Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

Most Recent FO Features

HarvinPer09.jpg

» Impact of the NFL's Kickoff Rule Change

After three NFL seasons of kicking off from the 35-yard line, what has been the impact on touchbacks, returns, field position, scoring and injuries? Also, is this rule responsible for a record number of big comebacks?

17 Jan 2012

Divisional Round Quick Reads

by Vince Verhei

You won't find many wide receivers on our list of top receivers this week. Three of the top five pass-catchers played tight end, and another big fella, the Patriots' Aaron Hernandez, finished sixth*. Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski were a matchup nightmare for the Broncos, as they have been all season - too big for defensive backs to cover, and too fast for linebackers. Stopping this tight end tag team is the top priority for the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game this Sunday. Are they up to the task?

The Dallas Cowboys may have shown the Ravens how to get the job done back in Week 6. Hernandez and Gronkowski combined for 142 yards in that game. That's a nice yardage figure, but it came on 21 total targets, a rate of 6.8 yards per target that was the lowest for the duo this season (not counting Weeks 3 and 4, when Hernandez didn't play). They had 15 receptions on the day, an impressive catch rate of 71 percent. On the other hand, 10 of those receptions gained fewer than 10 yards.

A look at data from Football Outsiders' Game Charting Project reveals some interesting trends in that game:

  • Seven of the throws to Gronkowski and Hernandez came with a linebacker or lineman (usually Sean Lee) in coverage, resulting in five completions for 44 yards and one interception.
  • Seven of the throws came with a cornerback in coverage (most often Orlando Scandrick or Mike Jenkins), producing four completions for 40 yards.
  • The remaining seven passes were listed with no defender. Twice Gronkowski was uncovered on tight end screens, resulting in gains of 9 and 20 yards. Four times the primary defender was named as "hole in zone," and all four balls were caught for a total of 29 yards. And one pass intended for Hernandez was batted down at the line of scrimmage.
  • Three of the six incomplete passes came with Tom Brady under pressure, and a fourth came after Brady scrambled. No defender was credited with a hurry on that play, but Brady rarely leaves the pocket unless under heavy duress.
  • The Cowboys blitzed Brady with five or more pass rushers only five times. They went with a four-man rush 22 times, and rushed only three on a whopping 17 plays. When we remove the Cowboys' three sacks from the data, we find that Brady threw to his tight ends 69 percent of the time against a three-man rush, but only 40 percent of the time against four or more pass rushers.

To summarize: The Cowboys stymied Gronkowski and Hernandez with a wide variety of zone coverages, cutting down on big plays, avoiding mismatches, and relying on their pass rush to force errant throws. It wasn't a perfect plan - the Patriots did win the game, and on a last-minute touchdown to Hernandez at that - but it was probably the best anyone has fared against New England's tight ends all season.

Could Baltimore use a similar strategy in the AFC Championship Game? They will likely take more chances against New England than Dallas did. The Ravens have rushed three on only six percent of opponents' pass plays this year, and have sent five or more rushers 39 percent of the time. That will help to limit the tight ends - Gronkowski and Hernandez can't catch passes if they're blocking defenders.

And when the Ravens don't blitz, they can still count on getting pressure, thanks to one of the best pass rushers in the league. Terrell Suggs finished fifth this year with 14.0 sacks, and while Game Charting Data has not been fully counted yet, we've currently got him second in football with 30 hurries.

Eventually, though, Gronkowski and Hernandez are going to get their passes. When they do, don't look for Lardarius Webb or Cary Williams in coverage. Unlike the Cowboys, the Ravens rarely used cornerbacks to cover tight ends, doing so only 17 percent of the time. Instead, the two men in coverage will probably be strong safety Bernard Pollard and inside linebacker Jameel McClain. One of those men was the primary defender on 25 percent of passes to tight ends this year. How'd they do? Baltimore allowed 6.3 yards per pass against tight ends, tied for third in the NFL.

Brady, Gronkowski, and Hernandez have carried the Patriots back to the AFC title game. It's up to Suggs, McClain, and Pollard to make sure they get no further.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
1.
Tom Brady NE
26/34
363
6
1
265
263
2
You've probably heard about Brady's six touchdowns, so let's talk for a second about his other 28 pass plays against Denver. He had 20 other completions in 28 other attempts, and they netted 237 yards and 13 first downs. That's a 71 percent completion rate and 8.4 yards per pass, and that's after we've taken out his six biggest throws. He completed his first eight passes, and had four other streaks of at least three completions in a row, but only threw back-to-back incompletions twice. He missed on his first three deep passes (including an interception), but after that he went 4-of-5 for 125 yards and two touchdowns on throws more than 15 yards past the line of scrimmage.
2.
Drew Brees NO
40/63
462
4
2
242
241
1
Brees was awful early, both in the game and in each drive. In the first quarter, he went 9-of-12, but for only 56 yards, with a sack and an interception (and a 23-yard DPI foul) for -3 DYAR. And on all first downs he went 17-of-29 for 190 yards with just six first downs (including the 66-yard go-ahead touchdown to Jimmy Graham in the fourth quarter) and an interception for -7 DYAR. He did better later in drives and later in the game, when everyone in the stadium knew he'd be passing.
3.
Eli Manning NYG
21/33
330
3
1
151
149
3
Manning had some remarkably erratic splits by down. First down: 9-of-13 for 187 yards and six first downs (including all three touchdowns), 121 DYAR. Second down: 5-of-9 for 45 yards and two first downs, 12 DYAR. And then on third down, it was epic success or epic failure, as he went 7-of-11 for seven first downs and 98 yards, with one interception and a sack, for 16 DYAR.
4.
Aaron Rodgers GB
26/46
264
2
1
36
4
32
The Giants played a lot of man-2 coverage against Green Bay. That scheme is vulnerable to mobile quarterbacks, and Rodgers, an underrated scrambler, rushed seven times for 66 yards and six first downs Sunday night. He was actually the most valuable rusher of the week. Unfortunately for Rodgers and company, that strategy effectively removed the deep ball from the playbook. Rodgers had only one 20-yard completion against New York, and that was a 21-yarder to Randall Cobb when the Packers were down 17 in the fourth quarter. Rodgers also struggled on third down passes, converting only three of his 10 opportunities, with an interception and a sack, finishing with -49 DYAR on the money down.
5.
Alex Smith SF
24/41
299
3
0
25
7
18
We were surprised to see Smith finish so low in our rankings, but when he wasn't putting his team ahead early or rallying them late, he was very ineffective. In the second and third quarters, he went 10-of-20 for 82 yards, with only three first downs. He was also sacked three times and fumbled once in that stretch. He had -84 DYAR over those two quarters. At that rate, he would have finished far below Tebow at the bottom of the rankings. Fortunately for San Francisco, he started and finished better.
6.
Joe Flacco BAL
14/27
176
2
0
-23
-13
-10
At one point against Houston, Flacco was sacked on three straight dropbacks. It wasn't clear at the time, because the three plays came on three separate drives, and in two different halves. He threw 1- and 10-yard touchdowns in the first half, but otherwise went 4-of-13 for 69 yards with two sacks and a fumble. That all added up to precisely zero DYAR.
7.
T.J. Yates HOU
17/35
184
0
3
-42
-42
0
Basically, Yates played a pretty good game against the league's top pass defense, except for three enormous mistakes. His three interceptions were worth -109 DYAR. If we remove everyone's interceptions, Yates would have finished ahead of Flacco, Smith, and Rodgers. He also struggled in the red zone, going 1-of-4 for 12 yards.
8.
Tim Tebow DEN
9/26
136
0
0
-104
-96
-8
At the end of the third quarter, Tebow was 5-of-16 for 61 yards with five sacks, plus four carries for 14 yards, with five total first downs and a fumble. That's -113 DYAR right there. At that point the Broncos were down five touchdowns. As usual, Tebow fared better in the fourth quarter, going 4-of-10 for 75 yards. His last four passes, all thrown from the 3-yard line, were incomplete.


