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The sack blame game

Denver Broncos fans love to play the blame game on the quarterback pressures given up in 2016. Some like to blame the offensive line, some blame Trevor Siemian, but who is really at fault?

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The casual fan watches a sack and generally curses the offensive line - automatically blaming one of those relatively unknown (until a sack or penalty) guys for the sack. I’m not the casual fan. I played center and guard in both high school and college so I figured I would look at the 40 sacks that our TEAM allowed this year (note that I did not automatically blame the OL) and figure out who was at fault on each sack. Some of these where very obvious - player A gets abused by defensive player and our QB gets sacked. Others were not so obvious. Who gets the blame on a "coverage sack" - the QB or the blocker whose assignment finally tackles the QB? What about situations where the QB gets flushed and scrambles but loses a yard or two - do we blame the blocker whose man get the initial pressure, the blocker whose man made the tackle or the QB for not having the presence to throw the ball away?

Before we dig into the gory details, let’s see how our team ranked in terms of allowing the QB to be sacked and hit. For those who remember, I coined a football term called a "Watt" which is a sack or a QB hit. So here are the rankings by team from 2016 in terms of Watts allowed

The Broncos allowed our QBs to be hit or sacked 140 times in 2016 which was 24th in the league. For Comparison, the Faiders’ QBs were only hit or sacked 59 times (league best) while the Browns QBs ended up on their rumps 206 times.

Here is the listing of Denver sacks allowed by down and then by quarter

By Down Sacks
1st 16
2nd 10
3rd 14
By Quarter Sacks
1st 8
2nd 11
3rd 6
4th 14

So here is the listing of every sack allowed by the Broncos in 2016 along with all of the data on the sack and my assignment of blame. We, Jeff and I, will go more into depth on a selection of these for those who want to relive the ineptitude (use the slider at the bottom to scroll right to get the URLs to watch video of many of these sacks).

