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Broncos offense has some serious first down woes

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On first downs, the Denver Broncos can barely muster two yards a play lately. That’s pretty terrible.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

I’m going to take a break from 3rd and long this week, other than to cover it very briefly.

The Broncos allowed the Chiefs to convert on 6-of-18 3rd downs (one via penalty) and 2-of-12 on 3rd and long. For the season Denver is allowing 38.9% conversion on 3rd down overall, which is in the top-third of the league (including penalty conversions). If you exclude conversions by penalty, the Broncos are 5th allowing only 36.9%. On 3rd and long, they are allowing conversion on 31.0% which is 19th in the league. The Baltimore Ravens continue to be the best defense at preventing conversion on 3rd and long allowing only 18.8% conversion.

For the second game in a row, Denver did a good job of stopping the run on first down. The Chiefs were only able to gain 54 yards on 15 first down carries (3.6 ypc). For the season, the Broncos are allowing 4.27 ypc on first down which is 20th in the league.

Now, to what I really want to discuss - the horrible offensive production on first down for the past two games. The average NFL play gains 5.5 yards so far this year in the NFL. The Denver offense has done significantly worse than that on first down plays this year - averaging 4.9 ypp. I was surprised it was that high. Below is a chronological plot of the yards gained on every first down play the Broncos have run this season - incomplete passes count as 0 yards gained.

Notice how poorly the offensive has been performing on first down over the past two games (most of the gains are 3 yards or less). Also note that the 69-yard catch and run by Kapri Bibbs (which was on first down) is off-scale on this chart. It also makes the Broncos’ performance in the game in Oakland look much better than it actually was - although, even leaving it out gives the Broncos a value of 5.6 ypp on 1st down against the Raiders. Here are the average ypp our offense has gained on first down this year parsed by game

The only loss where Denver averaged more than 3.6 ypp on first down was the loss to the Raiders.

In case you were wondering, here are the first down gains from the loss to the Chiefs:

-1, 2, 14, 7, 4, 1, -4, 3, 5, 14, 8, 9, 0, 3, 0, -1, 2, 0, 1, 3, -1, -1, -1, 7, 0, -2, 0, 8, 0, 0

That’s right - seven of our 30 first down plays on Sunday night lost yardage and 14-of-30 gained zero or fewer yards. I know, the Broncos scored 27 points, but that is garbage offense when almost half of the time you are in 2nd and 10 or worse.

I don’t know what can be done to change it, but the offense on first down over the past two games has been offensive.