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Broncos 3rd & long: Finding new ways to lose

The Denver Broncos had a 20 point lead, but ultimately found yet another way to lose a game.

Denver Broncos v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

The Broncos defense was very good in the first half. The Broncos defense was pretty bad in the second half.

While the Vikings’ offense converted just one third down in the first half (1 of 6), it did not punt one time in the second half.

The Broncos’ defense did stop the Vikings twice on third-and-short, but the Vikings went for it on fourth-and-short both times and converted both times. Both were on their side of the field (the 45 and the 34 yard lines) and both were risky decisions that could have blown up in Mike Zimmer’s face had they failed.

But here is a breakdown of all the third downs the defense faced yesterday, including the penalty conversion.

Quarter Time Down Yards Location Score Detail Result
1 10:52 3 1 MIN 34 0-3 C.J. Ham up the middle for no gain (tackle by Alexander Johnson) run short
1 7:47 3 4 DEN 49 0-3 Kirk Cousins pass complete short right to Dalvin Cook for 2 yards (tackle by Von Miller) catch but short
1 3:12 3 14 MIN 28 0-10 Kirk Cousins sacked by Von Miller for -7 yards sack
2 11:21 3 5 MIN 30 0-17 Kirk Cousins pass complete short middle to Irv Smith Jr. for 6 yards (tackle by Todd Davis) conversion by catch
2 9:08 3 19 MIN 27 0-17 Kirk Cousins pass complete short right to Ameer Abdullah for 5 yards (tackle by Justin Simmons) catch but short
2 0:13 3 23 MIN 34 0-20 Kirk Cousins pass complete short left to Kyle Rudolph for 6 yards (tackle by Duke Dawson) catch but short
3 13:42 3 1 MIN 45 0-20 Dalvin Cook up the middle for no gain (tackle by Adam Gotsis) run short
3 3:42 3 1 MIN 34 7-23 Kirk Cousins up the middle for no gain (tackle by Todd Davis) run short
3 1:50 3 14 MIN 32 7-23 Kirk Cousins pass complete deep middle to Tyler Conklin for 20 yards (tackle by Davontae Harris and Kareem Jackson) conversion by catch
3 1:15 3 10 DEN 48 7-23 Kirk Cousins pass incomplete short left intended for Irv Smith Jr.. Penalty on Duke Dawson: Defensive Pass Interference, 5 yards (no play) conversion by DPI
4 15:00 3 5 DEN 27 7-23 Kirk Cousins pass complete short left to Stefon Diggs for 7 yards (tackle by Davontae Harris) conversion by catch
4 10:29 3 2 MIN 46 19-23 Kirk Cousins pass complete deep middle to Stefon Diggs for 54 yards, touchdown conversion by catch
4 6:37 3 5 DEN 41 20-23 Kirk Cousins pass complete short right to Stefon Diggs for 9 yards (tackle by Duke Dawson) conversion by catch

You should notice that our defense was unable to stop Stefon Diggs in the second half. He was the receiver on their final three third-down conversions, one of which was the 54-yard touchdown catch.

Throughout the game, the defense was able to shut down the Vikings running attack (37 yards on 18 carries - 2.1 YPC), but the Vikings really abandoned the run in the second half, going no huddle for most of the half.

The sad part is that our defense should be built to feast when opposing teams are forced to throw the ball, however with our season-ending injuries at two key positions (Bryce Callahan at cornerback and Bradley Chubb at outside linebacker) this defense has been playing well above expectations.

The Vikings game was them crashing back down to earth. Malik Reed was unable to have much of an impact, and Von Miller was routinely double- and triple-teamed. Shelby Harris had himself a great game, but the secondary was unable to step up in the clutch on third down.

Duke Dawson and Devontae Harris, who had been playing well, were exposed in this game. As was Chris Harris. The Vikings, despite missing Adam Theilen, were able to carve up our secondary in the second half. It was bound to happen some time.

Vic Fangio and Ed Donatell have done a masterful job of using smoke and mirrors to cover up the fact that this defense is playing with cast-offs and undrafted free agents at many positions. The play of the secondary got so bad in the second half, that Isaac Yiadom was inserted into the lineup in the place of Davontae Harris. Yiadom had not played a defensive snap in the last two games prior and had been effectively benched since D. Harris had emerged.