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Broncos 3rd & long: sucker-punched

The Denver Broncos 2017 season feels like a sucker punch too.

NFL: New England Patriots at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Early in the first quarter on a running play that went to the other side of the, Michael Crabtree punched Chris Harris Jr. in the stomach.

“Yeah he just sucker punched me,” Harris said after the game. “I have never seen that in the NFL. Today, he just came out wanting to fight. He didn’t want to play football. It was the second play of the game. It was a run play, I was playing man, and I wasn’t even doing anything. He just came in there, was like BAM, hit me right in the middle of the stomach and I just lost my breath.”

This led to Aqib Talib protecting his teammate on the next play. Both Talib and Crabtree were tossed from the game. If this was a planned move by the Oakland coaching staff, it was dirty as hell, but very shrewd.

Knowing that Crabtree was worth less to their offense than either CHJ and Talib are worth to our defense, this may have well been a strategic move by the Oakland Raiders coaches. I doubt it though.

I think it was just bad blood between two players that spilled over. The result though, with Lorenzo Doss cut and Talib tossed, was Branden Langley playing way more than he should have been playing on defense (63% of our snaps). He is only a few years removed from being a wide receiver at UGA and it showed. He looked lost in coverage many times and his poor play directly led to many 3rd down conversions and at least one TD.

Stopping the run on 1st down

I guess if you want a silver lining this is one. Our short-handed run D (Derek Wolfe played two snaps), limited the Faiders to 51 yards on 19 first down carries (2.68 ypc). This excludes kneel-downs. That included three TFL’s and one stop for no gain on first down runs. Overall, the Faiders were able to run for 107 yards against our D on 34 attempts (3.15 ypc). This also excludes kneel-downs.

For the season we have now allowed 603 yards on 145 first down carries (4.16 ypc). We are 16th in ypc allowed on first down runs which is a big improvement over where we were after the debacle in Philly (dead last). We have 13 TFLs and 20 stops for no gain on first down runs.

Defensive performance on 3rd and Long

This was a bad day for our secondary. Langley is not ready to handle the level of playing time he got on Sunday. Doss may have been great but he looked decent when pressed into service in 2016. Doss had been a healthy scratch for all but two games this season, so the coaches had him lower in the CB depth chart than Langley, but based on Langley’s play Sunday, I have to question that. I don’t get to see all of our great weeks of practice though.

The Faiders were able to convert on four of 8 3rd and long situations.

Quarter Time ToGo Location Detail Yds
1 11:47 15 RAI 15 Derek Carr pass complete deep right to Seth Roberts for 20 yards (tackle by Bradley Roby) conversion by catch
1 4:26 13 DEN 42 Derek Carr sacked by Shelby Harris and Von Miller for -4 yards sack
2 0:58 9 DEN 44 Derek Carr pass complete short right to DeAndre Washington for 2 yards (tackle by Bradley Roby) catch but short
3 7:17 10 RAI 47 Derek Carr pass complete deep left to Johnny Holton for 47 yards (tackle by Darian Stewart) conversion by catch
4 15:00 12 RAI 43 Derek Carr pass complete short right to Jalen Richard for 7 yards (tackle by Chris Harris) catch but short
4 8:58 12 50 Derek Carr pass complete short right to Marshawn Lynch for 26 yards (tackle by Justin Simmons) conversion by catch
4 5:55 13 DEN 17 Derek Carr pass incomplete deep left intended for Jared Cook incomplete
4 2:24 8 RAI 15 Derek Carr pass complete deep middle to Cordarrelle Patterson for 54 yards (tackle by Chris Harris) conversion by catch

The two huge passing plays on 3rd and long were devastating, particularly the last one to Cordarrelle Patterson when we were desperate for a stop to get the ball back. Since CHJ started playing in our secondary, it has been exceedingly rare for us to give up huge plays through the air on 3rd and long. Going back to 2011 it has only happened nine times to our defense and never twice in the same game. Here are all the instances.

