I didn't do my weekly post after the F@ckup in Foxboro so I am covering the past two games in this post.
What a rollercoaster! From the elation of the 24 point lead (and first half shutout), to the deflation of the second half, then following that up with the possibility of overtime redemption only to have our hopes crushed by a special teams mistake was numbing. To compound that numbness with the 14 point deficit on the road against KC, was almost soul-crushing. When I saw the McCluster get blown up by Bolden on that punt return at the 3, I felt the momentum shift. That seemingly simple (and overlooked) play turned the tide. The Chiefs went 3 and out and did not score after that until 3 minutes left in the 4th quarter.
Ok, first, how did the Broncos D do on 3rd and long against the Pats? We held them to 0 for 5
|3rd and 13 at DEN 38||(Shotgun) T.Brady pass short middle to D.Amendola to DEN 30 for 8 yards (W.Woodyard; D.Ihenacho). DEN-D.Ihenacho was injured during the play.|
|3rd and 13 at NE 36||(Shotgun) T.Brady pass short left to S.Vereen to NE 43 for 7 yards (W.Woodyard; D.Trevathan).|
|3rd and 16 at NE 14||S.Vereen right guard to NE 15 for 1 yard (K.Vickerson).|
|3rd and 9 at DEN 13||(Shotgun) T.Brady pass incomplete short middle to J.Edelman [V.Miller].|
|3rd and 10 at NE 37||(Shotgun) T.Brady pass short left to K.Thompkins to NE 43 for 6 yards (K.Webster).|
Overall the Pats only converted 6 of 14 3rd downs, that means that they 6 for 9 converting on 3rd and short or 3rd and medium. The distances for the other 3rd downs were - 3,3,4,5,5,5,6,6 and 6. Both 3rd and 3 were converted. One of the 3rd and 5s was and ALL of the 3rd and 6's were. On the season the Pats are only converting 37% of their 3rd downs, but they have been much better than that since Gronk's return. All 6 of the Pats 3rd down conversions came through the air; they only had 3 rushing first downs all game.
Against the Chefs, the Broncos allowed 2 of 8 3rd and longs to be converted:
|3rd and 7 at DEN 37||(Shotgun) A.Smith pass short right to D.Bowe to DEN 13 for 24 yards (D.Bruton).|
|3rd and 8 at KC 5||A.Smith pass short left to A.Fasano pushed ob at KC 12 for 7 yards (M.Adams). DEN-D.Bruton was injured during the play.|
|3rd and 12 at DEN 49||(Shotgun) A.Smith pass short right to D.McCluster to DEN 47 for 2 yards (C.Bailey).|
|3rd and 18 at KC 42||(Shotgun) A.Smith pass short right to D.Avery ran ob at DEN 42 for 16 yards.|
|3rd and 8 at KC 33||(Shotgun) A.Smith pass incomplete deep middle to A.Fasano.|
|3rd and 17 at KC 13||(Shotgun) A.Smith pass deep middle to J.Hemingway to KC 29 for 16 yards (D.Bruton).|
|3rd and 14 at KC 4||(Shotgun) A.Smith pass deep left to A.Jenkins to KC 30 for 26 yards (D.Bruton).|
|3rd and 8 at DEN 17||(Shotgun) A.Smith pass short left to A.Jenkins pushed ob at DEN 13 for 4 yards (K.Webster). The Replay Assistant challenged the incomplete pass ruling, and the play was Upheld.|
The first 3rd and long of the game was converted by the Chefs - 24 yard catch by Bowe. They did not convert another until the long TD drive in the 4th when they converted a 3rd and 14 with that 26 yard catch by Jenkins (where Webster did his best Moore impersonation mistiming his jump). The Chiefs converted 4 their other 5 3rd down situations (which is why it is important to keep them in 3rd and long) to finish the game 6 of 13 converting on 3rd down. Oddly, the boxscore at ESPN and NFL.com only shows them converting 5 of 13, but I double-checked (without a discount) and noted 6 3rd down conversions. Only one of those conversions was on 3rd and short (1 to gain), the other conversions were 4, 5 and 6 to gain situations. The solitary stop on 3rd and medium was on a Smith scramble on 3rd and 5 that only gained one yard. We held the Chefs without a 3rd down conversion for about half of the game - from roughly 11 minutes to play in the 2nd quarter when they converting their 3rd and 1, until roughly 8 minutes left in the game when they converted a 3rd and 4 on an 8 yard run by Charles. They did convert their next three after this conversion, but were unable to convert the most critical 3rd (and 4th) down plays in their attempt to tie the game at the end.
