• Thinking Orange

Broncos vs. Falcons: What Went Wrong on the Ten Stalled Drives?

Updated: Nov 13, 2020



For the second straight week the Broncos offense was bad for three quarters and good for one. These bursts of excellence raise questions about what's going on in quarters one through three: Is Drew Lock playing poorly? Is Pat Shurmur calling a bad game? Is the offensive line failing? Or is something else going on?


To begin finding answers, I looked at each Broncos possession that failed to produce a touchdown and identified what happened that caused the drive to stall. This is just a starting point, but it's important to have clarity about what went down in Atlanta before forming conclusions about Lock, Shurmur, or the offense as a whole.


There were ten drives last Sunday that failed to produce a touchdown. Here's what caused each to peter out. Takeaways follow.



First Quarter


Drive #1

Time: Approximately eight minutes to go

Result: Punt

How It Happened: The Broncos dug themselves into a hole when they lost five yards on a Phillip Lindsay rush, creating a 2nd & 15. No one was open on second down and Drew Lock did well to throw the ball away. On 3rd & 15 Lock threw short to DaeSean Hamilton (by design?). He was tackled well short of the sticks.




Second Quarter


Drive #2

Time: Approximately 13 minutes to go

Result: Field goal

How It Happened: Lock took a shot to Tim Patrick in the end zone on 3rd & 10. The ball placement was ok (Patrick got a few fingers on it) but not perfect. Patrick thought there should have been a flag for PI, and I tend to agree with him. It sure looks like the CB held his right arm.



Drive #3

Time: Approximately eight minutes to go

Result: Punt

How It Happened: Lindsay gets blown up in pass pro and gives up a sack, creating 2nd & 21. We run the ball; 3rd & 15. Lock escapes pressure on third down and extends the play, but can't find anyone open downfield and dumps it off to Gordon for a short gain.


Drive #4

Time: Less than one minute to go

Result: Punt

How It Happened: A rush on 2nd &10 gains one yard. On 3rd & 9 Lock scrambled left, where he was hurried into a short incompletion that was intended for Patrick. Jerry Jeudy (inside slot) came wide open as Lock broke the pocket. It's probably fair to say that Lock had more time than he thought.




Third Quarter


Drive #5

Time: Approximately 11 minutes to go

Result: Field goal

How It Happened: Lock threw a well-placed deep ball to Patrick in the end zone on first down, but he couldn't haul it in. There is an unsuccessful run on 2nd & 10. On third down the line needed to slide protection to the right, but did not. A free rusher blows the play up.


Drive #6

Time: Approximately ten minutes to go

Result: Punt

How It Happened: Lock does a good job escaping the rush on 3rd & long, but pulls the ball down and unsuccessfully attempts to run for the first down. It looks like he might have been able to squeeze a pass in to either KJ Hamler or Patrick.



Drive #7

Time: Four minutes to go

Result: Punt

How It Happened: Back-up RG Austin Schlottman got beat on first down, forcing an intentional grounding. A run on 2nd & long brings up 3rd and 13. Lock goes underneath to Fant, who is short of the line to gain.



Fourth Quarter


Drive #8

Time: Approximately ten minutes to go

Result: Interception

How It Happened: There is a free rusher that comes through the right side A gap, right into Lock's lap. Lock makes a wild throw that results in an interception.



Drive #9

Time: Seven and a half minutes to go

Result: Turnover on downs

How It Happened: The O line loses the battle in the trenches on 3rd and 6; Lock is under pressure and throws an uncatchable deep ball to Patrick. It's the same story on 4th and 6, where Lock is under immediate pressure and puts up a jump ball to Hamler in the back of the end zone.


Drive #10

Time: Thirty seconds left to go

Result: Turnover on downs

How It Happened: Lindsay dropped a second down pass that would have easily gained first down yardage. On 3rd and 10 there is lots of pressure (Gordon, Jake Rodgers); Lock is hit as he throws and the pass has no chance. The 4th & 10 snap hits Patrick in the legs as he motions across the line; it never even makes it to Lock's hands.


Here's Phil's drop.



And the third down incompletion. Lock was under quick pressure like this for much of the game.




Takeaways


Lock was not the only culprit

There are surprisingly few drives that ended solely because of Lock. He is partially to blame for at least four, but in many cases the key drive-killing moment was not his fault.


Poor pass protection

The line did not hold up in pass protection, and it really hurt the offense. Pressure heavily impacted seven of these ten non-touchdown drives. Lock was under fire all day, and free, completely unblocked rushers blew up several plays. It's hard to say exactly where the blame lies for this, as Lock, Lloyd Cushenberry, and Shurmur are all somewhat responsible for getting into the correct protections. The line was also quite injured this week—backups Austin Schlottman and Jake Rodgers played most of the snaps at RG and RT, respectively.


Running on second and long

Four of these stalled drives featured runs on second and long. This is a pet peeve of mine—throw the damn ball.


Poor performances from RBs

As much as I love Lindsay, he was not good in this game. He effectively ended two drives, once by missing a block and once by dropping a pass. Melvin Gordon also missed a key third down block.


Good throw, bad outcome

Lock had several on-target deep passes that happened to fall incomplete. Not to completely absolve Lock of blame, but it's a reminder that there is quite a bit of luck in sports. Sometimes you do your job but things don't break your way.


Few opportunities

By that same token, there were only four drives in the first half, one of which produced a field goal (and was a questionable no-call away from a likely TD). The main reason the offense underperformed in the first half: the Falcons had the ball for nearly the entire time.


My primary takeaway is that there is plenty of blame to go around, and it's not quite right to pin the poor performance on a single player or coach. This is a young, injured unit that is still learning. And we are only just passed the season's midpoint—the evaluation is ongoing.

Shouts to @JoRo_NFL for posting the all-22 clips

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