The Third Quarter Letdown That Cost the Denver Broncos

The third quarter was a disaster for the Denver Broncos on Sunday. On the very first play of scrimmage of the second half, Broncos starting running back,  Javonte Williams suffered what we would later find out to be a torn ACL and LCL. This was just the start of what has been one of the worst third quarters in recent franchise memory as anything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Here are all the things that went wrong for the Broncos in the third-quarter letdown against the Raiders in their 32-23 Week 4 loss.

READ MORE: Russell Wilson Cooks Against Las Vegas

The Third Quarter Letdown That Cost the Denver Broncos

Javonte Williams’ Injury

The injury to Williams was the most newsworthy happening of not only the third quarter but the game. After much speculation during the game, it was revealed on Monday that Williams had torn his MCL, and LCL, and will be out the rest of the season. The injury to Williams is devastating for the Broncos, as it seems that Denver has been bitten by the injury bug in 2022.

Although Williams had been sharing carries with Melvin Gordon, Williams has emerged as the primary ball carrier for the Broncos. Williams finished the season with 204 yards on 47 attempts which averaged 4.3 yards a carry. This injury kicked off a hellacious third quarter for the Broncos.

Not that the timing is ever great on injuries, but considering the egregious, game-turning sco0p-and-score fumble from Gordon that occurred right before halftime, it makes the injury even more impactful. This was compounded by the sense of Gordon being benched permanently for his massive mistake made it feel as though the Broncos lost two running backs in one matter of minutes.  

The Melvin Gordon Problem

Melvin Gordon has now become a meme amongst Broncos circles. Gordon is associated with having a fumbling problem in Denver. And not only a fumble problem, but a fumbling problem that comes at the most inopportune times. The stats are staggering. According to Bill Barnwell, no ball carrier has fumbled more than Gordon over the last four years.

Broncos beat writer Andres Mason also had a couple of stats that put Gordon’s fumbling issues into perspective.

In the post-game press conference, Gordon was visibly shaken up. He left abruptly after Mason asked him about his conscious work on ball security during practice. Entering the season, Gordon was resigned to Denver to give Williams help with the load at running back. This was considered essential because of the way Williams runs. Splitting the carries would prolong Williams’ career. Now that Williams is out and Gordon seems to be in the dog house, the coaching staff’s confidence in him has to be established early. He only had one carry in the third quarter, as Mike Boone took the majority of the load as the game went on.

While the Broncos signed veteran Latavius Murray off the Saint’s practice squad, now that Williams is out, Gordon will have to play a big part in the rest of the reason. Whether that means RB1 or RB2 is yet to be determined, as Mike Boone is also an option for the Broncos.

The Offense Reverted to Its Old Self

After having the undisputedly best half the Broncos offense had seen in four games thus far, Denver then played a horrendous third quarter that saw them never fully recover from the Gordon fumble. The turnovers robbed Denver of momentum as the second quarter closed out. There was a complete contrast in styles in the first half compared to the third quarter.

Russell Wilson was cooking in the first half. Wilson went 11/12 with 149 yards (which averaged 12.4 yards per reception) and had two touchdown throws. One went to Jerry Jeudy and the other to Courland Sutton.

In contrast, this is how the third quarter went for the Broncos offense:

  • Punt, 5 plays, 12 yards, 3:22
  • Punt, 3 plays, -4 yards, 2:05
  • Punt, 3 plays, -1 yards, 1:25

That is 11 plays, 7 yards, and a 6:52 time of possession. If you want to add salt to the wound and add the first possession of the fourth quarter (3 plays, 1 yard, 1:41) the Broncos went a combined 14 plays, 8 yards for 8:33 in time of possession. All this while the defense only allowed 3-points from the Raiders. As usual, the defense did the best they could.  The offense couldn’t hold up their side of the deal.

What To Learn From This Third Quarter Letdown

The entire third quarter was a letdown. The Broncos must play complimentary football if they wish to compete for an AFC West title or a Wild Card spot. This means all four quarters. Performances like the ones from Sunday against the Raiders will not suffice.  The war of attrition will only get worse before it gets better for Denver. The Broncos must find a good rhythm between the run and passing game. They can’t get away from them mid-game. As the Broncos move forward this season, emphasis must still be on the running game. Finding the correct personnel to do so, however, might not be as easy to subscribe to. As we saw on Sunday, a single quarter can be the difference between 3-1 and 2-2.