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Mr.Meanie
12-23-2009, 12:00 PM
That site deserves some visits, so check it out this article over there:

http://www.milehighreport.com/2009/12/23/1206864/the-dude-abides-the-stats-that

Here are a few gems from that article.

Usually I put up a graph each week expounding upon the turnover margin in Denver's win/loss. This week, Denver won the turnover battle and lost the game, so it's a good time to look at what has been another key area for Denver (weīll deal with turnovers shortly). Itīs no secret that Denver has struggled on 3rd downs. But just how bad has it been? Not as bad as taking one to the gut, but letīs take a look:

The blue line is the league-average per game since the Broncos' bye week. It has ranged from 37.13% to 37.79%. This is normal. The league average usually runs between 37% and 38%. The orange line is Denver's 3rd-down percentage per game through the bye week as well. In Denver's last 8 games, they've manage to best this league average but one time. In 3 of the 8 games, they didn't even hit 30%. As you'll see in the rankings, they are averaging a paltry 34.53% per game.

Consider the 15-week average per game of the playoff teams if the season were to end today, in addition to the four biggest threats to Denver's wild-card spot.

Indianapolis: 51.61%
San Diego: 41.81%
New England: 42.45%
Cincinnati: 41.71%
Baltimore: 40.08%
Denver: 34.53%
Jacksonville: 43.08%
PIttsburgh: 39.11%
Miami: 47.10%
Tennessee: 40.00%

Someone on this list doesn't have a cool-sounding 3rd-down rate, and we are not talking about the Colts. Even though the Broncos are within one standard deviation (about 6%) from the mean of 37.71%, the Broncos are fortunate that their defense has produced some timely turnovers this year. One might even wonder how a team with such a bad 3rd-down percentage is in the position of making the playoffs. For now, let's chalk it up to orange-and-blue leprechauns and move on.

3rd Downs - Hooked On a Feeling
The real question is, "Why have the Broncos done so poorly on 3rd downs all year long?" Stats can only do so much of the heavy lifting, but we'll give it a shot, anyway.

Many have postulated that it's the offensive line, the play calling, or Knowshon Moreno himself. Some view Peyton Hillis as the bionic man. Perhaps he should be getting more carries. Or some want to blame a certain bad ass with the finest neck beard this side of the Mississippi. I'm hearing none of it.

I have a different theory. It's less complex. And it doesn't require pointing fingers.

Simply, it's this team's first experience with "Erhardt-Perkins" offense. As Tom Brady has repeatedly alluded, getting used to this complex offensive system, installed with the Patriots by Charlie Weis, takes at least two years to get used to, if not more. But let's not take Brady's word for it, let's look at the numbers.

We simply need to go back to the 2000 Patriots, when Weis installed the offense and look at the Patriots' 3rd-down conversion rate between 2000 and 2001. In 2000, the Patriots were 35% on 3rd downs. In 2001, that number jumped 6% to 41%. Now, there is one big difference between 2000 and 2001. And that's Tom Brady at quarterback. But it was his second year in the system, and I don't believe Brady's numbers would have been the same had he had that first year as a rookie to learn Weis's system.

The Football Outsiders, who many stats geeks worship like I do Pam Grier, would agree. They've had a theory going about 3rd downs for several years:

Teams which are strong on first and second down, but weak on third down, will tend to improve the following year...over time, a team will play as well in those situations as it does in other situations, which will bring the overall offense or defense in line with the offense and defense on first and second down.

This year Denver has rushed for 977 yards on 1st down, good for 4th-best in the league in that category. Here is the precise breakdown on 1st and 2nd downs when compared to 3rd down:


1st Down-Average Running Play: 4.2 yards; Average Passing Play: 7.02 yards
2nd Down-Average Running Play: 4.71 yards; Average Passing Play: 5.99 yards
3rd Down-Average Running Play: 2.62 yards; Average Passing Play: 5.19 yards

Your eyes do not deceive you. On 3rd down, Denver struggles. If the Football Outsiders' theory is correct (it has been over the last 7 years) and history repeats itself with the Broncos' learning curve with respect to the "Erhardt-Perkins" system, we are looking at a team next year which is poised to improve drastically in 3rd-down efficiency. Take it to the bank.



