What a difference a year makes.
At this point last season the Broncos were 2-3, coming off of a mauling by the Pats in which our D allowed 251 yards rushing and 35 first downs. Through 5 games last season our D surrendered: 19, 31, 27, 6 and 31 points (114 or 22.8 pts/game). Through 5 games this year our D has allowed 139 points or 28.8 pts/game - 27th in the league. After 5 games last season, our offense was above average, but far from great (135 points in 5 games, 27 pts/g). After 5 game last season our team was still one half of football from hitting it's stride. In 2013 we are sitting at 5-0 with one of the greatest offenses (so far) to ever play the game and a defense that it is above average (when healthy).
Since I use 3rd and long as a measuring stick for defensive performance, let's see how the Broncos were doing defensively on 3rd and long in 2012 after 5 games. In 2012 the Broncos had allowed 17 of 36 3rd and longs to be converted (47%) through 5 games. As bad as the injury riddled D may have looked against Dallas, our D has still only allowed 10 of 44 3rd and longs to be converted during the 2013 season (22.7%).
So how did the D fare against Dallas? There were only 4 3rd and long situations and the D allowed Dallas to convert two of them.
|3rd and 10 at DEN 45||(Shotgun) T.Romo pass short middle to J.Witten to DEN 33 for 12 yards (C.Harris) [M.Unrein]. Pass complete after being forced out of the pocket.|
|3rd and 8 at DEN 31||(Shotgun) T.Romo pass deep middle to J.Witten to DEN 4 for 27 yards (M.Adams). Pass complete on a "seam" route.|
|3rd and 8 at DEN 8||(Shotgun) T.Romo sacked at DEN 25 for -17 yards (S.Phillips).|
|3rd and 15 at DAL 15||(Shotgun) T.Romo scrambles up the middle to DAL 22 for 7 yards (M.Jackson; M.Adams).|
For the game our D only forced Dallas into 6 3rd down situations. Dallas had 11 drives (one three and out) and only faced 6 3rd downs. Our D only forced one punt and only kept Dallas from scoring on two other drives (fumble and INT). In case you are wondering, the other two 3rd downs that Dallas faced (4 and 6 yards needed) were both converted (one for a long TD).
So what was the cause of our D's inability to stop the Cowboys? We had little pass rush, even when we brought 5 or 6 and the few times that we generated pressure with our front 4, Romo was able to avoid the sack and find someone down field. The secondary had some glaring mistakes, but the pass rush did them no favors this game. The one aspect of our D that was not suspect against Dallas was the run defense. The Cowboys only had 52 yards rushing on the game (admittedly on only 14 carries, 3.7 ypc).
As I have been doing so far, I will show how the run D did against run on first down. The Cowboys run the ball 10 times on first down for a total of 32 yards (3.2 ypc). Their other 4 runs came on 2nd down netting 20 yards (5.0 ypc). The Cowboys did not convert a 3rd down by running the ball all game, but with the ease that they moved the ball through the air, they would have been stupid to try. On the season, our D has only allowed 177 yards on 57 carries on first down (3.10 ypc). The Cowboys ran 54 plays and converted 24 first downs. In other words, roughly one first down every two offensive plays. Our offense was just as potent rolling up 34 first downs on 73 plays.
On a side note, the Broncos offense has run 357 plays this season and has gotten a first down or a touchdown on 173 of them (48.4%). The next best team is the Chargers with 134 on 323 plays (41.4%). At the other end of the spectrum, the Jags have only 79 first downs or TDs on 311 plays (25.4%). The Broncos scored as many points last game as the Jags have scored all season.
Back to 3rd downs, on the season the Broncos D is allowing conversion on 38.8% of all third downs. That puts in the bottom third of the league. Over the past two games, our D has allowed conversions on 12 of 22 3rd down attempts (54.5%). Admittedly our D has faced two very good offenses (at least in terms of yards) over the past two games, but those numbers need to improve. Through 5 games last season, our defense had allowed conversion on 35 of 75 (46.7%) of 3rd downs. So while the numbers have not been great so far this season (in the absence of Champ and Von), they were worse last season.
The remaining games are against teams whose offenses rank thus in terms of scoring:
31st (JAX), 4th (IND), 26th (WAS), 10th (SD), 9th (KC), 21st (NE), 14th (TEN), 24th (HOU), 20th (OAK)
(The Chiefs have 10 offensive TDs, but have scored 128 total points in 5 games.)
With the exception of the Colts and maybe the Chargers, none of the remaining teams have scary offenses. That doesn't mean our D can play as poorly as it did against the Cowgirls, but the other 7 teams on the remaining regular season schedule do not have an offense capable of doing what the Cowgirls did yesterday to our injury-riddled defense.