Denver Broncos' defense on historic pace
On Monday, Sam Monson discussed the early season individual and team brilliance of the Denver Broncos defense, as they are 4-0 despite Peyton Manning’s struggles and decline. Looking even further into their defensive numbers reveals not only a dominating defense at every level, but one on pace to be, by far, the highest-graded and most productive defense of the PFF era (2007–present).
Before examining the Broncos current dominance, let’s give some PFF historical background. The top three highest-graded defenses in the PFF era are:
|Year||Team||Defensive grade||Postseason result|
|1.||2011||San Francisco 49ers||+224.4||Lost in NFC championship|
|2.||2013||Seattle Seahawks||+216.4||Won Super Bowl|
|3.||2014||Denver Broncos||+174.0||Lost in divisional playoff|
Currently, the overall +72.2 grade for the Broncos defense puts them at an unprecedented +18.1 grade per game average, and this even includes a +0.9 team grade in their Week 2 escape-win in Kansas City. They are on pace to finish with a +288.8 grade, destroying the 2011 49ers and their own 2014 No. 1 defense.
Next, given the importance of the QB position in today’s NFL and the concentrated effort of defenses to bring down, hit, or disrupt the QB in some way, let’s also compare this year’s Broncos to those other great defenses in terms of total regular season QB pressures (sacks, hits, and hurries).
|Year||Team||Total QB pressures||Sacks||Hits||Hurries|
|2011||San Francisco 49ers||308||43||58||207|
|2015 (four weeks)||Denver Broncos||101||18||19||64|
Thus, the 2015 Broncos are on pace for a phenomenal 404 total QB pressures. Now, we all know “on pace” numbers this early in the season are fun to examine, but typically not achieved. Schedule, injuries, and strategical adjustments (just to name a few reasons) all play a role over time, and the numbers come down.
Therefore, let’s apply a statistical decline in performance for both their grade and total QB pressure numbers, saying the Broncos will achieve, on average, 75 percent of their current performance level the remainder of the season (or a 25 percent decline in their current per-game averages, even rounding down to a whole number for pressures). That leaves us with the following final numbers:
2015 Broncos (at 75% of current pace) = +234.2 grade, 317 total QB pressures
That grade would still be good enough for the highest-performing defense of the PFF era, with the 317 total pressures also on par with the previous great defenses and the exact number of pressures generated by another well-known pass-rushing defense—the 2007 Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. In the end, no matter how you examine the numbers, the Denver Broncos defense is playing lights out and carrying a middle-of-the-pack offense to a 4-0 start.