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2016 review: Broncos first drive, first quarter woes

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The Denver Broncos last season were notorious for starting slow on both sides of the ball.

NFL: New England Patriots at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

In case you forgot, the Broncos tended to sleepwalk through the beginning of games, both on offense and on defense in 2016. The defense was particularly bad in the opening drive for the opponent (at least in the first half of the year)

Opponent Date Plays Length Yds Result
CAR 9/8/2016 8 ( 3 P, 5 R, 0 Y) 4:24 71 Touchdown
IND 9/18/2016 7 ( 3 P, 3 R, 0 Y) 3:24 26 Field Goal
CIN 9/25/2016 5 ( 1 P, 4 R, 0 Y) 2:50 74 Touchdown
TAM 10/2/2016 3 ( 1 P, 2 R, 0 Y) 1:29 4 Interception
ATL 10/9/2016 9 ( 6 P, 3 R, 0 Y) 3:42 75 Touchdown
SDG 10/13/2016 12 ( 10 P, 4 R, 0 Y) 7:00 75 Touchdown
HOU 10/24/2016 3 ( 1 P, 2 R, 0 Y) 1:23 5 Punt
SDG 10/30/2016 7 ( 4 P, 3 R, 0 Y) 3:41 85 Touchdown
OAK 11/6/2016 8 ( 4 P, 3 R, 0 Y) 4:12 47 Field Goal
NOR 11/13/2016 5 ( 3 P, 2 R, 1 Y) 2:00 12 Punt
KAN 11/27/2016 3 ( 1 P, 2 R, 0 Y) 1:32 4 Punt
JAX 12/4/2016 3 ( 2 P, 1 R, 1 Y) 1:32 4 Punt
TEN 12/11/2016 11 ( 2 P, 9 R, 0 Y) 6:06 70 Touchdown
NWE 12/18/2016 4 ( 1 P, 2 R, 0 Y) 1:44 7 Punt
KAN 12/25/2016 7 ( 2 P, 5 R, 0 Y) 3:51 77 Touchdown
OAK 1/1/2017 6 ( 2 P, 4 R, 1 Y) 4:16 16 Punt

Note that in the first half of the season, our defense gave up a score on the opponent’s opening drive six times in eight games. This improved in the second half of the season as we only allowed scores on three opening drives in the final eight games. So overall the D allowed scores on 9 out of 16 opening drives. That doesn’t sound too bad until you put in into context. It was one of the worst opening drives scoring% values in the league for a defense in 2016.

