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Stats just the way it is, some things will never change - Denver Broncos Week 8, 2021

A look at the numbers as we head into the second half-ish of the season.

NFL: OCT 31 Washington Football Team at Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Denver Broncos are currently the second best scoring defense in the league having only allowed 137 points through eight games (17.1 points per game). Only the Bills at 15.6 have been better.

This meets the expectations for the defense from the pre-season when many thought the Broncos defense to be one of the best in the league. Having done this without three starters on defense for the majority of the season (Bradley Chubb, Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson) is fairly impressive. It’s another example of our defensive coaches getting the most of the limited talent that they have.

We saw this last season when Denver’s cornerbacks were going down to injury at an alarming rate. This season it has been linebackers where the Broncos currently have five on the IR (Chubb, Jewell, Johnson, Andre Mintze and Natrez Patrick).

So far the run defense has been decent - currently tied for 12th, allowing 4.16 yards per carry, but that is bolstered by the first three games. Over the last five games the Broncos run defense has allowed 629 yards on 145 runs (including kneeldowns) - which is 4.34 yards per carry. That’s still not terrible, but the Broncos are about to face the two of the best rushing teams in the league in the Cowboys (4th in ypc) and the Eagles (3rd in ypc) and we have two games against the Chiefs (6th in ypc) and the Chargers (10th in ypc).

Getting Mike Purcell back should help here, but Kenny Young, Justin Strnad and Baron Browning will be tested early and often both in the run game (where Strnad has looked lost during the past two games) and the passing game. Our defensive coaches have a tremendous challenge in getting our linebackers to play at an NFL level during the back half of the season.

Our defense will be facing some of the better scoring offenses in the latter half with Dallas (3rd in ppg scored), Cincy (7th), Kansas City (9th), Las Vegas (11th) and Philly (12th) all coming in to face our depleted defense, which will probably finish much lower than second in points allowed per game. If this defense is somehow able to finish the season in the top five in points allowed, it should probably count as Donatell and Fangio’s greatest coaching achievement. Frankly, should that happen, it might just save Fangio’s job as the head coach of the Broncos.

One way in which the Bronco defense have been as good as expected is in tackling. Currently the Broncos have only missed 31 tackles through eight games - 3.9 per game. That is the best value in the league and is less than half of the worst tackling defense, the Ravens, who are missing 8.3 tackles per game.

Rank Tm Mtkl/g
1 Denver Broncos 3.9
2 Kansas City Chiefs 4.8
3 Green Bay Packers 5.1
4 Seattle Seahawks 5.3
5 New Orleans Saints 5.6
6 New England Patriots 5.8
7 Cleveland Browns 5.9
8 Arizona Cardinals 6.0
9 Tennessee Titans 6.1
10 Los Angeles Rams 6.1
11 Las Vegas Raiders 6.1
12 Chicago Bears 6.3
13 Detroit Lions 6.3
14 Atlanta Falcons 6.3
15 Indianapolis Colts 6.5
16 Washington Football Team 6.5
17 New York Giants 6.6
18 Dallas Cowboys 6.7
19 San Francisco 49ers 6.7
20 Carolina Panthers 6.9
21 Cincinnati Bengals 7.0
22 New York Jets 7.0
23 Minnesota Vikings 7.1
24 Buffalo Bills 7.3
25 Jacksonville Jaguars 7.3
26 Houston Texans 7.4
27 Miami Dolphins 7.4
28 Philadelphia Eagles 7.6
29 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7.6
30 Pittsburgh Steelers 7.7
31 Los Angeles Chargers 7.9
32 Baltimore Ravens 8.3

One way in which the Fangio/Donatell defenses in Denver have disappointed so far is their lack of turnovers. Over the past 2.5 seasons the Broncos defense has forced a total of 41 turnovers. That is 27th in the league over this time span. Compare that to the Steelers defense that has forced 71 over the past two and a half seasons.

