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Mile High Sports

Fumbles compounded by inability to recover them

ENGLEWOOD – To some degree, you can control whether you fumble. For instance, Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas could have easily avoided his fumble against Oakland on Sept. 30, which he lost when he was transferring the football from one hand to the other.

But fumbles are fairly inevitable. Since the start of the 2002 season, teams are going to fumble once every 51.74 chances — adding up total offensive plays plus interception returns and special-teams plays, excepting touchbacks on potential kickoffs and punt returns. (That comes to 404,678 potential fumble opportunities in that span, so it’s a sufficiently large sample size.)

The Broncos have been a bit better than the decade-long average this year, fumbling once every 56.14 chances. But fumbles in and of themselves aren’t a problem. It’s when the opponent recovers — which usually happens a little less than half the time (47.82 percent, to be exact, on fumbles since 2002).

Denver hasn’t recovered one of its seven fumbles.

“We’ve kind of gotten a little unlucky as far as having some big plays, so that part of it is something that you’ve got to overcome sometimes,” said tight end Jacob Tamme.

Most aspects of football cannot be attributed to randomness. Statistically speaking, this one is.

*** However, it is interesting how the Broncos have failed to recover at least 50 percent of their own fumbles every year since 2008, but recovered at least 50 percent of them — and as many as 75 percent (2003) — for 11 consecutive seasons from 1997-2007. ***

Making matters worse is the defense’s inability to recover opposing fumbles; it’s grabbed just two of six. Cornerback Tracy Porter believes that there is a trick to the process, which he was taught during his years with the Saints.

“It’s a population thing. You have more guys on the opposing team around the ball, population creates turnovers,” he explained. “It’s something that i’ve been taught, playing in New Orleans, and it helped us during our Super Bowl run.”

Those world champion Saints of 2009 lost 16 of their own 25 fumbles – good for a mere 36 percent recovery figure — but pounced upon 13 of 18 opponent’s fumbles (72.2 percent). Ex-Saints secondary coach Dennis Allen was unable to translate that to the Broncos in his lone season as their defensive coordinator last year, although the defense’s recovery percentage of 47.37 percent was at least close to the overall 47.82 percent figure of the past decade.

“You have a lot of of guys around ball, the ball’s gonna come loose; the ball’s gonna get tipped. A lot of good things can happen,” Porter said. “So starting in practice this Thursday, we’ve got to emphasize getting people around the ball, attacking the ball, making effort strips around the ball, so once we get to the game, it’ll pay off for us.”

That takes care of the defense. But what of the offense and its own bobbles?

“I mean, sometimes you’re going to get unlucky. Guys make a great plays and just get their hand right there on it. We’ll continue to put emphasis on it,” Tamme said. “We work on it hard, and we’ll get a lot of those bounces, too.”

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