Running down the significant stats and notable numbers following the Denver Broncos’ 16-3 loss to the visiting New England Patriots on Sunday. And as you might surmise, more than a few of the figures will have to do with the Orange & Blue’s continued offensive malaise.
The Broncos lost despite surrendering only 16 points and one touchdown. In the last three games, Denver has allowed 39 points, including just three TDs (none via the air), but are 1-2 in those contests.
Blame that “L” on a sputtering offense which managed only a single Brandon McManus field goal Sunday – the Broncos’ lowest single-game output since the Tim Tebow-quarterbacked, 7-3 loss to the Chiefs on Jan. 1, 2012 in Week 17 of the 2011 season. Overall, the Broncos’ 13 combined points in back-to-back games is the franchise’s worst in consecutive contests since totaling 13 in Week 17 and the wild-card round loss to the Colts to end the 2003 season. That Week 17 loss -- as some of the die-hards may recall -- was Jarious Jackson's one and only NFL start when the Broncos rested their starters in Green Bay.
Of course, you’re typically doomed in the NFL when you lose three turnovers in a game. Two of those turnovers were fumbles by wide receiver/punt returner Jordan Norwood, who has accounted for three of Denver’s five lost fumbles over the last four games.
On the flip side of the turnover ledger, the Broncos failed to force a turnover for the second straight game, for the third time in the last four contests and for the fourth time in the last six. Going back to just before the start of that six-game span – i.e. entering the Week 9 game in Oakland – Denver had forced a turnover in 14 straight games, dating back to late last regular season.
Third downs were also a struggle once again for the Broncos, who picked up a first down on only two of 12 third downs Sunday and also came up empty on their only fourth-down attempt. Over the last three games, the Denver offense is now only 7-of-39 (17.9 percent) converting third and fourth downs.
A large part of the issue is the continued struggles of the Denver running game, which picked up only 58 yards on 17 carries Sunday, while the Patriots rushed for 136 yards on 39 carries. It was a stark turnaround from last season’s two wins over New England in which the Broncos had 179-39 and 99-44 rushing-yard advantages.
After Sunday’s game, the Broncos are averaging 91.3 rushing yards per outing and are on pace to finish with 1,461 yards – which would be the franchise’s lowest full-season total since the NFL switched to a 16-game schedule in 1978. That distinction currently belongs to the 7-9 Broncos of 1994, which totaled 1,470 yards on the ground.
Meanwhile, the Broncos’ No. 1-ranked pass defense played as advertised, holding Tom Brady to a season-low 188 yards on 16-of-32 passing. As a team, New England finished with 177 aerial yards, meaning the Broncos have held an amazing 11 of 14 opponents to 190 passing yards or fewer.
Denver, though, only picked up a pair of sacks in the contest while New England had four, evening the Broncos’ sack ledger to 40-40 (sacks vs. sacks allowed) on the season. Over the last six games, though, Denver owns a negative sack differential, notching 14 while surrendering 22. In a related note, the Broncos are 2-4 in that stretch.
And, finally, speaking of sub-.500 stretches, Denver is 4-6 since starting the season 4-0. That’s the fifth-worst record in the 16-team AFC during that span with only the Browns (0-10), Jaguars (1-9), Jets (3-7) and Bengals (3-6-1) owning worse win percentages.