I kind of expected the offense to play well coming into this game, but when I heard that a handful of starters had been sick with the flu, I was somewhat worried.
I expected our defense to get worked, though. This defense has lost so many starters at this point that I expected even a rookie QB, David Blough, to slice off big chunks of passing yardage. I was pleasantly surprised by both the defense and the seventh string guys who were playing on the offensive line by the end of the game.
Here are ages of the players who played the most at each position on offense for the Broncos:
QB - 23
RB - 25
FB - 23
WR 1 - 24
WR 2 - 24
TE - 22
LT - 27
LG - 24
C - 26
RG - 24
RT - 28
The defense allowed only 10 points. For a team that started six undrafted college free agents on defense (Trey Marshall, Chris Harris, Mike Purcell, Alexander Johnson, Malik Reed and Todd Davis) they held their own. Yes, the Lions were able to run the ball effectively (4.57 ypc), but only 10 points allowed is still darn good in the modern NFL.
The Broncos had four players taking offensive or defensive snaps that had not taken an offensive or defensive snap for them this season prior to Sunday (Jake Rodgers, Patrick Morris, Jonathan Harris and Kyle Peko). For Rodgers and Morris, their snaps on Sunday were their first ever regular season NFL snaps.
Morris, who had been undrafted out of TCU, had only been on the team for two weeks, but Mike Munchak knew him from the Steelers’ practice squad. If his pro-day numbers are to be believed, he is one of the most athletic offensive linemen in the league. He supposedly had a 35.5-inch vertical at his Pro Day. Had he performed like that at the Combine he would have had the third best vertical for a 300-pound offensive lineman ever at the Combine. While I don’t know what the future holds for Morris, he will definitely be cheaper than Ron Leary next season, should the Broncos choose to move on from Leary.
Rodgers is another story of hard work, like Morris. He was taken in the seventh round by the Falcons in the 2015 draft. He is currently 28 and one of the older players on the Broncos roster. Rodgers toiled in obscurity for seven other NFL teams (some twice) before finding his way to the Broncos 93-man roster this season. Despite not making the 53-man roster out of camp, he stuck with it, landed on the practice squad and finally got his chance to show what he is capable of last Sunday. While he didn’t face a great defensive line on Sunday, he played at least as well (probably better) than Elijah Wilkinson did in his 15 snaps where he got called for holding twice.
So, let’s talk some more about the defense. The defense was generally unable to get off the field against the Chiefs the week before. The Chiefs converted 6 of 11 third downs, with two of four on third and long. The Lions offense is significantly worse than the Chiefs offense, but the Broncos defense was able to hold the Lions to four of 11 on third down, but two of those conversions were on third and long. That 35-yard pass play to Kenny Galloday happened on 3rd and 8. That play was the fault of Trey Marshall. The other conversion on 3rd-and-long was the 12-yard pass to Danny Amendola on 3rd and 9.
For the season, the Broncos are ninth in stopping conversions on 3rd-and-long plays (23.6 percent). The Patriots are leading the league at 10.6 percent, while the Texans are last at 40.2 percent.