possession they were already in solid field goal range.  Both possessions led to points(FG, TD).

Now it is Cutler's turn, throwing the two interceptions, giving the Chiefs the ball inside Denver territory again(Den 43, Den 47).  With the Chiefs outside FG range, the defense hold strong, forcing a turnover and a punt, keeping the game clase(16-13), a very manageable situation for the offense.  Unfortunately, the offense did little to help the defense, going 3-and-out.  The Broncos offense had the ball 4 times in the 3rd quarter for a total of 6:28.  They ran a total of 16 plays, and crossed midfield only once, on the first drive of the 3rd quarter.  Still, the Broncos appeared to be in good shape.  The offense had turned the ball over 4 times and the defense had held the Chiefs to 16 points. 

Now it was the Special Team's turn.  After the Chiefs scored the only TD their offense earned all day, it became the coverage unit that let the defense down.  The Broncos answered the Chiefs TD with a FG -- Red Zone inefficiency - 1/4 on the day - is another way the offense hurt the defense, but that has been talked about all week -- the Broncos were looking to pin the Chiefs deep.  Someone make a play!  Nope.  The Chiefs are once again able to begin a possession in Denver territory when they break open the kick-off return.  The Chiefs need only 34 yards to answer the Broncos FG with 3 points of thier own. 

Again, the Broncos drive down and score, another field goal, and hope is renewed.  Again, the special teams miss out, this time on an onside kick.  Yes, odds are against the recovery of an onside kick, but Spencer Larsen was THAT close.  Someone make a play!

The Chiefs take over and score the game's final points, a Larry Johnson touchdown.  The possession needs to travel only 43 yards.

Do you see a trend?  The Broncos allowed 33 points.  Only 13 would be what I consider "earned points" by the Chiefs.  That's not to say that the Chiefs wouldn't have scored if the Broncos didn't continously give them the ball in Broncos' territory, but the odds were in the Broncos favor.

Football is the ultmate team game.  The idea of this post isn't to lay blame at the feet of the offense.  It is meant to remove full blame from the defense alone, and educate those of you not lucky enough to watch the game on what actually happened, beyond the boxscore.  The Broncos defense has alot of work to do.  But the offense we are so excited about needs to do it's part if the Broncos are to be successful and stop setting the defense up to fail.  That, my MHR brethern, is The Quest moving forward.

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