Five most valuable running backs
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Frank Gore SF
89
0
38
0
29
24
5
Gore ran 12 times against New Orleans. The bulk of his value really came on two carries, a 15-yard run in the first quarter and a 42-yard gain in the fourth. On the other hand, he was stuffed for no gain just once. Gore also caught each of the seven passes thrown his way, although he wasn't as valuable a receiver as it sounds. Those seven receptions netted only one first down. Two of them lost yardage, and three of them failed to convert third downs.
2.
Arian Foster HOU
132
1
22
0
18
16
2
Foster, like his quarterback, gets a big boost for playing an elite defense. Without opponent adjustments, he would have finished sixth. His three longest runs went for 28, 19, and 14 yards, but he had only two first downs (including a 1-yard touchdown) on his other 24 runs. He also fumbled once. On the other hand, he was hit for no gain only three times. He caught each of the five passes thrown his way for 22 yards and two more first downs, but two of those catches lost yards and one was a 2-yard gain on second-and-8.
3.
James Starks GB
43
0
24
0
12
7
5
All six of Starks' carries came on first-and-10. One was a 29-yarder. The others averaged 2.8 yards each. He also caught four passes in five targets for 24 yards with one first down and one catch for negative yards. Did we mention that it was a pretty awful week for running backs?
4.
Kendall Hunter SF
23
0
13
0
8
0
8
Hunter's only target resulted in a 13-yard reception, and he also had an 11-yard run. His other five carries totaled 12 yards. An awful week for running backs, indeed.
5.
Ricky Williams BAL
27
0
0
0
8
8
0
The Ravens didn't throw any passes Williams' way. They did give him six carries, all of which gained between 3 and 5 yards, one of which picked up a first down. Remember, kids, four teams this weekend failed to field a runner with even that meager production, and two of them won anyway.


Least valuable running back
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Ray Rice BAL
60
0
20
0
-47
-35
-12
Rice's 21 carries for 60 yards against Houston contained exactly zero first downs, and just as many 10-yard runs. Meanwhile, he was stuffed for no gain or a loss five times and also fumbled once. He had five goal-to-go carries, four of them inside the 5-yard line, and failed to score a touchdown. He was also the target on five passes. The first was caught for a 20-yard gain. The next four: incomplete, catch for no gain, catch for 4-yard loss, catch for 4 yards on third-and-10.


Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Rob Gronkowski NE
10
12
145
14.5
3
82
This was not the best game for a receiver this season, but it was the best game for a tight end, beating Jared Cook's 8-of-8, 169-yard day against Jacksonville in Week 16. Gronkowski basically played three games against Denver, two good and one bad. His first four targets resulted in four catches, 47 yards, and three first downs (including a touchdown). His next three passes produced just one catch, a 10-yarder. (One of the other passes was intercepted, but our system penalizes quarterbacks for interceptions, not receivers). Gronkowski then caught each of the last five passes thrown his way for 88 yards, with each catch a first down (including two more touchdowns).
2.
Vernon Davis SF
7
10
180
25.7
2
75
Davis had four 20-yard gains against New Orleans, capped off by a 49-yard touchdown in the first quarter, but none were bigger than his 14-yard game-winning score.
3.
Marques Colston NO
9
12
136
15.1
1
72
The first five passes thrown Colston's way were all completed for first downs (including a 25-yard touchdown) and totaled 73 yards. He had 55 DYAR at that point. He had three more first downs in the second half, including a 31-yarder.
4.
Hakeem Nicks NYG
7
9
165
23.6
2
68
Nicks' two touchdowns went for 66 and 37 yards, and his other two first downs went for 15 and 29 yards. His other five targets were pretty much inconsequential. (Well, one of them resulted in an interception, which is quite a big deal, but that counts as an incomplete pass for his numbers here.)
5.
Jimmy Graham NO
5
8
103
20.6
2
58
In addition to the numbers shown here, Graham also drew a 23-yard DPI penalty. Including that foul and his two scores, he had five total first downs on the day.


Least valuable wide receiver or tight end
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Jake Ballard NYG
1
8
17
17.0
0
-46
Tight ends dominate the top of the rankings this week, so it's only appropriate to find one at the bottom too, right? This was, in fact, the worst game for a tight end this year. On third-and-8 in the second quarter, Eli Manning hit Ballard for a 17-yard gain. It was Ballard's only catch of the day. He failed to catch any of the other seven passes thrown his way, including one on third down, two in the red zone, and four with 5 yards or fewer needed for a first down.

* For those wondering: Aaron Hernandez had eight carries for 92 yards in his first 29 games (including the playoffs). He ran five times against Denver for 61 yards, including a 43-yarder and two other first downs, and finished just behind Aaron Rodgers (who had six first downs in seven carries) in rushing DYAR for the week. The Patriots also threw him six passes, and he caught four of them for 55 yards, including a touchdown and two other first downs.)

Posted by: Vince Verhei on 17 Jan 2012

112 comments, Last at 22 Jan 2012, 2:10am by JonFrum

Comments

1
by silvermike (not verified) :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 1:11pm

What's with the Hernandez running plays?

6
by Thunderbolt of ... :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 1:28pm

Hernandez might be the most gifted natural runner on that team. That said, Belichick probably could have found a less valuable player to carry the ball when up 32 in the fourth quarter.

9
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 1:35pm

Boy, that personnel package, if Hernandez is as good a runner as you say, is going to really play hell with a defensive coordinator's substitution pattern, especially if Brady calls the play at the line of scrimmage.

I'm starting to conclude that this Belichik fella is not considerate of the feelings of others.

13
by Nathan :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 1:38pm

Yeah, can you imagine if they come out with no back, line up with Hernandez split out, then motion him into the backfield? Then throw off play action? Nightmare.

16
by Boots Day :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 2:07pm

I was watching "The Catch" game from 1982 the other day, and at one point on a second-and-20, the 49ers lined up with Freddie Solomon and Dwight Clark in the backfield, and the two backup WRs split out wide. The Cowboys defense had no idea what to do, and left tight end Charle Young wide open over the middle. Montana hit him for an easy first down.

