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Broncos 3rd & Long: Doing Enough for A Win

The defense was superb outside of a couple of lapses. The offense was good enough to win. The special teams were mediocre, but the result was a win to hand another previously undefeated team their first loss of the season.

The Broncos upended the P*ts in overtime
The Broncos upended the P*ts in overtime
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

That was fun last night. Not only did we hang an "L" on another previously undefeated team, but we did it with our backup QB leading us to a victory where we were down 14 in the 4th quarter.

Remember, Brock Osweiler and the offense got the ball back on our own 17 with 2:31 left to play, down four with no timeouts left and Demaryius Thomas having one of the worst games of his career. Three plays later we had the ball first and goal at the NE eight yard line. Both the 36 yard completion to DT and the 39 yard completion to Emmanuel Sanders were well thrown, but the completion to Sanders was nearly perfect.

The ability to hit deep throws in pressure situations late in the game is what separates elite QBs from good QBs. I'm not saying that Brock is elite yet, but that was a throw very much like I have seen three other tall QBs make late in games (Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco and Aaron Rodgers). (And yes, I was taking a drink every time the announcers mentioned Brock's height last night). Enough about the offense though, you clicked on this link to read about the defense.

The Patriots scored three touchdowns on our defense last night, but only two of those were on "real" drives (the 15-yd TD drive after the interception was another score that should be blamed on the offense). The opening TD drive was partly the fault of Britton Colquitt who had another WTF? punt for 25 yards. That makes three punts so far this year that Colquitt has hit horribly - 29 yard punt against IND, 25 yard punt against CHI and a 25 yard punt last night against NE. I'm going to break down Colquitt's performance later on this year in the same manner that I did last year.

The defense quietly had a great day against a depleted NE offense (that is still #2 in the league in scoring offense). Our defense forced six three-and-outs yesterday which is a season high. Five of those came in the second half or overtime. The P*ts had eight drives after halftime, six of them ended with punts. We made some nice defensive adjustments at halftime.

On the other side of the ball, we had one scoring drive (out of six drives) in the first half. After halftime we scored on four of eight drives and one of the four where we didn't score was the missed FG. If we had hit that, we would have scored on five of eight drives against the team that came into the game leading the league in scoring defense.

Yes, the P*triots were down a host of offensive players, but they still had Tom Brady at QB. They are still the #1 team in the league in terms of offensive yards and we held them to 301 total yards of offense on 15 drives. That's 20 yards per drive.  The Pat's came in averaging 6.2 yards per play (#3 in the NFL) - we were (and still are) leading the league in ypp allowed at 4.5. That P*ts only gained 4.9 yards per play against us last night. That's outstanding.

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

The P*triots came into the game ranked 2nd in the league in 3rd down conversion percentage. We held them to two of 13 last night. Nine of those thirteen were third and long

Situation Play Result
3rd and 10 at NE 49 (8:55 - 1st) (Shotgun) T.Brady pass short left to B.Bolden to DEN 49 for 2 yards (B.Roby) catch but short
3rd and 9 at 50 (14:13 - 2nd) (Shotgun) T.Brady pass short middle to K.Martin to DEN 42 for 8 yards (C.Harris) catch but short
3rd and 10 at DEN 49 (12:09 - 3rd) (Shotgun) T.Brady pass incomplete deep middle to B.LaFell [S.Ray] incomplete
3rd and 8 at NE 48 (1:47 - 3rd) (Shotgun) T.Brady pass incomplete deep right to S.Chandler (A.Talib) incomplete
3rd and 8 at NE 37 (14:50 - 4th) Brandon Bolden Pass From Tom Brady for 63 Yrds S.Gostkowski extra point is GOOD touchdown
3rd and 20 at NE 10 (11:12 - 4th) (Shotgun) T.Brady pass incomplete short left to J.White incomplete
3rd and 15 at NE 15 (4:56 - 4th) (Shotgun) T.Brady pass incomplete deep middle to B.LaFell [S.Barrett] incomplete
3rd and 10 at NE 40 (2:45 - 4th) (Shotgun) T.Brady pass short left to B.LaFell to NE 47 for 7 yards (S.Ray) catch but short
3rd and 17 at NE 13 (14:12 - OT) (Shotgun) T.Brady pass incomplete short middle to J.White [S.Ray] incomplete

We did a great job of forcing them into 3rd and long situations. Their other four third down situations were two, three, four and five yards needed. The other conversion came on 3rd and 5 and resulted in the touchdown to Scott Chandler.

For the season we have now allowed conversion on 27 of 92 3rd and long situations (29.3%) including conversions by penalty . Overall we have allowed conversion on 59 of 158 3rd downs (37.3%) - again including penalty conversions. Leaving out the penalty conversions on 3rd down we are currently 4th in the league at stopping 3rd down conversions (33.1% allowed). The Texans are leading the league with an amazing 26.2% conversions allowed on 3rd down. The Giants are dead last at 45.8% allowed.

Stopping the run on First Down

One of the big reasons why we forced (and force) so many third and longs is our ability to stuff the run on first down. The P*ts ran the ball nine times on first down against us for 26 yards (2.9 ypc). Their long run of first down was for nine yards. While we didn't get any TFL's or stops for no gain (first time we have had zero of both all season against the run on first down), we contained their run to the point of them not even trying to run on first down in the first half.

For the season we are only allowing 2.97 ypc on first down runs. The Panthers are a distant second at 3.30 ypc. The Vikings are the worst in the league at 5.32. We have 16 TFL and 24 stops for no gain on first down runs against us, meaning that 26.78% of all first down runs against us this year have been stopped for negative or zero yards. That is currently the 3rd best in the league behind CAR (26.81%) and NYJ (28.0%). Chicago is worst in the league at 8.80%.

Moving Forward

We have five regular season games remaining, three of which are against division opponents. Next week in San Diego might be more of a fight than we were expecting. Their offense played well last weak (against an admittedly weak Jacksonville defense) and their defense played less badly than they normally do. Despite their 3-8 record, Phillip Rivers is having a great season. He has thrown for 23 TDs and only 8 picks while completing a league-leading 68.5% of his throws. He has only done better than that for completion % in one other season (in 2013 he completed 69.5%).

I hope we don't have a let down on the road after a huge home win on national TV like we did last time. After we destroyed the Packers in Denver, we suffered our first loss of the season at IND. Hopefully we won't have a let-down game on the road against the Chargers.