A Second Helping of…Bad starts

Note: Each Monday we take a look at a player the Broncos used in a new, creative, or interesting way from the previous day’s game.  This week we’re getting a second plate of not a player, but how bad starts have affected Kyle Orton’s stats.

One criticism I’ve leveled at Kyle Orton is that his statistics have been very hollow this year. The general argument I’ve made is that of course Orton is going to compile some big numbers, because he’s been playing from behind so much—essentially the defense softens and plays a deep cover-4 zone.

While I still feel that the statement is true, I want to say it’s a needless criticism at best.  Why?

Because the guy has had no choice.

Here are where the Broncos stack up against their opponents by quarter:

Score By Periods Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 OT Pts
Team 7 54 51 42 0 154
Opponents 40 55 58 70 0 223
Differential -33 -1 -7 -28 0 -69

What immediately blows one away from this table is the points differential in both the 1st and 4th quarters.  While the Broncos aren’t exactly tearing it up in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, they are playing from behind with gusto in the 1st and 4th quarters.  Clearly the numbers from the Raiders game skew the data in an 8-game sample size, but the point is still accurate.  The Broncos have been a team that has played from behind for much of the year.

This is further evidenced by Orton’s stats.  I took the liberty of breaking down as a percentage some of Orton’s stats when he was either behind, tied, or ahead.  The results weren’t surprising:

Kyle Orton Total % Behind % Tied % Ahead
Attempts 316 61.39% 26.27% 12.34%
Yards 2,509 64.89% 21.68% 13.43%
Touchdowns 12 66.67% 25.00% 8.33%

An amazing 61% of Orton’s snaps have come from when Denver was behind in the score.  Another 26% have come when the Broncos were tied.  Only 12% have come when the team was even 1 point ahead in the game.  Even more depressing for Broncos fans, only one of his touchdown throws (8%) has come when he was ahead in the game.

It’s tempting to then take these numbers and blame Orton for playing poorly in the 1st quarter.  I know that after watching the Broncos start the game 0 for 4 yesterday, it was my first instinct.  There’s a grain of truth to this.  Like the Broncos in general, Orton has started slow.  Here are his stats by quarter:

Quarter Att Comp Pct Yds Avg TD Int 1st 20+ Sck Rate
1st Quarter 45 27 60 309 6.9 1 1 16 4 6 78.80
2nd Quarter 102 64 62.7 812 8 4 1 37 15 4 96.50
3rd Quarter 62 39 62.9 606 9.8 3 0 22 10 8 111.40
4th Quarter 107 65 60.7 782 7.3 4 3 39 11 3 83.90
4th Quarter within 7 51 30 58.8 330 6.5 1 2 15 6 2 68.30

Although I don’t have the passes broken into percentages from this chart, you should know that while Orton’s rating in the 1st quarter is average, he’s only attempted 14% of his passes in this quarter.  The majority of his passes come in the 2nd and 4th quarters when, as we have seen, the Broncos are facing deficits. 

Which brings us back to the whole point of this Second Helping, and it’s not Tim Tebow.  Criticizing Kyle for padding his stats while playing from behind is unnecessary.  For he’s not giving the points up, except on the rare pick-six interception.  However, it’s worth pointing them out because it brings out the real flaw in the Broncos this year—a lack of defensive intensity. 

This will show up in Wednesday’s STDL - the Broncos are now 26th in yards rushing per play and 29th in yards passing per play on defense.  They are 28th in stopping their opponents on 3rd down, and 30th in stopping opponents in the red zone.  If you’d like to think of things in a non-traditional way, the Broncos are 31st in the league in Expected Points allowed per play at 0.17.

Yes, you read that correctly.  On average, the Broncos allow one-sixth of a point in expected points value each and every snap in which they step on the field.

It’s these kinds of stats that will cause any quarterback to play from behind for most of the game.

Interestingly enough, it’s Josh McDaniels who the media has put on the hot seat; don’t be surprised if Josh McDaniels lights that same fire under the seat of Wink Martindale.  P

Perhaps he’ll afford Wink the same luxury that he’s getting from Broncos fans now—some on the job training.

If you like to see The Dude slack off 24/7, you can always find him on Facebook and Twitter. Or you can email him at: tjthedudejohnson@gmail.com.  He assumes you are following It’s All Over, Fat Man! on Facebook and Twitter, but if you are not, that’s nihilistic.

I’m glad we had this talk.  Now, vaya con Dios, Brah.

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Second Helpings