Date Opponent Qtr Time Down To Go Position Detail Yds Lost Time (s) Fault? Video
9/8/2016 Panthers 1 1:48 2 10 CAR 16 Trevor Siemian sacked by Vernon Butler for -9 yards -9 2.8 Garcia
9/8/2016 Panthers 4 3:36 3 7 DEN 28 Trevor Siemian sacked by Tre Boston for -10 yards -10 3.3 C.J. Anderson or Siemian
9/18/2016 Colts 1 12:23 3 2 CLT 36 Trevor Siemian sacked by Zach Kerr for 0 yards 0 nobody - TS tried to scramble
9/25/2016 Bengals 3 9:36 2 10 DEN 20 Trevor Siemian sacked by Carlos Dunlap for -6 yards -6 2.5 Sambrailo
9/25/2016 Bengals 4 11:34 1 10 DEN 46 Trevor Siemian sacked by Will Clarke for -3 yards -3 3.5 Siemian - stepped up into sack
10/2/2016 Buccaneers 2 15:00 2 8 DEN 37 Trevor Siemian sacked by Gerald McCoy and William Gholston for -11 yards -11 3.0 Stephenson
10/2/2016 Buccaneers 2 7:58 1 18 DEN 9 Trevor Siemian sacked by Akeem Spence and Clinton McDonald for -1 yards -1 4.0 Siemian - stepped up into sack
10/2/2016 Buccaneers 2 3:25 1 10 DEN 34 Trevor Siemian sacked by Clinton McDonald for -8 yards -8 4.3 Siemian - stepped up into sack
10/2/2016 Buccaneers 2 0:51 1 10 TAM 47 Paxton Lynch sacked by Kwon Alexander for 0 yards 0 not a sack - scramble to sideline
10/9/2016 Falcons 1 4:23 1 10 DEN 25 Paxton Lynch sacked by Vic Beasley for -5 yards -5 2.7 Sambrailo
10/9/2016 Falcons 2 1:38 2 10 DEN 16 Paxton Lynch sacked by Vic Beasley for -8 yards. Paxton Lynch fumbles (forced by Vic Beasley), recovered by Paxton Lynch at DEN-8 -8 2.4 Sambrailo
10/9/2016 Falcons 3 7:53 1 10 DEN 25 Paxton Lynch sacked by Vic Beasley for -10 yards. Paxton Lynch fumbles (forced by Vic Beasley), recovered by Devontae Booker at DEN-15 -10 2.7 Sambrailo
10/9/2016 Falcons 4 12:34 1 15 ATL 28 Paxton Lynch sacked by Vic Beasley and Dwight Freeney for -6 yards -6 2.8 Schofield
10/9/2016 Falcons 4 3:27 1 6 ATL 6 Paxton Lynch sacked by Adrian Clayborn and Dwight Freeney for -6 yards -6 3.6 Garcia
10/9/2016 Falcons 4 1:14 2 10 DEN 46 Paxton Lynch sacked by Grady Jarrett for -5 yards -5 5.7 Lynch
10/13/2016 Chargers 4 4:13 1 20 SDG 30 Trevor Siemian sacked by Jatavis Brown for -10 yards -10 2.8 Siemian/Booker - ILB Blitz
10/13/2016 Chargers 4 0:15 3 1 SDG 45 Trevor Siemian sacked by Tourek Williams for 0 yards 0 not a sack - scramble to sideline
10/30/2016 Chargers 2 4:43 3 6 SDG 7 Trevor Siemian sacked by Melvin Ingram for -9 yards. Trevor Siemian fumbles (forced by Melvin Ingram), recovered by Tenny Palepoi at SDG-16 (tackle by Michael Schofield) -9 2.1 Okung
11/6/2016 Raiders 3 3:43 1 10 DEN 30 Trevor Siemian sacked by Khalil Mack for -9 yards -9 2.4 Stephenson
11/6/2016 Raiders 4 7:26 2 10 DEN 47 Trevor Siemian sacked by Khalil Mack for -9 yards. Trevor Siemian fumbles (forced by Khalil Mack), recovered by Khalil Mack at DEN-39 (tackle by Donald Stephenson) -9 3.2 Stephenson
11/13/2016 Saints 1 7:20 1 10 NOR 20 Trevor Siemian sacked by Nick Fairley for -5 yards -5 2.2 Garcia (Paradis)
11/13/2016 Saints 1 0:46 3 9 DEN 22 Trevor Siemian sacked by Cameron Jordan for -4 yards -4 3.0 Okung (his man gets initial pressure)
11/13/2016 Saints 2 6:03 3 9 NOR 44 Trevor Siemian sacked by Dannell Ellerbe for -6 yards -6 3.2 Garcia/Okung (botched switch on stunt)
11/13/2016 Saints 3 1:24 2 6 NOR 35 Trevor Siemian sacked by Sheldon Rankins for -2 yards -2 2.7 Siemian - stepped up into sack
11/13/2016 Saints 4 14:57 3 9 NOR 18 Trevor Siemian sacked by Craig Robertson for -6 yards -6 2.3 empty set - they rushed 5, no swapping whole OL
11/13/2016 Saints 4 7:41 1 10 DEN 47 Trevor Siemian sacked by Kenny Vaccaro for -1 yards. Penalty on Kenny Vaccaro: Unnecessary Roughness, 15 yards -1 Not a sack - scramble for -1
11/27/2016 Chiefs 1 10:05 3 4 DEN 19 Trevor Siemian sacked by Justin Houston for -4 yards -4 3.5 Sambrailo
11/27/2016 Chiefs 2 10:27 1 20 DEN 43 Trevor Siemian sacked by Kendall Reyes for -4 yards -4 2.6 Sambrailo/Garcia
11/27/2016 Chiefs 2 9:01 3 16 DEN 47 Trevor Siemian sacked by Justin Houston for -5 yards -5 3.4 Sambrailo
11/27/2016 Chiefs 2 6:20 3 7 DEN 8 Trevor Siemian sacked by Justin Houston for -8 yards. Trevor Siemian fumbles (forced by Justin Houston), recovered by Russell Okung at DEN--5, safety -8 2.4 Okung
11/27/2016 Chiefs 5 9:33 3 9 KAN 19 Trevor Siemian sacked by Tamba Hali for -7 yards -7 3.0 Okung
12/4/2016 Jaguars 1 9:27 2 9 DEN 42 Paxton Lynch sacked by Sen'Derrick Marks for -2 yards -2 4.0 not a sack - Lynch tried to scramble lost 2
12/4/2016 Jaguars 4 12:41 3 13 DEN 32 Paxton Lynch sacked by Telvin Smith for 0 yards 0 not a sack - scramble for 0
12/11/2016 Titans 1 14:16 3 1 DEN 34 Trevor Siemian sacked by Derrick Morgan for -6 yards -6 2.3 Booker
12/11/2016 Titans 3 3:09 1 10 OTI 15 Trevor Siemian sacked by Brian Orakpo for -5 yards -5 3.3 Paradis/Garcia (botched switch on stunt) pics
12/11/2016 Titans 4 5:33 1 7 OTI 7 Trevor Siemian sacked by Aaron Wallace for -9 yards -9 3.7 Derby and Siemian
12/18/2016 Patriots 2 7:54 2 6 NWE 42 Trevor Siemian sacked by Trey Flowers for -6 yards -6 4.0 Stephenson
12/18/2016 Patriots 3 14:54 1 10 DEN 31 Trevor Siemian sacked by Jabaal Sheard for -6 yards -6 3.5 Stephenson
12/18/2016 Patriots 4 11:34 3 1 DEN 21 Trevor Siemian sacked by Malcom Brown for -14 yards -14 4.3 Garcia
12/18/2016 Patriots 4 7:19 2 10 NWE 38 Trevor Siemian sacked by Trey Flowers for -5 yards -5 3.4 Paradis/Garcia (whipped by stunt)