That's what the Patriots' formations reminded me of.

58
by Kal :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 6:58pm

I'm not sure why this is a nightmare. The normal package against a 3WR/1TE/1RB would almost certainly be nickel (especially against the Pats). They wouldn't go dime on that very often if at all. So instead of having the RB, you have the TE. You still probably go nickel. Why is that so bad?

66
by otros :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 10:06pm

because a 2WR/2TE/1OL is more likely in that case and you can go with four wide and six OL in protection or eight in run blocking, Welker wide and Edelman running (like last year) or run Hernandez with six OL and Gronko blocking. A Nickel D should get run over in any of those two last plays

81
by Scott C :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 1:59am

"Heavy Nickel"

Some teams have it, some don't.

110
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Thu, 01/19/2012 - 12:00pm

Do you mean "big nickel" - i.e. bringing in a safety rather than a CB?

Really that relies on that safety being able to both cover the tight ends and hold their own in run defense. The problem here is that a safety that can cover and guard against the run is... well... a good safety. And teams don't usually carry three good safeties.

So yeah, a team with a lot of good safeties could match up well against that... but since there aren't a lot of them out there, that's why those TE packages are doing so well.

111
by Mr Shush :: Thu, 01/19/2012 - 1:01pm

Hell, most teams don't even carry two good safeties.

12
by PaddyPat :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 1:37pm

It was a passing set designed to get a nickel or dime defense on the field and then the Pats went draw with some pretty terrific blocking. Just a matchup problem for Denver, and Hernandez, well, he's a big guy.

15
by TADontAsk (not verified) :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 2:07pm

Having not seen many Patriots games this season, and not knowing if they've done this before, perhaps it would have made more sense to unveil this type of trickery vs the Ravens this week instead of showing their hand a little bit in a game in which they really didn't need to do that to win? Then again, maybe they didn't and we'll see something different this weekend!

17
by Nathan :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 2:14pm

They've given Hernandez the ball a bunch on end arounds and they've lined him up IN the backfield and had him block and run routes but this was the first time they've handed him the ball out of the backfield.

29
by Tballgame (not verified) :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 3:48pm

And maybe the Hernandez runs were about setting up the Ravens. Maybe the Pats plan to use Hernandez as a blocker in the backfield this week, but showed those runs to force the Raven safeties to look in the backfield to determine if Hernandez is running it. As the surprise wore off, the value of having Hernandez run diminished, but much of the variation in formations is simply positioning defenders where Brady can identify their responsibilities and know where he is going with the ball pre-snap. If Hernandez can occupy a safety with his positioning, Gronkowski should get a mismatch.

103
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 1:12pm

Can you really take a team that just beat Pittsburgh that lightly in the divisional round playoffs? I mean Denver's strength was its defense in keeping games close.

21
by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 2:23pm

It wasn't actually a draw, it was an outside zone. A draw probably wouldn't have been as successful, IMO, which only makes that call that much cooler.

2
by olopoaeotoia (not verified) :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 1:13pm

How did the Giants secondary, which had looked porous the entire season against elite passing attacks, suddenly play well enough to stymie the most elite passing attack in the playoffs? I saw this secondary get absolutely toasted and torched by the Saints and the Packers in the regular season, not to mention the Seahawks and the Cowboys.

I understand that the Man-2 scheme can slow down the deep passes, but I'm sure that many teams tried to play this scheme against Rodgers during the regular season but with little success. If it was that easy, then Rodgers would not have put up the numbers he put up all year.

And don't tell me that the NYG secondary was superior based on talent. They have some good players, but they are average at best as a total unit. And neither was it the pass rush - they weren't constantly in Rodgers' face, as far as I could tell.

7
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 1:30pm

I think their rookie, Amukamara may be on the sort of late season improvement curve, that we occasionally see, that can foul up playoff projections. Think of Richard Seymour in 2001, albeit on a lesser scale perhaps. It's really hard for a mere t.v. viewer like myself to gauge db performance, compared to defensive linemen.

8
by tuluse :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 1:34pm

In other threads people were marveling at how well Aaron Ross played after being terrible all year. Well, I haven't seen a lot of Giants games this year, but I thought Ross was awful against the Packers. He had one pass breakup, but other than that he was constantly getting beat. He was beat deep several times and Rodgers just couldn't get the ball out.

I think more than anything, the game represents the danger of relying on your passing attack to be near perfect every game. With no running game or defense to fall back on, a couple drops here or there just totally throws the Packers out of whack.

62
by John Doe (not verified) :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 8:53pm

A good game for Ross is any one in which he does not fall down, untouched, in coverage more than twice. He is truly awful, he played much better on Sunday than the rest of the season as awful as that is.

100
by RoyFlip (not verified) :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 12:15pm

I can't get out of my head that he was the starting corner on the Super Bowl team. Has he lost speed? Hurt and not telling anyone? Or, did the pass rush cover his shortcomings then too? In any event, and I understand the colossal jinx I am putting on him, he at least always seems to make a solid form tackle after getting beat and does not ole' the way other corners often do. (I know, having that much practice at something makes you better, sort of like the duffer who becomes good out of the sand because he is always in it.)

23
by Nevic (not verified) :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 2:33pm

The Packers receivers dropped 8 passes and Rodgers missed a wide open Greg Jennings for a TD on the opening drive. Opponents dropping that many passes will make just about any secondary look good.

56
by kevin M (not verified) :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 6:37pm

The Packers dropped at least 5 passes in the first meeting between these two teams, yet scored 38 points. The key in this game was the Giants took away the deep pass, especially the deep sideline pass that Jordy Nelson killed them with in the first game.

As far as the Giants' defensive improvement goes, it's a simple as better pass rush and fewer blown coverages (they're still there, but far less freqent).

76
by NYMike :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 11:19pm

The Packers got Jordy open down the sideline, but Rodgers underthrew him. The other thing about the drops is that on Sunday, they all seemed to come on third down.

43
by ScottyB (not verified) :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 5:10pm

I saw the pass rush differently. Rodgers was almost always forced to at least move around the pocket- this probably led to timing that was *just* a little off, leading to drops and missed receivers. It also led to shorter passes, instead of the longer throws we are used to seeing. The Giants' secondary did do a great job of tackling and keeping the plays in front of them.

Forcing any team, even one with as great a QB as Rodgers, to have to execute 10-14 plays to score, instead of the occasional 4-play TD drive, will tilt the odds in your favor.

48
by Eddo :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 5:35pm

This is sort of the opposite of how the 49ers-Saints game played out. I, at least, thought the 49ers defense looked good; the Saints never consistently moved the ball. However, they hit on three big plays (the Colston TD, Sproles TD, and second Graham TD), which resulted in a lot of points.

53
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 6:14pm

Rodgers is used to throwing on the move. He killed Atlanta and Philly with that last year.