Since we are beating the 3rd-down horse, it's also useful to bring up the play calling on 3rd and short. A lot of fans have been lamenting the Broncos' struggle on 3rd and short and hoping the team would pass more often. While this is completely understandable, just know that the percentages actually favor running in these situations--by a good margin. Once again, I present to you one of the little gems from the Football Outsiders:

On average, passing will always gain more yardage than running, with one very important exception: when a team is just one or two yards away from a new set of downs or the goal line. On third-and-1, a run will convert for a new set of downs 36 percent more often than a pass. Expand that to all third or fourth downs with 1-2 yards to go, and the run is successful 40 percent more often. With these percentages, the possibility of a long gain with a pass is not worth the tradeoff of an incomplete that kills a drive...

...Teams pass roughly 60 percent of the time on third-and-2 even though runs in that situation convert 20 percent more often than passes. They pass 68 percent of the time on fourth-and-2 even though runs in that situation convert twice as often as passes.

As bad as Denver has been in short-yardage situations this year on 3rd and 4th down, it's still not swimming upstream against these percentages. And if you don't think McDaniels knows the percentages, you are fooling yourself. Still want more proof? Consider that on 3rd-and-3 (or less):

Kyle Orton is 7 out of 15 passing (54%)
Knowshon Moreno is 10 out of 15 rushing (67%)
Moreno just happens to be converting on 3rd-and-3 (or less) about 24% more often than when Orton throws in the same situation. This is slightly higher than the Football Outsiders would estimate, but we are dealing with a relatively small sample size. However, the point is still valid. McDaniels is generally making the right call when he continues to run the ball on third and short.

For those that believe Peyton Hillis is Charles Bronson, ask yourself if he could have done any better than 10 out of 15? If you can look yourself in the mirror with any seriousness and answer, "yes," than we'll just have to act like professionals. Maurice Jones-Drew has picked up 17 out of 22 (77%), so you'd be putting Hillis in that kind of company. Given that Hillis has only averaged 3.4 in his 5 carries this year up the middle, I'm skeptical. Moreno has had 62 carries up the middle and averages 3.7.

There is plenty more in this article about the OL play and the overall play of other playoff contenders.

I think this guy nails it on the head about our 3rd down efficiency and McD's playcalling. McD is playing the percentages on 3rd down, and he's doing pretty well with that.

Discuss.

2KBack
12-23-2009, 12:08 PM
I think McD has been playing the percentages all year with the offense, it is the smart safe approach. The problem is he hasn't been willing to shake things up when it is obvious that other aspects of the offense might have some more success in some situations. Orton, for example, has done pretty well when allowed to pick his guy and go downfield. If the defense is playing short, you have to be willing to take the risk sometimes. McD still isn't willing to go away from the "safe decision. I think he will in time though. Knowing when to take those risks is part of the learning process.

gtown
12-23-2009, 12:15 PM
They really do a good job of taking stats and making them relevant in a real world discussion of football dynamics. The fact that the Broncos are putting in a new offense has been so overlooked on the Mane, its maddening. Football is a game of inches, especially on the lines, that if you are late to your assignment the play totally breaks down. That's not good enough for some people who think Hillis is God and Orton is the Antichrist.

It is heartening to know that our proficiency on 1st and 2nd down will eventually translate to improvements on 3rd down. This team is going in the right direction for the first time in a few years on both offense and defense.

Mr.Meanie
12-23-2009, 12:23 PM
It is heartening to know that our proficiency on 1st and 2nd down will eventually translate to improvements on 3rd down. This team is going in the right direction for the first time in a few years on both offense and defense.

That's a great stat that football outsiders has. If the Broncos could fix their 3rd down woes they would be a serious threat. If that is fixed next year, with a year of learning from our rookies, and another year of eliminating the mistakes and learning the offense... Look out!

SJ Bronco
12-23-2009, 12:27 PM
actually an article posted here that makes a valid and coherent point. Go figure. Should fire woody and hire this kat.

WolfpackGuy
12-23-2009, 12:30 PM
There is no way in hell Moreno is 10/15 on third down on the season.

Beantown Bronco
12-23-2009, 12:38 PM
There is no way in hell Moreno is 10/15 on third down on the season.

These guys are not in the business of making up stats. It would be too easy to prove them wrong by simply going to nfl.com and looking at the game logs. Have at it.