Tm Plays Yds Time Start Scores SC% Tos Trnovr% Punts Punt% GetBack% TDs TD%
Texans 5.1 21.5 2:35 Opp 28 3 18.8% 3 18.8% 9 56.3% 75.1% 2 12.5%
Ravens 4.8 19.3 2:26 Opp 23 3 18.8% 3 18.8% 9 56.3% 75.1% 3 18.8%
Steelers 5.7 27.1 2:46 Opp 28 4 25.0% 3 18.8% 9 56.3% 75.1%
Jaguars 5.1 23.4 2:39 Opp 29 4 25.0% 0 0.0% 12 75.0% 75.0% 3 18.8%
Patriots 5.4 19.9 2:39 Opp 25 4 25.0% 0 0.0% 12 75.0% 75.0% 1 6.3%
Eagles 5.8 23.7 2:48 Opp 27 4 25.0% 0 0.0% 11 68.8% 68.8% 3 18.8%
Cardinals 4.9 17.9 2:42 Opp 29 5 31.3% 2 12.5% 9 56.3% 68.8% 4 25.0%
Rams 5.3 24.9 2:45 Opp 30 5 31.3% 1 6.3% 10 62.5% 68.8% 4 25.0%
Bills 7.1 31.6 3:42 Opp 25 5 31.3% 1 6.3% 9 56.3% 62.6% 2 12.5%
49ers 5.0 23.4 2:18 Opp 30 4 25.0% 4 25.0% 6 37.5% 62.5% 3 18.8%
Raiders 6.1 32.4 3:02 Opp 25 5 31.3% 2 12.5% 8 50.0% 62.5% 2 12.5%
Chiefs 6.8 40.4 3:22 Opp 25 6 37.5% 2 12.5% 8 50.0% 62.5% 4 25.0%
Vikings 6.4 34.2 3:34 Opp 23 6 37.5% 2 12.5% 8 50.0% 62.5% 2 12.5%
Seahawks 5.6 26.9 2:59 Opp 27 6 37.5% 2 12.5% 8 50.0% 62.5% 4 25.0%
Lions 7.8 40.4 4:32 Opp 23 6 37.5% 0 0.0% 9 56.3% 56.3% 5 31.3%
Bears 7.8 43.0 4:10 Opp 25 7 43.8% 2 12.5% 7 43.8% 56.3% 4 25.0%
Packers 6.2 33.0 3:07 Opp 24 7 43.8% 2 12.5% 7 43.8% 56.3% 4 25.0%
Dolphins 6.8 36.4 3:28 Opp 29 7 43.8% 2 12.5% 7 43.8% 56.3% 5 31.3%
Redskins 6.3 32.1 3:10 Opp 25 7 43.8% 0 0.0% 9 56.3% 56.3% 4 25.0%
Giants 6.8 39.4 3:44 Opp 25 8 50.0% 1 6.3% 7 43.8% 50.1% 5 31.3%
Colts 6.4 32.9 3:11 Opp 25 7 43.8% 0 0.0% 8 50.0% 50.0% 3 18.8%
Buccaneers 5.7 36.8 2:47 Opp 28 7 43.8% 0 0.0% 8 50.0% 50.0% 6 37.5%
Panthers 7.1 32.2 3:24 Opp 32 7 43.8% 4 25.0% 4 25.0% 50.0% 3 18.8%
Falcons 6.9 45.4 3:44 Opp 25 8 50.0% 2 12.5% 6 37.5% 50.0% 7 43.8%
Saints 6.3 35.4 3:17 Opp 32 8 50.0% 0 0.0% 8 50.0% 50.0% 4 25.0%
Jets 5.8 39.3 3:03 Opp 30 8 50.0% 0 0.0% 8 50.0% 50.0% 6 37.5%
Titans 5.4 37.8 2:35 Opp 27 8 50.0% 1 6.3% 6 37.5% 43.8% 7 43.8%
Cowboys 7.8 43.3 4:08 Opp 28 8 50.0% 0 0.0% 7 43.8% 43.8% 3 18.8%
Chargers 7.7 39.4 3:42 Opp 24 9 56.3% 2 12.5% 5 31.3% 43.8% 2 12.5%
Broncos 6.3 40.8 3:19 Opp 29 9 56.3% 1 6.3% 6 37.5% 43.8% 7 43.8%
Bengals 6.4 41.0 3:05 Opp 24 9 56.3% 0 0.0% 7 43.8% 43.8% 7 43.8%
Browns 7.0 47.2 3:43 Opp 27 10 62.5% 1 6.3% 5 31.3% 37.6% 8 50.0%

The Texans and Ravens allowed scores on 3 of 16 opening drives. Additionally both of those teams forced three turnovers on their opponents opening drives. We forced one. In fact if you add the punts forced and the turnovers forced, four defenses got the ball back from the other team on 12 of 16 drives - 75% of the time - Houston, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Jacksonville. The score% that the Broncos allowed on opening drives - 56.3% - tied for 31st - is even more interesting if you look at the drives allowed the rest of the game by the Broncos D in 2016.

Our defense faced 189 drives in 2016, 58 of which ended in scores (30.7%). So if we pull out the nine scores on the 16 opening drives, we find the after the opening drive, our defense allowed scores on 28.3% of drives. That would have moved us from 5th in the league in score% allowed up to 2nd.

Team Defense full year score%

Tm #Dr Scores Pct
Patriots 179 48 26.80%
Seahawks 180 52 28.90%
Ravens 184 54 29.30%
Giants 194 59 30.40%
Broncos 189 58 30.70%
Texans 180 59 32.80%
Rams 183 60 32.80%
Chiefs 175 58 33.10%
Cardinals 187 63 33.70%
Vikings 175 60 34.30%
Steelers 175 61 34.90%
Cowboys 167 59 35.30%
Bengals 170 61 35.90%
Eagles 175 63 36.00%
Raiders 183 67 36.60%
Dolphins 186 68 36.60%
Titans 167 62 37.10%
Buccaneers 178 66 37.10%
Panthers 186 71 38.20%
Lions 157 63 40.10%
Redskins 164 66 40.20%
Jets 171 69 40.40%
Falcons 171 69 40.40%
Bills 175 71 40.60%
Chargers 181 74 40.90%
Jaguars 183 75 41.00%
Browns 173 73 42.20%
Packers 167 71 42.50%
Colts 168 73 43.50%
49ers 191 84 44.00%
Bears 161 73 45.30%
Saints 166 78 47.00%

This first drive ineptitude by the defense was magnified by the first drive ineptitude of our offense. Offensively we only scored on four of 16 opening drives. That was tied for 29th in the league with two other teams. Keep in mind that one of those opening drive scores was the one-play TD drive against TB following the interception. We didn’t score our first TRUE opening drive TD until the Saints game - the 10th game of the season.

