I'm going to reprise my weekly 3rd and Long analysis from last year. Good defenses force their opponents into many 3rd and long situations. Good defenses generally STOP their opponents 3 out of 4 times in these situations. Great defense stop their opponents on 4 out of 5 3rd and longs.
long = 7 or more yards
medium = 4-6 yards
short = 1-3 yares
Last year the Broncos held their opponents to 26.3% conversion on 3rd and long for the season. This was after a horrible start in which the Broncos allowed to the Steelers and the Pats to destroy us a on 3rd and long in two of the first 5 game (they combined to convert 12 of 16 3rd and long situations against us). Overall on 3rd down in 2012 the Broncos only allowed conversion on 31.5% of attempts - best in the league.
So how did the Broncos fare in game 1 - here are the situations and the results.
|3rd and 8 at BAL 22||(Shotgun) J.Flacco pass short left to B.Stokley to BLT 28 for 6 yards (C.Harris). Penalty on BLT-J.Jones, Offensive Pass Interference, declined.|
|3rd and 10 at DEN 13||(Shotgun) J.Flacco pass short left to T.Smith pushed ob at DEN 2 for 11 yards (T.Carter).|
|3rd and 17 at BAL 31||(Shotgun) J.Flacco pass incomplete deep middle to E.Dickson (M.Adams).|
|3rd and 9 at BAL 16||(Shotgun) J.Flacco pass short right intended for B.Stokley INTERCEPTED by C.Harris [S.Phillips] at BLT 24. C.Harris to BLT 24 for no gain (B.Stokley).|
|3rd and 12 at BAL 18||(Shotgun) J.Flacco pass short left to D.Clark to BLT 49 for 31 yards (R.Moore).|
|3rd and 14 at BAL 16||(Shotgun) J.Flacco pass incomplete short left to B.Stokley.|
|3rd and 7 at DEN 7||(Shotgun) J.Flacco pass incomplete short left to D.Clark.|
|3rd and 12 at BAL 18||(Shotgun) J.Flacco sacked at BLT 14 for -4 yards (S.Phillips).|
|3rd and 7 at BAL 23||(Shotgun) J.Flacco pass incomplete short middle to D.Clark (R.Moore).|
|3rd and 7 at BAL 12||(Shotgun) J.Flacco pass short left to D.Clark to BLT 21 for 9 yards (W.Woodyard).|
|3rd and 10 at BAL 21||(No Huddle, Shotgun) J.Flacco pass incomplete short middle to B.Stokley [D.Bruton]. PENALTY on BLT-G.Gradkowski, Unnecessary Roughness, 10 yards, enforced at BLT 21.|
|3rd and 10 at BAL 34||(No Huddle, Shotgun) J.Flacco sacked at BLT 26 for -8 yards (sack split by S.Phillips and W.Woodyard).|
|3rd and 8 at BAL 22||(Shotgun) J.Flacco pass short right to B.Stokley pushed ob at BLT 29 for 7 yards (D.Ihenacho).|
|3rd and 10 at DEN 18||(No Huddle, Shotgun) J.Flacco pass short right to V.Leach to DEN 12 for 6 yards (W.Woodyard).|
|3rd and 11 at BAL 33||(No Huddle, Shotgun) J.Flacco sacked at BLT 27 for -6 yards (S.Phillips). FUMBLES (S.Phillips), recovered by BLT-R.Wagner at BLT 27. R.Wagner to BLT 27 for no gain (D.Wolfe).|
The Ravens had 15 3rd and long situations and only converted 3 - (20%). The first was the play where Smith dragged Tony Carter for 4 yards after the catch to convert. The second was the play where Ayers went for the INT and Clark rumbled for 31 yards after the catch. The third was the catch by Clark for 9 on 3rd and 7 with Woodyard covering; the Ravens only converted one third and long in the second half and this was it. The most 3rd and longs that our D forced any game last season was 10 against TB.
For the game the Broncos forced the Ravens into 22 3rd down situations, only allowing conversion on 8 of those (36.4%). NFL average for 3rd down conversions allowed last season was 38%. The most third downs that the Broncos forced last season was 19 - against Pitt in week 1 (see a pattern?) Baltimore had 17 total drives and our D forced 6 "3 and outs". One of those "drives" was the one play TD drive following the muffed punt. Koch punted 9 times, although only 8 left his foot thanks to Bruton.
Of the other five 3rd down conversions that the D allowed, 3 came during the first half. Of the two that came in the second half one was by penalty. All of the 3rd down conversion by the Ravens this game came by pass or penalty (on a passing play). Admittedly only two of the 22 3rd downs were 3rd and short (1 and 2 yards to gain respectively). The 1 yard conversion was on a pass to Rice and the 2 yard conversion was late in the game in the PI call on Carter.
The defense played well, particularly in the second half. Part of this could be attributed to the two players who got injured during the game for the Ratbirds - Jones and Oher - leaving holes in their offense. However, I would say that the larger contributing factor is the half-time adjustments that our defenses coaches made. This was the a continuation for last season in which our D played better in the 3rd and 4th quarters in almost every game than they did in the first half.
Our D brought a lot of blitzes on 3rd down to take advantage of the first-time starting center, Gradowski, for the Ratbirds. This worked in game one, but it may not be as effective against the Giants. Their starting center is a seasoned veteran, Kevin Boothe, and they have film on what our D did in game one, so you can be certain that Eli will be well prepared for the A gap blitzes on 3rd down.
Our undermanned and inexperienced defense (no Champ, no Von) played extremely well against an undermanned opponent. The D was dominant outside of two drives (the 10-play and 13-play TD drives by the Ratbirds). I am pleased with the performance and I look forward to what the D can do with Champ (and later Von) back on the field.