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Broncos 3rd & long: finishing strongly

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I’ll take an ugly win over a pretty loss any day.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Well that was a fun way to end the season. You can argue that draft position is more valuable than the fleeting happiness I get when the Denver Broncos beat the Oakland Raiders, but I’ll take the win over the five spots of draft position every day and twice on Sunday. This particular win was not pretty (defense allowed 477 yards), but I’ll take an ugly win over a pretty loss any day.

Let’s dig into why this win was so ugly. The offensive line was a wreck. Jake Rodgers fared ok when he was an unknown, but all it took was a smidgen of game film on him and Maxx Crosby was able to beat him like a rented mule. The entire right side of the offensive line on Sunday was getting absolutely owned by the mostly feckless pass rush of the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders finished the season 27th in pressure percentage (percentage of opponent dropbacks where they got pressure on the QB), but on Sunday they were getting to Drew Lock almost as soon as he got the shotgun snap. Even with that, they were only able to sack the elusive Mr. Lock twice.

If that had been Joe Flacco or Brandon Allen at QB, that sack number probably would have been five or six. In fact Drew Lock was the third most difficult QB to sack this season behind Matt Schaub (2.90 percent) and Drew Brees (3.10 percent). Lock was only sacked on 3.13 percent of his dropbacks. Data from pro-football-reference.com.

