Call it a lack of focus, unlucky bounces or just poor play. Whatever it's called, the Broncos have serious issues in the second quarter of games.
Through 15 weeks, the team has been outscored an astounding 154-33 in second quarters. The points allowed are by far the highest of any quarter for the Broncos, with the second-highest being 93 allowed in fourth quarters. At the same time, the points scored are less than half of the next-lowest, which is 72 in third quarters. When it comes to yardage, it's the same thing; the Broncos play their worst while opponents play their best. The Broncos have been outscored in the second quarter 10 times, compared to just one game where they've topped their opponents and four where they have been even.
No time was this more evident than in Week 16 vs. the Bills. At the conclusion of the first quarter, Denver led 7-0. By halftime, they were down 17-7. In the second quarter, despite having possession for six seconds more than the Bills, the Broncos were unable to move the ball, registering no first downs to Buffalo's five. On defense, there were issues tackling and slowing the Bills' rushing attack. And for good measure, the special teams allowed an 80-yard punt-return touchdown.
The week before, against the Patriots, it was much of the same. Denver was outscored 20-3 in the second quarter, due in large part to fumbles by RB Lance Ball, QB Tim Tebow and PR Quan Cosby, all recovered by New England.
"If you go through and evaluate it, we've given up some explosive plays on defense in that particular quarter," head coach John Fox said about the team's second-quarter woes. "I think it's been more of our breakdowns, I would say, whether it's turnovers or explosive plays."
As one of the NFL's better teams when it comes to fourth-quarter comebacks, the Broncos have often overcome their second-quarter failures. They are beating teams 118-93 in the final 15 minutes of regulation, although against the Bills and Patriots, they were outscored a combined 24-7 in the fourth. Tebow said that the two losses showed the team still has a way to go, primarily in being competitive throughout all 60 minutes of the game.
"At times we executed very well, and at times we executed very poorly," Tebow said of the games against New England and Buffalo. "For us, we just have to be more consistent and do that for four quarters."
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