Broncos Season Review: By-the-numbers look at defense, special teams

So many defensive players shuttled in and out of the Broncos’ facility this year, they had two players wear No. 27 (Davontae Harris/Will Parks) and No. 42 (Mark Barron/Parnell Motley) and had eight linemen play at least 140 snaps and six cornerbacks play at least 200 snaps.

The loss of Von Miller and five cornerbacks to season-ending injuries certainly played a part in the horrid takeaway total (16) and a nearly nine-point up-tick in scoring defense.

Here is a by-the-numbers look at the Broncos’ defense, as charted by The Denver Post and using information from Stats, Inc.:

In the rankings

The Broncos’ defense rankings at the season’s quarter marks:

Yards (rank)Points (rank)
After Game 4280.0 (19th)24.5 (13th)
Midseason360.4 (16th)27.1 (22nd)
After Game 12350.2 (14th)26.7 (21st)
Final367.9 (21st)27.9 (25th)

High yardage game: 534 by Buffalo.

Low yardage game: 223 by Miami.

High scoring game: 48 by Buffalo.

Low scoring game: 12 by New England.

Playing time: 1,088 snaps

DL: Dre’Mont Jones 560, Shelby Harris 441, DeShawn Williams 436, DeMarcus Walker 384, Mike Purcell 218, Sylvester Williams 173, Jurrell Casey 156, McTelvin Agim 141 and Timmy Jernigan 11.

OLB: Malik Reed 785, Bradley Chubb 741, Jeremiah Attaochu 414, Anthony Chickillo 164 and Derrek Tuszka 27.

ILB: Alexander Johnson 1,063, Josey Jewell 1,011, Joe Jones 5 and Josh Watson 3.

CB: Michael Ojemudia 852, Bryce Callahan 655, A.J. Bouye 410, Essang Bassey 382, De’Vante Bausby 261, Will Parks 200, Parnell Motley 82, Duke Dawson 69, Davontae Harris 54, Kevin Toliver 17 and Nate Hairston 16.

S: Justin Simmons 1,088, Kareem Jackson 1,083, Alijah Holder 43, Trey Marshall 15 and P.J. Locke 6.

The season high for defensive snaps was 87 against the Chargers (first meeting) and the low was 57 snaps vs. Kansas City (first meeting). … Simmons played every snap for the third consecutive season (3,221 snaps). … To illustrate the injuries along the defensive line, Jones led the group in playing time despite missing three games (knee injury). … Ojemudia was the only cornerback to play in more than 12 games and he led in playing time despite not playing a defensive snap in two games.

Allowing big plays

Any rush of at least 12 yards and completion of at least 16 yards is considered an “explosive” play.

The Broncos allowed 121 explosive plays (83 passes/38 rushes) for an average of 7.6 per game. They allowed 118 in 2018 and 105 in ’19.

The most allowed was 12 in the second Kansas City game; the fewest was three by Miami.

The longest pass play allowed was an 84-yard touchdown by Pittsburgh WR Chase Claypool and the longest rush a 59-yard gain by Pittsburgh RB James Conner.

Scoring story

The Broncos allowed 446 points, a big jump from the 2019 total of 316 points — they gave up 8.1 more points per game.

The defense allowed 22 rushing touchdowns and 21 passing touchdowns (15.9-yard average length).

The average length of the rushing TDs was 12.9 yards. They allowed touchdowns of 46 (Jets QB Sam Darnold), 36 (New Orleans’ Latavius Murray) and 51 yards (Buffalo’s Devin Singletary).

The average length of the passing TDs was 17.6 yards. They allowed only two of more than 30 yards — 84 for Pittsburgh’s Chase Claypool and 51 for Atlanta WR Olamide Zaccheaus.

Statistical leaders

Top 10 tacklers (via the NFL): Alexander Johnson 124, Josey Jewell 111, Justin Simmons 96, Kareem Jackson 90, Michael Ojemudia 62, Malik Reed 51, Bryce Callahan 42, Bradley Chubb 42, Dre’Mont Jones 41 and DeShawn Williams 37.

Top five in tackles for lost yardage: Chubb 9, Reed 8, Jewell 5, Johnson 4 and Simmons/Essang Bassey/DeMarcus Walker 3.

The Broncos had nine individual 10-tackle games — Jewell 5, Johnson 3 and Jackson 2.

