What if I told you that both the Broncos total defense was better than Oakland's total defense on Monday? Probably wouldn't surprise you.
Did you know that the Broncos total defense was better on Monday night than 25 other teams after week 1? And that list includes teams like Baltimore, the Jets, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh.
The Raiders didn't beat the Broncos on Monday. No, the Broncos beat the Broncos. The Raiders and 79,000 fans were just there to witness. We all were witnesses. Here's why.
I want to give Broncos fans some ammo the next time they are approached by a Raiders fan in regards to our last game. There is one stat that mars the Denver Broncos defensive record this year and it is the stat that you will no doubt hear all over the media and from fans here for the next week when talking about why we lost:
We gave up 190 yards rushing.
Let's consider this stat. The Oakland Raiders rushed for 190 yards on the Denver Broncos. That sounds awful. It sounds like the Madden game you played against your girlfriend last Wednesday after you earned it by agreeing to watch What Not To Wear with her while she babysat. 190 looks ugly.
That 190 rushing YA is good enough for the Broncos to claim 31st place in rushing D in week 1. They were bested only by the St. Louis Rams who gave up a crazy 236 yards to the McCoy/Vick tandem. Seems like a repeat of last year right? Same old thing all over again.
But it's not.
The Raiders attempted a rush 39 times out of 61 total plays on Monday night. That's good for 64% of all plays from scrimmage, giving them the highest runs per plays percentage in the entire NFL in week 1. Consider this, if the Denver Broncos had rushed 39 times at their YDS/A they would have accumulated a total of 113 yards on Monday, good enough for 12th overall offensively (as opposed to dead last as we were). The point is, if you run the ball enough times you will gain yards. That's just plain fact.
It is in fact more than just fact... it is arithmetic.
At this point you can just say, "That's right, I just used math on you.... b*tch." Your debate opponent will have nothing else to say, unless of course that person is Stephen Hawking in which case I'm no good to you... #nochancebro
Understanding how many times the Raiders rushed, overall rushing yards is a bad stat. The YDS/A gives us a better indicator. The Raiders ran for an average of 4.9 YDS/A, which places our Denver Broncos D at 24th. This is a rough stat for our defense. Continuing this average will debilitate us all season. But consider this, in the 4th quarter McFadden ran for 47 yards in one play, gaining nearly 25% of all the Raiders rushing yards in one nutshot.
Just for fun let's take out that number as an outlier in this game. Let's say that run never happens. The Raiders rush for 143 yds. They have an overall YDS/A of 3.7. That would net the Raiders 19th(ish) place in YDS/A and our defense would have jumped all the way up to 15th. They would still rank high in total rushing yards... but they would have paid a steep price for those yards in the sheer number of plays it took to accumulate them.
Once again, the Broncos held strong for the vast majority of the time and then were killed by just one big defensive blunder. Just one.
The math gets better though.
The Raiders gained, in their entirety, 289 yards on Monday. That means after 190 yards on the ground they gained 99 yards in the air... which is interestingly the amount of yards SeaBass can apparently kick a frickin football.
99 yards in the air. That gives Denver's 31st rushing D the #2 spot in passing D. The only entities that did worse than the Raiders last week at the pass were Betty White and the Minnesota Vikings, whose 28 yard performance was so bad it was almost impressive.
We dominated the Raiders in the pass. Dominated them. Now consider that the game of football cares not how you gain yards because either by land or by air they are all the same. Our defense gave up a total of 289 yards on Monday night, ranking us #8 overall.
So in one game we went from the #32 defense at the end of 2010 season, who gave up 59 points and 500 yards to this same team last season, all the way up to the #8 defense in 2011 and we are complaining about big problems? The defense is not what we should be concerned about at this point.
For 60 out of 61 plays (I'm probably missing a couple) the Denver Broncos were one of the best defenses in the entire league last week during a time when even great defenses got shredded. If anyone tries to tell you that it was our Defense that was the problem on Monday they haven't done the math. The arithmetic doesn't add up. We saw the development we had been looking for in our defense. The question becomes, can they be consistent?
So if our defense didn't kill us, what happened?
The Offense Happened #notwinning
After the game the media had a chance to interview Champ Bailey about what had gone wrong and Champ said something that really concerned me. He said the team didn't have enough heart to win that game. They weren't emotionally prepared to win that game. I don't think he's being totally fair to his defense as I thought the defense came out to play. The offense, however, that's a different story.
Bronco fans let me ask you this, when your team is playing its biggest rival, at home, on opening day, less than a year after getting crushed by 45 points how can not being emotionally prepared to win even be an issue? The Broncos should have been seeing red. We should have had to fire them down.
Instead what we got was an offense that was slow tempoed, sloppy, and broken up by so many penalties every drive it seemed to start got interrupted. I have rarely seen an offense play so weak, especially one that threw the ball an impressive 46 times. Even with all these issues, our offense still outplayed the Raiders.
Our offense was below average statistically... to the tune of 23rd in total offense. Our run offense generated 38 total yards on 2.9 YDS/A. We ran the ball only 13 times, a total I would be interested to see ranked next to the entirety of John Fox's coaching career in Carolina. How many times has a John Fox coached offense ever run the ball 13 times or fewer in a complete game?