Lolad
12-23-2009, 12:49 PM
There is no way in hell Moreno is 10/15 on third down on the season.

he is saying in 3rd and 3 he is 10 out of 15. I highly doubt that STAT without looking further I'll just leave it alone.

jhns
12-23-2009, 12:49 PM
How can you write an entire article about offensive problems and not blame any of it on Orton? No need to get creative when the problem is so obvious.

Just kidding, it was an interesting read. I had never heard that first/second down theory. I personally think it is a combination of new system, players not fitting the system(o-line), and an average QB. People hate when I say Orton is part of the problem but I think even McD has agreed with me. Look at the game plans. He never called this conservative of a passing game with the Patriots. I could be wrong though. I really wish I could sit down and talk to McD and see what he really thinks.

gtown
12-23-2009, 12:57 PM
How can you write an entire article about offensive problems and not blame any of it on Orton? No need to get creative when the problem is so obvious.

Just kidding, it was an interesting read. I had never heard that first/second down theory. I personally think it is a combination of new system, players not fitting the system(o-line), and an average QB. People hate when I say Orton is part of the problem but I think even McD has agreed with me. Look at the game plans. He never called this conservative of a passing game with the Patriots. I could be wrong though. I really wish I could sit down and talk to McD and see what he really thinks.

You gotta start QBs in a new system off conservatively, so as to not break them psychologically, which can happen. Cutler had periods of time where he only targeted the TEs or one side of the field consistently while he was learning Shanny's offense. I don't see why Orton, even though he is at best an above-average QB, would be any different despite his experience.

SonOfLe-loLang
12-23-2009, 01:07 PM
Stats don't lie, but they certainly don't always hold all the truth, especially when talking about a complex game like football, that has a gazillion variables with every play. While I'm sure there stats are correct, it assumes that all running plays are identical, when this is obviously not the case. I don't mind running plays called on a third and one, but the predictability of some of the running plays has been detrimental to the team. Rarely do we do things like throw a pitch to the outside when the defense is clearly jamming the middle of the field.

snowspot66
12-23-2009, 01:13 PM
How can you write an entire article about offensive problems and not blame any of it on Orton? No need to get creative when the problem is so obvious.

Just kidding, it was an interesting read. I had never heard that first/second down theory. I personally think it is a combination of new system, players not fitting the system(o-line), and an average QB. People hate when I say Orton is part of the problem but I think even McD has agreed with me. Look at the game plans. He never called this conservative of a passing game with the Patriots. I could be wrong though. I really wish I could sit down and talk to McD and see what he really thinks.

Of course he didn't. He had Brady well situated in the offense with a line that was performing at a high level in both run and pass blocking and he had Randy Moss.

Orton is in his first year of a real NFL offense. Not that crap they roll out in Chicago. Also, we don't have Randy Moss. In fact we don't really have a deep threat. Eddie is fast enough to go deep but not big enough to go up for a jump ball and win with consistency. His strength is his route running. Marshal is big enough to do that but he's not fast like the major deep ball threats in the league. His strength is the short and mid level passes that he can catch and destroy teams with YAC through brute strength. I would not be surprised if we drafted a big guy who can just run fast and catch a football. In fact it would be nice if we did. We could drop Eddie into the slot position and give him more chances than he's getting this year.

outdoor_miner
12-23-2009, 01:16 PM
I really wish I could sit down and talk to McD and see what he really thinks.

Well, what's kind of cool is that we'll be able to tell exactly what McD is thinking by how he handles Orton's contract this offseason. I'm very curious, too. Is the offense so conservative because McD has no faith in Orton's abilities? Or, does he see the O-Line as the problem? Orton's deal will answer these questions.

Obviously, the draft will also tell us a lot about both Orton and Brandstater... A 1st or 2nd round pick means both of these guys are on their way out. Mid-round pick means Brandstater is probably not viewed as a long-term possibility as a starter. Late round pick or no QB means Brandstater is here to stay.

By combining the two (Orton's contract + the draft), I think it will be pretty clear where McD is hitching his wagons.

Pony Boy
12-23-2009, 01:17 PM
Stats don't lie, but they certainly don't always hold all the truth, especially when talking about a complex game like football, that has a gazillion variables with every play.

Very true here's a crazy stat.

In the Eagles eight games Westbrook has missed this season, the Eagles have gone 7-1 and averaged 30.9 points per game. They are 3-3 and have averaged 21.5 points per game when Westbrook has played.

Beantown Bronco
12-23-2009, 01:18 PM
People hate when I say Orton is part of the problem but I think even McD has agreed with me.