Quarterback Tm Cmp Att Yds Sacked Skd% PktTime Bltz Bltz% Hrry Hits Pressure% Scrm Yds/Scr
Matt Schaub ATL 50 67 580 2 2.90% 2.2 17 24.6% 2 6 14.5% 0
Drew Brees* NOR 281 378 2979 12 3.08% 2.3 114 29.2% 26 17 14.1% 0
Drew Lock DEN 100 156 1020 5 3.11% 2.6 47 29.2% 16 18 24.2% 11 6.7
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 35 62 351 2 3.13% 2.3 17 26.6% 14 2 28.1% 1 7.0
Eli Manning NYG 91 147 1042 5 3.29% 2.4 37 24.3% 10 8 15.1% 1 6.0
Patrick Mahomes* KAN 319 484 4031 17 3.39% 2.5 108 21.6% 56 33 21.2% 23 9.3
Jared Goff LAR 394 626 4638 22 3.40% 2.6 219 33.8% 53 48 19.0% 10 3.8
Dak Prescott DAL 388 596 4902 23 3.72% 2.6 155 25.0% 42 57 19.7% 20 6.9
Matt Barkley BUF 27 51 359 2 3.77% 2.2 24 45.3% 2 1 9.4% 0
Tom Brady NWE 373 613 4057 27 4.22% 2.5 198 30.9% 55 36 18.4% 3 11.0
Mason Rudolph PIT 176 283 1765 15 5.03% 2.6 113 37.9% 35 30 26.8% 10 5.0
Derek Carr OAK 361 513 4054 29 5.35% 2.5 108 19.9% 68 16 20.8% 14 5.5
Lamar Jackson* BAL 265 401 3127 23 5.42% 2.6 138 32.5% 32 21 17.9% 39 11.0
Philip Rivers LAC 390 591 4615 34 5.44% 2.5 114 18.2% 41 55 20.8% 6 5.5
Jacoby Brissett IND 272 447 2942 27 5.70% 2.6 135 28.5% 56 54 28.9% 33 6.1
Case Keenum WAS 160 247 1707 15 5.73% 2.5 64 24.4% 36 27 29.8% 3 5.0
Carson Wentz PHI 388 607 4039 37 5.75% 2.3 169 26.2% 64 50 23.4% 26 6.3
Teddy Bridgewater NOR 133 196 1384 12 5.77% 2.5 46 22.1% 22 10 21.2% 12 3.3
Matthew Stafford DET 187 291 2499 18 5.83% 2.4 87 28.2% 23 20 19.7% 10 5.6
Kirk Cousins MIN 307 444 3603 28 5.93% 2.7 107 22.7% 48 30 22.5% 9 5.6
Aaron Rodgers* GNB 353 569 4002 36 5.95% 2.6 154 25.5% 57 45 22.8% 26 7.8
Cam Newton CAR 50 89 572 6 6.32% 2.2 43 45.3% 12 5 24.2% 1 3.0
Nick Foles JAX 77 117 736 8 6.40% 2.3 27 21.6% 7 5 16.0% 2 3.5
Andy Dalton CIN 314 528 3494 37 6.55% 2.3 189 33.5% 37 24 17.3% 10 6.0
Gardner Minshew JAX 285 470 3271 33 6.56% 2.4 147 29.2% 55 29 23.3% 49 7.1
Mitchell Trubisky CHI 326 516 3138 38 6.86% 2.3 140 25.3% 57 32 22.9% 22 5.5
Sam Darnold NYJ 273 441 3024 33 6.96% 2.5 166 35.0% 63 39 28.5% 8 8.0
Baker Mayfield CLE 317 534 3827 40 6.97% 2.3 211 36.8% 71 24 23.5% 17 7.9
Jameis Winston TAM 380 626 5109 47 6.98% 2.5 242 36.0% 63 54 24.4% 31 7.4
Jimmy Garoppolo SFO 329 476 3978 36 7.03% 2.4 201 39.3% 41 32 21.3% 12 4.7
Brian Hoyer IND 35 65 372 5 7.14% 2.5 30 42.9% 7 7 27.1% 2 3.5
Matt Ryan ATL 408 616 4466 48 7.23% 2.5 199 30.0% 54 61 24.5% 21 7.1
Ryan Fitzpatrick MIA 311 502 3529 40 7.38% 2.3 192 35.4% 50 65 28.6% 35 7.6
David Blough DET 94 174 984 14 7.45% 2.6 63 33.5% 18 12 23.4% 6 5.3
Josh Allen BUF 271 461 3089 38 7.62% 2.3 201 40.3% 47 43 25.7% 42 7.4
Daniel Jones NYG 284 459 3027 38 7.65% 2.3 117 23.5% 43 60 28.4% 24 8.3
Matt Moore KAN 59 91 659 8 8.08% 2.4 21 21.2% 6 11 25.3% 1 3.0
Kyler Murray ARI 349 542 3722 48 8.14% 2.3 151 25.6% 67 16 22.2% 28 6.9
Deshaun Watson* HOU 333 495 3852 44 8.16% 2.5 167 31.0% 47 39 24.1% 44 7.1
Russell Wilson* SEA 341 516 4110 48 8.51% 2.5 221 39.2% 72 57 31.4% 45 7.0
Devlin Hodges PIT 100 160 1063 15 8.57% 2.5 73 41.7% 15 13 24.6% 8 9.0
Kyle Allen CAR 303 489 3322 46 8.60% 2.4 131 24.5% 52 28 23.6% 19 5.3
Joe Flacco DEN 171 262 1822 26 9.03% 2.4 76 26.4% 41 14 28.1% 5 4.2
Jeff Driskel DET 62 105 685 11 9.48% 2.6 26 22.4% 18 15 37.9% 12 8.9
Brandon Allen DEN 39 84 515 9 9.68% 2.3 30 32.3% 5 4 19.4% 5 5.8
Ryan Tannehill TEN 201 286 2742 31 9.78% 2.6 105 33.1% 25 22 24.6% 15 11.0
Chase Daniel CHI 45 64 435 7 9.86% 2.5 12 16.9% 8 5 28.2% 1 2.0
Will Grier CAR 28 52 228 6 10.34% 2.4 9 15.5% 12 2 34.5% 5 4.4
Ryan Finley CIN 41 87 474 11 11.22% 2.7 40 40.8% 21 6 38.8% 6 11.5
Dwayne Haskins WAS 119 203 1365 29 12.50% 2.6 75 32.3% 30 17 32.8% 12 6.7
Josh Rosen MIA 58 109 567 16 12.80% 2.4 28 22.4% 17 15 38.4% 3 4.3
Marcus Mariota TEN 95 160 1203 25 13.51% 2.4 57 30.8% 23 12 32.4% 13 6.7
Luke Falk NYJ 47 73 416 16 17.98% 2.4 33 37.1% 12 9 41.6% 0

Lock was hard to sack. Surprisingly he was not blitzed all that much (28th out of 53 qualifying QBs) and he was pressured on 24.2 percent of his dropbacks which was 26th. His pocket time (average time QB had between snap and either throw or pressure) was 2.6 seconds. That was tied with a eleven other QBs for 3rd longest.

