How bad have the Broncos been in red zone and goal-to-go?

New England Patriots v Denver Broncos
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Have the Denver Broncos been as been as they have seemed relative to the rest of the league 2018-2023?

After Tim’s Horse Tracks last week, I wanted to dive more deeply into the data that Warren Sharp showed from 2023. The Denver Broncos were bad in goal-to-go situations in 2023 and they were terrible on 3-and-outs in the second half. I wanted to focus on read zone touchdown percentage and goal-to-go TD percentage.

Red Zone TD percentage


Over the last six seasons the Broncos have ranked 27th in terms of red zone touchdown percentage and have not done better than 56.8% (which was in 2018). The highest value for this entire six season time block was the Packers in 2020, that scored TDs on 80 percent of their red zone TD drives. The worst performance by the Broncos was in 2019, 47.6%. During that season the Broncos scored a TD on 20 of 42 drives that reached red zone. For comparison, the Titans led the league that season scoring a TD on 75.6% of their RZ drives. (34 of 45).

The Broncos league rank by season:

  • 2018 – 19th
  • 2019 – 28th
  • 2020 – 27th
  • 2021 – 22nd
  • 2022 – 16th
  • 2023 – 19th

Oddly enough, the Broncos best season for red zone TD efficiency was 2022 when the offense was terrible in general. This is a situation where the stats don’t tell the whole truth, at least the percentage. While the Broncos were 16th in RZTD%, they were last in the league in red zone drives with only 36 in 17 games. So while the RZTD% was middle of the pack, the Chiefs had literally twice as many red zone drives (72) and scored TDs on 50 of them. So KC had more red zone TDs than the Broncos had red zone DRIVES in 2022.

It is informative to look at the number of RZ drives by season for the Broncos:

  • 2018 – 44
  • 2019 – 42
  • 2020 – 45
  • 2021 – 53
  • 2022 – 36
  • 2023 – 58

While the Broncos didn’t get TDs on many of them in 2023, they had the highest total number of RZ drives last season. The year over year improvement from 36 to 58 is huge. It would give Sean Payton credit for that, but it wasn’t tremendously visible because of how futile the Broncos were in goal-to-go (GtG) plays last season.

Goal-to-Go Plays

Warren Sharp looked at TD percentage on goal-to-go drives, but I have chosen to look at TD success on goal-to-go plays. Both can be informative, but since he had already done one, I chose to use stathead.com and look at the other.


Overall, the Broncos were better on average in goal-to-to TD percentage (plays not drives) ranking 22nd at 28.9% for the six year span than they were in RZTD% ranking. The Jaguars were the worst at 25.9% while the Titans were the best at 63.3%. The Saints were good at this in 2018-2021 under Sean Payton. They ranked sixth overall and were in the “green” in 2020 (72.1%) and 2018 (69.6%). So it had to be very frustrating for Sean Payton to watch the Bronco offense only score TDs on 18.3% of goal-to-go plays in 2023. Only the Jets were worse in 2023 at 17.5%.

The Broncos ran 82 goal-to-go plays (removing penalty plays) and only scored TDs on 15 of them. Twelve of those plays were FG attempts. For comparison the Packers only had 46 GtG plays and scored TDs on 19 of them (41.3%) while the 49ers scored TDs on 29 of 71 GtG plays (40.8%).

The Broncos best season in terms of GtG TD% was 2020 when the team scored on 15 of 44 GtG plays. 44 GtG was near the bottom of the league, but while the Broncos didn’t get in GtG very often in 2020, they were decent at scoring when they did (36.4%). The Packers were the best that season at 46.9% while the Texans were the worst at 23.2%.

The 2023 Broncos “led” the league with twelve FGs on GtG plays. No other team had more than eight. The Packers had 19 TDs and only 1 FG while the Bills had 27 and 2.

