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Denver Broncos’ inept offense pleads the 3rd

At present the Denver Broncos have the worst 3rd quarter scoring offense this century.

Denver Broncos v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Through six games the Denver Broncos have scored three — THREE!!! — points in the third quarter. Using and their drive search database, I was able to determine that this is the worst scoring rate in the third quarter for any offense this century and there is only one team that was even close to being this inept in the third quarter over the course of an entire season - the 2004 Chicago Bears. That Bears team was forced to start four different quarterbacks: Chad Hutchinson, Craig Krenzel, Jonathan Quinn and Rex Grossman.

That Bears team scored on only three of their 44 drives that started and ended in the third quarter of the game. That means they scored on 6.4 percent. However, all three of those scores were touchdowns. Right now the Broncos have only scored on one of seventeen third quarter drives and that score was a field goal. The 0.2 points that the Broncos are currently averaging in the 3rd quarter of games is comically bad.

I was able to only find ten teams this century who have scored on fewer than 15 percent of their third quarter drives. They are shown below.

Rank Year Team 3Q Sc% Scores Drives Points PP3Q Final Record
1 2022 DEN 5.88% 1 17 3 0.2 ?
2 2006 RAI 12.20% 5 41 19 1.2 2-14
3 2001 MIA 11.80% 4 34 20 1.3 11-5
4 2008 CIN 10.80% 4 37 20 1.3 4-11-1
5 2004 CHI 6.40% 3 44 21 1.3 5-11
6 2016 SFO 10.60% 5 47 23 1.4 2-14
7 2018 ARI 10.30% 4 39 24 1.5 3-13
8 2010 ARI 14.60% 6 41 30 1.9 5-11
9 2003 RAI 13.50% 5 37 31 1.9 4-12
10 2002 DAL 14.30% 6 42 33 2.1 5-11
11 2001 NYG 14.60% 6 41 34 2.1 7-9

The next worst team in teams of points per quarter in the third quarter is the 2006 Raiders who only scored 1.2 points on average in the 3rd quarter.

The other crazy thing about this is that one team on that list actually was a good team - the 2001 Dolphins somehow finished 11-5 despite having a historic bad 3rd quarter scoring offense. That team somehow finished 8th in the league in scoring offense despite only scoring 20 points in the 3rd quarter. They scored 320 in the other three quarters of the game to average 21.5 ppg. That means that while they were terrible in the 3rd quarter they averaged 6.7 points per quarter in the other three quarters.

The rest of the teams on that table above were either bad or terrible. Some of them ended up with the #1 overall draft pick the following season.

With 91 total points scored, the Broncos have scored 88 of them in the other three quarters - or 4.9 points per quarter in the other three quarters.

One reason for the Bronco offensive ineptitude is the frequency with which the offense finds itself in 3rd and long and the inability to convert in those situations. The Chiefs currently lead the league at converting on 3rd and long (7 or more needed). They convert on 47.1 percent of those situations so far this season. The Broncos are tied with the Panthers for dead last at 11.1 percent. But even when the Broncos are in 3rd and short (1-2) needed, we don’t convert at a high rate.

It’s sad that the Chiefs are converting at the same rate on 3rd and long as the Broncos are converting on 3rd and short.

The offense is reaching the level of historic ineptness and that’s a sad statement when you have an “offensive genius” at head coach calling the plays and an “elite” QB throwing the ball.

The craziest thing about this is that, because of how well the defense has played so far, the Broncos could easily be sitting at 5-1 right now. If the offense could get out of their own way, I have no doubt that this team would be, at minimum, 4-2 right now.

The defense is currently 4th in points allowed per game while the offense is currently dead last in points scored per game due to poorly timed turnovers, missed opportunities, offensive line injuries/ineffectiveness, penalties and head-scratching decisions from the offensive coaches.

I’m sure there has been a recent team with a great defense and an atrocious offense, but I can’t remember one with a likely Hall-of-Fame starting QB. Something isn’t right. The closest analogous team that I could find was the 2010 Vikings with Brett Favre in his final season. They finished the season 29th in scoring offense (and 18th in points allowed). Favre was 41 that season and it was literally the worst year of his career.

But maybe there is an analogous team much closer to home - the 2015 Broncos. The only thing is that team with a broken-down Peyton Manning starting nine regular season games, finished the season 19th in points scored and fourth in points allowed. That team, unlike the 2022 Broncos, found a way to win those close games that this year’s team has lost.

I know we all like to look back fondly on that team that finished the regular season 12-4, but that team benefitted from some luck and some lucky breaks - the opening game interception in the end zone by David Bruton to ice the game, the fumble recovery TD by Bradley Roby in the late 4th to beat KC, the CHJ pick 6 to beat Oakland 16-10, the overtime wins against the lowly Browns and Bengals and the mighty Patriots. Sadly, the win over KC was the last time the Broncos beat the Chiefs.

One similarity between the 2015 Broncos and the 2022 Broncos is their propensity to get penalized. According to the 2015 Broncos were the second most penalized team in the league in terms of penalty yards against (1249). They were called for 132 total penalties during the regular season. For comparison the 2022 Broncos have been called for 60 penalties totaling 486 yards through six games. The 2022 Broncos are on pace to get penalized 170 times in 17 regular season games.

The four defensive pass interference penalties called on Damarri Mathis last night brought the team total for the year to only five. The only other DPI called against the Broncos this season was on Ronald Darby in the opening game. Admittedly two of the calls on Mathis was absolute BS calls last night, but those BS calls are not what lost the game.

The BS call that lost the game was when Montrell Washington was trying to fair catch that punt and P.J. Locke was pushed into him while he was attempting to field the punt - leading to the muff. By rule that should have been a penalty for interference with a fair catch.

That being said the Broncos would have likely gone run-run-pass- punt on that drive even if they had the ball since they had ostensibly done that on the previous four drives (one was FG instead of punt after the INT).

I guess our offensive coaches had no confidence in our ability to run for two or three yards on third down in the second half. The Broncos threw on 3d and 2 (incomplete) and 3rd and 1 (incomplete) despite running the ball on first and second down in both instances. The Broncos ran 15 plays on 3rd down last night and, despite facing 3rd and 1 twice and 3rd and 2 twice, we threw the ball on every play. We did convert four (one on a 10 yard scramble), but I have to wonder whether or not a designed run on one (or all?) of those four third and shorts would have been merited.