3
by Dean :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 1:21pm

With Colston's size, you could call him a glorified TE as well.

18
by dbostedo :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 2:16pm

He was actually listed as a TE when he came into the league.

26
by RickD :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 3:14pm

Ah yes. I remember using him in that slot for fantasy football for his rookie year. It was a ridiculous advantage.

4
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 1:24pm

It'll be interesting to see teams defend the Packers next year; will they focus to the extreme on cutting off the deep ball, and encourage Rodgers to run more? I think I might go in that direction, especially if the Packers standard running attack doesn't improve.

I have no idea of what to expect from Alex Smith, which makes figuring out the NFC matchup a black hole of uncertainty.

How much did Vernon Davis line up wide this year? I suspect that the Giants will try to use Jason Pierre Paul against Davis like they did against Finley, although it seems to me that Davis is better equipped to deal with that approach.

10
by tuluse :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 1:37pm

I'm still holding out hope for a Ravens-49ers all defense Superbowl.

Also, it's interesting that you think Alex Smith is the hardest thing to figure out about this matchup. The Giants feel like a total Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde team to me.

14
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 1:45pm

Well, qb is obviously the most important position, and Manning is terrific, period, no matter how long it'll take for some folks to accept that. Also, once their defensive line got healthy enough to fully enjoy the advantage of their depth in that unit, what they were became much more obvious, it seems to me. Throw in a couple of rapidly emerging young players, like their corner and wideout, and you can get a feel for them.

I just have a much tougher time with a qb who has been playing for years, and then starts showing flashes of brilliance. What the hell am I supposed to make of that? Should I just assume that he is being coached right for the first time, and the brilliance is what I am going to see more of? Damned if I know.

38
by TomC :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 4:39pm

A naive reading of the QB & receiver DYAR stats agrees with my memory of the game, which is that Smith had about 5 great throws in the game, and they were all to Davis. And the majority of those were fades up the sideline in situations where, by conventional wisdom at least, the Niners should have been running the ball. So if the Giants can take away Davis in general, or even just be aware that they like to go to Davis up the sideline off of play-action, it could seriously reduce Smith's effectiveness.

87
by Whatev :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 5:14am

I think that given that you only see one angle for most plays, there are many cases where it's hard to assign blame for failures or credit for success. But my recollection is that certain parties dropped a pretty fair number of catchable passes, and if they had caught said passes, Smith's numbers would look better.

89
by Subrata Sircar :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 6:03am

It still bemuses me that the same guy who was throwing thirty-yard back-shoulder bombs to Davis on Saturday was almost run out of town last year, for only having improved marginally from the QB of some of the worst offenses of the DVOA era. Which guy is he?

Logic dictates that he's more likely to be the one-step-up-from-awful guy we remember from past years ... but he looked *nothing* like that this year. Maybe aliens possessed him ... but maybe Harbaugh really did do a coach's first job: play to your player's strengths, conceal their weaknesses and put thin in a position to succeed.

In any event, I don't think he'll revert next game. The Giants might harass and chase him, but I think he'll still keep mistakes to a minimum. They might beat the 49ers, but the 49ers won't beat themselves.

77
by LionFanInAZ (not verified) :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 12:22am

It's hard to say now because we might see a significant shakeup in what the Packers do based on the disappointing results in the end. Finley and Driver dropped a lot of catches this year. They depend a lot on Finley to attract attention, but the Packers might decide it's worthwhile to let him explore the market, because they don't want to pay him what he might get on the market when he hasn't been consistently productive. Driver looks increasingly like he's showing his age, so how Randall Cobb develops will be important. I think it would also be risky to assume that Jordy Nelson will continue to reproduce the numbers he had this year consistently. If Finley leaves the Packers and their other TEs don't step up it will make their passing attack much more defensible.

78
by LionFanInAZ (not verified) :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 12:24am

Meant to add that I don't think the Packers want Rodgers to be one of their top running threats, not at all. You don't want to risk a QB of his calibre running downfield.

80
by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 1:51am

Of course not, which is why you might want to defend him in a way that makes him running an otherwise attractive option.

83
by db :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 2:52am

Not to mention way faster with better hands.

5
by Nathan :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 1:27pm

What was the DYAR of Hernandez's running plays? Had to be better than Williams, right?

edit, just saw the post script, im an idiot

11
by Shattenjager :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 1:37pm

I don't think Rodgers can be called an "underrated" anything.

19
by Aloysius Mephis... :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 2:21pm

Funny, I was really surprised to see Alex Smith grade out so low too, but thinking back it makes perfect sense. The Niners could never put the Saints away despite all those turnovers, and that's largely the fault of the passing offense. Mainly poor play by the wideouts, I thought, although Smith's fumble on the Niners' last drive of the first half was really bad.

It really seemed like they wanted to exploit Smith throwing on first down, but of course you can get pass-wacky with that because if it's incomplete then second down's a passing situation too. You could definitely criticize the Niners' playcalling. There was a big pass-run imbalance even before the five minutes of insanity at the end, despite the Niners running pretty well and leading for virtually the entire game.

35
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 4:24pm

His performance also shows a flaw (I call it a flaw) with Win Probability systems...they overrate a few plays at crucial points. So Smith has great WPA and QBR but so-so DVOA and DYAR.

If you're sucking it in a way that does little besides waste time, WPA doesn't seem to care that much.

41
by Aloysius Mephis... :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 4:46pm

Right, except that what looks to WPA like 'just wasting time' might really be squandering opportunities to put the game out of reach for your opponent. Which I think is pretty much what you're saying.

49
by tunesmith :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 5:36pm

Well, in WPA's defense, that's exactly what it's designed to do. There's a companion stat called EPA that measures the same thing, except by ignoring score and time remaining, and is probably more in line with performance level. And you're right, Smith's WPA is far ahead of what you'd expect given his EPA for the game.

20
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 2:22pm

If anyone's interested I put a fanshot up on Niners Nation (the SF superbowl nation site) about the 49ers problems with blitz pick up. Basically I'm pretty sure that it's been a problem with the 46 single defense.

http://www.ninersnation.com/2012/1/16/2711631/so-many-sacks-just-one-def...

24
by Aloysius Mephis... :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 2:36pm

Nice work. This has to be driving Harbaugh nuts; it's such a glaring deficiency. I posted on Facebook midway through Saturday's game that Gregg Williams ought to just bring heavy pressure on every defensive snap because the Niners weren't picking it up. It's probably too late for the Niners to get better at their blocking assignments; maybe the best I can hope for is some plays designed to exploit blitzes. I do think Smith's touchdown run was against a blitz.

31
by zenbitz :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 4:07pm

I think the typical counter is a screen pass... but (I suspect for the same reason they are not great at blocking assignments), the 49ers OL is horrible at setting up screens.

Yes, I think the QB weakside sweep was exactly to take advantage of the 46 blitz call. I suppose Harbaugh and co. did not think that it would work that well or very often or they would have called it earlier... but maybe they were worried about Smith getting hurt running (!?!)