Applying pressure

The Broncos rushed at least five players on 174 of the opponent’s 644 drop-backs — 27.0%, up from the 2019 rate of 20.1%.

High percentage: 44.9% against Buffalo (22-of-49). The Broncos rushed at least five on 30% of the drop-backs in six games compared to two games in 2019.

Low percentage: 9.1% against Las Vegas (second meeting, 4-of-44). The Broncos rushed at a clip of 15% or lower in three games compared to five games in ’19.

Against extra Broncos rushers, opponents were 82-of-142 for 822 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception.

For the third year, The Post charted quarterback sacks, knockdowns and pressures to compile “disruption” totals.

We booked the Broncos for 142 disruptions — 42 sacks (ninth in the league), 43 knockdowns and 57 pressures, down from 158 in ’19, but the sack total increased by 10. The big difference was 25 fewer knockdowns this year.

Most disruptions – 15 apiece at the New York Jets (six sacks, two knockdowns and seven pressures) and vs. Miami (also six sacks, two knockdowns and seven pressures).

Least disruptions – 3 apiece at Pittsburgh (one sack, one knockdown and one pressure) and at Las Vegas (three pressures).

Sacks by down: First (12); second (15), third (14) and fourth (one).

Sacks by number of pass rushers: Three (one), four (25), five (13), six (two) and seven (one) rushers.

Fastest sack: 2.09 seconds by Bradley Chubb in the first Kansas City game.

Individual leaders …

PlayerSacks-Knockdowns-QBPTotal
Bradley Chubb7.5-8.5-1127
Malik Reed8-6-822
Dre’Mont Jones6.5-4-414.5
Jeremiah Attaochu5-5-414
Shelby Harris2.5-5-5.513
DeShawn Williams2-3-3.58.5
DeMarcus Walker4.5-1-38.5

Run-game recap

The Broncos were 25th in the NFL in rush defense (130.0 yards per game). Last year, the defense was 16th at 111.4 yards per game. Numbers via Stats, Inc.:

Rushing yards allowed: 2,080 yards (25th).

Opponent rushing attempts: 434 (13th-most).

Yards per rush attempt: 4.8 (fourth-most).

Rushing touchdowns: 22 (fifth-most).

20-yard rushes: 17 (tied fourth-most).

The Broncos allowed at least 100 yards in 13 games, led by 229 by New Orleans. The fewest allowed was 56 to Miami.

We credited the Broncos with 87 run “stuffs” (gain or one or fewer yards not including goal-line/short-yardage), down from 111 in 2019. This year, the high total was nine against New Orleans, and the low mark was two apiece against Miami and Carolina.

Top five in run stuffs: Alexander Johnson 7, Josey Jewell 6.5, Malik Reed 4.5, DeShawn Williams 3.5, Jeremiah Attaochu 3.5.

Takeaway recap

The Broncos finished with 16 takeaways, second-fewest in franchise history (13 in 2008) and only one fewer than last year.

As a team, the Broncos were a league-worst minus-16 in turnover differential. The defense had no takeaways in eight games.

The Broncos allowed 100 points off the offense’s 32 turnovers, fourth-most in the NFL.

Interceptions (10): Justin Simmons 5, Bryce Callahan 2 and one apiece for DeShawn Williams, Essang Bassey and Kareem Jackson

Fumble recoveries (six): One apiece for Simmons, Callahan, Jackson, Shelby Harris, Parnell Motley and, on special teams, long snapper Jacob Bobenmoyer.

Missed tackles

We booked the Broncos for 79 missed tackles (4.9 per game). The high was 11 against Buffalo and the low was one against New Orleans.

Missed tackle leaders: Michael Ojemudia 15, Kareem Jackson 9, Alexander Johnson 9, Justin Simmons 8, Josey Jewell 4, De’Vante Bausby 4, Bryce Callahan 3, A.J. Bouye 3 and Bradley Chubb 3.

Playing coverage

The Broncos’ 10 interceptions were tied for fifth-fewest in the league. The leaders in pass break-ups were Justin Simmons (nine), Shelby Harris (seven), Michael Ojemudia (six), A.J. Bouye (six), De’Vante Bausby (five) and Bryce Callahan (five).

In man coverage, we booked Simmons for four touchdowns allowed, followed by three for Ojemudia, two for Bouye and one apiece for Bausby, Essang Bassey, Josey Jewell, Parnell Motley, Will Parks and Parnell Motley.

