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Broncos 3rd & long: continuing improvement despite injuries

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The Denver Broncos defense is doing enough to win games and that’s all that matters.

Denver Broncos v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The first half against the Cincinnati Bengals was a pretty ugly display by the Denver Broncos offense. Their first four drives ended in three punts and a missed field goal, with two of those being 3-and-out drives. Against the team who was (and still is) worst in the league at stopping opponents on third down, they had two 3-and-outs on our first four possessions.

But then something happened.

That something was Phillip Lindsay. He sparked the offense to our only score of the first half and he was a beast in the second half. He likes to give credit to his OL (as he rightly should), but he is running with the vision and power of a young Jamaal Charles right now. Why would I compare him to Jamaal Charles? Well, they both are (currently, as it could still change if Lindsay has some bad games in the remaining 4) part of a very select group of running backs. Guys who ran for 6.0 ypc or more on 150 or more carries after the merger. Only Adrian Peterson (2012), C.J. Spiller (2012), Jamaal Charles (2010), Barry Sanders (1997) and O.J. Simpson (1973) have been able to do that and the three hall-of-famers (AP will be in the HoF when he is done) were only able to do it once each. Lindsay is really treating us to a show this year.

So how did the defense do at stopping the run on first down? The Bengals ran the ball 12 times for 44 yards on first down - 3.67, but most of that came on two runs: a 14-yd run from Joe Mixon and a 10 yard run at the end of the game from Mark Walton. We stopped two first down runs for no gain and four others for 1 yard. So the Bengals were facing 2nd and 9 or 10 many times during the game, which did not help their young QB who was making his first career start. Couple the difficulty running the ball on first down with the penalties and you had a fairly difficult task for Jeff Driskel who played a pretty good game all things considered.

On the year Denver has moved up to 20th at stopping the run on first down. We are now allowing 4.77 yards per carry. We were dead last in this stat after the Rams game. Houston has taken over the top spot allowing a paltry 3.54 ypc on first down runs while KC is still dead last with 5.67 yards per carry allowed on first down runs.

The Broncos ended up forcing the Bengals into 12 3rd & long situations.

Quarter Time Down ToGo Location Detail Yds
1 5:17 3 8 DEN 44 Jeff Driskel pass complete short left to Alex Erickson for 2 yards (tackle by Bradley Chubb). Penalty on Clint Boling: Illegal Block Above the Waist, 10 yards, Penalty on A.J. Green: Illegal Shift (Declined) catch but short
1 5:03 3 16 CIN 48 Jeff Driskel pass complete short middle to A.J. Green for 7 yards (tackle by Chris Harris) catch but short
1 0:38 3 9 CIN 28 Jeff Driskel pass incomplete short middle intended for Giovani Bernard incomplete
2 11:38 3 25 CIN 16 Jeff Driskel pass complete short left to Tyler Boyd for 12 yards (tackle by Bradley Roby) catch but short
2 5:34 3 35 CIN 15 Giovani Bernard middle for 4 yards (tackle by Von Miller) run short
2 1:26 3 11 CIN 42 Jeff Driskel pass complete deep middle to Tyler Boyd for 22 yards (tackle by Justin Simmons) conversion by catch
2 0:20 3 17 DEN 17 Jeff Driskel pass incomplete deep right intended for Cody Core incomplete
3 13:57 3 17 CIN 18 Jeff Driskel pass incomplete short left intended for Giovani Bernard (defended by Adam Gotsis) incomplete
3 10:07 3 8 CIN 47 Jeff Driskel pass complete deep middle to Tyler Boyd for 23 yards (tackle by Darian Stewart) conversion by catch
3 6:18 3 7 CIN 28 Jeff Driskel pass complete short left to Giovani Bernard for 8 yards (tackle by Bradley Roby and Darian Stewart) conversion by catch
4 12:38 3 13 DEN 42 Jeff Driskel pass complete short left to Giovani Bernard for -5 yards (tackle by Todd Davis) catch but short
4 7:19 3 15 CIN 23 Jeff Driskel pass complete short middle to Giovani Bernard for 8 yards (tackle by Todd Davis) catch but short

They were able to convert on three of those twelve. Driskel was actually pretty effective throwing the ball on 3rd and long while under heavy pressure from the Orange Rush. He was able to complete 8 of 11 passes for three first downs. More importantly he was not sacked once on a 3rd and long situation.

For the season, we have allowed conversion on 28.7% of 3rd & longs. That is good for 24th in the league. The Falcons are now in last place allowing conversion on 37.0% while the Vikings remain firmly in first place allowing only 17.1% conversion on 3rd and long situations.

Overall, we held the Bengals to 5 of 13 on 3rd down conversions. We are now in a three-way tie for 17th place in 3rd conversions allowed - at 39.9%. The Vikings lead the league at 29.9% while the Bengals are still dead last at 54.8%.