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Broncos 3rd & Long: Offense implodes, Defense does (almost) all it can

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There's not much that a defense can do when the offense is playing so poorly that inept doesn't begin to describe it. With the exception of one drive, the defense played as well as they have played all year despite missing two starters. The offense had one of the worst first halves in Broncos history.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

That game was a kick in the nuts. Watching Peyton Manning playing laughably bad was painful. The play of Brock Osweiler was a minor salve for the pain, as he at least showed that he is a competent NFL QB in meaningful game action. However, you did not click on this link to talk about our QB situation, in fact, you probably started reading this to get away from that discussion which is currently dominating MHR. With that in mind, I will not spend nay more electrons discussing our QBs.

The defense was put in horrible situation after horrible situation. Here is a graph of the 14 KC drives notice the start point for the drives:

 photo KCdriveChart_zpsnh9phuyd.gif

The Chiefs started eight drives at midfield or better

They started six of their 14 drives on our side of the field (and two more at the 50 and their own 49). Given their field goal kicker is pretty good, they legitimately started eight of their 14 drives in situations where the were in scoring range by gaining 20 or fewer yards. Think about this: our defense could have given up zero yards on three drives and still surrendered 9 points as they started three drives in field goal range.

Defensive Performance on 3rd & Long (Seven or more needed to gain)

The Chiefs were held to 5 of 17 overall on 3rd down (one conversion by penalty on the holding call against Kayvon Webster). The defense did their normal great work in forcing a host of 3rd and long situations and then forcing kicks after 3rd down stops.

Situation Play Result
3rd and 21 at KC 25 (3:12 - 1st) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass short left to J.Maclin to KC 27 for 2 yards (B.Roby) complete but short
3rd and 9 at DEN 39 (12:31 - 2nd) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass short middle to T.Kelce to DEN 31 for 8 yards (T.Ward) complete but short
3rd and 12 at KC 45 (6:55 - 2nd) (Shotgun) A.Smith scrambles right end to KC 49 for 4 yards (C.Harris) scramble short
3rd and 7 at DEN 21 (4:12 - 2nd) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass short right to D.Thomas ran ob at DEN 16 for 5 yards complete but short
3rd and Goal at DEN 15 (0:09 - 2nd) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass incomplete short left to A.Wilson incomplete
3rd and 10 at DEN 49 (14:14 - 3rd) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass incomplete short right to T.Kelce incomplete
3rd and 9 at DEN 40 (12:27 - 3rd) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass incomplete short right to J.Maclin [V.Miller]. PENALTY on DEN-K.Webster, Defensive Holding, 5 yards, enforced at DEN 40 - No Play conversion by penalty
3rd and 7 at DEN 32 (10:54 - 3rd) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass incomplete short left to T.Kelce [V.Miller] incomplete
3rd and 10 at KC 49 (8:47 - 3rd) (Shotgun) A.Smith scrambles left end pushed ob at DEN 34 for 17 yards (D.Stewart) conversion by scramble
3rd and 10 at DEN 34 (7:19 - 3rd) (Shotgun) A.Smith sacked at DEN 41 for -7 yards (V.Miller) sack

The Chiefs two conversions on 3rd and long came via penalty (on Webster) and QB scramble. The defense on the other eight 3rd and longs was on par with what we have seen the rest of the year, i.e., it was superb. The Chiefs had seven other 3rd down situations and they converted on three of them. One conversion was on third and medium (4-6 yards needed to gain - they gained nine yards on a pass to Travis Kelce on 3rd and four. The other two conversions were on 3rd and 1. We stopped them from converting on three of five third and short situations (short is 1-3 yards needed to gain). For the season we are allowing conversion (including penalty conversions) on 31.2% of 3rd and long situations. Including penalty conversions we are allowing conversion on 39.8% of 3rd downs overall. Leaving out penalty conversions we are allowing 35.0% conversion on 3rd down - 7th in the league. The Texans have distanced themselves from the rest of the league in terms of 3rd down conversion % allowed. They have only allowed 26.7%. The next best team (STL) is at 32.0%.

Relative to the rest of the league (leaving out penalty conversions) we are currently 13th at stopping the other team on 3rd and long. I was surprised to see this since we have yet to allow a non-penalty conversion on 3rd and 11 or more - but I (mostly) haven't been keeping track on the rest of the league. We have allowed conversion on 23.2% of 3rd and longs (without the penalty conversions). SEA and HOU are tied for the league lead right now at 16.1% conversion allowed on 3rd and long.  DET is dead last allowing an amazing (or horrifying depending on your perspective) 38.2% conversion on 3rd and long. Of the 133 third downs we have forced this season, 77 have been 3rd and long (58%).

Stopping the Run on First Down

As we have done most of the season, our run defense on first down was superb. The Chiefs best first down run of the day, came on their first first down run of the day - 15 yards. While we had no TFLs on first down runs this game, we did stop three first down runs for no gain. The Chiefs gained 39 yards on 11 first down carries. For the season we are leading the league in allowing only 2.89 yards per carry on first down runs. SEA is in a distant second place at 3.35 ypc. The team in DC is currently the worst in this department allowing 5.67 ypc on first down runs. We now have 15 TFLs and 22 stops for no gain on 123 first down runs against us, meaning that 30% of all first down runs against us end with the offense gaining zero or fewer yards.

Moving Forward

The offense was horrible against the Chiefs until we put in Oz, but it's debatable how much of that was a result of Oz playing better than Manning and how much of that was a result of the KC defense loosening up to allow us to move slowly down the field with their big lead. The defense began the year by bailing out the offense in a bunch of games, the offense was decent in the second half against IND, but the defense was still put in a bad spot after the second interception in that game. In this game, the defense was constantly defending a short field and held up quite well despite being on the field for what seemed like the entire first half.  Next week we face a Bears team that has won three in a row coming off of a resounding win over the Rams where the Bears put up 37. Since starting the season 0-3, the Bears are 4-2. Their defense, which was the worst in the league at the start of the season, has now held three of their last five opponents under 20 points. This game, which looked like a laugher on paper a few weeks ago, now appears to be a critical and crucial game for us to right the ship. Our offense is in disarray after starting the past two games with historical levels of ineptness. This game will determine whether we fade like the 2009 Broncos did or find our stride like the 2005 Broncos did. With Brock leading the way because of Manning's plantar fascitis injury (same injury that knocked Ryan Clady out for the year and caused Ryan Harris to lose most of a season) we will sink or swim with Brock (ok, so I did end up spending some more electrons on the qb situation and I apologize).