So after three games in 2010 the Broncos had the exact same record as this year, 1-2. Both years the sequence has been L-W-L. Both years the Broncos fans expected to win at least 2 of 3. There are a few more similarities, but there are a lot more differences as you will see after the jump. Hopefully those differences lead to a much better final record than in 2010.
Ok, to remind here are the results from games 1-3 in 2010
17-24 L at Jacksonville. Garrard had a great day completing 16 of 21 for 170 and 3 TDs. No pass rush lead to Garrard having all day to find open receivers when the Jags decided to throw. The run D was adequate holding the Jags runners to 134 yards on 34 carriers (3.9 YPC), but there were a few long runs with MJD getting an 18 yarder and Jennings getting a 15 yard run. The run D stopped the Jags once for a negative gain (-1) and 3 times for no gain. One of those no gain stops came on 4th and 1. The D's inability to stop the run late in the 4th when we knew the Jags would be running the ball (gave up one first down) meant the Broncos got the ball back down by 7 with 1:50 remaining in the game and no TOs. Denver's D recorded 1 sack (Ayers) in this game, but in general Garrard had all day to throw.
31-14 W over the Seahawks in Denver. The Broncos jumped out to a 17-0 lead based on the D's ability to force TOs. The Seahawks took the opening drive all the way down to the Denver 16 where Champ picked off Hasselbeck. The Broncos punted after a short drive and Seahawks gave the ball back on a muffed punt. The Denver D would go on intercept Hasselbeck two more times on the day. The run D was not as good as in the first game. The Seahawks ran for 109 on 20 carries (5.5 YPC) and were only stopped for no gain once by the Broncos D and only stopped behind the LOS twice (-1 and -2). Hasselbeck, Forsett and Robinson had carries of 20, 19 and 15 yards respectively. So big plays in the running game were evident even in a game where SEA was forced to throw a bunch because they were down big. Hasselbeck finished the day 20-35-233 with 1 TD and 3 INTS. Denver only sacked Hasselbeck once (0.5 DJ, 0.5 Ayers)
27-13 L at Indianapolis. The Broncos got behind early by 13 but fought back into this one. Neither team ran the ball well at all. Denver's D held the Colts to 40 yards on 22 carries (1.8 YPC) with three stops for no gain and two negative yardage stops. The Broncos were almost as bad on the ground with 18 carries for 47 yards. Manning finished the day 27-43-325 with 3 TDs and 0 INTs. The Denver pass rush was again non-existent and it is amazing the Manning was not able to complete more of these passes. Zero sacks for the D.
After 3 games here are the numbers for the 2010 D per game
94 yards rushing on 3.7 YPC. With 2.3 stops for no gain and 1.6 TFL per game. Here's the catch - the Colts and the Seahawks were two of the worst teams in the NFL in 2010 at running the ball (29th and 31st) - so looking adequate against those two vs the rush is misleading.
243 yards passing
0.7 sacks (horrible)
1.3 TO (not great).
So far in 2011 the D has done this in the composite for the first three games per game:
100 rushing yards on 3.7 YPC, with 3 stops for no gain and 3.3 TFL
235 passing yards
1.6 sacks (still not great). If the current sack rate does not increase we will finish 2011 with the same number of sacks as in 2010. Obviously getting Doom back will increase this number.
1.0 TO (need more). Getting Doom and Champ back will increase this number.
As far as big plays, they are still occurring in both the running game and the passing game, but not as often in 2011. Since our sample size is still small, that 47 yard run by McFadden has really skewed the running numbers so far (that's 1/6th of the total ground yards given up this season). If you take out that run, the D is only giving up 3.0 YPC. The D is 2010 was really bad about giving up big plays. So far that hasn't changed in 2011 with a 47 yard run, 84 and 58 yd passes in 3 games. Against CIN the longest run that the D gave up was 14 yards. Against TEN (absent of Kern's fluke) the longest run by the Titans was 8 yards.
Keep in mind that this was done without Ty Warren, Squid, Marcus Thomas, DJ, Champ (2 games) and Doom (2.5 games).
So the D has gotten better. My eyes have told me that, but I was a little surprised that the numbers weren't more convincing. I am, however, convinced that these numbers will improve once the D gets healthy.