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Broncos 3rd & long: no defense

The Denver Broncos defense simply didn’t show up against the New York Jets in Week 5.

NFL: Denver Broncos at New York Jets Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

That was a total team failure. The defense was poor (and that will be the focus here), but so were the offense and the special teams. The Denver Broncos looked ill-prepared and, in some instances, uninterested in all three phases of the game.

The New York Jets came into the game averaging 88 yards rushing per game. In their previous game (against a good defense) the Jets had gained 34 rushing yards on 14 attempts (2.43 ypc). The Jets had four individual runs against us that gained more than they gained in their entire game against Jacksonville. They gained 324 on 37 carries (8.76 ypc) - I removed the kneel-down. The Broncos defense had allowed 375 total rushing yards in the first four games, then game up 323 in one single game. Since the merger there have only been 38 times where a team has given up 320 or more yards on the ground. Denver has now been on the wrong end of four of them (five if you include the game in 2010 where we gave up 317 yards rushing):

  • 324 vs NYJ 2018
  • 328 vs OAK 2010 @ home (59-14 loss that got McDaniels fired)
  • 317 vs KC in 2010
  • 407 vs CIN 2000 (most allowed since the merger)
  • 332 vs NE in 1976

I really didn’t want to look at the first down run numbers because the runs of 77, 54 and 38 yards ALL came on first down. Let me restate that, on first down, when a team with a lead and a rookie QB might be expected to run, the Jets had runs of 77, 54, 38 yards. I did look anyway, it was like a train wreck, I couldn’t not look. The Jets ran the ball 19 times on first down for 215 yards. That is 11.30 ypc. Isaiah Crowell set an NFL record for ypc for a back with 15 or more carries at 14.70 ypc.

The Broncos are now allowing 5.74 ypc on first down runs. That’s 30th in the league. Only DET (6.40) and KC (5.94) are currently worse. Overall we are allowing 5.43 ypc which is also 30th in the league with only KC (5.81) and DET (5.68) worse. The Saints are currently best in the league at stopping the run allowing only 3.29 ypc.

Surprisingly, the Broncos were able to force the Jets into eight 3rd and long situations (on 13 3rd downs). The Jets were able to convert on three of those and two of those conversions were TD passes.

Quarter Time Down ToGo Location Detail Result
1 3:16 3 9 DEN 12 Sam Darnold pass incomplete short middle intended for Jermaine Kearse Incomplete
2 10:57 3 9 NYJ 24 Sam Darnold pass complete deep left to Robby Anderson for 76 yards, touchdown TD catch
2 8:16 3 7 NYJ 44 Sam Darnold pass incomplete short middle intended for Jermaine Kearse (defended by Chris Harris) Incomplete
3 13:32 3 11 DEN 35 Sam Darnold pass incomplete short left intended for Andre Roberts is intercepted by Derek Wolfe at DEN-39 and returned for 2 yards Interception
3 9:43 3 12 NYJ 13 Sam Darnold pass complete short left to Jermaine Kearse for 14 yards conversion by catch
3 5:01 3 9 DEN 31 Sam Darnold pass incomplete short left intended for Jermaine Kearse (defended by Bradley Roby) Incomplete
4 5:15 3 14 DEN 20 Sam Darnold pass complete deep left to Terrelle Pryor for 20 yards, touchdown TD catch
4 3:08 3 10 DEN 47 Bilal Powell middle for 2 yards (tackle by Justin Simmons and Josey Jewell) run short

Supposedly, we have an elite pass rushing unit, a unit that should be virtually impossible to block on 3rd and long. That has not been the case this year. The Broncos defense has forced 35 3rd and long situations this year and has exactly one sack in those situations, and that was in the first game of the season when we got six sacks. Since the first game of the season our hyped pass rush has five sacks in four games. That is one of the reasons we have allowed conversion on 11 of those 35 (31.4%) which is 25th in the league. Denver is also worst in the league having allowed 4 TDs on 3rd and long. We are also worst in the league allowing 9.71 yards per play on 3rd and long situations.

Oddly enough, our next opponent the Rams, had been worst in the league so far this year at stopping teams on 3rd and long. They have allowed conversion on 15 of 30 3rd and long situations (50%), but I’m sure that is not Wade Phillips’ fault (He can do no wrong).

Moving Backward

The 2018 Broncos appear to getting worse week by week. The season, that started so promisingly with a fairly decisive win over the Seahawks, has now derailed so badly that some are talking about tanking the season to finish 2-14 and get another top 5 draft pick. Selfishly I would like to keep the streak going where the Broncos have not had back-to-back losing seasons since the time of the merger, but I don’t know how realistic that hope is. The weaknesses that we knew were going to be there have been exploited:

  • a weak secondary, after CB1, with age/injury concerns
  • an inability to cover RBs and TEs
  • an inability to sustain drives on offense (although we hope Case Keenum and Musgrave might be able to change this)
  • a LT who has poor technique, a hot head and propensity to hold and things that we thought were going to be strengths have turned into weaknesses
  • our pass rush has disappeared
  • our strong running game is being horribly underutilized (Royce Freeman had 5 carries last game)
  • our journeyman QB who was great at protecting the ball last season has thrown more INTs than TDs
  • our run defense, which was elite last season, was just made into the laughingstock of the league
  • our strong group of WRs are not able to get YAC because our QB, whose stock and trade has always been accuracy, has not been very accurate

The holes are too many and new ones seem to appear faster than we can fix them. Our coaching staff is getting out-schemed and out-coached on a weekly basis, and now we face the Rams, arguably the best team in the league, on the road with possibility that both of our starting offensive tackles miss the game.

On paper this looks like it should be a thorough beatdown by the Rams. Two running backs who have been average at best for the majority of their NFL careers, just gashed our run defense for 318 rushing yards on 35 carries. What do you think Todd Gurley is going to do? Our pass rush, which has evaporated since game one, is now going against the best two offensive tackles in the game. We just allowed a rookie QB who came into the game with one of the worst QB ratings in the league to put up a QB rating of 98.1 against us. What do you think Jared Goff is going to be able to do against the #FrequentFlyerZone (or the #NoTryZone)?

QB Overall QB rating QB Rating vs DEN Difference
R. Wilson 100.9 92.7 8.2
D. Carr 90.4 114.6 -24.2
J. Flacco 86.7 91.4 -4.7
P. Mahomes 112.7 89.5 23.2
S. Darnold 77.2 98.1 -20.9

I have no expectations that the Broncos are even going to keep this game close. That being said, if the Broncos some how pull off the upset on Sunday (any given Sunday) it would go a long way to salvaging this season (if you still believe that it is salvagable).


Of the developments that defied our expectations coming into the season, which is most bothersome to you?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    Case Keenum regressing horribly (poor ball placement, poor decisions and indecisiveness)
    (104 votes)
  • 50%
    No improvement year-over-year in the coaching staff
    (340 votes)
  • 22%
    The disappearance of our pass rush
    (149 votes)
  • 2%
    The regression of Bradley Roby
    (19 votes)
  • 3%
    The sudden inability to stop the run
    (25 votes)
  • 5%
    The inability of the offense to stay on schedule, convert 3rd downs and sustain drives
    (39 votes)
676 votes total Vote Now