Most of the other QBs were either young/inexperienced (Jeff Driskel, Dwayne Haskins, Mason Rudolph and David Blough) or known for extending plays with their legs (Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Jacoby Brissett, Lamar Jackson and Dak Prescott). The only two QBs who had longer on average pocket time were Ryan Finley and Kirk Cousins, both of whom had 2.7 seconds.

Defensive coordinators blitzed the snot out of Matt Barkley and Cam Newton. They were the only two qualifying QBs to finish the season being blitzed (5 or more rushers) on 45 percent or more of their dropbacks. Conversely (and interestingly), the three other AFC West starting QBs were some of the least blitzed in the league in 2019: Philip Rivers 18.2 percent (3rd least), Derek Carr 19.9 percent (4th least) and Patrick Mahomes 21.6 percent (6th least). Panthers fans have to be worried when the see that Will Grier was blitzed only on 15.5 percent of his dropbacks in his one start yet he was still sacked five times in that game (and threw three picks).

Some quarterbacks show that they don’t have “it” in only a game or two. Will Grier does not have “it”. Drew Lock does. Both the numbers and the eye test tell me this.

As much as I enjoy writing about Drew Lock (and there will be a huge team-written analysis of Drew Lock coming soon to MHR), you probably clicked on this link to read something about the Bronco defense. To fully appreciate what this defense (and defensive coaching staff) was able to accomplish this season, you have to look at both the absolute numbers and then at the players that were able to generate them.

The Broncos finished the season 10th in points allowed. 12th in yards allowed. 16th in passer rating allowed. 24th in completion percentage allowed. 25th in takeaways. 14th in YPC allowed. 13th in third down conversion percentage allowed. 1st in red zone TD percentage. Opponents had 48 trips into the red zone against the defense and only scored TDs on 18 of those. 17th in sacks. 14th in sack percentage.

Suffice it to say that in most stats this defense was average or slightly above average - with the exception of red zone TD percentage (which was really good). The 39.1 percent that the defense allowed was the best since the 2017 Chargers allowed TDs on only 36.1 percent. The 2019 Broncos defense joined ten other defenses from this decade to finish the regular season with a value below 40 percent

Rank Team RZ TD %
1 2015 Jets 35.0%
2 2017 Chargers 36.1%
3 2013 Seahawks 36.1%
4 2013 Lions 38.1%
5 2011 Ravens 38.1%
6 2014 Chiefs 38.9%
7 2019 Broncos 39.1%
8 2010 Cardinals 39.1%
9 2017 Jaguars 39.3%
10 2016 Giants 39.5%
11 2011 Cardinals 39.7%

The Broncos defense was able to do this with unknowns and undrafted players taking an alarming number of snaps for the defense. I’ll go more in depth on that in my final season snap count review tomorrow.

Here are the starters on defense from games one and sixteen - both against the Oakland LossVegas Faiders. Only five of the players who started on defense in game one, started on defense in game sixteen. Of the six who did not, one was no longer on the team (Corey Nelson), one was suspended (Kareem Jackson) and three were on IR (Adam Gotsis, Derek Wolfe and Bradley Chubb). Of the sixth only Josey Jewell was still active and playing last Sunday and he only played eight defensive snaps when Todd Davis hobbled off the field.

game 1 starters position game 16 starters position
Adam Gotsis DE Mike Purcell NT
Derek Wolfe DE Dre'Mont Jones DE
Shelby Harris NT Shelby Harris DE
Von Miller OLB Von Miller OLB
Bradley Chubb OLB Jeremiah Attaochu OLB
Josey Jewell ILB Alexander Johnson ILB
Corey Nelson ILB Todd Davis ILB
Isaac Yiadom CB Isaac Yiadom CB
Chris Harris CB Chris Harris CB
Justin Simmons S Justin Simmons S
Kareem Jackson DB Trey Marshall S

Twenty-three different defensive players started a game for the Broncos this season and seven of those twenty-three were undrafted out of college. Also included in the 23 are two 7th round picks (Shelby Harris and Corey Nelson), a 6th round pick (Will Parks), a 5th round pick (Davontae Harris) and a 4th round pick (Josey Jewell). If you pardon the phrase, our defensive coaches this season were able to make chicken salad out of chicken shit.