Date Tm Quarter Time Down ToGo Location Score Detail Yds
12/4/2011 Vikings 3 3:22 3 10 MIN 48 21-14 Christian Ponder pass complete short left to Percy Harvin for 52 yards, touchdown 52
12/18/2011 Patriots 1 9:04 3 9 NWE 21 0-6 Tom Brady pass complete short middle to Aaron Hernandez for 46 yards (tackle by Chris Harris) 46
12/24/2011 Bills 2 8:14 3 8 BUF 33 0-7 Ryan Fitzpatrick pass complete short middle to Steve Johnson for 55 yards (tackle by Champ Bailey) 55
12/6/2012 Raiders 1 3:49 3 9 RAI 20 0-10 Carson Palmer pass complete deep middle to Rod Streater for 58 yards (tackle by Tony Carter) 58
10/18/2015 Browns 4 12:15 3 9 CLE 21 7-16 Josh McCown pass complete deep left to Travis Benjamin for 47 yards (tackle by Darian Stewart). Penalty on Malik Jackson: Defensive Offside (Declined) 47
11/29/2015 Patriots 4 15:00 3 8 NWE 37 20-7 Tom Brady pass complete deep right to Brandon Bolden for 63 yards, touchdown 63
10/22/2017 Chargers 4 5:51 3 11 DEN 42 20-0 Philip Rivers pass complete short left to Travis Benjamin for 42 yards, touchdown 42
11/26/2017 Raiders 3 7:17 3 10 RAI 47 14-0 Derek Carr pass complete deep left to Johnny Holton for 47 yards (tackle by Darian Stewart) 47
11/26/2017 Raiders 4 2:24 3 8 RAI 15 21-14 Derek Carr pass complete deep middle to Cordarrelle Patterson for 54 yards (tackle by Chris Harris) 54

The 47 yard pass to Holton was not Langley’s fault. That was the result of CHJ releasing him to Darien Stewart who could no keep up with him. The second one was a bad play by Langley coupled with a great throw from Derek Carr. Langley is in straight-up man coverage with no safety help over the top on Cordarrelle Patterson who is off the line but the closest in of the three WR’s in the trips formation. Langley starts with good position, but he stays flat-footed on the snap almost like he is expecting an in or a comeback route. He has to know that Jokeland is going to be running routes to the sticks otherwise there would be no point in throwing the ball in this situation.

He let’s Patterson eat up his cushion (note his feet have not moved) and then can’t flip his hips quickly enough to stay with Patterson who has two steps on him by the time the ball gets there.

This is poor technique by Langley. As a CB, you have to start your backpedal before the WR is on top of you, otherwise you will get beat deep every time. Langley would have been in great position if Patterson were running a 5-yd crossing route, but that doesn’t make much sense on 3rd and 8 with the game in the balance. Notice the position of Langley’s feet in the picture below.

Now, this was a great throw and there is no guarantee that Langley would have been able to make a play even if he had used perfect technique and been in on Patterson’s inside hip running stride for stride with him. Had he been there he would have had a chance to make a great play on the ball to stop the completion. From where he was, there was no chance to do anything but miss the tackle. You have to wonder if Talib was still in the game, then this would have been Bradley Roby covering Patterson. Would Roby have done better on this? I say yes, Roby generally uses great technique. His failures are more mental or effort failures than technique failures like this.

Moving (forward?) on

I know we gave Trevor Siemian 21 starts to prove he is not capable of being a starting QB in the NFL, but I don’t know how much more of Paxton Lynch I will need to see to declare that same about him. I’m almost there after his performance (or lack thereof) on Sunday. The overthrow of a wide open Bennie Fowler on what would have been a surefire TD is at least the third time he has done that in a game. The short-hop throw to 5 yards in front of Emmanuel Sanders on the abortive two minute drive at the end of the first half was also pretty bad. I want to see him improve and turn into a real NFL QB, but the rational part of me says that is never going to happen.

The remaining five games are going to be interesting in that two maybe three of our opponents are similarly stinking it up like we are: the Dolphins (4-7), Colts (3-8) and Jets (4-7) are hoping for the best draft spot they can get. My best friend from college is a huge Dolphins fan since birth. He wants the Broncos to win next week so that the ‘phins get a better draft spot. The Colts have been playing for pride most of the season with a QB who is auditioning for his next job (assuming Luck is back next year). The Colts might choose to keep Jacoby Brissett as their backup in case of another injury to Luck, but he will have a lot of trade value if he continues to play like he has so far this season (60.7% completion, 9 TD, 5 INT, QB rating of 86.0). He’s also been sacked a league-high 43 times.

The Jets, at 4-7, have minute chance of making the playoffs. Why is it minute? Well, right now, were the season to end, the two AFC wildcard teams would be the 7-4 Titans and the 6-5 Bills. The Jets really only have one easy game remaining on their schedule and sadly, that’s their game with us in Denver. Their other four games are KC, @NO, LAC and @NE. They could easily go 1-4 in their remaining five games. We could also beat them in Denver and they could go 0-5. If we beat them but lose our other four games and they lose out, both teams would end up at 4-12. The tie-breaker for draft position is strength of schedule. I’m not sure who would be deemed to have had the harder schedule were we to both finish at 4-12.


How do we finish in the final five games?

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  • 8%
    5-0 (main-lining orange Kool-aid)
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  • 2%
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  • 28%
    0-5 (top three draft pick here we come!)
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