ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos' offense has certainly had its moments in the preseason sun in the team’s first two August outings, but there is no question the group has let the opportunity to run a pile of additional plays slip away because of some short-yardage stumbles.
Or as coach Gary Kubiak put it following the Broncos’ 14-10 win in Houston Saturday night: “I’m pleased with a lot of things that we are doing, but I’m very disappointed with what we’re doing right now short yardage-wise.’’
And as the Broncos gather this week for joint practices with the San Francisco 49ers, it is a topic that will both deserve, and receive, plenty of attention.
Because in the Broncos’ two preseason games they have faced six third-and-1 situations to go with two third-and-2 situations. On those eight plays when the Broncos needed 72 inches or less worth of offensive production, they have produced just two first downs.
Backup quarterback Brock Osweiler converted a third-and-1 against the Texans with a 3-yard run and he threw a 4-yard completion to Cody Latimer to convert a third-and-2 in the preseason opener in Seattle. Even if the Broncos run just three additional plays following the failed short-yardage conversions, that’s at minimum 18 plays the Broncos left on the table because they didn't convert when some heavy lifting was needed.
And those are the kinds of numbers that will go from the need-attention category to genuine headache if they appear in the regular season. So far, it's been a miscommunication here, a busted assignment there, and a running back who didn't over pile over there.
“That’s staying on the field, that’s 15 or 20 more plays,’’ Kubiak said. “That’s the disappointing part. We’re trying to become more physical as a team. I think we did run the ball pretty good average-wise, but you’ve got to stay on the field on third-and-1.’’
In the five third-and-1 situations the Broncos have not converted, they have run for no gain three times -- two by Montee Ball and one by Juwan Thompson -- and quarterback Trevor Siemian has been sacked for no gain and fullback/tight end James Casey dropped a pass from Peyton Manning.
On a failed third-and-2 against the Texans, Osweiler was off target on a throw to Bennie Fowler.
The Broncos do have three players starting in the offensive line who are still waiting to play in their first NFL regular-season game, and Saturday against the Texans the team did kick the tires a bit on its no-huddle look in Manning’s first appearance of the preseason. So, there are parts of the new offense that are still a work in progress.
Manning was in Saturday night's game for just four possessions as most of the starters on offense did play the entire first half.
“Sometimes when you have a drop or a missed throw or a penalty you overcome those on that drive or on the next drive, and so we really didn’t get a chance to overcome those, but those are certainly things you want to eliminate and I don’t see those things being a constant for us this year,’’ Manning said. “I think we will do a good job in that category.’’
“I think we made some uncharacteristic mistakes early, in terms of penalties and just little miscues here and there that we kind of hurt ourselves,’’ rookie left tackle Ty Sambrailo said. “ … So, I think just kind of cleaning those up and continuing to get better.’’