A single fumble recovery can decide the outcome of a game. A single game can decide the outcome of a season. Partly because of the shape of the ball, the odds of recovering a fumble are decided by the unpredictable bounces. While the law of averages states that every team should regress to the mean (50%) in any fumble recovery %, this has not really been the case over the past 12 NFL season. Some teams have been much luckier than others. For whatever reason, we have been on the short end of the karmic stick far more often than we "should" have been. All data for this piece was compiled from pro-football-reference.com and teamrankings.com (whose data only goes back to 2003)
If you want a more in-depth look at turnovers in the NFL this century please read this
Offensive Fumble Recovery
The Broncos have been the 6th most unlucky team in terms of offensive fumble recovery.
Offensive Fumble recovery rate 2003-2014
|Overall Rank||Team||Average||Ave Rank|
If you parse the data by total offensive plays (plays per fumble lost), we are one of the better teams in the league for the past 15 NFL seasons. So why the seeming discrepancy?
We were quite good in the first three seasons of this century. I thought that we might have run more plays, but over the past 15 seasons we are 20th in the NFL in total offensive plays run. The message is that we have been unlucky in terms of recovering our own fumbles 2003-2014.
The other reason for the seeming dichotomy is that we are looking at a percentage stat. Were we to look at absolute numbers the Broncos would not look quite so unlucky.For example, which team has it worse the team that fumbles 10 times and recovers 2 or the team the fumbles 30 times and recovers 24? The former team had a 20% offensive recovery rate, but they ONLY fumbled 10 times during the season (losing 8) while the other team has three times the fumbles but lost fewer of them (recovering 80%). In this way, fumble % and a fumble lost/play data can tell two very different stories. In other words, the Broncos have not fumbled that much, but we have been poor/unlucky at recovering our offensive fumbles.
Defensive Fumble Recovery Rate
As bad as it looked from the offensive side, it's worse from the defensive side.
Defensive Fumble Recovery Rate 2003-2014
|Overall Rank||Team||Average||Ave Rank|
We have the third worst defensive fumble recovery rate in the league since 2003. In terms of average team ranking, we are second to last with only Green Bay having a worse average ranking. Is this just bad luck, bad karma or bad coaching? I don't know and it really doesn't matter.
The facts are immutable. Interestingly, if you go back in time we were one of the better (luckier) teams in the league in terms of defensive fumble recovery rate. From 1994-2002, we recovered 50.0% of the other team's fumbles. That rate would have put us near the top of the league over the past 12 seasons.
Below is a breakdown of our defensive fumble recovery numbers from the past 21 seasons.
Denver Defensive Fumble Recovery
(no rank data available prior to 2003)
|Year||Opp Fumbles||Recovered %||NFL rank|
Combined Fumble Recovery
If we combine the offensive and the defensive data we get a picture at the most unlucky (for fumble recovery) team in the NFL over this time frame (Higher numbers are better here). I did this by adding the average offensive and defensive recovery %. Here is the table.
I was actually surprised to find a team whose luck has been worse over the past 12 seasons. The Saints have actually had worse overall fumble luck than we have had. The Cowboys have been the luckiest team in the league over the past 12 seasons.
Perspective (absolute numbers)
Last season our opponents fumbled 21 times when they had the ball. Our defense recovered 7 of those fumbles - 33%. This was 30th in the league, but this is the norm for us recently as we have only been in the top 10 in defensive fumble recovery % once in the past 12 seasons (2005 when we were 4th - scooping up 16 of our opponent's 29 fumbles).
Our offense fumbled the ball 17 times and we recovered 12 of them (70.6% - 3rd best in the league). Both our offensive and defensive fumble recovery rates should regress to the mean next year unless someone on our team has some really bad karma. That's good for us defensively, but bad for us offensively.