For the 100th time, no we don't. We just hate it when you say he is THE ONLY problem....which you've tried to do with some consistency. HUGE difference there.

but I think even McD has agreed with me. Look at the game plans. He never called this conservative of a passing game with the Patriots. I could be wrong though.

You are wrong. Shocker. Go watch some Pats footage from last year, particularly the first half of the season with Cassel under center. They were EXTREMELY conservative.

jhns
12-23-2009, 01:24 PM
Of course he didn't. He had Brady well situated in the offense with a line that was performing at a high level in both run and pass blocking and he had Randy Moss.

Orton is in his first year of a real NFL offense. Not that crap they roll out in Chicago. Also, we don't have Randy Moss. In fact we don't really have a deep threat. Eddie is fast enough to go deep but not big enough to go up for a jump ball and win with consistency. His strength is his route running. Marshal is big enough to do that but he's not fast like the major deep ball threats in the league. His strength is the short and mid level passes that he can catch and destroy teams with YAC through brute strength. I would not be surprised if we drafted a big guy who can just run fast and catch a football. In fact it would be nice if we did. We could drop Eddie into the slot position and give him more chances than he's getting this year.

He didn't call them this conservative with Cassel either. While was a backup there and knew the system some, he hadn't started since high school. I would say that puts him about even with Orton on the experience level and what they should be able to handle. Anyways, the conservative game plan can be because of Orton, the new system, the o-line problems, or a combination of them. I think it is all of these things.

I am not saying conservative as in not throwing 50 yard bombs. I am saying it seems like %90 of our passes are things like screens and slants. It also seems to me like we hardly ever throw over the middle. Our receivers are more than capable of going over the middle and running routes that go further than 10 yards.

NYBronco
12-23-2009, 01:26 PM
That is a good article and compliments to the writer for the effort and research put into it.

The part I found most interesting was the articles breakdown of the average gain running behind each of the offensive linemen including the ends.




"The Offensive Line - Hold It...A Little Big Longer

If you want to point to the offensive line and losing Ryan Harris, then we've got some common ground. This loss is a lot bigger problem than McDaniels would like you to believe. Here is what Denver was averaging per carry on the ground (pre-Oakland) through 14 weeks:

Left End Left Tackle Left Guard Middle Left Middle Right Right Guard Right Tackle Right End

4.2 4.6 5.2 3.6 3.4 4.4 5.5 4.7

If you were scouting the Broncos and you saw these numbers, it would become clear to you very quickly that the strength of this offensive line was on the right side of the ball in general and on the outside edges--at least with respect to running. It's even clearer when you look at the right-end runs and left-end runs, because Daniel Graham is shifting in the formation and these numbers are directly related to him. If the left side of the line were as good as the right, you would expect the numbers on the right-end to be similar to those on the left-end. This isn't a knock on Ryan Clady--far from it if you look at the numbers off left tackle. It's simply a recognition of the importance of Ryan Harris (and also Polumbus, who has played well in the running game).

This is data a casual fan comprehends, but it is also backed up by a short-yardage asssessment as in BShrout's impressive analysis here. In addition, it's backed up by slightly more complex statistics as well, as witnessed by Jeremy Bolander's excellent post last week, in which he applies Sharpe Ratios to running plays behind each of Denver's offensive linemen. Bolander cleverly noted the reward gained (represented by the standard deviation) in-and-above a "safe" play of a zero yard gain:

...the ratios for running behind Weigmann, Hochstein/Hamilton are generally quite poor, at 0.14 and -0.18. Clady is better, clocking in at .300375 while Kuper dominates in short yardage at 1.78885. Too often, however, the one cut has been designed to bend back away from Kuper's stellar blocking. When the blocking scheme is more straight ahead, we seem to take advantage of his side more.

This certainly correlates to a general strategy of Denver being more effective when running to the right side.

When taken as a whole, all of this would suggest that Denver is going to continue to struggle a bit on 3rd downs. The quarterbacks and receivers continue to learn the complex "Erhardt-Perkins" scheme, and the absence of Harris and the play of the offensive line, while it hasn't been horrendous, has shown consistency issues. As other teams continue their run slants, rush blitzes, and stacking the line of scrimmage, (as both the Raiders and Colts did), look for McDaniels to counter with strategies like play action."

Beantown Bronco
12-23-2009, 01:30 PM
He didn't call them this conservative with Cassel either.