FWIW, the Chefs held the Broncos 0 for 8 on 3rd and long in Denver, while we converted 3 of 7 last Sunday against them. We actually converted 3 straight 3rd and longs against their D, which had only allowed 17 3rd and long conversions in their previous 11 games (Phyllis converted two 3rd and 10s on them the week prior). Here are the three plays that we converted:
|3rd and 11 at DEN 19||(Shotgun) P.Manning pass deep left to W.Welker to DEN 39 for 20 yards (B.Flowers).|
|3rd and 10 at KC 15||(Shotgun) P.Manning pass short middle to E.Decker for 15 yards, TOUCHDOWN. PENALTY on KC-T.Hali, Unnecessary Roughness, 15 yards, enforced between downs.|
|3rd and 13 at DEN 47||(Shotgun) P.Manning pass short left to D.Thomas to KC 38 for 15 yards (S.Smith).|
On the season now, the Broncos are allowing 25.3% conversion on 3rd and long and 39.1% overall on 3rd down (15th in the league). The Chefs are now allowing 20.2% conversion on 3rd and long on the season with 5 of the 17 3rd and longs conversions that they have allowed coming in the last two games. The Broncos led the league last year in 3rd down conversion % allowed. The Chiefs no longer lead the league in that category this year (they are currently tied for 3rd with the Panthers, behind the Lions).
The best way to force team into third and 3rd is to stop first down runs. The Broncos have been pretty good at that so far this season. Against the Pats we were quite good against first down runs (with the exception of the 33 yard run by Bolden). We gave up 79 yards on 17 first down carries (4.6 ypc). If you take out the 33 yard run, that goes down to 2.9 ypc (46 yards on 16 carries). We had one TFL and two stops for no gain on first down runs by the Pats. Against the Chiefs, we had our worst first down run defense game of the year allowing 98 yards on 12 carries (8.2 ypc). This included runs of 15, 15, 20 and 26 yards against us on first down (only one of those by Alice). The absence of Vickerson and Wolfe was a huge part of that. Additionally, we had no TFL and only one stop for no gain on first down runs. It wasn't horrible (like the Pats rushing D against us the game before) though, since it was very feast or famine for the Chefs on first down runs. They had 6 of their 12 first down runs gain 2 or fewer yards. The other 6 carries gained 6, 9, 15, 15, 20 and 26 yards. For the season the Broncos have now allowed 652 yards on 157 first down carries (4.2 ypc) - we are pretty much at the league average now. On all other downs the Broncos have allowed on 552 yards 151 carries (3.7 ypc). This is change from the beginning of the season when we were better against first down runs than runs on other downs.
So the home stretch is upon us starting with the struggling Titans next Sunday in Denver. The Titans this season are near the top of the league in offensive 3rd down conversion % (6th at 44%), but they are in the bottom 3rd of the league in terms of scoring (21st at 22.0 ppg). Mostly this is attributed to the Titans middling ability to score TDs in the RZ (15th in the league 53.9%). The Broncos lead the league in RZ TD scoring %, getting a TD on 80% of our RZ trips.
The Broncos control their own destiny. If we win out we get the #1 seed and home field through the playoffs. If we drop one of our last 4 and the Pats win out, we lose the head-to-head tie-breaker, so we could possibly play the Pats in Foxboro again in the playoffs if that were to occur. All of us would rather not have to play them again at their place this season.