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Broncos 3rd and long: Riders on the storm

How'd the defense do in getting off the field in third and long situations?

NFL: Denver Broncos at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

So the Broncos survived a dreaded trip to the east coast and a nasty thunderstorm to sink the Buccaneers. I’m not going to lie. I was a little worried when they put together a nice drive to tie the game at 7. I got more worried when Trevor Siemian was forced to leave the game with his shoulder injury. Thankfully, the Broncos were not worried. They were prepared and resolute and the end result was our first comfortable victory in quite some time. The defense dominated - with the exception of one drive and the offense looked good despite having to rely on our completely inexperienced rookie QB for half of the game.

Stopping the Run on 1st Down

Let’s start by looking at the performance against the first down runs. The Bucs were without their Pro-bowl RB, Doug Martin, and they entered the game with one of the worst running games in the league, so the expectation was that our run D would stuff them handily. Our front 7 did just that. The Bucs were limited to 35 yards on 12 first down carries (2.92 ypc) with 12 of those yards coming on one Jacquizz Rodgers run. Seven of their 12 first down runs were stopped for 1 yard or less with one stop for no gain. The average yards needed to gain on second down for the Bucs on Sunday was 9.90. That number speaks for itself. Of the 21 second down plays that the Bucs ran, only three gained enough yardage for a first down and the Bucs did not have a single second and short (1-3 yards needed) situation.

For the season we have now allowed 207 yards on 53 first down runs (3.91 ypc). We are now 11th in the league with the Packers ranked 1st allowing only 2.07 ypc on 1st down runs and the Ravens ranked last allowing 5.44 ypc.

Performance on 3rd and Long

The Bucs were actually successful early at converting on 3rd and long - converting on their first two attempts and three of their first five. However, after they converted on 3rd and 9 with 5:09 left to play in the 2nd quarter, they would not convert again on 3rd and long.

Quarter Time Down ToGo Location Result
1 10:39 3 7 DEN 46 Jameis Winston pass complete deep middle to Vincent Jackson for 18 yards (tackle by Darian Stewart) conversion by catch
1 9:23 3 7 DEN 25 Jameis Winston pass complete short left to Cameron Brate for 14 yards (tackle by Darian Stewart) conversion by catch
1 2:09 3 17 TAM 32 Jameis Winston pass complete short left to Charles Sims for -2 yards (tackle by Jared Crick) catch but short
2 13:22 3 10 TAM 28 Jameis Winston pass incomplete short right intended for Mike Evans is intercepted by Aqib Talib at TAM-42 and returned for 15 yards interception
2 10:24 3 17 TAM 21 Jameis Winston pass incomplete deep right intended for Mike Evans. Penalty on Will Parks: Defensive Pass Interference, 24 yards (no play) conversion by penalty
2 9:29 3 8 TAM 47 Jacquizz Rodgers middle for 3 yards (tackle by Brandon Marshall). Penalty on Joe Hawley: Offensive Holding, 10 yards catch but short
2 9:03 3 15 TAM 40 Jameis Winston pass complete short left to Cameron Brate for 8 yards (tackle by Chris Harris) catch but short
2 5:09 3 9 DEN 49 Jameis Winston pass complete short left to Vincent Jackson for 14 yards (tackle by Bradley Roby) conversion by catch
3 6:23 3 9 TAM 26 Jameis Winston sacked by Derek Wolfe for -8 yards sack
4 13:54 3 9 TAM 41 Jameis Winston pass incomplete short left intended for Mike Evans incomplete
4 1:53 3 34 TAM 39 Jameis Winston sacked by Shaquil Barrett for -9 yards sack

They finished the game 4 of 11 on 3rd and long conversions with one coming via penalty (DPI on Will Parks). I count those while most stat outlets don’t. For the season the Broncos have now allowed conversion on 12 of 30 (40%) 3rd and long situations. That is 28th in the league, but you have to think that our defense will improve since three of the first four QBs we have faced so far were the #1 overall draft pick. So far San Diego is #1 is this stat having only allowed conversion on 2 of 19 (10.5%) 3rd and longs while Washington is last allowing conversion on 60% (15 of 25).

Overall the Bucs converted on 6 of 18 3rd downs (33%) against us on Sunday. Only two of those 3rd down situations were 3rd and short and we stopped them on both of those (TFL/fumble and sack). All three of the turnovers that we forced were on 3rd down.

Interestingly, our offense has been good at converting on 3rd and long. We are currently 6th in the league converting on 9 of 24 (37.5%), but we have been great in two games and poor in the other two. Against CIN and IND we were 7 of 12 on 3rd and long (58.3%) while against CAR and TAM we were a combined 2 of 12 (16.7%). It will be interesting to see which offense shows up next week against the Falcons.

Moving Forward

The Broncos are 4-0 despite having played two guys at QB who had a combined one NFL snap coming into the season. I’m not a betting man, but I would guess that if you have laid some money down on the Broncos starting 4-0, you’d have realized a nice return right now. The Falcons come into this game next week with the hottest offense in the league. They are first averaging an astounding 38.0 ppg at this point. Our defense is currently 5th allowing 16.0 ppg. Something is going to give. With their defense showing little ability to stop anyone (29th in scoring defense allowing 31.0 ppg) does this turn into a shoot-out or does our defense stifle their league-leading offense?