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Broncos 3rd & long: Brownian motion

The Denver Broncos defense played a superb game in their 24-19 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. Here’s how they fared on third and long.

Cleveland Browns v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

The defense was on the field for most of the last game and they held the Cleveland Browns out of the endzone on all but one of their drives. The Browns had 35:30 of possession to the Denver Broncos 24:30. The defense earlier this season wilted when they had to play that much, but not this game. This game they held even when they had played hard for more than they should have had to. Usage of some “fresher” legs may have helped this game.

The Broncos offense only converted on 3 of 9 third downs (4 of 9 if you count the penalty conversion). Their defense held the Browns to 7 of 16 on third downs (including the penalty conversion) and 3 of 7 on 3rd & long.

Quarter Time Down Yards Location Detail Yds
1 1:58 3 17 CLE 43 Baker Mayfield pass incomplete short right intended for Odell Beckham 0
2 9:24 3 14 DEN 33 Baker Mayfield left end for 16 yards (tackle by Alexander Johnson) 16
2 3:58 3 9 DEN 9 Baker Mayfield pass incomplete short middle intended for Jarvis Landry 0
2 0:39 3 8 DEN 32 Baker Mayfield pass complete short right to Jarvis Landry for 13 yards 13
2 0:24 3 10 DEN 19 Baker Mayfield pass complete short middle to Ricky Seals-Jones for 7 yards (tackle by Kareem Jackson) 7
3 14:15 3 7 CLE 28 Baker Mayfield left end for 6 yards (tackle by Coty Sensabaugh) 6
4 10:57 3 7 DEN 19 Baker Mayfield pass incomplete short right intended for Odell Beckham (defended by Chris Harris). Penalty on Chris Harris: Defensive Pass Interference, 10 yards (no play) 0

The three conversions were on that long run by Baker Mayfield in the second quarter, that completion on the FG drive right before the half and on that DPI call on Chris Harris on the lone Cleveland TD drive in the 4th quarter.

For the season the Broncos defense has moved up to 3rd place at stopping the opponent on third and long. The defense has only allowed conversion on nine of 54 attempts - 16.7 percent (not counting penalty conversions). Only Dallas (14.3 percent) and New England (7.7 percent) have been better. The Patriot’s defense on 3rd and long has been historic through the first nine games. They have only allowed five conversions on 65 attempts. They have forced as many turnovers on 3rd and long (five) as first downs allowed. Their nine sacks on 3rd and long is second best in the league behind Buffalo and Jacksonville who have ten apiece. Contrast that with the Houston defense that is allowing conversion at a 35.6 percent rate on 3rd and long (21 of 59) and has zero sacks in those situations.

The Bronco defense did a good job at stopping the run on first down, even with Adam Gotsis playing again. The Browns gained 44 yards on 17 first down carries (2.6 ypc) and only had three runs on first down that gained more than 4 yards. We stopped six of their seventeen first down runs for 1 yard gain or less with three TFL’s. This was the best that any team has defended the run on first down vs Cleveland. The Browns have gained 5.0 ypc on first down runs including more than eight per carry on first down against New England and Baltimore. Nick Chubb has 96 first down carries for 517 yards, sixteen first downs and six touchdowns so far this season.

The Broncos defense is now 22nd in the league at stopping the run on first down, but it has been very different since Alexander Johnson and Mike Purcell moved into the starting lineup. In games five through nine the Broncos are 6th in the league at stopping the run on first down allowing only 3.4 ypc. In games one through four the defense was 29th at stopping the run on first down.

In the first four games the defense allowed nine runs of ten yards or more (tied for 4th worst in the league). In the next five games the defense has allowed five which is tied with a host of teams for 10th best in the league. Pittsburgh has only allowed two.

Overall the Bronco run defense is currently 9th in the league allowing 4.00 ypc. The Jets defense continues to be the best in the league at stopping the run allowing only 3.13 ypc while the Panthers are currently the worst allowing 5.06 ypc. Opposing teams have not really tried to run on the Ravens so far this season as they are only facing 19.1 rushing attempts per game. Washington has faced the most rushing attempts at 32.2 per game this season.