Raiders vs. Broncos: Denver still aims for defensive third down improvement

The Denver Broncos have lost back-to-back games, and if they want a different result against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, one of the things they need to fix is the defense's ability to make a stop on third down, points out Jeff Legwold of the Denver Post.

In its first three games, Denver allowed the Pittsburgh Steelers to convert 57.9 percent of their third downs, held the Atlanta Falcons to 38.5 percent, and struggled again against the Houston Texans, allowing them to convert 50 percent of the time. That leaves them with a 50 percent average, tied for 30th in the league. That's a far cry from what the team was capable of in 2011, when it allowed a conversion on only 33.5 percent of third downs.

Denver's pass rush is a key source of trouble, points out Legwold:

The Broncos have seven sacks this season, and just two have come on third down in anything but an opponent's last possession of the game. Von Miller had a third-down sack and Wesley Woodyard had a fourth-down sack in the Broncos' three-sack flurry on the Steelers' final four offensive plays of the opener.

They sacked Ryan just once -- on a third-and-5 early in the fourth quarter -- and Derek Wolfe sacked Ben Roethlisberger on a third-and-13 in the opener. Those two sacks are still the Broncos' only ones on third down before a game has long been decided.

Elvis Dumervil is one member of the Broncos' defense who could step up the pass rush game. Dumervil led the league in sacks in 2009, but in recent years has struggled with a slow start. He went without a sack for the first five games of the 2011 season and has only one through Week 3 of 2012.

Stick with this StoryStream for more coverage of the Broncos as they prepare for the Raiders. For more insight and analysis, check out Broncos blog Mile High Report. For the perspective from Oakland, check out Raiders blog Silver and Black Pride.

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