Date Opp Plays Length Yds Result
9/8/2016 CAR 8 ( 5 P, 3 R, 0 Y) 3:23 46 Fumble
9/18/2016 IND 7 ( 4 P, 2 R, 0 Y) 3:19 39 Missed FG
9/25/2016 CIN 3 ( 3 P, 0 R, 0 Y) 1:03 9 Punt
10/2/2016 TAM 1 ( 1 P, 0 R, 0 Y) 0:05 11 Touchdown
10/9/2016 ATL 6 ( 3 P, 3 R, 0 Y) 2:32 23 Punt
10/13/2016 SDG 5 ( 3 P, 2 R, 0 Y) 2:22 21 Punt
10/24/2016 HOU 3 ( 3 P, 0 R, 0 Y) 1:04 0 Punt
10/30/2016 SDG 9 ( 7 P, 1 R, 0 Y) 3:55 65 Field Goal
11/6/2016 OAK 3 ( 3 P, 0 R, 0 Y) 0:27 0 Punt
11/13/2016 NOR 13 ( 9 P, 6 R, 0 Y) 7:15 85 Touchdown
11/27/2016 KAN 3 ( 2 P, 1 R, 0 Y) 2:09 -1 Punt
12/4/2016 JAX 3 ( 2 P, 1 R, 0 Y) 0:49 1 Punt
12/11/2016 TEN 3 ( 3 P, 0 R, 0 Y) 1:25 3 Punt
12/18/2016 NWE 4 ( 2 P, 2 R, 0 Y) 1:09 20 Punt
12/25/2016 KAN 6 ( 4 P, 2 R, 0 Y) 2:10 12 Punt
1/1/2017 OAK 8 ( 7 P, 3 R, 0 Y) 4:45 84 Touchdown

The numbers don’t lie. Both our offense and our defense were poor on their opening drive in 2016. The key difference is that while our defense generally rebounded and play well after that, our offense, for the most part didn’t. The defense was one of the worst in the league on the opening drive in terms of score%, but then became one of the best in the league after the opening opponent’s drive. The offense was one of the worst in the league on their opening drive, but they only improved marginally in the rest of the game. Overall our offense had a score% of 31.7% for 2016 - 25th in the league.

