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Broncos 3rd & long: 72 million reasons to like this victory

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At least for one night, John Elway's decision to not try harder and spend more to retain Brock Osweiler looked like a brilliant move. "Brent" had one of the least effective nights for a QB in the history of the league as Wade Phillips showed that he learned a few things last year about how to stifle our former signal caller.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

From an NFL player perspective the money offered to Brock Osweiler by the Texans (4 yrs, 72 million with 37 guaranteed) was not that much different from the money that John Elway offered (4 yrs, 68 million, 32 guaranteed). For whatever reason, "Brent" Osweiler chose to leave. I'm not going to touch on the other reasons as that was much discussed when the defection occurred. From the results last night, it would appear that our defense and our defensive coordinator learned how to shut down Brock in the four years that he spent running the scout team in Denver. Brock had the third lowest yards per attempt in the post-merger history of the NFL for a QB with 40 or more passing attempts. He threw the ball 41 times for 131 yards last night. That averages to 3.2 yards per attempt, meaning that Brock would not have gained 10 yards in three passes. Let that sink in. Smile. Then read on.

3rd worst ypa performance since the merger by a QB with 40+ attempts

Stopping the Run on 1st Down

I'm going to start with the run defense since it was not very good last night. While the Texans weren't gashing us with the run (consistently getting long runs), they were getting over 5 yards per carry for the game. They tried many passes on 1st down, only running the ball 9 times for 35 yards on (3.89 ypc), but that number is a little misleading. It contains the fumbled shotgun snap that Brock fell on for a 5 yard loss (that counted as a run not a sack). On the other 8 first down runs the Texans were able to between 2 and 7 yards on every carry. They ran the ball decently well on second down against us as well - 11 carries for 43 yards (3.91 ypc). Interestingly enough, they did their most damage against our defense yesterday with 3rd down runs - 5 carries for 57 yards (11.4 ypc) including runs of 25 (Lamar Miller), 17 (Alfred Blue) and 10 (Brock) yards.  Those five 3rd down runs accounted for 21% of all of the yards our defense gave up last night. On their other 62 offensive plays last night, Houston gained 214 yards - 3.45 yards per play. The worst offense in the league (SF) is averaging 4.5 ypp.

For the season we have now allowed 387 yards on 94 first down runs - 4.12 ypc - which is 11th in the league. The Vikings are in 1st allowing only 3.20 ypc on first down runs while SF is now in last allowing 5.45 ypc on first down runs. With our one TFL on first down we now have seven TFL's and six stops for no gain on first down runs in seven games. That is near the bottom of the league - tied for 26th in absolute number of runs stopped for zero or negative yards on first down. The Rams lead the league with 35 such stops on first down runs - 35% of 1st down runs against them this year have resulted in zero or negative yards. We are currently at 14%. The Giants are worst in the league with only 10%.

Stopping the opponent on 3rd and long

Because of their ability to get 5.5 yards per carry against the Broncos defense yesterday, the Broncos didn't force many 3rd and long's.

Quarter Time ToGo Location Detail Result
1 7:19 8 DEN 25 Brock Osweiler pass incomplete short left intended for Alfred Blue Incomplete
2 1:11 10 HTX 28 Brock Osweiler pass complete short left to Ryan Griffin for 4 yards (tackle by Brandon Marshall) Catch by short
3 9:25 9 DEN 16 Brock Osweiler pass incomplete deep right intended for Alfred Blue Incomplete
3 5:30 8 DEN 44 Brock Osweiler middle for 10 yards (tackle by Chris Harris). Brock Osweiler fumbles (forced by Chris Harris), recovered by Brock Osweiler at DEN-34 Conversion by scramble
4 4:51 10 HTX 34 Brock Osweiler pass incomplete short right intended for DeAndre Hopkins (defended by Aqib Talib) Incomplete
4 1:19 8 HTX 27 Brock Osweiler pass complete short middle to C.J. Fiedorowicz for 8 yards (tackle by T.J. Ward and Jared Crick) Conversion by catch

The Texans were able to convert on two of six, but the bigger story to me is that we were only able to force them into 3rd and long six times in 18 3rd down situations. They were 7 of 18 overall on third down with only two of those seven conversion coming via the pass. Osweiler was held to 4 of 12 for 16 yards when throwing the ball on 3rd down (although he did run for one).

For the season we have now allowed conversion on 31.4% of 3rd and longs (including conversions allowed by penalty) - that is in the bottom half of the league. Oakland is leading the league right now at 13.8% allowed and NOR is last with 42.9% allowed on 3rd and long. Overall we have allowed conversion on 37% of 3rd downs this year, which is 11th in the league right now. The Phins are leading the league at 31% while the Lions are allowing conversion on 51% of 3rd downs so far this year.

Moving Forward

We have the Chargers again on Sunday in Denver. If we can run the ball even close to as well as we did yesterday, We'll beat the Chargers handily. Defensively our LBs looked much better in coverage yesterday than they did in the previous two games. Improved coverage from our LBs should allow us to stifle the long drives that SD was able to author against us two weeks ago. Keep in mind that our defense only allowed 19 points to the Chargers in the last game even with the complete ineptitude of our offense for the first three quarters of the game. How do you see our defense doing against the Bolts on Sunday?