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Broncos 3rd & Long - A complete team win vs. the 49ers

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This is the defensive performance that we have been waiting for. Every position group played well on the defensive side of the ball and the numbers back that up.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

That win felt good in a lot of ways. The Broncos won all three phases of the game fairly convincingly. Our offense moved the ball with relative ease against the short-handed SF defense, and our special teams played better than theirs (we didn't miss a field goal). Our defense dominated their offense even more than our offense dominated their defense, and that's saying a lot considering that our O put up 42 points in roughly 3 quarters.

Here's what our defense did: the 49ers came into the game as one of the top teams in the league in 3rd down conversion rate (46.5%) - we held them to 4 of 14, dropping them to 12th in the league. Of those 14 3rd downs, eight were 3rd and long. Here are the results on those 8 plays:

Broncos defense in 3rd and 7+ yards
Situation Detail Result
3rd and 11 at SF 19 (2:10) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass incomplete deep left to B.Lloyd (C.Harris). Incomplete
3rd and 7 at DEN 44 (10:37) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass incomplete deep right to A.Boldin (B.Roby). PENALTY on DEN-B.Roby, Defensive Pass Interference, 19 yards, enforced at DEN 44 - No Play. Conversion by penalty
3rd and 8 at DEN 23 (9:40) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass short left to A.Boldin to DEN 5 for 18 yards (B.Roby). Conversion by catch
3rd and 17 at SF 29 (1:54) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass deep left to B.Lloyd to DEN 34 for 37 yards (R.Moore). Conversion by catch
3rd and 11 at SF 29 (10:55) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick sacked at SF 20 for -9 yards (M.Jackson). Sack
3rd and 10 at SF 20 (8:58) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass incomplete short middle to V.Davis (Q.Carter). Incomplete (drop)
3rd and 14 at SF 36 (14:21) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick sacked at SF 26 for -10 yards (V.Miller). Sack
3rd and 21 at DEN 21 (5:00) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass short middle to M.Crabtree to DEN 14 for 7 yards (B.Marshall). Catch but short

The bad news here is that 3 of the 4 conversions we allowed were on 3rd and long. The good news is that we forced a team whose offense is predicated on getting into manageable 3rd down distances into 8 "long distance" 3rd down situations. The six other distances to gain were 3 (three times), 4, 5 (twice) and 6. The only one of those that they converted was a 3-to-go which they converted via penalty (face-mask on Marshall).  Three of our six sacks occurred on 3rd down.

First down Run D

As they have done for the past three weeks, the defense has been forcing a bunch of 3rd and longs because of their ability to stop the run on first down. The 49ers ran the ball nine times on first down and gained a paltry 7 yards (0.8 ypc). Their longest first down run of the game was for 4 yards. They were stopped twice behind the LOS and once for no gain on their first down runs. Over the past three games our front 7 (or front 4) has been dominating in the run game. We have allowed only 34 yards on 27 first down carries total (1.3 ypc) in the past three games with 5 TFLs and 4 stops for no gain. That's Orange Crush level of run stuffage right there. Overall in the past three games we have allowed a total of 130 yards rushing on 52 carries (2.5 ypc). I know it was another era when teams relied much more heavily on the running game to move than the pass, but the Orange Crush defense only had one stretch like this in terms of shutting down the opponents running game - the first three games of the 77 season in which we held the Cardinals, Bills and Seahawks to 216 yards on 86 carries (2.5 ypc). That season we started by holding our first 5 opponents to under a 100 yards rushing which is an impressive feat now, but was an even more impressive feat then.

Next Game

Thursday we get the Chargers in Denver with both teams coming off of short rest, but SD stinging from a last second loss to KC.  Last season our only regular season loss came in this same situation - Thursday night game at home against SD. This season the Chargers have been running the ball a bunch (8th in carries), even if it hasn't been very successful (32nd in ypc). Given our defensive success against the run, it will be interesting to see if the Bolts continue to try and run the ball, particularly if they get down by a couple of scores early.  McCoy loves to pound the ball on the ground, but at some point he might have to just put the ball in Rivers' hands in let him win or lose the game for them.