Offensive Drive Performance for 2016

Tm Drives Scores Sc% Trnov TO% Punts Punt% TDs TD% FGs FG% INTs INT% Fums FUM% DWNS DWNS%
Falcons 165 92 55.80% 11 6.70% 48 29.10% 58 35.20% 34 20.60% 7 4.20% 4 2.40% 6 3.60%
Saints 175 83 47.40% 23 13.10% 57 32.60% 55 31.40% 28 16.00% 15 8.60% 8 4.60% 1 0.60%
Packers 166 77 46.40% 16 9.60% 56 33.70% 51 30.70% 26 15.70% 8 4.80% 8 4.80% 9 5.40%
Cowboys 164 76 46.30% 15 9.10% 58 35.40% 49 29.90% 27 16.50% 6 3.70% 9 5.50% 1 0.60%
Redskins 164 76 46.30% 20 12.20% 49 29.90% 42 25.60% 34 20.70% 12 7.30% 8 4.90% 7 4.30%
Patriots 173 78 45.10% 9 5.20% 72 41.60% 51 29.50% 27 15.60% 2 1.20% 7 4.00% 4 2.30%
Colts 170 73 42.90% 22 12.90% 55 32.40% 46 27.10% 27 15.90% 15 8.80% 7 4.10% 10 5.90%
Lions 151 64 42.40% 14 9.30% 62 41.10% 33 21.90% 31 20.50% 10 6.60% 4 2.60% 3 2.00%
Steelers 172 70 40.70% 18 10.50% 68 39.50% 46 26.70% 24 14.00% 15 8.70% 3 1.70% 6 3.50%
Raiders 186 75 40.30% 14 7.50% 81 43.50% 46 24.70% 29 15.60% 7 3.80% 7 3.80% 7 3.80%
Eagles 173 69 39.90% 20 11.60% 63 36.40% 34 19.70% 35 20.20% 14 8.10% 6 3.50% 13 7.50%
Chiefs 168 66 39.30% 16 9.50% 76 45.20% 35 20.80% 31 18.50% 8 4.80% 8 4.80% 4 2.40%
Seahawks 177 69 39.00% 18 10.20% 71 40.10% 36 20.30% 33 18.60% 12 6.80% 6 3.40% 6 3.40%
Chargers 178 69 38.80% 33 18.50% 59 33.10% 43 24.20% 26 14.60% 21 11.80% 12 6.70% 3 1.70%
Titans 176 67 38.10% 18 10.20% 77 43.80% 45 25.60% 22 12.50% 11 6.30% 7 4.00% 7 4.00%
Bills 173 65 37.60% 12 6.90% 75 43.40% 46 26.60% 19 11.00% 7 4.00% 5 2.90% 7 4.00%
Bengals 171 63 36.80% 15 8.80% 78 45.60% 35 20.50% 28 16.40% 8 4.70% 7 4.10% 2 1.20%
Ravens 188 68 36.20% 20 10.60% 80 42.60% 30 16.00% 38 20.20% 16 8.50% 4 2.10% 10 5.30%
Cardinals 191 69 36.10% 28 14.70% 78 40.80% 48 25.10% 21 11.00% 17 8.90% 11 5.80% 3 1.60%
Panthers 189 67 35.40% 27 14.30% 76 40.20% 37 19.60% 30 15.90% 19 10.10% 8 4.20% 4 2.10%
Vikings 166 57 34.30% 13 7.80% 74 44.60% 30 18.10% 27 16.30% 5 3.00% 8 4.80% 10 6.00%
Buccaneers 173 59 34.10% 27 15.60% 70 40.50% 37 21.40% 22 12.70% 18 10.40% 9 5.20% 3 1.70%
Jaguars 186 60 32.30% 26 14.00% 77 41.40% 33 17.70% 27 14.50% 16 8.60% 10 5.40% 9 4.80%
Texans 180 58 32.20% 23 12.80% 72 40.00% 23 12.80% 35 19.40% 16 8.90% 7 3.90% 14 7.80%
Broncos 189 60 31.70% 23 12.20% 89 47.10% 31 16.40% 29 15.30% 11 5.80% 12 6.30% 6 3.20%
Dolphins 185 58 31.40% 21 11.40% 90 48.60% 42 22.70% 16 8.60% 15 8.10% 6 3.20% 3 1.60%
Jets 180 55 30.60% 34 18.90% 75 41.70% 28 15.60% 27 15.00% 25 13.90% 9 5.00% 7 3.90%
Giants 183 53 29.00% 25 13.70% 93 50.80% 32 17.50% 21 11.50% 16 8.70% 9 4.90% 9 4.90%
Bears 169 47 27.80% 30 17.80% 68 40.20% 29 17.20% 18 10.70% 19 11.20% 11 6.50% 10 5.90%
49ers 195 54 27.70% 23 11.80% 100 51.30% 36 18.50% 18 9.20% 10 5.10% 13 6.70% 6 3.10%
Browns 179 49 27.40% 24 13.40% 83 46.40% 28 15.60% 21 11.70% 14 7.80% 10 5.60% 5 2.80%
Rams 186 42 22.60% 28 15.10% 98 52.70% 23 12.40% 19 10.20% 20 10.80% 8 4.30% 11 5.90%

The Broncos offense was atrocious in the first quarter (and not much better in the 3rd quarter). Our offensive score% on first quarter drives was 22.4% - 31st in the league. We scored on 11 of 49 drives that began in the 1st quarter in 2016. The Giants were the worst in the league - 20.5% and the Falcons were the best - 70.5%. In addition to the second worst first quarter scoring% in league we also had the shortest average first quarter possession length (2 minutes and 30 seconds of game time) and the second worst average first quarter drive start point (own 24) - Detroit was worse (own 22). The Falcons average first quarter drive start point was their own 34. The had the best first quarter drive start point.

