For Denver Broncos, 0-2 starts have been deadly
Sep 16, 2023, 6:45 PM
(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Fifty-one teams in the Super Bowl era started their seasons that way. Just two rebounded to make the postseason.
So, if the Denver Broncos can’t rebound with a win over Washington on Sunday, they’re in a bad spot to achieve their goal of returning to the postseason for the first time since the 2015 season — independent of the quality of teams remaining on the slate, which appears to be substantial.
But in Broncos history, 0-2 — regardless of where the losses come — has been a spot from which they’ve struggled to recover. And that’s where this edition of Three Numbers begins.
Number of times the Denver Broncos have started 0-2 … and in each of those seasons, they finished below .500.
Such starts were commonplace in the 1960s. Denver opened 0-2 in five of six seasons from 1963-68. After that, the Broncos didn’t start 0-2 until 1994, doing so again in 1999. The team didn’t open 0-2 again until 2019, then matched that in 2020.
The Broncos lost an average of 10 games per season — and in five of those previous nine years, the regular season lasted just 14 games.
Denver’s collective record in nine seasons with 0-2 starts was 42-90-2. That’s a .321 winning percentage which translates to 5.45 wins over a 17-game season. Twice — in 1994 and 2019 — the Broncos managed to rally to finish 7-9. In both of those seasons, the Broncos fell to 0-4 before putting the pieces back together. That, however, is the best they’ve done after 0-2.
But there is reason to believe the Broncos won’t start 0-2 … and it rests in the chance to discombobulate a young quarterback making the first road start of his carer.
The Broncos’ record since 2017 when facing a team led by a quarterback making one of the first four starts of his career. That’s not extremely notable — except when contrasted with the club’s 30-62 ledger in all other games during that span.
Washington’s Sam Howell will make his third career start Sunday — but his first start away from home.
The Broncos have won four consecutive games against quarterbacks making one of their first six career starts. Their last defeat in that scenario came in Week 3 of the 2019 season, when Jacksonville’s Gardner Minshew led the Jaguars to a 26-24 win in Denver that dropped the Broncos to 0-4.
That is Washington’s record when trailing by at least four points at halftime during the Rivera era. Meanwhile, the Football Team/Commanders are 12-2 when leading by four or more points at intermission, with a 7-4-1 record when the halftime margin is three or fewer points in either direction.
Get ’em behind by more than a field goal at the break, and they’re unlikely to rally. That also dovetails with the historic performance of Sean Payton-led teams when leading at halftime by more than a field goal; his teams win 91.7 percent of the time in that scenario, with a 111-10 mark.