Our passing offense, for as bad as it looked at times, ranked 13th overall. Granted, like how the Raiders sheer number of runs aggregated up to a large number yards, so did Kyle Orton's large number of passes, of which he only completed 52 percent. The Denver offense still outgained the Raiders by 31 yards... which is interestingly a number five times greater than the number of yards we needed to get in 4 downs on Monday for a winning touchdown.
So while we were statistically better offensively than the Raiders, we just couldn't be better when it mattered. We in fact chose to be far worse when it really mattered. Perhaps this is what is referred to as "empty stats"? What went wrong?
This is part of what went wrong.
Photo thanks to Jake Mountjoy
Let's just take care of this right away. Kyle Orton played poorly. Simple fact. The only people who don't seem ready to admit it are Kyle Orton and the few people who are afraid that by admitting he was poor will give some kind of credibility to what the supporters of his backup have been saying all along.
His dropped football was heartbreaking and probably the last time he ever does that. Why it had to happen on a play that would have likely been a touchdown, who can say? That particular miscue was probably a one time deal and you simply can't plan for something like that. While it hurts me to say it, I'm willing to give him a pass on that one.
His interception was far more egregious in my opinion and completely unacceptable for a veteran QB given the situation the Broncos were in. Whether it was Lloyd's fault for running a bad route or not, it simply doesn't matter. When that safety is streaking across the field you cannot throw that ball behind your receiver. Two things happen and neither one of them is Lloyd catching that pass.
A) That ball gets intercepted by the streaking safety or
B) Lloyd goes back for the ball and gets himself lit up by said streaking safety.
Those two turnovers are why we lost in the circumstances we were presented with on Monday night. But that doesn't address the glaring fact that we should have destroyed the Raiders.. and we didn't.
I can forgive poor play. I understand that in professional sports players have good games and bad games. What I expect, however, is that the leader of an offense can set the tone, set the pace, and make something happen. Orton did none of those things and it is the single biggest concern I have looking ahead to the next games.
The run game will improve and the O-line will continue to gel. Orton will get statistically better. But if we can't get hyped up on opening day at home... what hope do we have? Kyle Orton may not care what the fans think but I'm telling you he needs to show us something more. It's been reported that the Broncos like Orton's leadership. I'm sorry. I just don't see it. If you are a quiet leader you have to win and you have to be clutch.
A team that can't get fired up at home will rarely deliver in the clutch and won't be able to step on the gas when the opportunity is gift wrapped to them by their opponents. That offense will never make up for a defensive miscue.
The running game seemed non-existant but if you don't run the ball you can't accumulate rushing yards. Simple as that. There is simply no way we can use this game as a representation of our run game in the future. I'm throwing the run-game sucks complaints out right now. Nothing was proven one way or the other on Monday.
The O-line was bad. Personally, I find them more at fault for the penalties they committed than their actual play. Our O-line got pushed around all game. After reading reactions to their play though you'd think they couldn't stop anything, but that isn't true either. Orton had multiple plays, important plays, where he had plenty of time in the pocket. Other times he was just so slow making his drop that it took a couple seconds just to get set... and by then he was sensing pressure and looking for a place to slide instead of throwing the ball.
We all saw this in about ten minutes. So where was the adjustment? If you know that your QB is not going to have much time in the pocket, why keep putting him directly under center and forcing the O-line to go into panic mode and getting holding penalties to keep 7 Raider defenders from crashing through? Why not put Orton into the shotgun to buy him some time? We weren't running anyway.
The Denver Broncos simply got out-coached on Monday. The Raiders consistently blitzed and we consistently didn't adjust. Isn't that a word Coach Fox likes to use all the time? Isn't he always saying "made adjustments"? We became predictable.
The Raiders gave us every opportunity to win that game and we did nothing with it. We beat the Raiders offensively, and we beat the Raiders defensively. We even beat the Raiders on special teams. Statistically, we couldn't lose this game and the only way you can lose a game you statistically dominated in is through exactly one thing... turnovers.
The NFL is a game of chaos and the teams that can harness that chaos are the teams that win. Things happen nearly every down that aren't anticipated. There's never a good time to have a turnover like there's never a good time crash your bicycle, but ours were particularly devastating. What's worse, they were so easily avoidable and predictable it was nearly comical. We couldn't harness the chaos and luck swung against us.
I understand the frustration. I know that as an entire fanbase we were let down. With so much hype heading into week 1 we were ready to see something new. But things are not as bad as we are letting ourselves believe. One win next week and we are right back in this thing. Winning covers a host of sins. The defense does look better. The offense doesn't look good at all but I can't believe that they could be much worse moving forward.
It hurts me when I read that Bronco fans believe this team is devoid of talent. We've got the talent, we just don't have the execution. This team has got to find its identity. It must find some heart and it must get that fire back. That's what leadership creates. I love the Broncos and I hate seeing them lose, but I hate far worse watching them walk onto the field with the game on the line looking like they just got drafted by the Buffalo Bills.
Find that fire. Please do it quickly.