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3rd and Long: Denver Broncos defense carries the offense against Seattle Seahawks

After a poor performance by the D in the win over the Chiefs, the D kept the Broncos in the game and gave the O a chance to win at the end. This performance is more like we were expecting to see from the D given the preseason hype.

Jeff Gross

Did we win?  No.

Should we be happy about an overtime loss?  No (we can argue this in the comments since I know the argument for "yes" here).

Should we be happy about the way our defense carried our toothless offense for most of the game?  Yes.

Should we be happy about the way our defense carried our toothless offense for most of the game?

Our defense forced a 3-and-out on the opening drive of the game only to have the offense give the Seahawks the ball right back on a fumble deep in our own end. How did the D respond? They held SEA to a FG with a goal line stand (SEA had first and goal from the 6 and we stopped Lynch on 3 straight runs - 3, 2 and -1 yards gained). After our O marched 75 yards for a FG with 3:31 left to play in the first, our offense was held scoreless until 9:24 in the 4th quarter. That stretch included four 3-and-outs, one 4-and-out and 8 punts from our O. On those 8 intervening drives between offensive scores, our offense gained a total of 102 yards. Our offense was stinking it up and our defense was keeping us in the game.

How did our defense carry us? Let's look at the numbers. The defense allowed SEA to convert on 7 of 17 3rd downs. None of them came on 3rd and long. This is a direct contrast to the week prior. KC was 7 of 9 on 3rd and long against us. SEA was 0 of 7. Here they are

3rd and 7 at SEA 23 (2:04) (Shotgun) R.Wilson sacked at SEA 20 for -3 yards (V.Miller).
3rd and 20 at SEA 45 (10:04) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short right to D.Baldwin pushed ob at DEN 41 for 14 yards (A.Talib).
3rd and 8 at SEA 43 (10:57) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short left to P.Richardson to 50 for 7 yards (B.Roby).
3rd and 10 at SEA 17 (7:15) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short left to Z.Miller to SEA 25 for 8 yards (B.Roby).
3rd and 17 at SEA 1 (13:22) M.Lynch left tackle tackled in End Zone for -1 yards, SAFETY (N.Irving, T.Ward).
3rd and 9 at SEA 42 (6:19) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass incomplete short right to B.Walters [N.Irving].
3rd and 7 at DEN 10 (1:48) (Shotgun) M.Lynch right guard to DEN 10 for no gain (T.Ward; V.Miller).

Holding a team to no 3rd and long conversions is quite good. We only did that once in 2013 (vs NE) and 4 times in 2012. The D did not fare as well when SEA got in 3rd and short (1,1,1, 2, 3 and 3 yards needed) or 3rd and medium (4, 5 and 6). They converted on 7 of 10 in those situations. One of those three stops was on 3rd and goal from the 1 on the drive that followed the Ball fumble and that was a critical stop.  Two third down conversions (3 and 4 yards needed) happened on the game-deciding TD drive in OT when a stop was sorely needed. Both were Wilson scrambles for the first down. Russell Wilson is deadly on 3rd and short or 3rd and medium situations because of his accuracy and his mobility. For the season the Broncos are now allowing 36.4% conversion on 3rd and long (8 of 22) and 51% conversion on 3rd down overall (25 of 49). Last season we finished the year allowing 24.8% conversion on 3rd and long and 38.85 conversion on 3rd down overall.

Getting SEA in 3rd and long 41% of the time on 3rd down was partly a result of doing a decent job of stopping the run on 1st down. SEA ran the ball 18 times on first down (4 were run/scrambles by Wilson) for 69 yards (3.8 yards per carry. Three of their 1st down runs resulted in no gain with one resulting in a TFL. 10 of their 1st down runs went for 3 or fewer yards. Unfortunately our gassed D was not able to stop the first down runs on the final drive; those runs went for 5, 6, 6, and 6 yards respectively with the final 6 yard run resulting the TD.

For the season we have allowed 148 yards on 40 first down carries (3.7 ypc) with 4 stops for no gain and 3 TFLs. Last season we finished the year allowing 4.4 ypc on first down runs, which was worse than we allowed on runs overall.

The defense appears to be gelling heading into the bye and the return of Danny Trevathan should only help both our run D and our passing D.  I'm not as worried about the D as I am about our apparent inability to run block. I don't know if the horrible rushing stats from last game (20 carries for 36 yards) are a result of the quality of the SEA front 7 or a result of the inability of our OL to run block. I'm guessing it is a little of both. The Packers ran for 80 yards on 21 carries (3.8 ypc) against them while the Chargers ran for 101 on 37 carries (2.8 ypc). Against the run, only the Jets probably have a better front 7.