Three numbers that tell the story of Broncos-Texans
DENVER — The numbers tell the tale — good and bad — for the Broncos so far:
As in penalties in the first two games — the most in a two-game span in team history. Denver’s 13 infractions Sunday are tied for the sixth-most in team history. The last time the Broncos had that many penalties in a game came in 2018 at Baltimore.
Through Sunday night’s games, no one else had more than 17 accepted infractions.
Per pro-football-reference.com, the Broncos are one of just 13 teams with that many penalties in the first two games of a season.
And one can’t blame the lack of preseason snaps for this. In 2017, the Los Angeles Rams had a new head coach, new scheme and a second-year quarterback (Jared Goff) trying to adapt to both. They had 14 penalties in the first two weeks. That put them squarely in the middle of the pack of the league: tied for 16th with two other clubs.
Ten of the 25 penalties were for false-start and delay-of-game infractions — six and four of each, respectively.
If the Broncos are going to normalize when it comes to penalties, it starts with pre-snap infractions, which are entirely preventable.
“We’re gonna make it really tough if we continue the pre-snap penalties and the things that we can control,” wide receiver Kendall Hinton said. “So, I think that’s a lesson that we’ll take.”
That’s the number of forced fumbles by Randy Gregory in the first two games. That not only leads the league, but it makes him just the second Broncos player since 1999 with two forced fumbles in the first two weeks of a season.
The other? Von Miller, in 2018. (One of those two fumbles came on a strip-sack of Russell Wilson, coincidentally.)
This is also the number of touchdowns allowed by the Broncos in their first two games. That is tied for the sixth-best total in club history to start a season, and the best since 2009, when Mike Nolan’s defense allowed just two scores in Weeks 1 and 2.
But on the negative side, 2 is also the number of touchdowns generated by the Broncos in their first two games. That is tied for the sixth-fewest touchdowns in the opening two games of a season in the Broncos’ 63-season history.
It’s also the second time in the last four seasons that the Broncos had just two touchdowns in their first two games. They also had just two trips to the end zone in the opening two games of the short-lived Joe Flacco era of 2019.
So, by one standard, the opening two weeks of the Hackett-Wilson pairing matches that the Fangio-Flacco tandem.
That isn’t what anyone in Broncos Country hoped to see.
That being said, you have two goal-line fumbles, Eric Tomlinson being a toe-length away from having one touchdown catch last week, a false-start against Courtland Sutton in Week 1 that took an Andrew Beck touchdown off of the board on that same possession, and finally, against Houston, Sutton having a replay review take away a score.
So, you don’t have to squint to see the possibility of four more touchdowns.
But as Bill Parcells tells quarterbacks, “Just get your unit to the end zone.” It hasn’t happened often enough.
Percentage of drop-backs by Russell Wilson that result in him running the football.
Wilson is not the same type of quarterback he was earlier in his career. As a rookie, he ran on 16.6 percent of his non-kneeldown drop-backs. By 2016, the percentage dropped to 9.2 percent, reflective of his evolution into a more accurate passer. It was at 7.7 percent last year.
No one expects Wilson to run as often as he did in his younger days. It’s not wise at this point. But being able to take off and get a quick 5 yards and go on to the next play is part of what made him a nine-time Pro Bowler.
And one more number …
That is the Broncos’ success rate on third- and fourth-and-1 plays so far this season — and that includes moving the chains via a defensive-holding penalty Sunday.
The league average through two weeks is 59.7 percent. Last year, it was 69.9 percent, per the data compiled by pro-football-reference.com. And the Broncos in 2021 converted 73.5 percent of their third- and fourth-and-1 opportunities.