51
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 6:04pm

The problem with a screen pass is that the back will have a defender tasked to hug him as tight as possible without drawing the holding call and the linemen will be as alert to screen passes as they would be on any other play. You have a point that a screen that the offense manages to execute will then have an increased chance to break a big play.

The more I think about it the more a receiver screen to a split end moving underneath a slot receiver with a tackle releasing to help seems like a good call against that scheme. The Pats run that play very well.

33
by ChuckC (not verified) :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 4:16pm

If you ask me, it's all on Anthony Davis. At least twice I saw him moving inside to help Snyder with a block while leaving an outside blitzer to come free.

52
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 6:07pm

Yeah, Davis still makes more than his share of mental errors. Iupati struggles with that too. They have both shown improvement this year though, I like them both going forwards, maybe with a proper offseason under their belt.

34
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 4:22pm

All right! I always wanted to read me some more Karl Cuba. I hope this is the first of many.

22
by Kurt :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 2:27pm

"7-of-11 for seven first downs and 98 yards, with one interception and a sack" sounds like the exact opposite of epic success or epic failure.

Anyway, I don't know if there's any such thing as remarkably erratic splits with smaple sizes of 13, 9 and 11.

59
by Bjorn Nittmo (not verified) :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 7:00pm

Yeah, "epic" seems like a rather hyperbolic description of these stats, particularly on the failure side of the equation -- a sack that kept them in field goal range, an interception that probably resulted in similar field position to the punt that would have happened had the pass fallen incomplete, and 2 incompletions. I'm trying to think of what run-of-the-mill third down failure would look like.

25
by theslothook :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 3:10pm

The patriots have taken the old colts formula of no huddle and are absolutely frightening with it. The difference, as far as I can see, is the colts offense talent probably never came close to what the patriots have right now. The offensive line, the tight ends, and even the wide receiving structure allow the patriots to effectively go from heavy base formations of two tight end two wide to spread with the same players. Defenses normally substitute between teams that go base to sub packages but effectively are caught in a conundrum because their base packages will get shredded by the tight ends and their sub packages get run all over.

Tactically, the pats have started a real revolution. For years, the conventional attack was outside the hashes with receivers, but now, the patriots have found players that get around the corners and against the lesser skilled coverage positions like linebackers and strong safeties.

For all of brady's greatness, i get the feeling this offense is less about him making tough throws and much more about protecting him so that inevitably, his more talented receivers defeat the overmatched defenders.

27
by RickD :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 3:19pm


Defenses normally substitute between teams that go base to sub packages but effectively are caught in a conundrum because their base packages will get shredded by the tight ends and their sub packages get run all over.

Exactly. The Pats are really making hay with the no huddle package with two TEs. If they catch the defense with undersized defenders, they blast away with the running game. If the defense brings in more big guys to defend the run, they release Gronk and Hernandez to run routes against an undermanned secondary.

28
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 3:33pm

Which is why, if Hernandez really is as good running from behind Brady as was asserted above, it gets even harder. If the Pats call plays at the line of scrimmage, even if not in a hurried fashion, with the two tight ends and three wideouts, forcing the defense into dime coverage, and then occasionally run the ball effectively between the tackles with Hernandez, and then, on second and three, have the tight ends work the short and deep center, with a wideout occasionally going deep down the sideline, well, that's just unfair.

30
by zenbitz :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 3:50pm

It seems this would not work so well against the Ravens (or Niners) who have good inside LBs. The Niners at least would go to a 4-2-5 with Bowman and Willis on the TEs/Run stuffers and still have 5 DBs to cover 3 WR/deep.

Not sure what the Ravens do, they are nominally a 4-3 but not sure what their standard nickle arrangement is. They do have great LBs though.

32
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 4:14pm

Of course, a good defense counters any offensive package better than a mediocre defense. However, the Pats really excel at forcing the opposition to prepare for a huge variety of attacks, and there are only so many hours in the week, and that makes a difference even with good defenses.

36
by tuluse :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 4:31pm

However, they don't threaten deep too much.

I wonder if they counter to what offenses like Patriots do is to have several good safeties. Go nickle with 3 safeties or maybe even pull a corner in favor of a safety. Even TEs as good as Gronkoswki and Hernandez aren't going to beat a decent safety deep too often, and that lets you get slightly bigger to stop the run.

Even if this works, there is a serious problem of having 3-4 safeties who are starting caliber.

40
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 4:45pm

Like there is a serious problem in having Gronkandez on the roster. Like all proposed schemes, it is all dependent on getting the personnel to run it. I don't think I've been a genius that has been unlistened to for years, when I've noted that having two tight ends who can block, run, and catch at an above average level could present real match up problems. I just don't think it is easy to do.

My next stroke of genius is to propose that the Vikings GM draft 7 future Hall of famers this spring! Why won't they listen to me!!

44
by Ravens (not verified) :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 5:13pm

Good posting. This is what the Ravens did vs. SF when Ray Lewis was hurt. They brought in Tom Zbikowski as a third Safety and basically went "Big Nickel" for most of the game. They did a good job limiting Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker, but were still stout enough to limit Gore. I would love to see them do that again because I don't really think the Patriots can hurt the Ravens on the ground, even vs. a nickel package with three Safeties.

Another interesting wrinkle is that as rookie Jimmy Smith has played his way into the line-up as the nickel CB, they've been moving starting CB Webb inside to cover the slot WR vs. 3-WR sets. If they put Webb in man-to-man coverage on Welker in the slot, I think Webb can do a decent job against him and free up Ed Reed to double the TEs. The Ravens are vulnerable to big, fast WRs on the outside - look what SD's Jackson and Floyd did to them, or Kenny Britt pre-injury in Week 2 - but the Pats don't present that match-up challenge.

45
by Nathan :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 5:16pm

I would love to see them do that again because I don't really think the Patriots can hurt the Ravens on the ground, even vs. a nickel package with three Safeties.

This is what I was thinking too. I feel like a lot of teams have maybe not done such stuff because they figured the Pats would start calling run audibles and they'd get gashed on the ground... but other than NE springing Hernandez out of the backfield last week nobody has really tested them and made them run it.

50
by BSR :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 5:48pm

I find it hard to believe that nobody has played nickel against them. I'm sure teams have tried all sorts of groupings to try to stop them. I don't think there is any one defensive formation that is going to stop the Pats O. As always, I think it is a mixture of defensive alignments and disguise which slows Brady enough to either make a mistake or allow the pressure to get to him.

55
by Vince Verhei :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 6:36pm

Coincidentally, I just charted the first half of the NE-KC game. The Chiefs had an extra DB on the field almost all the time (nickel vs. 2 WRs, dime vs. 3 WRs, etc.). New England counter-punched by bringing Nate Solder on the field as an extra lineman, and running Kansas City's smaller defense over. That forced KC into more conventional defensive schemes, which opened them up to mismatches all over again.

57
by Nathan :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 6:47pm

isn't football THE BEST?

