3rd/4th & Short -- Is It As Bad As It Might Seem?

     In jpage78's post "It had to be said" a comment subthread was started that talked about why the Broncos keep running between the tackles on 3rd & 4th and short, since that type of play has proven to be markedly unsuccessful.  This started me wondering how often McDaniels has called a between the tackles run on 3rd or 4th and short.  So, I went to, pulled up the Game Book for each of our 13 games and looked at the play-by-play to see how often the Broncos have found themselves in 3rd/4th and short and what play was called.  The results might surprise you.

More after the jump.

     For the sake of this discussion, I have defined "Short Yardage" as 1 or 2 yards to go.  Many teams, the Broncos included tend to pass as often as they run in 3 or 4 yard situations.  According the stats posted on the Broncos page at, the Broncos have had 185 3rd and 4th down conversion attempts, and have converted 66 (or 36%) of the time.  Of those 185 attempts, 40 (or 22%) fall in the short yardage category as defined above.  Here are some interesting stats about those 40 attempts:

1)12 (30%) of the 40 attempts were passes.

2)22 (55%) of them were runs.

3)6 (15%) had penalties called on them.

4)Denver converted 21 (53%) of the 40 attempts.

5)6 of the 12 pass attempts (50%) were converted.

6)14 of the 22 run attempts (64%) were converted.

7)1 defensive penalty gave Denver a first down.

8)5 offensive penalties forced the Broncos into 3rd or 4th and long.

Of the 12 Pass Attempts:

1)8 went short right; 3 resulted in 1st downs.

2)1 went short over the middle, and not only was converted but resulted in a TD.

3)3 went short left; 2 resulted in 1st downs.

Of the 22 Run Attempts:

1)1 went around the right end and resulted in a first down.

2)4 went to the right tackle; 3 resulted in first downs and 1 of those resulted in a TD.

3)4 went to the right guard; 3 resulted in first downs.

4)6 went up the middle; 2 resulted in first downs.

5)3 went to the left guard; 2 resulted in first downs.

6)2 went to the left tackle; both resulted in first downs.

7)2 went around the left end; 1 resulted in a first down.

So, of the 22 runs attempted on 3rd or 4th and short, 19 were between the tackles, and 12 (or 63%) resulted in first downs.

For those who are interested, the data above was drawn from the following descriptions of the plays (you might want to read on if you're interested in who did what in short yardage situations).

1)2nd Qtr 3-2-Den28 (5:24) Shotgun Orton pass incomplete to Royal short right
2)3rd Qtr 3-2-Den44 (4:28) Orton pass incomplete to Hillis short right
3)3rd Qtr 4-2-Den44 (4:23) False start penalty

1)1st Qtr 3-2-Cle2 (8:07) Orton pass short left to Scheffler for 2 yards, touchdown
2)2nd Qtr 3-1-Den16 (2:05) Moreno right tackle for 1 yard
3)4th Qtr 3-2-Cle43 (4:06) Jordan left guard for 4 yards

1)1st Qtr 3-1-Oak1 (6:02) Hillis up middle for no gain
2)1st Qtr 4-1-Oak1 (5:16) Jordan up the middle for no gain
3)1st Qtr 3-1-Oak14 (3:34) Moreno right guard for 9 yards
4)1st Qtr 3-2-Oak2 (2:11) Orton pass to Marshall for 2 yards, touchdown
5)2nd Qtr 3-1-Oak36 (4:22) Moreno right tackle for 1 yard
6)3rd Qtr 3-1-Den39 (2:22) Moreno right guard for 4 yards
7)4th Qtr 3-1-Oak4 (12:41) Moreno left end for -2 yards

1)3rd Qtr 3-1-Den44 (3:18) Moreno left guard for 5 yards
2)3rd Qtr 3-1-Dal30 (0:42) Moreno right guard for no gain
3)3rd Qtr 4-1-Dal30 (0:03) Moreno left guard for no gain

New England
1)1st Qtr 3-2-Den28 (2:57) Orton pass to Marshall short middle for 1 yard
2)2nd Qtr 3-2-Den 18 (8:23) Orton pass to Royal short left for 10 yards
3)3rd Qtr 3-1-NE6 (8:08) Moreno left guard for no gain
4)OT 3-1-NE48 (12:10) Orton pass to Royal short right for 8 yards

@San Diego
1)2nd Qtr 3-2-SD25 (10:31) Shotgun Moreno left tackle for 6 yards
2)3rd Qtr 3-1-SD46 (13:03) Illegal shift penalty on offense
3)4th Qtr 3-1-SD47 (9:51) Moreno up the middle for 1 yard

1)2nd Qtr 3-1-Bal49 (1:26) Buckhalter right end for 5 yards
2)3rd Qtr 3-1-Bal6 (10:51) Orton incomplete pass short middle to Graham
3)3rd Qtr 4-1-Bal6 (10:44) Defensive Offside Penalty

1)2nd Qtr 3-2-Den31 (13:40) Orton pass short right to Royal for 11 yards
2)2nd Qtr 3-1-Den25 (2:00) Orton pass short middle to Marshall for 18 yards

1)2nd Qtr 3-1-Was12 (0:51) Moreno right guard for 2 yards
2)3rd Qtr 3-2-Den47 (10:13) Simms pass short right to Marshall for 5 yards

San Diego
1)3rd Qtr 3-1-Den45 (12:58) Moreno left tackle for 36 yards
2)4th Qtr 3-2-Den28 (3:39) Orton pass incomplete short right to Gaffney
3)4th Qtr 4-2-Den28 (3:33) Orton pass incomplete short right to Gaffney

New York Giants
1)2nd Qtr 3-1-NYG1 (7:21) Moreno right tackle for 1 yard, touchdown
2)4th Qtr 3-1-NYG11 (6:31) Buckhalter left end for 2 yards

@Kansas City
1)4th Qtr 3-1-Den14 (4:36) False Start Penalty

1)1st Qtr 3-2-Den19 (8:18) Buckhalter up middle for -2 yards
2)2nd Qtr 3-1-Ind45 (1:03) Moreno right tackle for no gain
3)2nd Qtr 4-1-Ind45 (0:43) Moreno up the middle for no gain
4)3rd Qtr 3-2-Den27 (13:51) Orton pass incomplete short right to Royal
5)3rd Qtr 3-1-Ind33 (10:10) Delay of Game penalty
6)3rd Qtr 3-1-Ind15 (5:03) False start penalty
7)4th Qtr 3-1-Ind20 (12:28) Orton up the middle for 2 yards

     Overall, you can see that 3rd or 4th and short has not been a particularly common occurrence for the Broncos.  They have averaged about 3 of that situation per game.  Of the 40 plays in that category, 14 of them (35%) happened in two games (Oakland and Indianapolis), while the Kansas City game had only a single occurrence.

     Hillis' number was called twice in short yardage situations.  One resulted in an incomplete pass, the other in a no gain run.  Moreno has been called upon 16 times.  15 of his runs were between the tackles.  10 of those runs resulted in first downs.

Just something to consider.

This is a Fan-Created Comment on The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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