Sack blame by player

Player Sack Blame
Sambrailo 6.5
Stephenson 5.0
Siemian 5.0
Okung 4.0
Garcia 4.0
Paradis 1.5
Booker 1.5
Schofield 1.0
Lynch 1.0
Anderson 0.5
Derby 0.5

In depth analysis of some sacks - (Author)

Second sack allowed vs CAR - Joe

Follow the link in the last column and watch this sack if you wish. This sack is coverage sack or a poor read by a de facto rookie QB making his first NFL start, but either way the blame lies at Siemian’s feet on this one. He fails to recognize the safety coming off the backside and he holds the ball to long. Siemian gets hit at 3.3 seconds after the sack (which almost exactly the average for the season - 3.2 seconds), but a veteran QB get rid of the ball and avoids the sack.

4th Quarter sack vs CIN - Joe

This is another one I blamed on Siemian. It was 1st and 10 on our own 46 with 11:34 left to play in the 4th. Siemian takes a 5 step drop.

Siemian at the top of his 5-step drop, protection is ok - Schofield is almost beat in this shot

Sambrailo was supposed to helping Schofield, but his punch was so ineffectual in 2016 that he might as well have not been here on this play. Sambrailo does peel back to somewhat block #96 for CIN, but at that point Schofield is beaten and right in Siemian’s face.

Schofield is beaten here - TS has to choose

In the frame above we see Siemian making a choice to try and run up the middle. It proves to be a poor choice as he gets dropped by two defenders (#93 and #96) well short of the LOS. His best option would have been to roll to his left, away from the defender coming from his right. He also could have tried to hit Booker in the right flat.

Wrong choice

I blame Siemian for this sack. We can discuss in the comments if you want to blame Schofield, whose man generated the pressure.

1st sack vs TB - Joe

In this next sack Demaryius Thomas is open for a relatively easy completion on the right side of the field, but being 1st and 18 Trevor is focusing on trying to get a chunk of yards instead of 7 or 8 - and he is staring down Sanders. Siemian is locked onto Emmanuel Sanders who is double covered. Siemian has the pocket awareness to feel the pressure from the middle and his right, but he makes a poor choice again in this situation. he tries to run up the middle instead of moving to his left into the decently protected flat.