93
by ScottyB (not verified) :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 9:37am

See Jets defeating Pats in last year's playoff- exactly what they did. Nickel (or more) every down. No more than 3 Dlinemen. Yes, they gave up some running yards, but frustrated Brady all day with coverage.

112
by JonFrum :: Sun, 01/22/2012 - 2:10am

How'd that work for them this year?

79
by 0tarin :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 1:31am

Webb's developed into an excellent overall cover corner, but he absolutely excels in the slot. I vaguely recall them using him locked into Welker at least one game in the past that was extremely effective. I would be quite surprised if they didn't have him shadow Welker for this game as well.

As you say, the Ravens have actually used the triple-safety look quite frequently; it's almost more common for them than the standard Nickel. Now that Zibby's back, they should be confident to fall into it again (Nakamura wasn't as good at it, but they do use him in the Dime pretty frequently). Another thing that'll likely be key is Ayanbadejo on the TEs, as they've tossed him in in the "heavy" Nickel, so to speak, as he's fairly solid in coverage. He'll still struggle to keep up with Gronk and Hernandez, but he'll be better able to keep up than Ray at this point.

37
by tuluse :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 4:35pm

double post.

90
by Subrata Sircar :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 6:13am

The Steelers pointed the way. Double Welker (or at least shadow him and make sure the short zones are covered). Chuck the TE's with a blitzing linebacker or drop people into short zones centered around the throwing lanes you're going to give Brady. Keep one safety deep; everyone else rushes the passer or covers a short zone. Sort of a 4-6 "robber" technique like VTech runs.

That scheme is actually pretty close to what the Steelers ran against Tebow. The difference was that Denver stoned the Steeler pass rush long enough to expose those deep weaknesses. The Patriots couldn't, and with all the hot routes covered there wasn't much YAC to be had either.

Baltimore has the personnel to run that scheme. Like most things, it will come down to the line of scrimmage; if Baltimore controls it and covers the short routes, they can shut down the Patriots offense. If the Patriots block well, they can hit big plays against this scheme.

39
by Alternator :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 4:43pm

The biggest difference between the current Patriots offense and the former Colts offense isn't that the Patriots offense is better--it's that the strengths are different.

Manning started out with a very good O-line that slowly aged and deteriorated, while Brady's is currently very good with a few marked weaknesses. Where Peyton had one outstanding TE and two outstanding WRs, Brady has arguably the best overall TE playing, a second that is outstanding, the best possession/slot receiver in the game, and a bunch of JAGs for other receivers. Manning had RBs ranging from (near?-)elite to above average, while Brady is playing alongside a couple of solid guys.

Shifting the strength from the receivers to the tight ends, and having those tight ends be capable of running, blocking, AND catching, means that while the Pats offense doesn't have the same deep play ability, it's absolute MURDER to find a personnel package that can cover everyone. With the Colts you knew what was coming, and you simply couldn't stop them because their WRs were too good; with the Pats, it's all about flexibility and shifting to something your personnel can't handle.

Both are outstanding, of course, and both make incredible use of the no-huddle, but they manage it in very different ways.

42
by mansteel (not verified) :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 4:54pm

Great example of the perils of judging players (teams, etc) by rankings: I saw Rodgers ranked immediately behind and Manning and thought, "That's crazy--Manning had a much, much better game! How could they be so close?" Then I looked at the actual numbers: 151 DYAR to 36.

47
by Eddo :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 5:34pm

Right. And passing DYAR skews ever further in Manning's favor: 149 to 4.

46
by Elemen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 5:26pm

While Hernandez was back from the injury that kept him out in weeks 3 and 4 when he played in week 6 against the Cowboys, he was still in a brace and not playing at full effectiveness. Hernandez wasn't really over the injury until about week 12. So defending him the way the Cowboys defended him may not work out as well.

54
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 6:26pm

I had hoped going into the game that McCarthy would emphasize the run more to keep the Giants often. The Packers were never really out of it until mid-4th quarter so not going to the run more frequently was not a case of playing catch up. It was just forcing the issue with the pass when it was clear that the defense was completely focused on the deep pass and the qb/receivers were not in synch.

Mike REALLY needs to accept that running the ball has a place versus just a 'show me' type effort. That run every so often to set up a deep throw to Jordy works in the regular season.

61
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 7:47pm

I know it is heresy these days, but I think the Packers could benefit hugely by drafting a running back in the first two rounds, if that guy is there, and if McCarthy would be willing to use him. It might do Rodgers more good than anything else.

63
by Mr Shush :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 9:32pm

I sometimes wonder if the issue isn't more that teams aren't very good at scouting running backs, rather than running backs being fungible. Or at any rate that the two issues are frequently conflated. A great all-round back would be a huge boon to the Packers, but look at where the great all-round backs currently in the league were drafted:

Matt Forte - #44 (6th RB taken)
LeSean McCoy - #53 (4th)
Ray Rice - #55 (7th)
Maurice Jones Drew - #60 (6th)
Jamaal Charles - #73 (10th)
Arian Foster - UDFA (22 running backs drafted)

Now, obviously some of the players taken ahead of these guys are fine players in their own right, albeit without the same receiving ability (which you have to assume the Packers would want) - Peterson, Stewart, Mendenhall, Williams and more besides (that 2008 running back class is insane). But an awful lot of very indifferent players went before these guys too - Knowshon Moreno, Donald Brown, Jacob Hester, Laurence Maroney, LenDale White (and that's without counting the scrubs who were drafted on day 3 when Foster wasn't). If teams could identify these players, they wouldn't get out of the first round, but they invariably do.

68
by theslothook :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 10:34pm

IMO, its a waste to spend a high draft pick or even a 1st rounder on a rb if you have an elite passing offense. Invariably, the offense runs predominately through the qb and thus demands the rb be effective at blitz pickup and/or running routes and screens and dump offs. The bigger acquisition for the saints was sproles who fit those roles and not ingram, who was effectively replaced by the platoon of ivory and thomas(who cost a fraction of the cap space and draft value).

The loss gb suffered is really being overblown...they dropped passes and fumbled a bunch. Even if you allowed for 2 fumbles and half the drops, some of their receivers were so wide open it probably would've changed the entire dynamic of the game but a perfect storm of events completely derailed the packers offense.

Their defense on the other hand...

99
by justanothersteve :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 11:34am

Starks and Grant may not even be the RBs next year. They're pretty high on Saine who just makes plays every time he's in. Saine is also a better blocker than Starks. Alex Green also was looking good before he went on IR. Grant's contract is up plus he's getting close to 30, and Starks still seems to have attitude problems. Personally, I'm hoping they draft almost all defense this year.

75
by NYMike :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 11:14pm

The Packers ran for 147 yards (66 of which is Rodgers), so they were very successful when they did run. But they didn't run, and they didn't check down, which was available all day. Add to that missing on three key opportunities, and suddenly the other team looks great.

