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Why our offense sucked: Failed plays

The 2011 Broncos really struggled to put together drives consistently. Lots of posts bemoaned this fact. Obviously we're hoping for better results with a different QB. This is a post that examines execution. My theory is simple: teams that minimize plays that gain 2 or fewer yards tend to win while teams that have the majority of their plays go for 2 or fewer yards end up losing. Big plays are nice, but to win consistently in the NFL, you need to consistently move the chains, and it is hard to do if you have a lot of unproductive failed plays. I went through our games this year and compiled this data, looking at both rushing and passing under Orton and Tebow. Then I'll show you how the 2010 Colts compared. This isn't from a website, they're my numbers. I hope you find this interesting.

Any play that results in a gain of 2 yards or fewer is a failed play (except one could argue if it goes for a TD or a 3rd and short conversion). I looked at any running play that went for <2 yards, incompletes, sacks, interceptions, and completions that went for 2 or fewer yards. I didn't count kneel downs or short scoring plays.

Failed Plays:

Rushing(Failed/Total) % FailedRushes Passing(Failed/Total) % Failed Passes Totals(Failed/Total) % FailedRush & Pass
Orton (5 starts) 51/118 43% 90/174 52% 141/292 48%
Tebow (13 starts) 188/500 38% 219/351 62% 407/851 48%

What we see here, is that 43% of our rushes were failed plays under Orton. This improved considerably under Tebow, despite the fact that opponents stacked the box. Part of the reason, was because Tebow himself had a lower percentage of failed rushes (31%). Maybe the line was better, maybe the playcalling was better, maybe simply rushing more helped, maybe a combination of all these factors and more. Regardless, the first take away from this chart, is that under Tebow, our running game improved.

However, our passing game had more failed passing plays under Tebow. I'm sure no one would dispute this. I would point out that even under Orton, over half our passing plays were failed plays. As we'll see when we look at the Colts under Manning, we didn't have an efficient passing game even under Orton. The fact that over 60% of Tebow's dropbacks resulted in a failed play, is a big reason he never gained the confidence of EFX. In addition, when you look at the game by game breakdown, he really didn't improve as the year progressed.

The final point I'd make, is that overall, Orton and Tebow, had a nearly identical overall failure rate of 48%. In other words, nearly half of our offensive snaps resulted in a failed play in 2011, netting nearly nothing (or even negative yardage). No wonder it seemed like we did shi$ on offense! Our improved running game under Tebow was nullified by our worsened passing game. Thankfully the combination of improved defensive play and Tebow's improved play late in games, gave us just enough to win some games. In the 4th Q or OT of his 7 wins, Tebow improved the failed play rate in the passing game to 46% from 62%. Ironically, the rushing game failure rate worsened to 44% during the same time. I won't speculate why this happened.

This data means more if we have something to compare it to, so I went through the Colts 2010 season to get an idea where a Manning-led offense compares to our 2011 Broncos.

Rushing(Failed/Total) % FailedRushes Passing(Failed/Total) % Failed Passes Totals(Failed/Total) % FailedRush & Pass
‘10 Colts (17 gms) 175/405 43% 277/723 38% 452/1128 40%
’11 Broncos 18gms 239/618 39% 309/525 59% 548/1143 48%

The Colts running game in 2010 was similar in terms of failed plays to the Denver running game under Orton (43%). I think we can expect this kind of running game again in 2012, depending on what you attribute this to. Obviously, our running game can be expected to experience a drop off without a running QB. Is our current stable of RBs better or worse than Addai and D Brown? Is our line better or worse than Saturday and Co? All food for discussion. Our running game had a lot of failed plays but also produced a lot of big plays, while the 2010 Colts backs didn't. As a consequence, we had a 4.8 ypc and they had a 3.8 ypc. Manning will need a good running game (better than he had in 2010) to win a SB in Denver IMO.

Of course as expected Manning had a significantly better failed play rate in the passing game than we had in 2011. It's also significantly better than we had with Orton. Of course we all know this.

Overall, Manning's Colts had 20% fewer failed plays in 2010 than we had in 2011. This makes a big difference, and it's why I never believed the "any drive that ends in a kick is a success" argument. 3 and outs have been killing us for a while now, and assuming Manning can get a decent running game, I think we'll drastically improve this in 2012 (unless we're forced to play Hanie). :)

ps I recommend Tim Lynch's post which I think my data supports.

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

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