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Broncos 3rd & long: Shutting them up by shutting them out

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Tennessee Titans v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

So, yeah, the Titans offense is not a very good offense (currently 25th in scoring), but that should not take away from the shutout.

The Titans scored 43 points in their Week 1 victory over the floundering Browns (with one defensive TD, but they have scored 55 total points over five games since - including twice being held to 7 points (by the Bills and Jaguars) before Broncos shut them out.

So yes, their offense can be shut down, but this defense has come a long way since getting torched by the quick passing game of the Raiders and the running game of the Jags.

Because of injury and/or ineffectiveness, Broncos have five different starters (Will Parks started at slot CB vs TEN) on defense relative to Week 1.

And what makes it all the more impressive is that we have five starters on defense who were undrafted out of college - and four of those UDCFAs were signed and developed by the Broncos. Only Mike Purcell was “developed” elsewhere.

The defense was able to stop the run on first down as the Titans ran the ball 12 times on first down for a total of 33 yards (2.75 yards per carry). Our refreshed run D did a masterful job stopping Tennessee’s 6-foot-3, 250-pound tailback, Derrick Henry, holding him to 21 yards on his nine first-down carries. His longest run of the day was just six yards, and eight of his 15 carries went for 2 yards or less (one stop for no gain and four TFL’s). That’s pretty impressive.

Despite the great performance at stopping the run on first down against Tennessee, the Broncos are still 25th at stopping first down runs (5.1 ypc). The Jets are first at 3.0 yards per carry, and the Jags are last (5.8 ypc).

The Bronco D was able to hold the Titans to 3-of-15 on third-down conversions (counting the conversion by penalty).

Quarter Time Down Yards Location Detail Result
1 14:10 3 7 OTI 28 Marcus Mariota sacked by Alexander Johnson for no gain sack
1 8:55 3 3 OTI 32 Marcus Mariota pass incomplete short left intended for Delanie Walker incomplete
1 3:38 3 6 OTI 32 Marcus Mariota pass incomplete short left intended for Delanie Walker (defended by Davontae Harris). Penalty on Davontae Harris: Defensive Pass Interference, 11 yards (no play) conversion by penalty
1 2:49 3 6 OTI 47 Marcus Mariota pass complete short left to Adam Humphries for 4 yards (tackle by Davontae Harris) catch but short
2 12:36 3 4 OTI 47 Dion Lewis right end for -1 yards (tackle by Malik Reed and Todd Davis) run but short
2 9:46 3 7 OTI 30 Marcus Mariota pass complete short right to Adam Humphries for 9 yards (tackle by Will Parks) conversion by catch
2 7:40 3 13 OTI 36 Marcus Mariota pass incomplete short right incomplete
2 2:12 3 8 OTI 45 Marcus Mariota sacked by Derek Wolfe for -6 yards sack
3 11:09 3 5 OTI 50 Marcus Mariota pass incomplete short right intended for A.J. Brown incomplete
3 8:17 3 9 OTI 15 Marcus Mariota pass deep middle intended for Darius Jennings is intercepted by Justin Simmons at TEN-46 and returned for 5 yards Interception
3 3:04 3 16 OTI 24 Ryan Tannehill pass complete short left to Dion Lewis for 4 yards (tackle by Todd Davis) catch but short
4 12:54 3 13 DEN 41 Ryan Tannehill pass incomplete deep left intended for Corey Davis incomplete
4 9:22 3 4 DEN 13 Ryan Tannehill pass incomplete short right intended for A.J. Brown (defended by Chris Harris) incomplete
4 2:43 3 12 DEN 36 Ryan Tannehill pass complete deep middle to Anthony Firkser for 25 yards (tackle by Justin Simmons) conversion by catch
4 1:44 3 29 DEN 30 Ryan Tannehill pass complete short left to Delanie Walker for 18 yards (tackle by Alexander Johnson) catch but short

Broncos forced the Titans into third-and-long nine out of 15 times, and the Broncos converted two of those into sacks and one into an interception. Two of those were in third-and-long situations (7 or more yards needed), but the second came in the end-game situation against prevent defense.

Denver’s defense is currently fifth in the league at stopping the opponent on third-and-long, having only allowed conversion on six of 36 (16.7 percent). The Patriots are leading the league in this stat, having only allowed conversion on 8.5 percent while the Dolphins are dead last, allowing conversion on 35 percent. Only three of Denver’s 12 sacks have come on third-and-long plays. For comparison, nine of New England’s 25 have come on third and long.

I know I was one of those wailing about the lack of sacks at the beginning of the season, but the Broncos have been getting pressure even if they have not been getting sacks. Denver is currently 11th in pressure percentage (% of dropbacks where Denver pressured the opposing QB) and these have mostly been done without the use of blitzing (22nd in blitz rate).