Third down report

The Broncos finished 15th in third down defense — 40.2% (88-of-219), down from 13th (37.4%) last year.

Best game — 0% (Kansas City was 0-of-8 in first meeting).

Worst game – 69.2% (Buffalo was 9-of-13).

Opponents converted at 50% or better in only two games — 50% by Tampa Bay and 69.2% by Buffalo.

The longest conversion was a 26-yard touchdown catch by Las Vegas’ Bryan Edwards in Week 17 on third-and-15.

3 or fewer yards to go – 39-of-60 (65%).

4-7 yards to go – 36-of-76 (47.4%).

8 or more yards to go – 13-of-83 (15.7%).

Flags flying

The Broncos’ 81 overall penalties (offense/defense/special teams) were tied for fifth-fewest in the NFL, improved from 2019 (110 penalties). Their 670 yards were eighth-fewest.

The Broncos’ 27 enforced defensive penalties were third-fewest in the NFL (Los Angeles Rams 20/Minnesota 25).

Penalty leaders on defense (enforced penalties only): Bradley Chubb 5, Michael Ojemudia 5, Dre’Mont Jones 3, Alexander Johnson 3 and two apiece for Shelby Harris, Josey Jewell, Malik Reed, A.J. Bouye and De’Vante Bausby.

In the red zone

The Broncos finished first in red zone defense for the second consecutive year, the first time that has happened in the NFL since the statistic was introduced in 1995. Opponents scored 29 touchdowns in 61 red zone possessions (47.5%). Last year, the Broncos were first at 39.6%; they were at 58.1% in 2018.

The defense’s best game was the second Kansas City meeting (the Chiefs were 0-for-4). The poorest game was New Orleans (the Saints were 3-for-3).

According to Stats, Inc., the Broncos had 167 red zone plays (sixth-most) and held quarterbacks to an 84.8 passer rating (eighth-best).

Drive review

The Broncos had 185 defense possessions (43 touchdowns/39 field goals).

Leading the league with 32 takeaways meant putting the defense in tough situations. Broncos opponents started 24 drives at the 50-yard line or inside (second-most in the NFL — eight touchdowns and eight field goals). Opponents started 10 drives inside the Broncos’ 20-yard line (most in the league — four touchdowns and three field goals.)

Three-and-outs — 37 (tied sixth-most). The Broncos forced five three-and-outs in the win over Miami.

10-play drives — 32 (tied 15th-most). The Broncos allowed four 10-play drives apiece to Tennessee (12, 14, 15 and 12 plays) and Buffalo (13, 11, 10 and 12 plays).

5-minute drives — 21 (tied ninth-fewest). Atlanta, Las Vegas (first meeting), Carolina and Buffalo all had three five-minute drives.

Longest drive (plays) — 15 plays by Tennessee. … Longest drive (yards) — 95 by Buffalo (touchdown). … Longest drive (time) — 8:01 by New Orleans (touchdown).

Special teams recap

Return game: The Broncos ranked second in punt return average (13.4) and 23rd in kick return average (20.6). Diontae Spencer averaged 15.8 yards on 16 punt returns (83-yard touchdown at Carolina) and 18.7 yards on 23 kick returns. Tyrie Cleveland had the longest kick return (31 yards) and averaged 23.4 yards on 10 attempts.

Coverage units: The Broncos ranked 15th in punt coverage (8.1-yard average, long of 30 yards) and 31st on kick coverage (29.9-yard average, long of 102 yards — touchdown by Kansas City).

K Brandon McManus: He was 28-of-34 on field goals and 24-of-27 on point-after attempts. He missed only one field goal in the first 11 games, but four in his final four games. On kickoffs, his touchback rate of 74.0% (54-of-73) was seventh among kickers with at least 70 attempts.

P Sam Martin: He averaged 41.4 yards net (12th in the league) on 65 attempts and had 19 punts inside the 20-yard line and only four touchbacks. His best game was a 50-yard net on three punts against Miami.

Special teams snap leaders: P.J. Locke 363, Joe Jones 321, Trey Marshall 276, Austin Calitro 230, Josh Watson 181, Derrek Tuszka 175, Andrew Beck 173, Alijah Holder 173, Jeremiah Attaochu 144 and Tyrie Cleveland 130.

Special teams tackle leaders: Marshall 5, Watson 5, Holder 3, Tuszka 3 and Calitro 3.

Penalties: The Broncos’ 15 enforced special teams penalties were tied for seventh-most in the league.

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