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Broncos 3rd & long: playing their game

The Denver Broncos defense was in the zone against the New York Jets playing their brand of football.

New York Jets v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

For the first time in what seems like forever, the Denver Broncos played a complete game. They won on defense, offense and on special teams and in doing so secured their fourth victory of the season more than two months after their third victory of the season. This game was a great matchup for the Broncos - facing a team whose offense fares much worse on the road than at home and whose main threat on offense (vertical outside receivers) is something that our defense still does a good job at taking away; there have been other games this year that should have had everything going for the Broncos, which they still managed to lose. So why was this one different?

We won the turnover battle. The offense did not give the ball away and neither did special teams (unless you count the missed 31 yard FG as a giveaway). This game showed what the 2017 Broncos CAN do if they get league-average play from the QB position. And yes, I know that Trevor Siemian’s play on Sunday appeared to be great, but it only appeared that way because of the absolutes turds that he laid on the field in his last two starts. This was improvement, but improvement in the way that a Chevy Aveo is an improvement over a Yugo: nobody wants to drive either, but the Aveo may actually get you where you’re going alive.

So how dominant was the defense on Sunday? We held the Jets to less than 100 yards of total offense (and zero points). This was the first shutout for the Broncos since 2005 (when we shutout the Jets). There have only been 13 NFL games this century when a team has been held to less than 100 yards and Denver has been involved in two of them - in a good way - on defense. The other time that the Broncos have done it this century was in 2003 when we held the Chargers in Denver to 98 total yards in one of Doug Flutie’s last few career starts. Flutie was held to 9 of 25 for 70 yards in that game with 1 TD and 1 INT. Hall of Famer LaDanian Tomlinson was held to 29 yards rushing and 16 yards receiving. The Broncos won that game 37-8 and were up 37-0 before the starters were pulled. Of the 13 times that this has happened this century, the last time it occurred was in 2012 when the Chiefs were held to 67 yards by the Chargers in a 31-0 loss. The craziest part about these 13 games is that three of the teams that held their opponent to less than 100 yards lost the game.

Tm Date Location Opp Result Opp. Tot Yds
DEN 12/10/2017 NYJ W 23-0 100
SDG 12/12/2010 KAN W 31-0 67
NYJ 1/3/2010 CIN W 37-0 72
NYG 9/27/2009 @ TAM W 24-0 86
ATL 11/2/2008 @ OAK W 24-0 77
JAX 12/17/2006 @ TEN L 17-24 98
PIT 10/29/2006 @ OAK L 13-20 98
BUF 12/12/2004 CLE W 37-7 26
DEN 11/16/2003 SDG W 37-8 96
PIT 12/8/2002 HOU L 6-24 47
TEN 12/25/2000 DAL W 31-0 95
JAX 12/3/2000 CLE W 48-0 53
BAL 9/24/2000 CIN W 37-0 94

Stopping the run on first down

The ground control was back in action this game. The Jets were held to 15 yards on 8 first down carries and two of those carries resulted in lost yards. For the season the Broncos have now allowed 746 rushing yards on 173 first down carries (excluding kneel-downs). That is 4.34 ypc which is 19th in the league. The Colts are leading the league allowing only 3.02 ypc on first down runs while the Pats are worst in the league allowing a crazy 5.27 ypc on first down runs. The second worst team in the league, the Jags, are only allowing 4.89 ypc.

It’s been mostly good this season for the Broncos in terms of stopping the run on first down, but the numbers are marred by three games where we got gashed by first down runs - vs NYG, PHL and MIA. 363 of the 746 first down rushing yards we’ve allowed (49%) on first down were in these three games.

Getting opponents in and stopping them on 3rd & long

In a game where the defense was in almost complete control, they did what you would expect. They held the Jets to 0 of 5 on 3rd and long.

Quarter Time ToGo Location Detail Result
1 7:35 11 NYJ 24 Josh McCown sacked by Brandon Marshall for -9 yards. Josh McCown fumbles (forced by Brandon Marshall), recovered by Adam Gotsis at NYJ-20 (tackle by Kelvin Beachum) stripsack
1 6:00 19 NYJ 16 Josh McCown pass incomplete short middle intended for Austin Seferian-Jenkins incomplete
3 13:07 10 NYJ 36 Josh McCown pass incomplete short right intended for Matt Forte incomplete
4 10:55 7 NYJ 24 Matt Forte middle for 1 yard (tackle by DeMarcus Walker) run but short
4 1:24 7 NYJ 18 Bilal Powell left tackle for -2 yards (tackle by Brandon Marshall) run but short

Overall the Jets were held to 3 of 13 on third down.

For the season we have only allowed conversion on 17 of 78 3rd and longs (21.8%) which is best in the league. Overall we have allowed conversion on 55 of 178 3rd downs (30.9%) which is second best in the league. Both stats include conversion by penalty which I count, even if the league (for some reason) does not. The Vikings are leading the league allowing 28.9% conversion while the Bucs are the worst allowing 48.4% conversion.

Moving forward

The Broncos have never fared well in Indianapolis, but recent history has not really applied much to the Broncos this year. The 3-10 Colts are one of the teams with a worse record than the Broncos. They have a second year QB who was not expected to the starter (sound familiar?) as their QB, Jacoby Brissett, and he is playing as you would expect a mid-round QB in his first year as a starter to play - below average. He has thrown 11 TDs and 7 INTs in 13 starts. His passer rating is 24th in the league among qualifying QBs - which is better than Trevor (32nd). Brissett takes care of the ball when throwing it - his interception % is 11th in the league at 1.84% - but he has a fumbling problem having fumbled eight times this season in 13 games. He plays behind a fairly poor offensive line and has been sacked a league-high 48 times in 13 games or 3.7 times per game.

Getting pressure on Brissett will be key to the Broncos winning the field position battle like they were able to do last Sunday. With a competent punt returner, like Jordan Taylor has proven to be, we should be able to win on Thursday night in what I expect to be a fairly low scoring game. The key for our offense will be establishing some kind of running game. Connor McGovern and Donald Stephenson actually played fairly well together on the right side of the OL against the fairly stout front 7 of the Jets on Sunday. For the Broncos to win on Thursday night, both players will have to play well again.


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