In their last two fourth quarters coming into Sunday’s game against Houston, the Broncos had been outscored 40-13. Denver reversed that trend in a 24-23 win by coming up with the contest’s final 14 points to complete the comeback.
A day later, Interim Head Coach Eric Studesville pointed to his defense’s ability to get off the field with key third-down stops as one of the big factors in helping to complete the come-from-behind win.
Houston went just 1-for-8 on third-down conversion attempts in the game with quarterback Matt Schaub tossing an incompletion on the Texans’ only fourth-quarter attempt. That play forced the punt that led to Tim Tebow’s go-ahead touchdown run.
“I think everybody buckled down and paid a little more attention to detail and made a couple changes, and everything came out on our end,” said Justin Bannan, who later tipped the pass that became Syd’Quan Thompson’s game-sealing interception.
Over the last four games, the Broncos defense has thrived on third down.
The unit, which also held Arian Foster – the league’s leading rusher – under 100 yards on the ground on Sunday, has allowed opponents to convert just 13-of-49 third-down attempts during that time.
In that span, the defense’s 26.5 percent successful third-down conversion rate ranks second lowest in the league behind only the Vikings, who face Philadelphia on Tuesday in a rescheduled Week 16 game and thus, have played just three times.
“That is outstanding for our defense to be able to accomplish that,” Interim Head Coach Eric Studesville said, “and to lock in each week and give ourselves a chance — particularly on third down, which is a huge down in the NFL.”
Studesville said that going forward the team’s play on the crucial down is a positive it can build upon. After big stops buoyed the team on Sunday to its first win in six games, the coach outlined a simple plan for future success.
“Defensively, we need to get them in more third-down situations,” Studesville said, “because we are playing very, very well on third down.”
TEBOW TO START
A day after Tim Tebow became the first rookie quarterback since the NFL merger to lead a 17-point comeback in his first home start, Studesville said the 2010 first-round pick will start the season finale on Sunday against San Diego.
The coach said he saw progress between Tebow’s first and second starts and expects the youngster to continue that trend in his third.
“The more he plays, the better he will get,” Studesville said. “The more experience he has, the more situations he sees – everything was not perfect. It was not perfect – but he will get up there, he will look at the tape, and he will get better from those things. And, we will get better from him the more he is there. There is something about that guy when he is out there running around, you just never know what is going to happen.”
In the two starts, Tebow has combined to go 24-of-45 passing for 446 yards with two touchdowns and interception. He’s added 18 carries for 105 yards and two more scores as the team has averaged 23.5 points per game.
With the division rival Chargers coming to town in Week 17, Tebow will have a chance to build upon those numbers.
“(Tebow) is going to get better at things this week that he did not do so well two weeks ago,” Studesville said. “That is the natural progression of things – is that guys see things. I think Tim is developing.”
With the day off from practicing Monday after the win, players who were nicked up in the game have a chance to rest before preparation for the season finale begins in earnest on Wednesday.
Studesville gave status updates on a pair of injured starters during Monday’s media session.
Knowshon Moreno re-aggravated a rib injury against the Texans and did not play in the second half, but Studesville said that while the running back is sore, he could have potentially returned to the field if necessary on Sunday and could be available against San Diego.
“He got rolled up a little bit and we will take it day by day as we go through,” Studesville said. “We are just going to try to get him healthy again and let him go.”
Studesville also said Champ Bailey has a bruised heel – the same injury that slowed him earlier this season. Studesville indicated the All-Pro cornerback is also sore and will require more time to judge his status for the week.
“It is the same foot and the same injury he had earlier in the year,” Studesville said. “We will just wait and see as we go further in the week.”