First Quarter Offensive Drive Results 2016

Tm #Dr Plays Yds Time Start PtDiff Scores Score% Tos TO% Punts Punt% TDs TD%
Falcons 44 6 41.8 2:53 Own 34 Up by .9 31 70.50% 1 2.30% 12 27.30% 19 43.20%
Patriots 45 6.5 40 3:07 Own 30 Up by 2.2 26 57.80% 1 2.20% 18 40.00% 20 44.40%
Cowboys 39 7.2 43.9 3:44 Own 25 Up by .4 21 53.80% 4 10.30% 12 30.80% 13 33.30%
Chargers 44 6.5 39.4 3:24 Own 27 Up by .4 23 52.30% 5 11.40% 15 34.10% 16 36.40%
Bengals 38 6.6 40.3 3:23 Own 27 Down by 1 18 47.40% 1 2.60% 17 44.70% 12 31.60%
Packers 45 6.3 39.6 3:07 Own 28 Down by 1 21 46.70% 4 8.90% 17 37.80% 17 37.80%
Saints 42 7 36 3:25 Own 26 Down by 1.3 19 45.20% 5 11.90% 18 42.90% 14 33.30%
Bills 36 6.4 31.3 3:13 Own 29 Down by 1.4 16 44.40% 1 2.80% 18 50.00% 10 27.80%
Colts 48 5.9 30.1 2:53 Own 28 Up by .1 21 43.80% 6 12.50% 19 39.60% 13 27.10%
Redskins 37 6.8 40.9 3:24 Own 26 Down by 1.7 16 43.20% 2 5.40% 16 43.20% 10 27.00%
Raiders 43 5.9 27.6 3:02 Own 33 Down by 0.1 18 41.90% 4 9.30% 19 44.20% 9 20.90%
Seahawks 41 5.7 31.4 2:55 Own 30 Down by 0.9 17 41.50% 1 2.40% 20 48.80% 10 24.40%
Lions 37 7.4 37.9 3:48 Own 22 Down by 1 15 40.50% 0 0.00% 18 48.60% 10 27.00%
Ravens 50 6.2 33.9 2:57 Own 25 Up by .2 20 40.00% 5 10.00% 21 42.00% 9 18.00%
Browns 43 6.2 32.7 3:00 Own 25 Down by 2.4 17 39.50% 2 4.70% 20 46.50% 10 23.30%
Chiefs 46 5.3 32.2 2:38 Own 31 Down by 1.3 18 39.10% 6 13.00% 20 43.50% 13 28.30%
Steelers 44 5.9 34.4 3:07 Own 29 Up by .8 17 38.60% 4 9.10% 22 50.00% 14 31.80%
Buccaneers 42 6.7 35 3:25 Own 24 Down by 1.9 16 38.10% 11 26.20% 14 33.30% 10 23.80%
Titans 45 5.6 33 3:05 Own 27 Down by 1.4 16 35.60% 1 2.20% 26 57.80% 10 22.20%
49ers 49 5.6 29.3 2:37 Own 31 Down by 0.8 17 34.70% 5 10.20% 23 46.90% 13 26.50%
Eagles 44 6.7 32.1 3:31 Own 26 Down by 1.3 15 34.10% 8 18.20% 17 38.60% 7 15.90%
Jets 46 6 32.2 3:10 Own 25 Down by 2.7 15 32.60% 7 15.20% 22 47.80% 7 15.20%
Rams 44 5.6 28.9 2:49 Own 27 Down by 0.7 14 31.80% 5 11.40% 23 52.30% 9 20.50%
Vikings 44 5.9 27.7 2:55 Own 30 Down by 0.6 14 31.80% 2 4.50% 27 61.40% 6 13.60%
Panthers 44 5.4 25 2:42 Own 31 Down by 0.8 14 31.80% 4 9.10% 24 54.50% 8 18.20%
Dolphins 43 5.3 29.4 2:48 Own 26 Down by 2.6 12 27.90% 5 11.60% 24 55.80% 9 20.90%
Bears 41 5.8 31.2 2:55 Own 28 Down by 1.2 11 26.80% 6 14.60% 20 48.80% 4 9.80%
Texans 49 5.8 23.5 2:52 Own 27 Down by 1.2 12 24.50% 7 14.30% 27 55.10% 6 12.20%
Jaguars 46 5.7 26.1 2:56 Own 25 Down by 0.4 11 23.90% 7 15.20% 27 58.70% 6 13.00%
Cardinals 57 5.5 25.3 2:43 Own 27 Down by 0.4 13 22.80% 7 12.30% 35 61.40% 9 15.80%
Broncos 49 5.2 24.6 2:30 Own 24 Down by 3 11 22.40% 4 8.20% 33 67.30% 5 10.20%
Giants 44 5.4 24 2:39 Own 26 Down by 1.8 9 20.50% 6 13.60% 27 61.40% 7 15.90%

Something is going to improve here in 2017. It should, if only because of regression to the mean. Which do you think will improve the most relative to the poor showing in 2016?