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Broncos 3rd & long: the offense is M.I.A.

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The Denver Broncos defense did not allow a single third and long conversion from the New England Patriots. They even held the Patriots to 3.5 yards per carry on first downs. All of this was for naught as the Broncos offense is completely M.I.A.

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

I wasn’t able to watch the game on Sunday (by decree of she-who-must-be-obeyed as we were on a weekend getaway with grandma watching the kids) and I am a happier man because of it. Reading about the game, I would have only been miserable because of the frustration that I felt, the frustration because of the wasted effort by our defense, the frustration because of the inability of our offensive coaches to adjust and the frustration of what (barring two miracles) will be a wasted season for the Denver Broncos.

Over the course of the last three games the offense has more drives ending in fumbles than ending in touchdowns. Over the course of the last three games our offense has converted on 7 of 37 3rd down chances. Over the course of the last three games our offense has had 14 3-and-outs (and we are now tied for the league lead at 50 for the season). Over the course of the last three games our offense has regressed, scoring 13, 10 and 3 points respectively. As much as it pains me to type this, it would not surprise me in the least if our offense scored 0 (see the trend) against the Chiefs on a cold and rainy December night in Arrowhead. Right now our offense (and our offensive coaches) are playing checkers while opposing defensive coordinators are playing chess.

Defense on 3rd & long

The P*ts came into the game with one of the best offenses in the league (if not the best). Our defense held them to 16 points (3 of which were gifted them by Jordan (why the f#%k was he activated) Norwood and they were only able to convert on 6 of 17 3rd downs (one via penalty)

Quarter Time Down ToGo Location Detail Result
1 13:08 3 10 DEN 31 Dion Lewis middle for 4 yards (tackle by Von Miller) Catch but short
1 10:04 3 8 NWE 17 Tom Brady pass incomplete short right intended for James White Incomplete
1 4:56 3 10 DEN 44 Tom Brady pass incomplete short left intended for James White Incomplete
3 12:43 3 9 NWE 26 Tom Brady sacked by Shane Ray for -7 yards. Penalty on Joe Thuney: Offensive Holding (Declined) Sack
4 13:27 3 10 NWE 35 Tom Brady pass complete short right to James White for 4 yards (tackle by Todd Davis) Catch but short

They were only forced into 3rd & long situations (7 or more needed) five times and they were not able to convert on any of those. Where they were successful was in staying out of long yardage situations on 3rd down. They had six short (1-3 yards needed, converting 4 of 6 - one by penalty) and six medium yardage (3-6 yards needed, converting 2 of 6) situations.

Our defense is currently 7th in 3rd down conversion % allowed overall (38.3%), and we have moved up to 15th in allowing conversion on 3rd and long (29.2%). These numbers might be comforting to us if we had an offense capable of scoring points.

Stopping the Run on 1st down

The P*ts were able to gain 60 yards on 17 first down carries (3.53 ypc). For the year we have allowed exactly 900 yards on 219 first down runs (4.11 ypc). That is good for 13th in the league. We were able to get one stop for no gain and one TFL on first down runs this game giving us 12 and 10 for the year respectively. Our 22 stops for 0 or fewer yards on first down runs this year is 30th in the league. Only TEN and NYG (tied for dead last have fewer with 32). For comparison, the Rams lead the league with 65.

One of the keys to the success of the No Fly Zone in 2015 was the ability of the front 7 to stop the run on first down. We finished the regular season last year allowing 3.17 ypc on first down runs. We are allowing almost one full yard more this year and it’s the reason why our defense does not seem as dominant this year, because it has not been as dominant.

Closing Thoughts

Our defense has regressed and our offense has regressed. Some regression from the defense was to be expected since the 2015 D was one of the best in the history of the league, but no one expected regression from the offense. Just about every fan that I talked with before the season was expecting improvement (some more than others) from the offense. This offensive regression is what is going to end up costing the Broncos a season in which moderately effective offense would have been enough to make us legitimate Super Bowl repeat contenders.