For the ninth straight game this season, the Denver Broncos' defense did more than its fair share to give its team a chance to win, and for the ninth straight game, the Denver Broncos’ offense did not reciprocate.
Nay, it’s worse than that.
For the ninth straight game - this time in a 17-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans - the Denver Broncos’ offense was flat-out embarrassing. It was so bad, that for the remaining games on the schedule, any future Broncos broadcasts should come with a warning label.
The defense has held its opponents to under 20 points this season in eight of nine contests, while the offense has scored 20 or more points just twice this season. That’s typically the type of hostile work environment that calls for an HR meeting and one of the two parties packing its bags and getting escorted out by security.
Seriously, imagine being in an office job, getting in early, staying late, and being a standout, productive employee while the guy in the cube next to you shows up hungover at 10 every morning, doesn’t know how Microsoft Excel works, and constantly bothers you by asking you questions he should know on day one.
That pretty much seems to be the dynamic in Denver.
Head coach Nathaniel Hackett, following the loss, indicated that there was one particular area that was holding the offense back - third down.
“Third down continually gets us,” he said in the postgame press conference. “We’re almost better on fourth down. We’ve got to keep mixing it up as much as we can.”
Ummm, first and second downs usually setup that third and long, Nate. https://t.co/ltDwN6FNaY— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) November 13, 2022
No matter how much “mixing it up” occurs, though, converting gets difficult when the team is continuously pinning itself in a tough-to-win situation on that particular down.
Of the 18 third-down possessions in Nashville on Sunday afternoon, 11 were either 3rd-and-9 or longer. On average, the team’s third-down yardage was eight throughout the day.
Converting third downs in those situations isn’t exactly as simple as a dive up the middle. It takes more offensive creativity, something Hackett has not shown this season, and to avoid it, the team needs to be better on first and second downs.
As for the play calls on third? It’s tough to know who exactly is at fault, Wilson or Hackett, but in the six instances the Broncos faced 3rd-and-5 or shorter, a pass play was called four times. Wilson looked deep on two of those downs (3rd-and-3 and 3rd-and-5) and potentially was looking that way before being forced to check down on the other two.
“For me, it’s about accountability. It’s about holding myself accountable first, the coaches accountable & the players accountable." - Coach Hackett https://t.co/tP5rm5XLvH— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) November 13, 2022
Throughout this season, there have been a head-scratching amount of runs on 2nd-and-long and an equally head-scratching amount of home run looks on 3rd-and-short or 3rd-and-medium.
It’s the play calling that is putting the team in awkward third-down situations, and it’s the inconsistency in the approach on those down that has the team still looking for answers.
Hackett is correct that third down is an issue, and the team failed to convert any in the second half. Five punts and an interception were how the game ended for the team who held a 10-point lead at one point.
Yet, admitting the issue is not even half the battle. Not acknowledging the same ineptitude that puts the team in those situations along with the inability to put together logical play packages in convertible possessions may forecast continued woes in this area.
The third down failures are a symptom of a much more damaging element to the Denver Broncos offense, and until that is fixed, situational shortcomings will only persist.