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Broncos 3rd & Long: Strong in the second half

The offense was strong throughout. The defense didn't get it going until the second half. The special teams were improved in one aspect, but still left a lot to be desired.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Writer's note: I'm on vacation so this installment of 3rd and Long is going to be sparse. I'm skipping the film reviews this week.

The game was really a tale of two halves, at least for the defense. The Dolphins had 4 drives in the first half and they went like this - TD, punt, TD, TD. The first and the second TD drives were 80 and 87 yards. The punt we forced was a 3-and-out, but 3 TDs on 4 drives is not going to win you many games. The offense was pretty consistently good during the game, particularly with the new-found commitment to the running game. We punted once, but our drives went like this: FG, punt, TD, TD, missed FG, TD, TD, TD, end of game. That's pretty amazing efficiency on offense - 5 or 8 drives resulting in TDs (not counting the game-ending drive).

As bad as the defense played in the first half, allowing Ryan Tannehill to look like Shaun Hill Tom Brady, they looked great until the final drive of the game for Miami. The length of drives that we allowed in the second half were 13. 12. 17, 15 and 84 (vs prevent). That's quite stout even if the 12 yard drive resulted in a TD after the Isaiah Burse fumble. The Dolphin running game, which was effective against us in the first half, was largely stuffed in the second half.

Performance on 3rd and Long

The Dolphins were very efficient against us in the first half gaining first downs on many first and second down plays. As such they only had 9 3rd down situations during the game - three were short distance (they converted all 3) and the other 6 were long (7 or more needed to gain). Here are the 3rd and longs

Situation Play Result
3rd and 8 at MIA 22 (3:32 in 1Q) (Shotgun) R.Tannehill pass incomplete deep right to J.Landry. incomplete
3rd and 8 at MIA 25 (6:48 in 3Q) (Shotgun) R.Tannehill pass short middle to D.Sims to MIA 34 for 9 yards (T.Ward). conversion by catch
3rd and 22 at MIA 33 (4:11 in 3Q) (Shotgun) R.Tannehill pass short right to J.Landry to MIA 36 for 3 yards (C.Harris). catch but short
3rd and 10 at DEN 12 (3:05 in 3Q) (Shotgun) R.Tannehill pass short left INTERCEPTED by V.Miller (M.Jackson) at DEN 22. V.Miller to DEN 25 for 3 yards (D.Williams). FUMBLES (D.Williams), RECOVERED by MIA-M.Pouncey at DEN 25. M.Pouncey to DEN 25 for no gain (D.Wolfe). PENALTY on DEN-T.Ward, Defensive Holding, 5 yards, enforced at DEN 12 - No Play. conversion by penalty
3rd and 14 at MIA 31 (12:07 in 4Q) (Shotgun) R.Tannehill pass short right to R.Matthews to MIA 37 for 6 yards (K.Webster). catch but short
3rd and 7 at DEN 48 (2:01 in 4Q) (Shotgun) R.Tannehill pass short left to J.Landry to DEN 43 for 5 yards (C.Harris). catch but short

They converted 2 of 6 - one by penalty and one by a catch. They also converted the 4th and 2 after the final 3rd and long that they faced. For the season we have allowed conversion on 25 of 80 3rd and long situations (31%). Overall we are allowing conversion on 45% of 3rd downs (66 of 147) - keep in mind that I count penalty conversions while most stats counters don't for 3rd down conversion rate against.

Against the Run on 1st Down

Much like the Rams did against us last week, the Dolphins were able to gain significant ground against us by running the ball on first down. The ran 12 times for 62 yards on first down - 5.2 ypc. The big runs on first down all came in the first half though. The longest first down run against us in the second half was 6 and it came on the opening play of the drive the ended with the T.J. Ward interception. Their first down runs in the second half gained 3, 1, 2, 2, -4 and 6 yards. That's 6 carries for 10 yards on first down in the second half. Their six first down runs in the first half gained 52 yards (the 22 yard run was on 1st down). For the season we have now allowed 410 yards on 128 first down carries - 3.20 ypc. For the game we allowed 97 rushing yards on 21 carries (4.6 ypc), but the vast majority of that was in the first half.

Concluding thoughts

This game could have ended much differently. Whatever the players or the coaches did as half-time adjustments worked for the defense. The offense took a risk by shifting into a strategy that put Manning under center and let our offensive line run block for a back with a head of steam instead of running out of the shotgun or the pistol formation. The conversion on 4th and 2 and the resiliency to keep going after the missed 33 yard FG and the fumbled punt return all told me something about this team - they have turned a corner. They have found their stride and are once again on the rise after the flop in Foxboro and the suckitude in St. Louis. We have an offensive line that is one of the bigger ones on the league and our coaches are letting them play with a little bit of nasty. If we continue to put them in situations where they can give C.J. Anderson, Juwan Thompson, Monte Ball and Ronnie Hillman some daylight, there isn't a defense in the league that can stop us - not the Seahawks, not the Patriots and not the Chiefs.

The Chiefs are going to be playing with their backs against the wall on Sunday. They will have had 10 days to prepare after their embarrassing loss to the Raiders. They will be emotionally charged because of the loss of Berry for the season to lymphoma. They will be attacking us on the ground as they always do, trying to exploit a run defense that looked bad against the Rams and for the first half against the Phins. Which of our defenses will show up next Sunday? The one that played inspired football in the second half against Miami or the one the made Hill look like Brady and Lamar Miller look like Walter Payton?