According to Pro Football Reference, 23.3 percent of opponent dropbacks result in a pressure. The Bears currently have the best defense in the league at pressuring the opposing QB, getting pressure 34.1 percent of the time while the ‘Phins are getting pressure a league-low 10.2 percent of the time.

Rank Tm G Att Cmp Yds TD Bltz Bltz% Hrry Hrry% QBKD QBKD% Sk Prss Prss%
1 Chicago Bears 5 191 135 1146 4 49 23.20% 43 20.40% 12 6.30% 17 72 34.10%
2 San Francisco 49ers 5 153 82 751 5 20 11.30% 26 14.70% 11 7.20% 17 54 30.50%
3 New Orleans Saints 6 197 122 1426 8 38 16.90% 34 15.10% 16 8.10% 18 68 30.20%
4 Los Angeles Rams 6 206 132 1448 9 42 18.50% 45 19.80% 10 4.90% 13 68 30.00%
5 New England Patriots 6 210 112 966 1 76 31.40% 31 12.80% 15 7.10% 25 71 29.30%
6 Green Bay Packers 5 177 103 1193 6 50 24.60% 24 11.80% 18 10.20% 15 57 28.10%
7 Jacksonville Jaguars 6 208 127 1449 8 72 30.90% 28 12.00% 17 8.20% 19 64 27.50%
8 Philadelphia Eagles 6 227 146 1681 13 58 23.40% 31 12.50% 23 10.10% 14 68 27.40%
9 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6 250 159 1827 11 113 41.70% 38 14.00% 20 8.00% 13 71 26.20%
10 New York Giants 6 195 135 1710 10 61 27.90% 23 10.50% 14 7.20% 16 53 24.20%
11 Denver Broncos 6 197 126 1176 4 43 20.50% 27 12.90% 10 5.10% 12 49 23.30%
12 Los Angeles Chargers 6 155 114 1207 10 28 15.90% 17 9.70% 12 7.70% 12 41 23.30%
13 Dallas Cowboys 6 222 147 1428 5 37 15.20% 24 9.80% 18 8.10% 14 56 23.00%
14 Carolina Panthers 6 239 146 1350 7 46 16.50% 23 8.30% 13 5.40% 27 63 22.70%
15 Detroit Lions 4 168 93 1123 4 21 11.30% 24 12.90% 8 4.80% 9 41 22.00%
16 Pittsburgh Steelers 6 213 143 1465 10 79 32.80% 18 7.50% 15 7.00% 20 53 22.00%
17 Cleveland Browns 6 189 128 1316 12 60 28.30% 19 9.00% 8 4.20% 19 46 21.70%
18 Minnesota Vikings 6 226 153 1313 10 52 21.10% 19 7.70% 17 7.50% 17 53 21.50%
19 Tennessee Titans 6 209 138 1304 8 49 20.40% 27 11.30% 6 2.90% 18 51 21.30%
20 Washington Potatoes 6 217 157 1506 14 52 22.10% 22 9.40% 13 6.00% 14 49 20.90%
21 Buffalo Bills 5 183 105 936 3 61 31.00% 19 9.60% 10 5.50% 12 41 20.80%
22 Baltimore Ravens 6 210 129 1617 6 81 35.80% 14 6.20% 22 10.50% 11 47 20.80%
23 Indianapolis Colts 5 166 116 1210 10 48 25.90% 12 6.50% 13 7.80% 13 38 20.50%
24 Atlanta Falcons 6 192 137 1627 15 43 21.40% 25 12.40% 10 5.20% 5 40 19.90%
25 Arizona Cardinals 6 210 149 1687 16 83 35.20% 20 8.50% 10 4.80% 14 44 18.60%
26 Houston Texans 6 237 161 1608 11 81 30.90% 17 6.50% 13 5.50% 16 46 17.60%
27 New York Jets 5 186 118 1310 5 63 31.50% 15 7.50% 12 6.50% 7 34 17.00%
28 Cincinnati Bengals 6 178 123 1449 8 55 28.40% 10 5.20% 15 8.40% 7 32 16.50%
29 Seattle Seahawks 6 230 147 1602 8 59 24.00% 18 7.30% 10 4.30% 10 38 15.40%
30 Kansas City Chiefs 6 219 141 1466 8 46 19.10% 15 6.20% 10 4.60% 11 36 14.90%
31 Oakland Raiders 5 172 112 1318 11 32 17.00% 8 4.30% 8 4.70% 9 25 13.30%
32 Miami Dolphins 5 142 100 1351 14 35 23.80% 6 4.10% 4 2.80% 5 15 10.20%