Another decision point for TS who is getting pressured from the right and up the middle.
TS tries to run up the middle and gets tackled by two Buc defenders

The blocking was decent on this play (pocket was shrinking quickly from his right) and he would have been much better served to roll to his left and give the play more time instead of trying to run up the middle. At least in the early part of the season, TS was very predictable when pressured from the right, he would try and run up the middle.

1st sack vs NO - Jeff E.

New Orleans was a rough game for the Oline. They were getting lit up in pass protection, often with just 4-man rushes.

Totally agree with Joe on the blame here. Garcia is ultimately responsible for this sack, but I think he was expecting help from Paradis on this. Breakdowns like this I also attribute to coaching as this is Week 8. Our guys should know what’s going on by now, but they looked lost all season.

And of course Stephenson is whipped immediately as well.

4th sack vs NO - Joe

It was 2nd and 6 and the Saints rushed four. We have the RB, show block and run flat pattern if not blitz, to help our five offensive lineman block their four pass rushers.

Siemian at the top of his drop, Stephenson is getting beat off the edge

Derby is open underneath for a 5 yard gain even if he just catches the ball and falls down, but Siemian chooses not throw to him.

Siemian steps into the pocket to avoid outside pressure

Both Derby and DT and open in the shot above (and Bibbs is coming open in the left flat), but Siemian does not climb the pocket to throw, he just tries to run up the middle (again) and gets sacked by the man who Garcia is blocking in the screenshot above. This is another instance where he would have been better served to throw the ball when he felt pressure or to roll to his left. I blamed this sack on Siemian; he had open receivers and chose not to throw to them. If you feel like this one is on Stephenson for allowing the initial pressure or on Garcia (who was blocking Sheldon Rankins, the guy who ultimately gets the sack) let me know in the comments.

Second sack vs NE - Jeff E.

I don’t even know what to do with this. Siemian never had a chance. Stephenson’s kick slide is poor, he mistimes his punch and it gets him off balance, his center of gravity is all out of whack and he lets Sheard into his chest and just gets blasted backwards as a result. This guy needs some serious coaching up, or does not need to see the field.

Only sack vs IND - Siemian misses his read - Jeff E.

I’m going to disagree with Joe on this sack against the Colts. Take a look at what the defense looks like pre-snap.

The LB walks up to the line of scrimmage and shows blitz.

Here is what Siemian sees pre-snap. Given this, where would you assume would be the most open read? If you guessed right where the LB is blitzing, you guessed correctly and can now be the QB for the Denver Broncos.

Now obviously you have to watch for if he’s bluffing and drops into a zone, or someone else drops out and take his place. But neither of these things happen. It really wouldn’t have mattered if they did, because Siemian literally never looks that direction.

Here’s right at the snap, he should be looking at the slot right now since the blitzer committed.

At the top of his drop

It’s only after he stares into double coverage and the blocking breaks down that he tries to scramble.

Now, obviously things look different when you’re on the couch freezing every frame, but recognizing that blitz off the edge is elementary stuff. If I can see that stuff, and he’s not even looking for it, there’s a problem. What’s worrisome is that this isn’t an isolated incident. I called this out in my film review of the Raiders game during the year.

Now this isn’t a QB post, and I don’t want to arm chair coach this one too much because I don’t know what he is being coached to do or anything, but the way I see it this sack is absolutely on the QB.

1st sack allowed vs TEN - Booker whiffs in pass protection - Jeff E.

This one is a classic example of the quarterbacks getting zero help from the rest of the offense. This is supposed to be an easy rollout and read in the flat with Virgil Green shallow and Demaryius Thomas running the corner. Siemian, again, never has a chance.

No wonder he needed shoulder surgery with the kind of beating he took. Booker should be ashamed of himself for this poor excuse of a block attempt. Let’s hope he cleans that up this offseason. He’s going to have to if he wants to see the field.