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Denver Broncos: In Search of Finished Drives (Preseason as a Starting Point)

     Kyle Orton was once quoted after a loss as saying that the Broncos had left a lot of points on the field. He was referring to the number of drives that had stalled out in that particular game.

     This has been a point of on-going concern among Broncos fans over the last two seasons -- drives that ended in no points, and to a lesser extent, drives that ended in field goals instead of touchdowns. During the 2011 preseason, there have been similar concerns: drives that result in no points or end in field goals.

     While I'm aware that the preseason does not provide definitive data regarding offensive performance -- due to the fact that the preseason games are mainly used for player evaluation in order to create the final roster -- it can provide us with a look at the process I will be using with the 2011 season.

     During the 2011 season, I will be taking a look at what the Denver offense does with its drives and in various situations, including the Red Zone, 3rd Downs and the last two minutes of the half/game.

Let's take a jump.

     The four areas we will be looking at after each game of the 2011 season are: (1)Drives in given situations with the score, (2)Drives in the Red Zone, (3)Drives during the last two minutes of a half/game, and (4)Plays on 3rd Down.

Drives Based on Score


Leading 14+ Leading 7-13 Leading 1-6 Score Tied Trailing 1-6 Trailing 7-13 Trailing 14+
Drives 5 6 10 10 4 1 9*
Plays 30 50 46 61 31 4 40
Yards 103 323 200 314 183 21 273
T.O.P. 10:58 20:13 17:34 30:34 13:16 2:02 14:47
Touchdowns 1 1 2 1 2 0 1
Field Goals 0 2 2 3 0 0 0**
Punts 4 0 6 5 1 1 4
Downs 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
Turnovers 0 1 0 1 0 0 2
End of Half/Game 0 1 0 0 1 0 1
Points Per Drive 1.40 2.17 2.00 1.60 3.50 0.00 0.78

*It should be noted that all nine of the drives when trailing by fourteen or more points came in the Arizona game. **There was one missed field goal when trailing by fourteen or more.

     It might be encouraging to note that 68.9% of Denver's drives in the preseason came with the Broncos either tied or leading in the score. It can also be noted that 50% of the time when Denver was trailing by less than a touchdown, the Broncos were able to mount a drive to score a touchdown. What could be consider somewhat worrisome is that in the ten drives (22.2% of the total number of preseason drives) when trailing by seven or more points, the Broncos were only able to put seven points on the board. However, that figure can be taken with a grain of salt since all of those drives occurred in the Arizona game wherein the first team offense did not play.

Drives in the Red Zone

     In the 2011 preseason, the Broncos made it into the Red Zone nine times. They had thirty-three plays in the those nine drives. Denver used those nine drives to score five touchdowns (three came by passes, two by runs) and two field goals. So, in the preseason, the Broncos scored a touchdown 55.6% of the time that they made it into the Red Zone. They came away with points 77.8% of the time. They committed one turnover and ran out of time on the clock once. The Broncos were 6 out of 14 in passing in the Red Zone, with three touchdowns and one interception.

Drives in the Last Two Minutes of the Half/Game

     Nine times in the 2011 preseason the Broncos had drives during the last two minutes of a half or game. These drives were composed of forty-one plays. The drives resulted in two field goals -- one when the Broncos had the lead, one when the score was tied, one missed field goal -- when Denver had the lead, two punts with the Broncos in the lead both times, two interceptions -- once when Denver was ahead, once when they were trailing, and twice the Broncos ran out of time when they were trailing.

Plays on 3rd Down

     Denver had fifty-two 3rd Down plays during the 2011 preseason. They converted seventeen (32.7%) of them into a first down. The Broncos also scored one touchdown on a third down play. Denver committed four offensive penalties on third down. They also fumbled the ball one time.

     When looking at passing on third down, the Broncos completed 23 out of 32 passes (71.9%). They passed for one touchdown and took three sacks. Twelve passes converted third down into first down. There was one fumble during an attempt to pass.

     The Broncos ran twelve times on third down and converted four of them into first down (33.3%).

     There were five penalties on third down -- one defensive which resulted in a first down and four offensive which forced the offense to face third and a longer distance.

Third and 1-2 yard to Go
     Denver had six plays at this distance (11.5% of all their 3rd Down plays). Four were converted into first downs (66.7% of the opportunities). The Broncos threw one pass and it resulted in a first down. They ran the ball five times and converted three (60%) into first downs.

Third and 3-5 yards to Go
     The Broncos ran seven plays in this range (13.5% of all 3rd Downs). Only one of those plays resulted in a first down (14.3%). The lone first down came on one of the four pass plays. The Broncos attempted one running play and took two sacks.

Third and 6-9 yards to Go
     This is where 44.2% (23) of the preseason third downs took place. This is not a good sign when nearly half of the third downs are for six yards or longer. The Broncos were able to convert ten (43.5%) of these third downs into first downs. They threw seventeen passes and achieved nine first downs. They had one run and it resulted in a first down. They also scored one touchdown on a third down play in this range. The Broncos fumbled one time and committed three offensive penalties. They were also the beneficiaries of one defensive penalty which resulted in a first down.

Third and 10 or more yards to Go
     Sixteen third downs (30.8%) had the Broncos looking at ten yards or more for a first down. When added to the 6-9 yards to go category, 75% of the Broncos 3rd downs in the 2011 preseason had them facing 6 or more yards for a first. In the 10+ category, the Broncos were only able to convert twice (12.5%) -- both came on passes. They threw ten passes attempting to convert and ran four times. They suffered one sack, and had to replay one third down due to offsetting penalties.

     Once again, do not attach too much significance to the data presented by this look at the 2011 preseason drives. This preliminary look was mainly intended to layout the format I will be using in examining the 2011 regular season offense in order to see whether or not the Broncos -- as revamped under John Fox -- are able to do a better job of not "leaving points on the field."