Scouting the 2012 Denver Broncos – Behind at the start?

There’s a pattern forming after the first five weeks of the 2012 NFL Regular Season for the Denver Broncos.  Some choose the “glass half full”, others have gone the “glass half empty”.  The Broncos sit 2-3 heading into the Week 6 Monday Night Football game against division rival and the AFC West leading San Diego Chargers.  They’ve trailed at halftime 4 of 5 games, leading only in their win over Oakland (10-6).

2nd half toughness

The “glass half full” folks point to the resilience and competitive determination of fighting back in the 4th quarter, pushing Atlanta and Houston, but falling short against New England.  You have to give the Broncos credit, trailing late leaves you with only one of two options, the first (quitting) will normally get you cut or fired.  Denver has fought back behind the precision of QB Peyton Manning.  Manning is passing at a 113.5 rating in the second half, an even better 135.4 in the last two minutes.  The Bronco QB has 8 TD’s and 0 interceptions in the second 30 minutes of play.  Denver receivers average a full yard more per reception after intermission and the O-Line has surrendered just 4 sacks in the 2nd half.

The defense has limited opponents to 5.23 yards per completion and held QB’s to a paltry 76.2 overall rating the final two quarters.  The Broncos D has recorded 11 sacks and surrendered just 3 TD’s through the air, 2 on the ground.  By the numbers, Denver opponents want nothing to do with them after coming out of the locker room for the 2nd half.

1st half clueless

Now the “glass half empty”.  Opponents have played to protect leads built in the 1st half.  Taking nothing away from effort, Denver has padded their stats through Atlanta, Houston, and New England sitting on substantial leads.  I tweeted during the Patriot game that most NFL coaches play “not to LOSE” vs “trying to WIN”.  That was in response to reactions to Belichick’s “No Huddle, Hurry up” that had the Broncos defense gassed in the 1st half.  Emotion and game management get even the best of NFL coaches, and the Patriots clearly let up (though not necessarily intentional) after building a big lead.

This begs the question, “Is Denver ready after the National Anthem?”  One might contend they’re not.  I had a college coach whose mantra was “The first five minutes of each half set the tone”.  Denver appears “tone deaf” at the start of most games.  This points to either poor preparation by the players, or by the coaches.  Heaven forbid if it’s a combination of both.  Having watched the predominantly orange get crushed in the first half of most of 2012, you have to reason there’s a lack of focus, preparation, game planning, confidence, adjustments… pick anything you’d like.

Ready, set, ….?

Dissect the play by play, look at the stats, analyze the ratings/rankings.  It all comes out to Denver getting beat in the first 30 minutes, then playing catch up the rest of the way against teams just trying “not to LOSE”.  Case in point, simply look at the first half drives in all 5 games.  I’ve designated “D” for stalling in Denver territory, “P, A, H, O, or N” for the respective opponent’s territory, and “TD or FG” if the Broncos scored.  Drives are in sequential order.

  • Pittsburgh – D45, D49 (fumble), D15, TD
  • Atlanta – D12, D37, A40 (interception), 50, A45 (fumble), D28, TD
  • Houston – D38, FG, H42, D22, FG, D49, FG
  • Oakland – TD, FG, D29 (fumble), O36, D15 (kneel down)
  • New England – D47 (fumble – *I acknowledge after long pass), D40, FG, N39, D31 (kneel down)

Conversely Denver’s defense has responded with the following in 1st half;

  • Pittsburgh – P20, D45, FG, TD
  • Atlanta – TD, FG, A48, A18, FG, TD
  • Houston – H6 (safety), TD, TD, TD, H21, D38 (interception)
  • Oakland – FG, O46, O13, FG
  • New England – N31, TD, TD, FG

“How long can this keep going on?”

“Half full” or “Half empty”?  The game is 60 minutes, I get it.  But something’s amiss for a team supposedly a Super Bowl contender.  Five FG’s and 3 TD’s in the first half of 5 games?  One opening scoring drive?  Nineteen points versus 3 of the NFL’s best?  Only 17 first half points in the two wins?

Think way back to the first 15 scripted plays that put Denver up on opponents time and again.  Games are played on Sundays, but won between Wednesday and Friday.  2nd half game planning and adjustments appear to be just enough to get the Broncos beat and playing from behind in the standings.

Time to start setting the tone.

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