Long drives made for ‘unusual’ Broncos opener

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


(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

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.


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