Following a tumultuous offseason featuring what sports pundits were calling “McJaygate,” the Denver Broncos were the surprise team of the NFL, starting out 6-0. In the post that I just linked, I reviewed their 6-0 start, I thought they were for real. Sure they had beaten the Bengals on a fluke play, but their improvement on defense appeared to be very legitimate, especially when one considers that they were shutting down such high powered offenses as the Patriots, Cowboys, and Bengals. Unfortunately, following that great start against some of the better teams in the NFL, they went 2-8 for the rest of the season. So, what happened? Where were the greatest breakdowns? Hopefully, this next post in my 2009 NFL Season Reviews series will help answer those questions.
Before going further, you should take a look at the Season Reviews Informational Post, if you haven’t already. It describes the methodology and data presented in the following tables. Now that you have reviewed the methodology behind this data, let’s take a look at the data, and I will discuss it below.
|Team Offense||Value||Rank||Team Defense||Value||Rank|
|Pass Yards||3627||13||Pass Yards||2981||3|
|Pass TD||21||16||Pass TD||18||8|
|Pass INTs||13||7||Pass INTs||17||13|
|Rush Yards||1836||18||Rush Yards||2059||26|
|Rush TD||9||22||Rush TD||11||11|
|Den Pts||Opp D||Opp Pts||Opp O|
|Opp||Score||Avg Pt||Diff1||Score||Avg Pt||Diff2|
|New England Patriots||20||17.81||2.19||17||26.69||-9.69|
|San Diego Chargers||34||20||14||23||28.38||-5.38|
|San Diego Chargers||3||20||-17||32||28.38||3.63|
|New York Giants||26||26.69||-0.69||6||25.13||-19.13|
|Kansas City Chiefs||44||26.5||17.5||13||18.38||-5.38|
|Kansas City Chiefs||24||26.5||-2.5||44||18.38||25.63|
|Den Yds||Opp D||Opp Yds||Opp O|
|Opp||Gained||Avg Yd||Diff1||Gained||Avg Yd||Diff2|
|New England Patriots||424||320.19||103.81||305||397.31||-92.31|
|San Diego Chargers||328||326.88||1.13||311||360.06||-49.06|
|San Diego Chargers||271||326.88||-55.88||348||360.06||-12.06|
|New York Giants||373||324.88||48.13||267||366||-99|
|Kansas City Chiefs||413||388.19||24.81||222||303.19||-81.19|
|Kansas City Chiefs||512||388.19||123.81||524||303.19||220.81|
|Den P-Yd||Opp D||Opp P-Yd||Opp O|
|Opp||Gained||Avg Pa||Diff1||Gained||Avg Pa||Diff2|
|New England Patriots||321||209.69||111.31||209||277.25||-68.25|
|San Diego Chargers||227||209.25||17.75||238||271.13||-33.13|
|San Diego Chargers||156||209.25||-53.25||145||271.13||-126.13|
|New York Giants||235||214.06||20.94||210||251.19||-41.19|
|Kansas City Chiefs||168||231.69||-63.69||128||182.63||-54.63|
|Kansas City Chiefs||428||231.69||196.31||207||182.63||24.38|
|Den R-Yd||Opp D||Opp R-Yd||Opp O|
|Opp||Gained||Avg Ru||Diff1||Gained||Avg Ru||Diff2|
|New England Patriots||103||110.5||-7.5||96||120.06||-24.06|
|San Diego Chargers||101||117.63||-16.63||73||88.94||-15.94|
|San Diego Chargers||115||117.63||-2.63||203||88.94||114.06|
|New York Giants||138||110.81||27.19||57||114.81||-57.81|
|Kansas City Chiefs||245||156.5||88.5||94||120.56||-26.56|
|Kansas City Chiefs||84||156.5||-72.5||317||120.56||196.44|
Looking at Table 1, we would probably think that the blame for the late season collapse should be directed at the offense moreso than the defense. The offense ranked lower and the defense was top ten in yards allowed. The fact that both offense and defense were ranked lower in points than yards does tend to indicate that there were untimely turnovers, both killing offensive scoring opportunities and providing others for opposing offenses.
Tables 2-3 also agree that the defense was a strength for the Broncos, moreso than the offense. But, these tables also show a greater drop in performance on the defensive side of the ball after week 6. The defense was dominant in the first 6 weeks of the season which took a lot of pressure off of the offense. That was not the case the rest of the season.
When we look at Tables 4-5, I think we see that rush defense may have been the biggest culprit in the late season collapse. After holding opposing offenses below their season average in each of the first six games, the Broncos completed that feat against only three of their final ten opponents. And, they beat two of those three. Rushing offense was also not great late in the season, but neither was it dominant early in the season. The same could be said for passing offense. Passing defense was actually consistently strong all season.
So, it looks like rushing defense was the achilles heel late in the season. Broncos fans would know better what the exact reason was. It may be that Brian Dawkins was less effective in run support as the season went on, or there may have been injuries in the DL. Whatever the reason, that is probably the biggest need coming into this year’s draft. The Broncos have the 11th pick as part of their trade with Chicago to give up Jay Cutler. With that pick, I’d expect them to address rush defense unless one of their major contributors is getting too old, in which case they may go in a different direction.
Tags: Denver Broncos