We have already talked about the lack of success that the Pittsburgh Steelers offense had on first downs against the Denver Broncos earlier today. Now we will flip it over to see the job that the defense did against Peyton Mannning Sunday night on first downs.
One of the key areas needed to beat Manning is to keep him behind the chains and as predictable as possible when it comes to down and distance. That process starts on first down, because if a Manning led offense gets 4 or more yards on the play, it opens up the entire playbook to him on second down. That is dangerous the way he studies defenses.
When you remove the kneel downs from the 1st down offensive plays that the Broncos ran, you notice that they had success on 15 of 24 plays (63%). By success I mean that they gained 40% of the yards needed for another first down. Generally this means 4 yards on a normal 1st and 10 play.
Those 24 first down plays resulted in 121 yards gained by the Broncos offense for a healthy 5.04 average overall, and it allowed Manning the luxury to stay out of second and long and third and long situations most of the game.
Speaking of third downs, Manning and the Broncos offense was only faced with 9 of those on the night and they converted 5 of them. One third down that wasn\’t converted was a 3rd and 17 that the Broncos faced late in the first quarter following the sack by Jason Worilds, while another one of the 9 was the 3rd and 1 play that Larry Foote forced a fumble on. Notice, two splash plays there.
In the second half, the Broncos ran 24 plays in total and faced a third down on just 4 of those plays. During their first two possessions of the second half, both of which resulted in touchdowns, they did not face a third down at all.
It is hard enough to beat manning as it is and even harder if you don\’t keep him behind the chains like the Steelers defense failed to do Sunday night.