The Stats That Don’t Lie - Week 12: 3rd downs, they ain’t what they used to be

How many video operations directors does it take to change a light bulb?

Who knows?  But it takes a whole hell of a lot of them to make the Broncos' stats look good.

After a few weeks on the sideline, The Stats That Don't Lie are back.

Unfortunately for the Broncos, they haven't made a triumphant return.

As you'll see, these stats can't be made to make the Broncos look good under any circumstance.

The good news?  You can change your own light bulb.

Broncos' Offense Through 12 Weeks

Team Yards / Game Yards / Play Rushing Yards / Game Rushing Yards / Play Passing Yards / Game Passing Yards / Play Interception Rate Sacks / Pass Attempt
DEN 367.6 5.71 79.4 3.51 288.3 7.37 1.40% 6.74%
NFL 340.9 5.38 112.1 4.17 228.8 6.67 2.89% 6.27%
Differences 26.7 0.33 -32.7 -0.66 59.5 0.7 -1.49% 0.47%
Rank 8 9 30 31 4 4 4 21
Team First Downs / Game Field Goals Made 3rd Down Pct 4th Down Pct Red Zone Pct Goal to Go% Avg Time of Possession Points / Game
DEN 20.4 87.50% 34.27% 33.33% 56.41% 83.33% 28:36:00 22.7
NFL 19.2 81.05% 38.76% 48.16% 51.91% 69.64% 30:00:00 22.2
Differences 1.2 6.45% -4.49% -14.83% 4.50% 13.69% 1:24:00 0.5
Rank 12 8 27 24 10 3 25 17

What can we learn from these offensive numbers that we didn't know already?  Not a lot, unfortunately.  The Broncos continue their love affair with the pass and their scorn of the run.  We know the main reason: they continue to fall behind and abandon the running game.   The one positive out of the running game--if there is one--is that the Broncos are no longer ranked last in the league.  Does that make their 3-8 record easier to swallow?  Probably not.

The biggest drop over the last several weeks has occurred in the Broncos' 3rd-down conversion rate.  Many times we've remarked that most playoff teams hit 40% or better on 3rd downs.  The Broncos are now 34.27% on 3rd downs, which ranks them 27th.  This number is actually worse that of 2009, when they finished the year at 36.28%.  This has to be disappointing to Josh McDaniels.  The Broncos should be getting better in 3rd-down efficiency, not worse.    

One more point on the issue of 3rd downs.  If the Broncos hold at 34% for the year there, it will be their worst 3rd-down efficiency since 1992.  All the press and acclaim of this passing game rings hollow on 3rd downs.

Broncos' Defense Through 12 Weeks

Team Yards / Game Yards / Play Rushing Yards / Game Rushing Yards / Play Passing Yards / Game Passing Yards / Play Interception Rate Sacks / Pass Attempt
DEN 380.6 5.84 141.6 4.28 239 7.8 1.78% 4.75%
NFL 340.9 5.38 112.1 4.17 228.8 6.67 2.89% 6.27%
Differences 39.7 0.46 29.5 0.11 10.2 1.13 -1.11% -1.52%
Rank 27 27 30 21 20 30 31 29
Team First Downs / Game 3rd Down Pct 4th Down Pct Red Zone Pct Goal to Go% Points / Game
DEN 21 42.25% 58.33% 66.67% 76.00% 29.4
NFL 19.2 38.76% 48.16% 51.91% 69.64% 22.2
Differences 1.8 3.49% 10.17% 14.76% 6.36% 7.2
Rank 25 24 25 30 21 32

The only two stats you really need to focus on here are the interception rate and the sack rate.  The Broncos rank 31st in interceptions and 29th in sacks.  Obviously, when you can't pressure the quarterback, your ability to take the ball away and put the quarterback on the turf is limited--no, it's flat impotent.  The Broncos' defense isn't exactly stiff in the red zone either.  They rank 30th in the league.  

A healthy Elvis Dumvervil and Robert Ayers will be a welcome sight next year.  If the Broncos could also bring in The Thing, Thor, and The Incredible Hulk to play the line, they would be in business.

Broncos' Special Teams Through 12 Weeks

Team Punt Return Avg Kickoff Return Avg Opponent's Punt Return Avg Opponent's Kickoff Return Avg Average Starting Field Position Opponent's Average Field Position
DEN 10.8 22.3 9.9 25.6 27.1 30.82
NFL 9.5 22.8 9.5 22.8 29.58 29.27
Differences 1.3 -0.5 0.4 2.8 -2.48 -60.09
Rank 10 18 22 26 32 24

There's not much to take from these special teams stats, other than to note the Broncos aren't tearing up the league.  Their starting field position on offense ranks last in the league, but this statistic is driven not just by bad special teams, but by lack of turnovers.  When you don't take away the ball, your field position will always reflect a longer field.

Broncos Turnovers & Penalties Through 12 Weeks

Team Turnover Margin Penalty Yards/Game Opponent's Penalty Yards/Game
DEN -5 61.6 59.9
NFL 0 49.9 52.3
Differences -5 11.7 7.6
Rank 24 26 7

The Broncos, as we've noted, haven't been successful in taking the ball away this year.  They rank 24th in turnover margin.  But it's also interesting to see that they are playing so undisciplined.  They currently rank 26th in the league in penalty yards per game.

The Non-Traditional Stat That Won't Shake Your Hand

Kyle Orton leads the league in yards passing through 12 weeks with 3,370 yards.  But when the game is on the line, he's wilting.  His quarterback rating in the 4th quarter when trailing by 7 points or less is 64.7 and his completion percentage is 55.6%.  Overall, when the Broncos are trailing by one score, his rating is a meager 66.2 and his completion percentage is 59%.  Orton does, however, put up some awesome stats when he's trailing big or the Broncos are up big.  

Doesn't everyone?

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

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