Denver Broncos: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly -- A Look at Complementary Football

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 18: Running back Willis McGahee #23 of the Denver Broncos rushes with the ball as Frostee Rucker #92 and Manny Lawson #99 of the Cincinnati Bengals move in for the tackle at Invesco Field at Mile High on September 18, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. McGahee rushed for 101 yards as the Broncos defeated the Bengals 24-22. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

     We often see comments by the coaches and players of winning teams talking about how their team played "complementary" football and ascribing the win to that. Complementary football is not a new idea, nor is it a particularly complex one.

     At its simplest, it is used to refer to a well-balanced team, one in which the offense, defense and special teams are in balance, each supporting the other units in an effective way. I would like to suggest that we expand that basic view a bit.

After the jump, we'll set a basic paradigm for complementary football and then take a look at the Broncos' first two games.

     Complementary football, as was noted above, is often used to refer to the idea of a well-balanced team. That is well and good, in so far as it goes. The idea being, of course, that the offense raises the level of play of the defense by scoring points, and the defense raises the level of play of the offense by denying opponents points while the special team contributes by giving the offense a short field to traverse while pinning the opposing team deep in their own territory.

I would like to add to that view by suggesting that complementary football also includes the following ideas:

1)The Good -- when one unit has done something good, its counterpart responds by also doing something good. Such as, when the offense scores, the defense responds by forcing a punt or a turnover on the next possession. A variation of this is when the defense does indeed force a punt or turnover, the offense turns that opportunity into points. One further variation on this is when one unit struggles -- such as the offense is forced to punt -- the other unit "steps up" its game to make stop or other big play. Finally this would include the notion of when one unit makes a mistake, the other reaches deep and does something good.

2)The Bad -- this is when one unit misfires -- i.e., the offense punts or turns the ball over, or when the defense gives up a score -- and the other unit is not able to reclaim the momentum by doing something good -- i.e., after an opposing team's score the offense punts on their next possession, or after the offense scores, the defense gives up a score on the opponent's next drive.

3)The Ugly -- this is where both sides fail miserably. For example, the offense turns the ball over and the defense gives up a score. Another example would be when the defense has given up the score and the offense turns the ball over on their next possession.

     With these three categories in mind, let's review the drives from Denver's first two games. Now, I feel that I should point out that you will notice there are way more drives listed than actually occurred in the game. This is because each drive is being looked at in terms of what happened with the drives on either side. For example, in the Oakland game, Denver received the opening kickoff and had its first drive end a punt. So that first drive would be noted as:
Team Drive Team Drive
Oakland Kicked Off Denver Offense punted



That punt, however, will also show up in relation to what came next:

Team Drive Team Drive
Denver Offense punted Oakland Lost a fumble



Also, please note that these drives, being divided as they are into three categories do not necessarily show the precise chronological flow of the game. Clear as mud? Probably. Bear with me, though, and take a look at the examples of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly in Games 1 and 2.

The Good

Team Drive Team Drive
Denver offense punted Oakland lost a fumble
Oakland lost a fumble Denver scored a field goal
Denver scored a field goal Oakland forced to punt
Denver forced to punt Oakland forced to punt
Denver kicked off Oakland forced to punt
Oakland forced to punt Denver returned punt for touchdown
Denver scored a touchdown Oakland forced to punt
Oakland forced to punt Denver scored a field goal
Denver scored a field goal Oakland forced to punt
Denver forced to punt Oakland forced to punt
Oakland forced to punt Denver scored a touchdown
Cincinnati kicked off Denver scored a touchdown
Denver scored a touchdown Cincinnati forced to punt
Denver forced to punt Cincinnati forced to punt
Denver forced to punt Cincinnati forced to punt
Cincinnati scored a field goal Denver scored a field goal
Denver scored a field goal Cincinnati ran out of time at the half
Denver kicked off Cincinnati forced to punt
Cincinnati forced to punt Denver scored a touchdown
Cincinnati scored a field goal Denver scored a touchdown
Denver forced to punt Cincinnati forced to punt
Denver forced to punt Cincinnati turned the ball over on downs
Denver forced to punt Cincinnati turned the ball over on downs
Cincinnati turned the ball over on downs Denver ran out the clock to end the game



This set of drives show places where the offense and defense -- and in one case the special teams -- played compelementary football. There are several instances where the defense rose up when the offense struggled and had to punt and the defense forced a punt on the opposing team's next possession. There were also a number of cases where, after the defense had gotten a stop, the offense was able to put points on the board.

The Bad

Team Drive Team Drive
Oakland kicked off Denver forced to punt
Oakland forced to punt Denver forced to punt
Denver forced to punt Oakland scored a touchdown
Oakland scored a field goal Denver forced to punt
Oakland forced to punt Denver missed a field goal
Denver missed a field goal Oakland scored a field goal
Oakland scored a touchdown Denver forced to punt
Cincinnati forced to punt Denver forced to punt
Cincinnati forced to punt Denver forced to punt
Denver scored a touchdown Cincinnati scored a field goal
Cincinnati scored a field goal Denver forced to punt
Denver forced to punt Cincinnati scored a touchdown
Denver scored a touchdown Cincinnati scored a touchdown
Cincinnati scored a touchdown Denver forced to punt
Cincinnati forced to punt Denver forced to punt
Cincinnati turned the ball over on downs Denver forced to punt


     This set of drives show some places where the Broncos were less successful with their complementary play. These are mostly cases where, after the defense got a stop, the offense sputtered and ended up punting. There are a couple of cases where the offense was not able to respond with points after the defense had given up a score. There were also two cases where the defense gave up a score on the drive following a Denver score.

The Ugly

Team Drive Team Drive
Oakland scored a touchdown Denver fumbled the ball
Denver fumbled the ball Oakland scored a field goal
Oakland scored a field goal Denver threw an interception
Denver threw an interception Oakland scored a field goal
Oakland forced to punt Denver fumbled the ball
Denver fumbled the ball Oakland scored a touchdown
Denver scored a touchdown Oakland ran out the clock to end the game
Cincinnati forced to punt Denver fumbled the ball
Denver fumbled the ball Cincinnati scored a field goal
Cincinnati scored a touchdown Denver fumbled the ball
Denver fumbled the ball Cincinnati scored a field goal



     This is the most frustrating category of all. Perhaps the majority of the responsibility lies on the offense for creating untenable situations for the defense through turnovers that gave the defense a very short field to try to protect, and/or making turnovers after the opposing team had scored. Five times in two games, the offense has turned the ball over. That number represents 21% of all of Denver's drives in those two games.

     By the same token, the defense has given up points on every single drive which has followed a turnover by the offense. Perhaps one of the most devastating moments for the defense came when, late in the Oakland game, after the offense had brought the deficit to 3 points with 3:43 remaining in the game, the defense gave up 26 yards rushing, 9 yards passing and 3 first downs which allowed Oakland to run out the clock.

     Personally, I believe that the onus is on the offense to significantly reduce their turnovers and to finish more drives with points. The defense, however, must also step it up a level and not let things like the end of the Oakland game, or allowing Cincinnati to score a touchdown immediately after the Broncos had scored one late in the game, continue to happen.

The good news is that there is nothing in these first two games which is not fixable. So, here's to seeing more of the Good, and less of the Bad, and especially less of the Ugly.

Go Broncos!!!!

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