Reviewing the Denver Broncos 2009 Season

Quarterback Kyle Orton #8: His expression is an accurate representation of the Denver Broncos late season (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

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
Points 326 20 Points 324 12
Yards 5463 15 Yards 5040 7
Cmp 341 Cmp 298
Att 558 Att 510
Pass Yards 3627 13 Pass Yards 2981 3
NY/A 6.1 15 NY/A 5.4 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
Y/A 4.2 17 Y/A 4.5 27
Sacks 34 T-15 Sacks 39 10

Table 1


Den Pts Opp D
Opp Pts Opp O
Opp Score Avg Pt Diff1 Score Avg Pt Diff2
Cincinnati Bengals 12 18.19 -6.19 7 19.06 -12.06
Cleveland Browns 27 23.44 3.56 6 15.31 -9.31
Oakland Raiders 23 23.69 -0.69 3 12.31 -9.31
Dallas Cowboys 17 15.63 1.38 10 22.56 -12.56
New England Patriots 20 17.81 2.19 17 26.69 -9.69
San Diego Chargers 34 20 14 23 28.38 -5.38
Baltimore Ravens 7 16.31 -9.31 30 24.44 5.56
Pittsburgh Steelers 10 20.25 -10.25 28 23 5
Washington Redskins 17 21 -4 27 16.63 10.38
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
Indianapolis Colts 16 19.19 -3.19 28 26 2
Oakland Raiders 19 23.69 -4.69 20 12.31 7.69
Philadelphia Eagles 27 21.06 5.94 30 26.81 3.19
Kansas City Chiefs 24 26.5 -2.5 44 18.38 25.63
Sum Difference -13.94 -19.75

Table 2


Den Yds Opp D
Opp Yds Opp O
Opp Gained Avg Yd Diff1 Gained Avg Yd Diff2
Cincinnati Bengals 302 301.38 0.63 307 309.13 -2.13
Cleveland Browns 449 389.31 59.69 200 260.19 -60.19
Oakland Raiders 372 361.94 10.06 137 266.13 -129.13
Dallas Cowboys 337 315.88 21.13 315 399.38 -84.38
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
Baltimore Ravens 200 300.5 -100.5 292 351.19 -59.19
Pittsburgh Steelers 242 305.31 -63.31 375 371.31 3.69
Washington Redskins 305 319.69 -14.69 388 312.38 75.63
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
Indianapolis Colts 357 339.19 17.81 312 363.06 -51.06
Oakland Raiders 337 361.94 -24.94 343 266.13 76.88
Philadelphia Eagles 241 321.06 -80.06 394 357.88 36.13
Kansas City Chiefs 512 388.19 123.81 524 303.19 220.81
Sum Difference 71.63 -306.56

Table 3


Den P-Yd Opp D
Opp P-Yd Opp O
Opp Gained Avg Pa Diff1 Gained Avg Pa Diff2
Cincinnati Bengals 227 203.06 23.94 221 180.63 40.38
Cleveland Browns 263 244.69 18.31 146 129.75 16.25
Oakland Raiders 157 206.44 -49.44 42 159.81 -117.81
Dallas Cowboys 221 225.38 -4.38 241 267.94 -26.94
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
Baltimore Ravens 134 207.25 -73.25 167 213.69 -46.69
Pittsburgh Steelers 215 215.44 -0.44 202 259.25 -57.25
Washington Redskins 185 207.25 -22.25 214 218.13 -4.13
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
Indianapolis Colts 262 212.69 49.31 220 282.19 -62.19
Oakland Raiders 257 206.44 50.56 102 159.81 -57.81
Philadelphia Eagles 171 216.38 -45.38 289 255.56 33.44
Kansas City Chiefs 428 231.69 196.31 207 182.63 24.38
Sum Difference 176.38 -581.69

Table 4


Den R-Yd Opp D
Opp R-Yd Opp O
Opp Gained Avg Ru Diff1 Gained Avg Ru Diff2
Cincinnati Bengals 75 98.31 -23.31 86 128.5 -42.5
Cleveland Browns 186 144.63 41.38 54 130.44 -76.44
Oakland Raiders 215 155.5 59.5 95 106.31 -11.31
Dallas Cowboys 116 90.5 25.5 74 131.44 -57.44
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
Baltimore Ravens 66 93.25 -27.25 125 137.5 -12.5
Pittsburgh Steelers 27 89.88 -62.88 173 112.06 60.94
Washington Redskins 120 112.44 7.56 174 94.25 79.75
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
Indianapolis Colts 95 126.5 -31.5 92 80.88 11.13
Oakland Raiders 80 155.5 -75.5 241 106.31 134.69
Philadelphia Eagles 70 104.69 -34.69 105 102.31 2.69
Kansas City Chiefs 84 156.5 -72.5 317 120.56 196.44
Sum Difference -104.75 275.13

Table 5

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.

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