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Broncos 3rd & long: a six-pack of suck, playing the blame-game on six allowed sacks

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The Denver Broncos were again stellar on third down defense, but the focus of this post will be who to blame for the six sacks the offense took.

Denver Broncos v Green Bay Packers Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

So this week I’m going to figure out who is to blame for each of the six sacks that the Denver Broncos allowed on Sunday, but first I’ll talk about their third down defense, which was superb again for the second week in a row.

Denver forced the Green Bay Packers into nine 3rd downs and only one was 3rd & short. Six were 3rd & long. They only converted two, but one of them was the 3rd and 15 where Denver gave up a 28-yard catch. That was on Trey Marshall. He played two defensive snaps and managed to screw up royally on that one.

The good news is that after allowing conversion on 10 of 14 third downs in game one, the Broncos have only allowed conversion on 5 of 20 in games two and three.

So now, on to the sack blame.

Sack #1

This is solely the fault of Joe Flacco. I count six seconds from snap to sack. That is plenty of time for him to throw the ball somewhere. He could have gotten the ball to DaeSean Hamilton or Emmanuel Sanders on the right, but he doesn’t even look that way until right before he is sacked.

Sack #2

To me, this one is also on Flacco. Yes, Garett Bolles gets beaten, but Flacco has time and fails to pull the trigger with Noah Fant fairly open in the back of the end zone. I clocked this one at 3.2 seconds from snap to sack. The Packers get way more pressure than they should with only three pass rushers.

Notice that both Ron Leary and Dalton Risner are standing around blocking no one at the end of the play. Kenny Clark destroys Connor McGovern on this play. But even with all that, Flacco has got to pull the trigger here. This is the third time this season that they have allowed a red zone sack. All three were on 3rd down passing plays. They only allowed two red zone sacks for the whole 2018 season.

Sack #3

This one is clearly the fault of Elijah Wilkinson. Wilkinson initially stays tight to pick up the man over Leary if they stunt, but this makes him too slow to get in front of the edge rusher who hits Flacco 2.3 seconds after the snap. This strip-sack and the Packer TD that followed really shifted the game. The Broncos actually had the momentum at this point and had they been able to get a score before half-time, they would have gotten the ball to start the second half with a lead.

This sack and this game really drive the point home that Elijah Wilkinson is not ready yet to be a starting offensive tackle in the NFL, and he may never be ready. According to PFF he was the lowest graded offensive player on the team Sunday with an overall rating of 37.2 and a pass block rating of 29.9.

Sack #4

Again, this is on Flacco. He has 4.9 seconds from the snap to the sack. He has to do here, what Aaron Rodgers did many times throughout the game, throw this one into the ground near a receiver’s feet. A sack here burns precious clock while a throwaway not only saves clock but yardage. This was in the 4th with three minutes left.

On this play, Flacco appears to not trust his second read since he almost throws the ball twice before tucking it and getting taken down from behind. Wilkinson gets beaten and his man gets the sack, but the ball should have been away at that point.

Sack #5

This sack is on Wilkinson, but Preston Smith is off-sides and the refs failed to call it. Wilkinson gets into position, despite Smith’s early jump, but Elijah whiffs on the punch and Flacco. Since it was 4th and 17 while it probably would not have changed the outcome, a free play here could have resulted in a TD similar to what Rodgers did earlier in the game (assuming that our receivers and QB could recognize that the D jumped and have at least one go route as the adjustment).

Take a look at the screenshot below which is right before the ball is snapped - notice that the other three Packer defenders are still in their stances while Smith already moving across the LOS.

I guess only the Packer’s opponents get called for defensive off-sides in Green Bay.

Sack #6

Flacco gets hit at 3.4 seconds after the snap here and it is mostly Bolles’ fault, although McGovern and Risner both get beaten after Bolles which gives Flacco no chance to step up into the pocket. Bolles uses his patented left-arm choke hold blocking technique here and doesn’t get called for holding, probably because he did so little to impede the progress of the defender with his block.

Final Tally for game 3 sack blame.

Flacco - 3

Wilkinson - 2

Bolles - 1

I’ll do a review of every sack after the fourth game to see who is to blame. Denver has allowed 11 sacks through three games while the Vikings, 49ers and Cowboys have allowed only two. At least they are not at bad as the Titans who have allowed 17 sacks.