A look at the numbers after a potentially season-defining upset road win over the Cowboys.
The Denver Broncos offensive line was down to one starter on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, Lloyd Cushenberry III. Calvin Anderson started for the injured Garett Bolles, Quinn Meinerz replaced lost-for-the-year Graham Glasgow, Austin Schlottmann took nine snaps for Dalton Risner and Cameron Fleming played 51 snaps for injured Bobby Massie. Despite that the offense scored a season-high, thirty points.
The replacement offensive line did a fairly good job of pass protection, enough to move the Broncos from dead last to 31st in pressure percentage allowed. We are currently allowing pressure on 29.0 percent of drop-backs. The Seahawks are worse at 30.4 percent. The Bucs are best at 12.0 percent.
The (mostly) backup offensive line did a really nice job of run blocking leading a season high 190 rushing yards on a season high 41 rushing attempts. Javonte Williams was running like Earl Campbell and Melvin Gordon was making the most of his carries as well.
Williams is now tied for fifth among running backs in terms of broken tackles with twelve, behind Joe Mixon (14) and Johnathan Taylor (13). In terms of rushing attempts per broken tackle, Williams is also fourth at 7.9, behind Zach Moss (5.9), Miles Sanders (6.3) and Christian McCaffrey (7.3). The Broncos defense will get to face Sanders next week.
Offensively our team converted on eight of fifteen third down plays against Dallas and that included conversions on third and eight (twice), ten and fourteen. The other four conversions were on third and short (one, one, two and three needed). The Broncos have eighteen conversions on third and short this season and nine of them have come in the last two games (five against WFT and four against DAL). Our conversion rate on third and short of 60 percent is about average for the league. Tampa Bay leads the league converting on 78.4 percent of their third and shorts while Cincinnati is currently the worst converting on only 40.5 percent of theirs.
Defensively the Broncos were without their entire starting linebacker group from game one. In fact, relative to game one, the Broncos defense was down six starters (all four linebackers plus Bryce Callahan and Mike Purcell). The Broncos defense was aided by some uncharacteristic drops by Cowboy receivers and terrible throws by Dak Prescott, but they definitely came to play on Sunday. The defense was also aided by some odd coaching decisions choosing to go for it twice early in the game on 4th down in field goal range.
While I am heartened by the defensive performance, I worry that it’s not sustainable and that we are in for a big let-down against the Eagles. The Bronco defense most likely will be without Patrick Surtain next week and I’m worried that a healthy Jalen Hurts will make the throws that an ailing Dak Prescott could not on Sunday.
I’m also worried that our terrible special teams play will cost us a game. That blocked punt on Sunday could have (and probably should have) changed the outcome of the game, but it was not the only special teams goof by the Broncos. We also allowed two long kick off returns which people tend to forget because they didn’t end up hurting the Broncos.
Much of the Broncos success on offense and defense on Sunday relied on luck and luck is not sustainable. While the win on Sunday was fun, I fear that it was an anomaly and that the team will return to overall poor play in the coming games.