As I think about the game (talking about when the Packers have the ball here), I don't think that the Giants stopped the Packers as much as the Packers just didn't make the plays that were there: the bomb to Nelson that Grant broke up was underthrown, missing Jennings, missing the conversion on 3rd-and-5 to Finley. Heck, even the throw in the left corner of the end zone to Jennings was usually converted this year, despite coverage that tight. Not Sunday.

On the other side of the ball, the Giants played great, and made all the plays. And despite that, they did not score in the 3rd quarter and led by the margin of a Hail Mary (or more precisely a total failure of Packer tackling on the play before).

I understand that I watch the games from the viewpoint of a Packer fan, and that your perceptions as a neutral observer or a Giants fan could very well be different. But I can't shake the feeling that the Packers gave the game away by not making the plays they made all year.

105
by Arkaein :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 2:02pm

I don't think failure to check down was really an issue. It's just that, like everything else the offense tried, they couldn't execute consistently.

Starks dropped a wide open pass int he flat when he looked upfield too early. Grant dropped a checkdown where his hit after the ball got there, but still should have hung on for a few yards. And Grant's fumble happened after another checkdown, I believe.

Really, there was nothing huge wrong with GB's offensive gameplan. They ran for decent yards. When the Giants played their safeties back Rodgers beat them repeatedly with scrambles. They called pass plays that got receivers open, occasionally wide open, in the secondary. I'd say that at least 70%-80% of Rodgers' passes were to receivers that were at least reasonably open, with Rodgers under no more than moderate pressure.

They just failed to execute. Rodgers missed open guys two or three times, every one critical. When the ball did get there it was often dropped. And when the ball was actually caught, it was often fumbled. If the Packers had managed to fix or prevent any one of these three areas they might have won the game. Any two and they probably win. All three and a victory would have been hugely probable.

60
by theslothook :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 7:03pm

Btw- to the person who said manning use to have an elite o line and elite rbs, i don't believe he ever had either. Looking through what some scouts have written and what Fo has even commented on, the colts o line has never been even above average and given how miserable the offense performed this year, i think its ok to have serious questions about just how talented they are in the first place. I believe, at one point, harrison was elite and wayne was definitely very good, but the rest of offense just screamed average.

Just as moss and welker proved they could maintain their production even with cassel, it shows that the patriots offense is much more about talent than scheme and deception. In fact, brady rarely audibles when he goes no huddle because they frankly have no need to. Their offense actually seems to use less wrinkles and in game deception and is much more about forcing bad matchups.

Finally...you can stop this offense, but it has to come from really elegant defensive disguise and pass rush. The pats offenses has struggled in many games, but has only been truly stymied in a few. In those few, the big key seemed to rely on pass rush, limiting of yards after the catch. Scheme disguise worked for a while, but the pats are countering that with their running game which forces teams out of it into more predictable coverage. At this pt, there isn't a linebacker or safety i feel is capable of taking away both gronk, hernandez and welker. Those three simply rule the middle of the field and so the onus falls entirely on pass rush. It can be done, but the stout o line makes it daunting.

One of the untold stories in the nfl is where the big yardage is coming from. if you look, the real big spike in offenses is coming rbs, slot receivers, and tight ends. The outside wideouts are no more effective today than they were years ago. The soft belly of the defense is what is being exposed and defenses are going to need to start drafting faster more agile linebackers and safeties.

64
by Mr Shush :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 9:35pm

I think a lot of Colts' players have been somewhat over-rated thanks to Manning making them look better, but it's pretty hard to argue that Tarik Glenn wasn't a fine player (vastly superior to the guys that replaced him), that prime Harrison, Wayne and Clark were an outstanding top three receiving options, that James wasn't a damn good back, or that Saturday and Diem weren't much better players in 2004 than 2011. Manning used to have an excellent supporting cast. In 2012, if he comes back to the Colts, I'm not sure he'll have a single above average offensive team mate.

67
by theslothook :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 10:28pm

How good was dallas clark really? last year with manning when clark went down, tamme put up the most receiving yards for a tight end over the stretch he was a starter. Does that suddenly mean tamme must be good? As for glenn...its hard to know how good the o linemen were without advanced stats(incidentally, pff does a good job but doesn't have data going back that far). As edge? I guess hes good. I think the 2004 cast was extremely good but that was the last real hurrah for most of the group. Harrison began his decline soon after, edge left after 05, stokley was injured soon after and glenn didn't stay much longer either.

One of the things i argue a lot is that we really have no way to know how much credit the qb deserves vs the rest of the team unless extreme circumstances happen. Examples where it appears more credit should go to the team around the qb: NE and GB- where both times the starting qb was replaced and the offensive numbers were still either very productive(NE) or somehow remained amazingly prolific(Rodgers). On the flipside, we have examples where the starter left and the team disintegrated(manning and cutler).

Since manning is such a polarizing figure, I'll use jay cutler instead. If you imagine he never played a single down in denver and began his career in chicago, we might conclude he was no better than your average replaceable qb. Instead, because he was such a bright star with denver, we know talent around him contributed heavily to both his success and failure.

Finally...I believe qb dyar is one of the most misleading stats FO uses. If you run a regression on qb dyar to team dvoa, you end up with a correlation coefficient of 98 percent, implying the qb is responsible for 98 percent of a teams pass dvoa. obviously, even the best qbs don't have that kind of impact and so, dyar is simply just another stat that measures total team offense rather than strict contributions by the qb.

72
by tuluse :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 10:54pm

PFF does a job, I wouldn't go so far as to call it good.

82
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 2:07am

Btw- to the person who said manning use to have an elite o line and elite rbs, i don't believe he ever had either.

He played seven years with either Marshall Faulk or Edge James.

84
by theslothook :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 3:09am

He had faulk as a rookie, edgerrin james missed most the 2001 season and was replaced with rhodes. I suppose you could argue james was a good enough back so i'll take back what. With regards to the o line, however, i never thought of it as anything more than above average some years and woefully terrible most other years. Certainly, never the quality that the patriots offensive line has had. And btw, this isn't just my opinion, both pff have to routinely graded the pats o line as one of the 5 best and even last year, ben alamar ran a study that showed the pats basically provide the best pass protection in the league. But that is neither here nor there.

92
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 9:27am

I'm not counting James in 2001. He still spent 7 years with either Faulk or James as the primary back.

86
by Alternator :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 3:55am

You're misquoting me slightly, but that would be me. I called the Colts offensive line "very good" and mentioned that they've deteriorated; are you really saying that a younger Saturday, Diem, and Tarik Glenn don't form the core of a very good offensive line?

Are you really going to say that James wasn't, at the least, a near-elite running back during his prime? That Wayne, Harrison, and Clark weren't all excellent?

The offense NOW is pretty weak at most positions, yeah. They didn't used to be. There was a reason for the "Manning has the stats, but Brady has way worse guys around him" arguments.

