Through three games the Broncos defense has looked similar to how it looked through three games of 2012, good but not great. There were issues. However, so far in 2012, the issues have not been game-deciding, because the offense is playing at a record scoring pace. In the fourth game of the season, both our run defense and our passing defense looked vulnerable. More on this later.
Let's begin with the discussion of how we fared on 3rd and long defensively. The Eagles had 16 3rd down situations, 9 of those were 3rd and long.
|3rd and 7 at PHI 23||(Shotgun) M.Vick right end pushed ob at PHI 27 for 4 yards (S.Phillips).|
|3rd and 14 at DEN 17||(Shotgun) M.Vick pass short middle to R.Cooper to DEN 7 for 10 yards (D.Ihenacho).|
|3rd and 11 at DEN 39||(No Huddle, Shotgun) M.Vick pass short left to B.Brown to DEN 4 for 35 yards (W.Woodyard; R.Moore).|
|3rd and 19 at 50||(No Huddle, Shotgun) M.Vick pass short middle to C.Polk to DEN 37 for 13 yards (W.Woodyard).|
|3rd and 8 at PHI 46||(No Huddle, Shotgun) M.Vick pass incomplete short left to B.Celek (D.Trevathan).|
|3rd and 9 at PHI 21||(No Huddle, Shotgun) M.Vick sacked at PHI 17 for -4 yards (S.Phillips).|
|3rd and 10 at PHI 44||(No Huddle, Shotgun) M.Vick pass incomplete short left to L.McCoy.|
|3rd and 15 at DEN 22||(No Huddle, Shotgun) M.Vick sacked at DEN 28 for -6 yards (D.Wolfe, W.Woodyard).|
|3rd and 8 at DEN 43||(No Huddle, Shotgun) N.Foles pass deep left to J.Maehl to DEN 6 for 37 yards (T.Carter).|
The Eagles only converted on 2 of 9 3rd and longs (22%). The first was the 35 yd catch and run pass to Brown on 3rd and 11, where our LB lost him in coverage coming out of the backfield. The second conversion was during garbage time when Foles hit Maehl for 37 yards on 3rd and 8. Two of our three sacks came on 3rd and long.
The other seven 3rd downs are what have to worry you a little. The Eagles converted 6 of 7 3rd and short or mediums (2 mediums, 5 shorts). The yardage needed on those 7 was - 1,4,3,5,2,2,3. The only stop shouldn't have even been a stop, since it came on Celek's dropped pass on 3rd and 4 at the 5. While I applaud the defense in holding the Eagles to 13 non-garbage time points, the performance on third down overall this game was bad, reminiscent of some of the 3rd down performances that our D had at the beginning of 2012. The Eagles offense is good at moving the ball (#2 in yards after 4 weeks) so maybe this was just a case of our D finally playing against an offense that is good (Baltimore, Oakland and NY do not have good offenses). The Cowboys should be another good test for our defense, particularly after Philly finally exposed some weaknesses.
For the season our defense is allowing 19.4% conversion on 3rd and long (8/40) and 36.1% conversion on all 3rd down situations (14th). Our defense has done a decent job of getting PFM back the ball, but it is no where close to where we were at the end of the 2012 regular season. Detroit continues to lead the league in 3rd down conversion allowed at 21.3%. Through 4 games they have only allowed 10 3rd down conversions. The Broncos allowed 8 against both the Ratbirds and the Iggles.
The run defense was finally gouged this game. The Iggles rushed 35 times for 166 yards (4.7 ypc). Unlike the first three games, the Broncos run D was not able to stuff the run on 1st down. The Eagles ran the ball 16 times on first down for an average 4.3 yards per carry. In the previous 3 games, Broncos opponents had run the ball 31 times on first down, averaging only 2.5 yards per carry. Along with giving up some bigger runs on first down (8,9,7,9 and 10 yard runs), the Broncos didn't have the same frequency of stops for no gain or a loss on first down runs against the Iggles (only one TFL and two 0 gain runs). The read option run game seems to have shown that it can move the ball on the ground against our stout front 7. Theoretically, the Broncos D should only have a running QB two more times this season (Bob vs DC and Pryor @Jokeland). For the season, our D was allowed 145 yards on 47 1st down carries (3.1 ypc). Overall our rushing D is now 3rd in yards allowed (behind CAR and GB) and 4th in ypc allowed (behind CLE, NYJ and AZ). Needless to say, our run D is no longer on pace to set an NFL record for rushing yards allowed in a 16 game season. Dallas is currently 7th in the league in yards per carry on offense (4.6). Our D will face five of the current top seven rushing teams in terms of yards per carry later in the season: DAL, HOU, WAS, IND and OAK.