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Our season finale of catch radius focuses on the growing size of Josh McCown's talented receiving duos, including breakout stud Alshon Jeffery. Also: Anquan Boldin's incredible year.

08 Jul 2014

2013 Run Defense by Number of Backs

by Carl Yedor

Last week, we examined how successful offenses were depending on how many backs lined up in the backfield on each play. Today, we’re going to be looking at how defenses matched up against runs from both single-back and multiple-back formations.

As was the case last year when we looked at these numbers, it is hard to take any sort of conclusion from these numbers from the perspective of playoff success. Three of the top six teams (New England, Indianapolis, and Philadelphia) made the playoffs this year, but the bottom three teams were Seattle, New Orleans, and Carolina. Cincinnati, San Francisco, and Denver were all essentially in the middle, so it is hard to say if any one type of split is the best.

The average number of wins for teams whose DVOA differential was in the top ten was exactly eight, and the average number of wins for teams in the bottom ten was 7.7. Not really a massive difference between being in either the top or the bottom. It appears that having a big differential does not make a huge impact on wins and losses.

If we wanted to look at how the splits related to DVOA, we would not get much further. Arizona had the best DVOA against the run, but they ranked 21st by this measure. The Jets were second in overall run DVOA, and they were seventh by their splits. And the Bears, proud owners of the worst DVOA against the run in the NFL, ranked third in their split between DVOA against single-back and multiple-back formations.

One might think that offensive game plans would be centered on attacking a team’s weaknesses defending the run, but these splits did not really bear that out. Opposing teams ran against the Lions from multiple-back formations only 25 percent of the time, but the Lions were worse when defending multiple-back runs and gave up a yard per carry less against single-back runs.

In somewhat of a change from last year, the three teams that faced the most multiple-back formations were Jacksonville, Houston, and Atlanta, respectively. Each of those teams faced multiple-back formations at least 52 percent of the time. This seems to make sense because teams that are trying to run and protect a lead might use multiple-back formations more often. But the only other team to face multiple-back formations more than 50 percent of the time was Seattle. Arizona faced multiple backs on runs 48 percent of the time, and San Francisco closely followed them at 45 percent. So much for that theory.

Interestingly, the team that performed the worst against runs from single-back sets was Green Bay, another playoff team. The Packers posted a DVOA against single-back runs of 11.6%, but they still managed to make the playoffs. Green Bay’s opponents definitely identified this as a glaring weakness, as 68 percent of the runs Green Bay faced were from single-back formations.

However, the next worst team, New Orleans at 9.9%, only dealt with single-back formations on 56 percent of running plays (less than the league average of 61 percent). This is especially odd given that the Saints were a top-ten unit against multiple-back runs, posting a DVOA of -22.9%. Opposing teams rushed for five yards per attempt from single-back formations against the Saints, so it is surprising that they did not see even more of them.

The Saints’ divisional rivals in Charlotte were the best against runs from multiple-back formations in 2013. Their DVOA of -36.8% pushed them just past Arizona for best in the league. Carolina’s opponents used multiple-back formations on 40 percent of their runs. While opponents may not have been ramming their heads into a wall over and over again, it is a little strange to see a number that coincides with league average there. Running against any front that features Greg Hardy, Star Lotulelei, and Luke Kuechly will be a very tough task in the foreseeable future.

Below we have the statistics for each team sorted by the difference in run defense DVOA against single-back and multiple-back formations. The teams that performed best against single-back formations compared to how they did against multiple-back formations are at the top. Data was collected by formation, not personnel (so if a wide receiver lines up in the backfield, he gets counted as a running back). Only runs by players lined up as running backs were counted, and no Wildcat-style runs were included.

If the overall DVOA for running plays looks low, that's because team offense DVOA incorporates both running and passing plays, and passing plays on the whole are much more efficient than running plays.

DEFENSE Pct of Runs
2+ RB
Yd/At 1 RB DVOA 1 RB Yd/At 2+ RB DVOA 2+ RB Yd/At Dif DVOA Dif
DAL 43% 4.2 -10.6% 5.8 16.1% -1.7 -26.7%
NE 28% 4.2 -5.4% 4.3 5.4% -0.1 -10.8%
CHI 45% 5.6 3.2% 4.9 13.6% 0.7 -10.4%
IND 42% 4.2 -9.0% 4.4 0.8% -0.2 -9.8%
MIA 38% 4.2 -1.6% 4.4 7.7% -0.2 -9.3%
PHI 32% 3.8 -17.6% 3.3 -10.6% 0.5 -7.0%
NYJ 44% 3.2 -30.8% 3.2 -24.5% 0.0 -6.3%
OAK 33% 4.3 -8.6% 3.3 -2.8% 1.0 -5.8%
DET 25% 3.8 -25.3% 4.8 -19.7% -1.0 -5.6%
CLE 35% 4.0 -4.7% 3.9 -1.0% 0.1 -3.7%
SD 42% 4.7 3.5% 4.1 7.0% 0.6 -3.5%
DEFENSE Pct of Runs
2+ RB
Yd/At 1 RB DVOA 1 RB Yd/At 2+ RB DVOA 2+ RB Yd/At Dif DVOA Dif
BAL 29% 3.8 -18.9% 4.1 -16.4% -0.3 -2.5%
SF 45% 4.1 -10.8% 3.6 -8.8% 0.6 -2.0%
ATL 52% 5.0 -4.1% 4.7 -4.0% 0.3 -0.1%
DEN 38% 3.8 -19.9% 3.3 -20.4% 0.5 0.6%
TB 44% 4.0 -25.2% 3.8 -27.0% 0.3 1.7%
HOU 53% 4.5 -16.6% 3.7 -19.3% 0.8 2.7%
NYG 29% 3.7 -26.2% 3.1 -29.4% 0.6 3.3%
TEN 44% 4.7 -1.0% 3.2 -6.3% 1.5 5.4%
CIN 28% 3.4 -12.7% 4.7 -18.6% -1.2 5.9%
ARI 48% 3.3 -29.1% 3.0 -35.2% 0.3 6.1%
KC 27% 4.4 -9.2% 3.8 -16.3% 0.6 7.1%
DEFENSE Pct of Runs
2+ RB
Yd/At 1 RB DVOA 1 RB Yd/At 2+ RB DVOA 2+ RB Yd/At Dif DVOA Dif
JAC 55% 4.3 -1.1% 4.0 -8.6% 0.3 7.5%
PIT 33% 4.6 1.4% 3.1 -9.0% 1.5 10.4%
GB 32% 4.8 11.6% 4.5 -3.2% 0.3 14.8%
BUF 41% 5.2 0.3% 3.7 -15.4% 1.5 15.7%
STL 42% 3.8 -12.1% 3.8 -28.3% 0.0 16.1%
MIN 39% 4.1 -4.4% 3.4 -25.1% 0.7 20.7%
WAS 37% 4.3 0.1% 3.4 -21.3% 1.0 21.4%
SEA 51% 4.0 -6.7% 3.6 -28.3% 0.4 21.6%
NO 44% 5.0 9.9% 3.7 -22.9% 1.3 32.8%
CAR 40% 4.7 -3.3% 3.2 -36.8% 1.5 33.5%
NFL 39% 4.2 -8.7% 3.9 -12.1% 0.4 3.9%

Posted by: Guest on 08 Jul 2014

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