88
by theslothook :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 5:16am

ok,

lets first accept that at the heart of this is a difference of opinion, especially since neither of us has access to advanced stats for those years or all 22 film. With that said, i will concede at minimum, edge was elite and Harrison was as well along with probably saturday(again mostly based off opinions from analysts i trust). After that, i don't know. I do know as a unit, cossel remarked how they were solid but unspectacular, made better by manning's awareness(see fo's audibles for the 2006 afc champ game as well as subsequent articles). I remember after manning was accused for blaming his o line for the loss against pitt in the playoffs, espn asked jaworski his opinion and he exclaimed rather matter of factly that this unit was mediocre and played its worst game of the season.

Again, those were comments made by people i trust but it hardly makes it definitive and i understand that. Still, there are no stats that can prove which players are elite and which are a product of the qb and scheme. Personally, I find wayne a good receiver in the sense that he makes great catches and is savvy, but i don't find that he gets open or creates true mismatches the way a gronkowski does or moss did. And these aren't relegated to pats players, steve smith, calvin, andre, even lesser players like desean and mike wallace seem to get open far more than wayne does(again, just based off my subjectivity). I think, paired with harrison, he was effective in his own right and being a part of the colts offense, he was going to get production value(as just about every receiver with the colts has). What i do believe strongly is at the bare minimum, evidence does suggest clark is very much a product of manning. He was probably better suited to the colts offense than perhaps any other, but given how tamme basically put up good numbers in clark's absence, coupled with the fact that his numbers were absolutely atrocious this year, seems to suggest he's hardly an elite tight end.

97
by BSR :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 11:01am

This is a silly argument. Tamme was never half the weapon that Clark was. He was one of the main weapons that opposing defenses tried to stop. Furthermore, Indy was running the two TE offense with Pollard and Clark well before NE did it. The only difference is that they had even more surrounding talent with Wayne, Harrison and James. Those teams were stacked with offensive talent.

For most of his career Manning had excellent talent surrounding him. There is nothing wrong with saying it.

65
by lester bangs (not verified) :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 9:59pm

Cutting Gonkowski's day into three mini-games is just silly. Arbitrary endpoints.

"Oh, wow, he only caught one of his last three targets. Defenses have solved him!"

70
by Vince Verhei :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 10:51pm

You are reading way, way, way, way, way too much into what I said. The comments here aren't meant to be super-insightful analysis. Just adding a little color so it's not a page full of numbers.

69
by Thok :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 10:48pm

How did Sproles do in DVOA? I would have thought he had enough passing DVOA to make the top 5 running backs.

101
by Aloysius Mephis... :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 12:46pm

I agree it's kind of surprising. He was targeted on 19 passes though, and only made 5 first downs (including the touchdown). His three runs were all negative-value plays. Outside of the touchdown he really didn't have any big plays, so I'd guess it's a case of a lot of middling-to-bad plays canceling out one really good play.

102
by Aloysius Mephis... :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 12:53pm

Put more simply, outside of the 44-yard touchdown, Brees averaged under 4.2 yards per pass throwing to Sproles and had only four first downs on 18 passes. I can easily see that building up enough negative value to cancel out his one really good play.

107
by Vince Verhei :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 4:36pm

Re-posting this because it ended up on the page, but not directly replying to this question:

Hmm. He had 3 DYAR rushing, 21 DYAR receiving. That's 24 DYAR, which should have put him second behind Gore. He only had three carries -- not sure how we missed him, honestly. He's not on the list of top RBs I got. He finished with 15 catches in 19 targets for 120 yards. He had a 44-yard touchdown and four other first downs, but his other 10 catches averaged 3.5 yards each.

108
by Andrew Potter :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 5:11pm

Did he lose DYAR for the special teams fumble?

109
by Vince Verhei :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 10:33pm

Nope. Just like returners don't get credit for special teams touchdowns, either. Just what they do rushing/receiving.

71
by MaineRaider :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 10:51pm

Oakland's defense overall got torched by New England, but Tyvon Branch, Stanford Routt, and whoever held Gronkowski to 1 catch for 15 yards. I bet the Ravens will be looking at that game film in the hope of gleaning something useful.
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/201110020rai.htm

73
by tequila0341 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 10:58pm

The Steelers defensed Gronkadez pretty well. Tight man coverage with Cortez Allen (a rookie CB but a big, athletic one) and a good pass rush worked well.

Gronk - 7 of 9 targets for 94 yards
Hernandez - 2 of 4 targets for 9 yards, with one TD.

The problem with the Pats that the Steelers figured out was that their WRs really couldn't beat man coverage on the outside. Ike Taylor locked down Wes Welker (6 of 8 targets for 39 yards) and no one else but Gronk really did anything at all.

Most importantly, the Steelers played effective keep-away by holding onto the ball for 40 minutes time of possession and converting 66% on third down. The best defense against the Patriots is a good offense, especially one that can take advantage of their lackluster secondary.

74
by Vince Verhei :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 11:02pm

Hmm. He had 3 DYAR rushing, 21 DYAR receiving. That's 24 DYAR, which should have put him second behind Gore. He only had three carries -- not sure how we missed him, honestly. He's not on the list of top RBs I got. He finished with 15 catches in 19 targets for 120 yards. He had a 44-yard touchdown and four other first downs, but his other 10 catches averaged 3.5 yards each.

85
by theslothook :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 3:12am

I can't help but think that anytime the pats struggle is because of offensive line woes. Both their final two games against the dolphins and bills, the first half pass rush disrupted brady. By halftime, the pass rush was adjusted and brady had a clean pocked...the results spoke for themselves. even still, the best strategy has to be keep away and some luck on 3rd downs. But to trust in flacco....

91
by Purds :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 8:48am

I agree that pass rush is the key to almost all playoff games. When a team gets s rush, they win. If they don't, they lose. But, what I can't figure out is if an effective pass rush is the symptom or the disease. (Not sure I used that metaphor right.) Let me put it this way: if a team like NE suffers from an opposing pass rush, they will lose. But, is that because of the pass rush itself, or is the pass rush just the symptom we see and there is something more central causing the pass rush to have success. Thoughts?

94
by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 9:38am

Even when Tiger Woods was at his best, some days he shot 74. Even good offensive linemen get whipped some days, because the other guys are pretty good , too.

95
by MessageBoard2 :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 10:40am

All last year in the playoffs and the regular season Aaron Rodgers had the super accurate back shoulder throw he could execute when his receivers were covered in tight man to man coverage. But last sunday he didn't even try it that many times which is weird. My guess is since it was the playoffs the refs let the giants get away with a little more contact down the field which would prevent him from trying to throw as the receivers were knocked off balance.

96
by MessageBoard2 :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 10:42am

Also the giants looked like they were jumping the initial route of the receivers which would open up double moves like it did for jennings but it would make the qb hold the ball more which led to more pressure.

98
by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 11:03am

Yeah, without seeing the all-22, it's hard to assess. There isn't any doubt, however, that having a deep, talented, and healthy defensive line unit is the best friend of a defensive backs coach.

106
by joon :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 4:00pm

okay, but do these numbers include brady's punting stats?