After pitching a shutout leading 17-0 going into the 4th quarter of last nights playoff game in Denver, the Broncos gave up 17 points to the Phillip Rivers led Chargers in the final quarter. What happened? Should we all be worried about the ability of the Broncos defense? I wouldn't be so fast to jump to that conclusion, here's why:
Many people believe that the primary goal of a defense is to prevent yards, create turnovers or prevent scoring. All of those things are true so what does that mean? Well, it means the real goal of a defense is to control the outcome of the game overall. One often overlooked way to control the outcome of a game is to use the clock to limit the amount of available possessions. If an offense doesn't get enough possessions they cannot score points. Sounds simple, but finding ways to limit those possessions and knowing when and how to utilize your assets to their best effect in limiting possessions is not always obvious. When Knowshon Moreno scored that touchdown in the fourth quarter for the Broncos it became a 3 possession game. The primary goal of the defense became limiting possessions rather than limiting scoring or giving up yards. The goal was to use the clock as the best defense.
Using this strategy puts all the pressure on the opposing offense. They are no longer simply trying to defeat your defense they are also trying to defeat time. This forces the offense to take bigger risks and often times creates mistakes. Think of it in terms of probabilities. A pass has more risk than a run, a deep pass has more risk than a short pass. If you can force the opposing team to take more risks you improve your odds of having something good happen.
It's the same thing with possessions. Each possession is an opportunity for the opposing team to score. Limiting their possessions swings the odds into your favor. If team A is up by 3 TD's and they manage the clock well enough that the opposing team is only able to attain 2 possessions it doesn't actually matter what the outcome of those 2 possessions are, team A has won the game by controlling the clock.
I think the first three quarters of Sunday afternoons game were a far better indicator of Denver's ability to shutdown opposing teams. Too me the activity in the fourth quarter demonstrates that the Bronco's coaching staff has a solid grasp of their teams abilities and knows more ways to guide the Broncos to wins than shootouts. I actually view the end of yesterdays game as a positive going into next weeks game against the Patriots.