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Broncos 3rd and Long: Chiefs go 0 for 7 on third downs

Our defense was not as dominant in this one as we were in the first game, but they made the plays when it mattered most forcing 4 turnovers (the other was on special teams) and making life for Al(ex) Smith difficult all night long.

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

I'm still trying to comprehend the game that I witnessed last night. It was such a roller coaster of emotion; I was brought back to memories of the epic comeback against the Chargers in San Diego in 2012. While we weren't down as far in this game (14 was our biggest deficit), we were on the ropes in the first half.

The offense was sputtering, the Chiefs were starting to move the ball and the crowd was raging.I don't know who made the decision to change up the offensive tactics, but the 80-yard TD drive late in the second quarter was desperately needed. It was only possible because we went to the spread/shotgun offense that we had employed so successfully the past two seasons. Prior to that drive our drives had ended like this: punt, punt, punt, downs, interception. Our first team offense had gone something like 37 drives (including pre-season) without a touchdown. That drive was the turning point of the game. Our offense found some confidence and our defense realized that they weren't going to have to do it all themselves this game.

Our defense only allowed one 3rd conversion this game (although it doesn't show up in the official NFL gamebook because they don't count 3rd down conversions by penalty for some strange reason). We forced the Chiefs into 3rd and long 6 times. Here are the situations and the results

Situation Play Result
3rd and 24 at KC 31 Alex Smith Incomplete Pass, Int'd For Albert Wilson incomplete
3rd and 8 at KC 24 Von Miller 15 yard Personal Foul Penalty conversion by penalty
3rd and 9 at DEN 20 Alex Smith Pass Complete for 3 Yrds to Jamaal Charles complete by short
3rd and 12 at KC 7 Alex Smith Pass Complete for 8 Yrds to De'Anthony Thomas complete by short
3rd and 10 at KC 30 Alex Smith Sacked by Antonio Smith For 8 Yrd Loss to KC 22 sack
3rd and 10 at DEN 17 Pass Intrcptd by Chris Harris Jr., 20 Yrd Retrn interception

The lone conversion came on the questionable personal foul on Von Miller. It's questionable because of how late the refs were in blowing their whistles. Below is a screenshot from the exact moment when you hear the whistle blow  

(Remember the Chiefs had a false start on this play). Von Miller is running full-speed at Al(ex) Smith at this point and it's impossible for him to stop before hitting him. If you watch the video you notice that  Von does not try to wrap him up or take him to the ground.

Von Miller is running full-speed when the whistle blew, and it's impossible for him to stop before hitting Alex Smith

Performance on 3rd and Long (7 or more needed to gain)

The NFL gamebook shows us as holding the the Chiefs to 0 conversions in 7 tries on 3rd down. For the season we have now allowed conversion on two of 14 (14%) of 3rd and long situations. Overall we have only allowed conversion on four of 22 (18%) 3rd downs overall - and that is including the two conversion by penalty that we have allowed on 3rd down this season (PI on David Bruton vs BAL and the PF on Von Miller last night). According to the official NFL stats we have held our two opponents this year to two of 20 on 3rd down (10%).

Stopping the Run on First Down

The Chiefs were able to gain yardage against us on first down runs where the Ravens were not. KC ran the ball 17 times for 64 yards on first down against us last night. That's a far cry from the 11 for 18 that we allowed to the Raisins, even though that is only 3.8 yards per carry. Jamaal Charles got 15 of those 17 first down carries. The big run against us last night occurred on 2nd down (34 yd TD run). We only had one stop for no gain and zero tackles for loss on first down runs last night. In case you haven't heard, Jamaal Charles is pretty good - when he's not fumbling the ball.

For the young season we have now allowed 82 yards on 28 first down carries (2.9 ypc). Overall we have allowed 217 rushing yards on 53 carries (4.1 ypc). The League average last season was 4.3.

What it all means

The Broncos defense has now forced seven turnovers in two games. To put that in perspective, the 2008 Broncos forced 13 total. The most turnovers forced by the Broncos over the past 20 season is 44 in 2000. The franchise record is 55 set by the 1984 team (31 INTs and 24 fumbles recovered). That '84 team had a run of four games where they forced 27 turnovers (10 vs DET, 5 vs GB, 5 vs BUF and 7 vs LAR). That 10-turnover game conflicts with the official NFL record, which states that the most turnovers by one team in an NFL game is 9. I'm going to have to trust the NFL site over PFR, but it would be really cool if our defense actually held the single game record for forced turnovers. PFR shows that we had seven interceptions and three fumble recoveries in that game.  While I doubt we will top 55 turnovers forced this season, I would not be surprised to see us lead the league in forced turnovers this season. (Turnovers happen less frequently now than they did 30 years ago in the NFL).  At our current rate of 3.5 per game we would surpass the team record by one and finish with 56 forced turnovers. The best that any defense has done this century is 49 forced turnovers (2000 Ravens).

FWIW - three of the seven turnovers that we have forced have come on 3rd down plays.