Long drives made for ‘unusual’ Broncos opener

Sep 11, 2023, 9:05 PM | Updated: Sep 12, 2023, 12:38 pm

DENVER — Never in the 23-season of Empower Field at Mile High did the home venue of the Broncos see a game like this.

The Broncos and Raiders combined for just 13 possessions. When throwing out a one-play, end-of-first-half kneeldown, it was just six series for each side. And one of those other six possessions for Las Vegas also ended in a kneeldown — although it came after the Raiders marched into field-goal range in the final moments, effectively clinching a 17-16 win.

“Generally speaking, you’re between 10 and 12 possessions a game,” Broncos coach Sean Payton explained Monday. “Part of it was a result of both teams having long, sustained drives, overcoming some third downs, maybe some penalties to keep drives moving. It was a little unusual that way.”

But something else was unusual: Just how effective the Broncos were on a points-per-possession basis.

To wit:


This is promising.

Last year, the Broncos averaged just 1.48 points per possession. During Nathaniel Hackett’s 14 games as head coach, they had a paltry 1.36 points per series.

That figure is better than any the Broncos had last season.

  • Week 1 at Seattle: 2.00 PPP
  • Week 2 vs. Houston: 1.60 PPP
  • Week 3 vs. San Francisco: 0.69 PPP
  • Week 4 at Las Vegas: 2.09 PPP
  • Week 5 vs. Indianapolis: 0.75 PPP
  • Week 6 at L.A. Chargers: 1.45 PPP
  • Week 7 vs. N.Y. Jets: 0.75 PPP
  • Week 8 vs. Jacksonville: 1.75 PPP
  • Week 10 at Tennessee: 0.83 PPP
  • Week 11 vs. Las Vegas: 1.6 PPP
  • Week 12 at Carolina: 0.83 PPP
  • Week 13 at Baltimore: 0.81 PPP
  • Week 14 vs. Kansas City: 2.15 PPP
  • Week 15 vs. Arizona: 1.85 PPP
  • Week 16 at L.A. Rams: 1.75 PPP
  • Week 17 at Kansas City: 2.0 PPP
  • Week 18 vs. L.A. Chargers: 2.58 PPP


Points allowed per non-kneeldown possession by the Broncos defense. And as encouraging as the metrics were for the offense, this number is discouraging — and also deceptive, in that it flatters the Broncos.

After all, Las Vegas drove to the 1-yard line in the third quarter before going backwards via penalty. That series ended in Kareem Jackson’s interception of a pass deflected by Alex Singleton. Denver also didn’t force a three-and-out from the Raiders, with four of Las Vegas’ possessions devouring at least 4 minutes, 50 seconds of clock time.

If not for that, it could have been worse.

Still, this is the fourth consecutive game in which the Broncos have yielded at least 2.4 points per possession. They allowed 5.5 PPP to the Rams last Dec. 25, 2.45 PPP to the Chiefs on Jan. 1 and 2.55 PPP to the Chargers a week later.


The passer rating for Jimmy Garoppolo when targeting CB Damarri Mathis, according to the data compiled by Pro Football Focus.

Garoppolo threw in Mathis’ direction nine times — including on both touchdown passes to Jakobi Meyers. PFF credited the Raiders with 95 yards on eight receptions from those nine opportunities — with six of the catches belonging to Meyers.

Meanwhile, Garoppolo threw at Pat Surtain II five times, targeting Davante Adams each time. He broke up three of the passes, allowing just two completions for a modest 16 yards.

In what appears to be a budding highlight of the NFL calendar, the third-year All-Pro took the measure of Adams on Sunday. Their expected rematch in Week 18 could provide a rousing end to the regular season, assuming both are healthy.


Three Numbers

Denver Broncos defense...

Andrew Mason

If you take out the Dolphins debacle, how good was the Broncos defense in 2023?

A look at defensive stats if you eliminate the best and worst games still doesn't bathe the Broncos defense in a positive light.

6 months ago

Denver Broncos...

Andrew Mason

For the Denver Broncos, can momentum carry over from this season?

The Denver Broncos will have an 8-3 finish to the season with a win Sunday. Can that type of momentum really carry over to 2024?

6 months ago

Jarrett Stidham...

Andrew Mason

Jarrett Stidham vs. Russell Wilson: How do the numbers stack up?

How does the first Broncos start of Jarrett Stidham compare with Russell Wilson's work? The answer is an intriguing one.

6 months ago

Jarrett Stidham...

Andrew Mason

For Jarrett Stidham, ball security will be crucial

Jarrett Stidham had some spectacular bursts in two starts last year, but lost the ball more often than one would like.

7 months ago

Russell Wilson...

Andrew Mason

The numbers show Russell Wilson is two different quarterbacks

Russell Wilson is a dominant passer in the fourth quarter. But in the first three quarters of games this season, he's been anything but.

7 months ago


Andrew Mason

The Broncos could be in a muddled mess at 10-7

For the Broncos, the road to 3-0 and a fighting chance at a playoff spot starts with a win Sunday night over New England. And historically, this is the type of game in which the Broncos fare well. 16-2 This is the Broncos’ record when facing a team that will finish with no better than […]

7 months ago

Long drives made for ‘unusual’ Broncos opener