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Broncos 3rd and long: pecked to death by the Ravens

The Denver Broncos third down defense finally faltered in a disastrous Week 3 outing against the Baltimore Ravens with conversions leading to touchdowns.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Well that worry that you had about the Broncos secondary in 2018 after the first two games, it was correct. So far they have been very bad. They have been almost the antithesis of the No Fly Zone - the Frequent Flyer Zone.

In a pass-happy league, we now have a defense that is great at stopping the run and terrible at stopping the pass. Raise your hand if you think that’s a recipe for success in the NFL in 2018. I’ll wait. Right, I didn’t think so. So let’s see how the defense did against the run on first down? Did we get the Ravens off-schedule?

Stopping the Run on 1st Down

The Ravens ran the ball 15 times for 59 yards on first down (3.9 ypc). Meaning that their average to go on 2nd down was 6 yards. 2nd and 6 is manageable and means that you can still run on second down, or you can pass. It also makes play-action passing much more effective. Interestingly, when the Ravens did run on 2nd down, we stuffed them.

They ran the ball 7 times for 11 yards on 2nd down. Six of those yards came on the 2nd and goal run by Alex Collins before the (blatantly missed holding call at the point of attack) TD run.

Overall the Broncos did fairly well at stopping the run this game, limiting Baltimore to 80 yards rushing on 25 carries (you have to take out the kneel-downs) - 3.2 ypc. We currently stand at 11th in terms of stopping the run on 1st down allowing 3.74 ypc. Miami leads the league with 2.94 while Detroit is dead last allowing a stunning 6.81 ypc on first down runs. Overall on run defense we are 3rd in the league allowing 3.47 ypc. Believe it or not, New Orleans is currently leading the league in run defense allowing only 3.35 ypc while Detroit is dead last allowing 5.92 ypc on all running plays so far.

Stopping them on 3rd and long

We forced the Ravens into 16 third down situations and almost half of those were third and long. They were able to convert on two of the seven.

Quarter Time Down ToGo Location Detail Result
1 13:46 3 13 RAV 13 Joe Flacco pass incomplete deep left intended for John Brown incomplete
1 4:27 3 10 DEN 43 Joe Flacco pass complete short right to Michael Crabtree for 9 yards (tackle by Bradley Roby) catch but short
2 14:19 3 9 RAV 42 Joe Flacco pass complete short middle to Michael Crabtree for 2 yards (tackle by Justin Simmons) catch but short
2 11:01 3 9 RAV 49 Joe Flacco pass complete deep right to Michael Crabtree for 19 yards (tackle by Bradley Roby) conversion by catch
2 5:21 3 16 DEN 34 Joe Flacco pass complete short left to John Brown for 9 yards (tackle by Isaac Yiadom) catch but short
3 9:09 3 8 DEN 33 Joe Flacco pass complete deep middle to Mark Andrews for 29 yards (tackle by Darian Stewart) conversion by catch
4 7:37 3 8 RAV 36 Joe Flacco pass incomplete short right intended for Michael Crabtree incomplete

Both drives on which they converted on third and long ended in touchdowns for the Ravens. On the 19-yard catch by Michael Crabtree, Crabtree does a good job of pushing off just enough to get the separation he needs to have space for the catch. Since both he and Bradley Roby were hand-fighting, it was a good no call.

Roby is in good position, but he he doesn’t get his head around quickly and the little push-off creates all of the space that Crabtree needs.

The other conversion was a good throw but Darian Stewart needed to make a play on the ball on - he was way out of position. Additionally Will Parks lets a lumbering TE get a step on him in coverage. That should not happen.

For the season our defense has now allowed conversion on four of 18 3rd and long situations (22.2%) which is 9th in league at this point. I was surprised to find the KC’s defense currently is leading the league in this stat having only allowed conversion on one of 17 3rd and long situations. The Falcons are currently the worst in the league allowing conversion on 34.8% of 3rd and longs. In another interesting twist, the Denver offense is leading the league right now at converting on 3rd and long.

The Broncos offense has converted on eight of 18 3rd and long situations (44.4%). Contrast that with the 49ers who have only converted one of 19 (5.3%). For comparison, our offense converted a total of 29 third and longs during the 2017 season (24.8% conversion) which was in the bottom half of the league. The 2017 offense also turned the ball over six times on 3rd and long and allowed eight sacks in those situations. While our offense has allowed two sacks on third and long this season, none of the five interceptions have come on third and long plays.

Moving forward to the Chiefs

The passing success that Patrick Mahomes is currently enjoying is unsustainable mostly because no one has ever had this level of success for an entire season - ever. He currently has 13 TDs and zero interceptions over a three game span. I looked at the top seasons in NFL history in terms of TD:INT ratio and none of those QB had a three game stretch where they threw 13 TDs and zero INTs. Not T*m Brady, not Aaron Rodgers, not Drew Brees, not Peyton Manning.

While Mahomes will most definitely regress to the mean, I doubt it happens this week. Our passing defense is not even a shadow of what it once was. Our coverage is poor enough that our pass rushers can’t get to the QB fast enough and our lack of depth (or at least healthy depth) at CB means that we can’t effectively play press-man coverage to give our pass-rushers more time to get to the QB.

Joe Woods better have a rabbit in his hat or Monday night will get really ugly, really fast. Now, Joe Flacco (25/40, 277 yards, 1 TD) did not light up our secondary like Derek Carr did but KC’s offense has been much better at exploiting blown coverages so far this season than either of our first three opponents. So the secondary better get this fixed fast or the comments sections at MHR will be flooded with annoying KC trolls for the next few weeks telling how Patrick Mahomes is the greatest QB to ever play the game.


Can our secondary get things fixed in time to slow down Patrick Mahomes and the KC passing attack?

This poll is closed

  • 67%
    No way - they’re gonna drop 50 on us
    (434 votes)
  • 27%
    Maybe - if Brock and Jones are healthy
    (177 votes)
  • 5%
    Definitely - our defensive coaches still have some magic left
    (33 votes)
644 votes total Vote Now