Rank Team 2019 2020 2021 Total
1 Pittsburgh Steelers 38 27 6 71
2 Minnesota Vikings 31 29 9 69
3 Buffalo Bills 23 26 18 67
4 New England Patriots 36 22 9 67
5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 28 25 14 67
6 Indianapolis Colts 23 25 18 66
7 Seattle Seahawks 32 22 8 62
8 New Orleans Saints 23 22 13 58
9 Green Bay Packers 25 18 14 57
10 Tennessee Titans 23 23 11 57
11 New York Giants 16 26 13 55
12 Baltimore Ravens 25 22 7 54
13 Dallas Cowboys 17 23 14 54
14 New York Jets 21 22 11 54
15 Washington Football Team 22 23 9 54
16 Kansas City Chiefs 23 22 8 53
17 Los Angeles Rams 24 19 10 53
18 Arizona Cardinals 17 21 14 52
19 San Francisco 49ers 27 20 5 52
20 Carolina Panthers 21 22 8 51
21 Miami Dolphins 16 22 13 51
22 Atlanta Falcons 20 21 6 47
23 Philadelphia Eagles 20 19 8 47
24 Cleveland Browns 20 21 5 46
25 Chicago Bears 19 18 8 45
26 Cincinnati Bengals 16 17 9 42
27 Denver Broncos 17 16 8 41
28 Houston Texans 22 9 9 40
29 Oakland Raiders 15 19 5 39
30 Jacksonville Jaguars 19 17 2 38
31 Los Angeles Chargers 14 15 9 38
32 Detroit Lions 18 12 7 37

The Fangio style of defense relies on being able to get pressure without having to blitz and the Broncos defensive line and edge rushers have not been very good at generating pressure under Fangio. Blitzing can help, but blitzing leads to big plays against many of the best QBs in the league.

The Broncos defense has already allowed 32 plays of 20 or more yards this season (tied for 22nd) and seven plays of 40 or more yards (tied for 29th). In terms of 40 yard plays allowed only the Lions, Texans (eight) and Chiefs (eleven) have been worse. So far there is only one team to not allow a 40 yard play on defense, the Atlanta Falcons. The Dolphins have been the worst big play defense so far this year having allowed 46 plays of 20 or more and five of 40 or more. The Bills defense has only allowed fifteen plays that gained 20 or more yards in seven games.

rank Team total 20+ total 40+
1 Bills 15 4
2 Cardinals 18 2
3 Eagles 21 4
4 Chargers 23 6
5 Packers 24 6
6 Falcons 25 0
7 Giants 25 4
8 Panthers 25 4
9 Raiders 25 3
10 Seahawks 25 4
11 49ers 26 5
12 Vikings 27 4
13 Colts 28 6
14 Steelers 28 3
15 Browns 29 5
16 Saints 29 6
17 Rams 30 6
18 Football Team 31 7
19 Patriots 31 4
20 Bears 32 7
21 Broncos 32 7
22 Titans 32 7
23 Bengals 33 3
24 Cowboys 34 5
25 Jaguars 35 4
26 Texans 35 8
27 Buccaneers 36 2
28 Chiefs 36 11
29 Jets 37 4
30 Ravens 37 7
31 Lions 39 8
32 Dolphins 46 5

On the other side of this, the Broncos offense has not been very good at generating chunk plays. Our offense is currently tied for 24th with 26 plays of twenty or more yards. The Bucs have the most currently at 43 while the Saints have only generated 15 chunk plays so far this season.

Rank Team total 20+ total 40+
1 Buccaneers 43 6
2 Patriots 40 3
3 Ravens 40 5
4 Raiders 39 6
5 Bengals 37 11
6 Rams 36 10
7 Cardinals 35 7
8 Cowboys 35 5
9 Seahawks 33 6
10 Vikings 33 3
11 Browns 32 7
12 Eagles 31 3
13 Bills 30 6
14 Chargers 30 6
15 Colts 30 8
16 Packers 30 6
17 Chiefs 28 5
18 Football Team 28 3
19 Lions 28 3
20 49ers 27 5
21 Panthers 27 3
22 Broncos 26 3
23 Dolphins 26 2
24 Titans 26 6
25 Giants 25 7
26 Jaguars 25 4
27 Jets 25 3
28 Steelers 24 6
29 Texans 24 5
30 Bears 21 2
31 Falcons 20 2
32 Saints 15 4