You're flat out wrong there. I actually saw every Pats game last year that didn't air opposite a Broncos game. Did you? I know you didn't if you are saying things like this.

On top of this, a week or two ago I posted all of Cassel's stats from last year up against Orton's from this year. Results? Mirror images of each other in every meaningful category.

tsiguy96
12-23-2009, 01:32 PM
Very true here's a crazy stat.

In the Eagles eight games Westbrook has missed this season, the Eagles have gone 7-1 and averaged 30.9 points per game. They are 3-3 and have averaged 21.5 points per game when Westbrook has played.

i was thinking earlier this week that i hope he DOES play, hes not very good anymore.

Tombstone RJ
12-23-2009, 02:16 PM
Great article by MHR. Pretty much explains the Broncos problems and in what context those problems should be looked at.

Kudos for MHR for keeping it real.

Fusionfrontman
12-23-2009, 03:05 PM
Just to show exactly how similiar Cassel and Orton's numbers are. Cassel in 16 games:
327 516 63.4 3,693 7.2 21 11 47 219 89.4 73 270 3.7 2 7 4


Orton through 14:

Att Comp Yds Comp % Yds/Att TD TD % INT INT % Long Sck Sack/Lost Rating

444 277 3182 62.4 7.2 17 3.8 8 1.8 87 24 138 89.2

Orton is right on target to have exactly the same numbers. except Orton will be sacked much less. Cassel held onto the ball like crazy last year and took a beating.

Given another year in MCD offense and I think, especially based on that breakdown in the article (which was great) and Orton will excel. My biggest thing is I would like to see Orton not just lock onto Marshall all day.

jhns
12-23-2009, 03:21 PM
You're flat out wrong there. I actually saw every Pats game last year that didn't air opposite a Broncos game. Did you? I know you didn't if you are saying things like this.

On top of this, a week or two ago I posted all of Cassel's stats from last year up against Orton's from this year. Results? Mirror images of each other in every meaningful category.

I watched a lot of their games. I have every year since they have been good. I watch multiple games every week and the consistently good teams are always first priority.

They did call a conservative game plan at the beginning of the year. By this time, it was not even close to as conservative as this one.

So similar stats means they got to those stats with the same game plans? What exactly are you trying to say with that? I'm not sure I follow.

jhns
12-23-2009, 03:22 PM
Just to show exactly how similiar Cassel and Orton's numbers are. Cassel in 16 games:
327 516 63.4 3,693 7.2 21 11 47 219 89.4 73 270 3.7 2 7 4


Orton through 14:

Att Comp Yds Comp % Yds/Att TD TD % INT INT % Long Sck Sack/Lost Rating

444 277 3182 62.4 7.2 17 3.8 8 1.8 87 24 138 89.2

Orton is right on target to have exactly the same numbers. except Orton will be sacked much less. Cassel held onto the ball like crazy last year and took a beating.

Given another year in MCD offense and I think, especially based on that breakdown in the article (which was great) and Orton will excel. My biggest thing is I would like to see Orton not just lock onto Marshall all day.

Considering I would be complaining if we had Cassel, these comparisons to Orton don't exactly make me feel better. I don't think either of them are QBs that can take a team to the big one. I think they are both QBs that need a perfect team around them if you want to go to the SB and teams like that are never consistent over a period of time.

Fusionfrontman
12-23-2009, 09:09 PM
I agree... but reality is we have a pretty good QB at Orton BECAUSE we have the makings of a solid team around him. So do we crap that away (like with Plummer) to go after a 'franchise' legit QB (Bradford...and I would love him) and sacrifice building that 'perfect' team around Orton?

Or do we beef up the interior line, grab a 'Desean Jackson' big play receiver and get a NT to try and make a run for it all in next 2-3 years. I don't believe we are that far away from it if we do. Add in a scat back to compliment Moreno and we're a scary playoff team.

Popps
12-23-2009, 11:06 PM
Moreno (2009)
3rd & Short 19 82 4.3 60 2

Hillis (2008)
3rd & Short 9 34 3.8 24 2


Adrian Peterson (2009)
3rd & Short 23 65 2.8 20 4

Steven Jackson (2009)
3rd & Short 16 33 2.1 11 1

Popps
12-23-2009, 11:15 PM
Wonder what drag-boy and Taco will have to say about those stats. I'm sure there's a good explanation.