Tm Plays 1st% TO% TD FG 1stD Int Fmb Sk Pass Rush FG Run %
GNB 46 41.3% 0.0% 19 1 19 0 0 0 18 27 1 58.7%
SFO 71 40.8% 2.8% 29 2 29 2 0 1 23 46 2 64.8%
CLE 54 35.2% 0.0% 19 4 19 0 0 1 26 24 4 44.4%
ARI 58 34.5% 0.0% 20 4 20 0 0 1 22 31 4 53.4%
NWE 29 34.5% 0.0% 10 2 10 0 0 0 12 15 2 51.7%
CHI 64 34.4% 0.0% 22 5 22 0 0 2 27 32 5 50.0%
KAN 85 34.1% 0.0% 26 5 29 0 0 3 49 31 5 36.5%
BUF 80 33.8% 1.3% 27 2 27 1 0 0 26 50 3 62.5%
CIN 74 33.8% 1.4% 25 4 25 0 1 2 32 38 4 51.4%
BAL 87 32.2% 1.1% 27 6 28 1 0 1 28 52 6 59.8%
WAS 60 31.7% 1.7% 19 2 19 1 0 1 34 24 2 40.0%
NOR 68 30.9% 0.0% 20 5 21 0 0 0 25 38 5 55.9%
NYG 46 30.4% 4.3% 13 3 14 1 1 4 23 20 3 43.5%
PHI 83 30.1% 2.4% 25 7 25 0 2 3 18 58 7 69.9%
JAX 60 30.0% 3.3% 18 2 18 1 1 1 29 28 2 46.7%
DET 88 29.5% 1.1% 26 3 26 0 1 0 31 53 4 60.2%
TAM 61 29.5% 0.0% 18 7 18 0 0 4 32 21 7 34.4%
LAR 92 29.3% 0.0% 27 6 27 0 0 2 44 42 6 45.7%
HOU 73 28.8% 0.0% 21 7 21 0 0 2 30 36 7 49.3%
MIA 101 28.7% 3.0% 29 6 29 1 2 3 44 51 6 50.5%
PIT 56 28.6% 0.0% 16 6 16 0 0 0 16 34 6 60.7%
SEA 71 26.8% 1.4% 18 7 19 1 0 4 27 37 7 52.1%
IND 68 25.0% 2.9% 17 5 17 1 1 3 27 36 5 52.9%
DAL 101 24.8% 4.0% 25 8 25 2 2 4 50 42 8 41.6%
LVR 62 24.2% 3.2% 15 6 15 2 0 0 28 28 6 45.2%
CAR 54 24.1% 0.0% 13 5 13 0 0 4 27 22 5 40.7%
MIN 74 23.0% 2.7% 16 8 17 2 0 1 40 25 8 33.8%
TEN 62 22.6% 0.0% 14 7 14 0 0 4 28 27 7 43.5%
LAC 77 20.8% 3.9% 16 6 16 1 2 2 32 39 6 50.6%
ATL 65 20.0% 7.7% 13 8 13 2 3 1 27 30 8 46.2%
DEN 82 18.3% 1.2% 15 12 15 1 0 2 42 28 12 34.1%
NYJ 57 17.5% 1.8% 10 7 10 1 0 2 32 17 8 29.8%

The Broncos also tended to not run the ball in GtG situations only doing so on 34.1% of the GtG plays. Only the Vikings (33.8%) and the Jets (29.8%) ran the ball less frequently on GtG plays. Compare the Eagles that ran the ball 69.9% of the time when faced with a GtG play.

The Broncos only tried to score a TD on 4th and goal once – in the first quarter against the Patriots (Javonte Williams was stopped short of the goal and they turned the ball over on downs).

On 3rd and goal, the Broncos ran 17 plays, 11 passes and 6 runs. None of the runs scored; in fact the six runs lost seven yards. Five of the passes were completed for two TDs, and one INT. There was also a sack on 3rd and goal – against Washington.

When you throw that much on GtG, you are relying heavily on the OL and the QB. The Bronco OL allowed two sacks on GtG plays in 2023, meaning that the Broncos allowed sacks on 4.8% of the passing plays on GtG. That was better than the league average of 6.1%. The Giants were the worst, allowing 17.4% of their GtG passing plays (4 on 23). There were a number of teams that did not allow a sack on a GtG play in 2023 including the Raiders.

The Broncos did not turn the ball over except once on a GtG play (interception), but many teams had zero turnovers on GtG plays. The Cowboys had four, but they also led the league in GtG plays with 101 (tied with the Dolphins).

It’s no surprise that the six worst teams on 3rd and goal in 2023 will all have new starting QBs in 2024:

  • NYJ – Favre Aaron Rogers
  • ATL – Kirk Cousins
  • DEN – Bo Nix
  • PIT – Russell Wilson or Justin Fields
  • MIN – JJ McCarthy
  • NE – Drake Maye

I expect the Broncos to improve the RZTD% and their GTGTD% in 2024, but I am not certain how much improvement we will see with a rookie QB.

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Title: How bad have the Broncos been in red zone and goal-to-go?
Author: Joe Mahoney

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