Are the best defenses against play action the best against regular passes too? How much impact does play action really have in an NFL game, and does it correlate from year to year?
14 Oct 2011
by J.J. Cooper
For years we've heard announcers talk about a quarterback's internal clock: the thing that tells him when he should check down to another receiver, and when he has to get rid of the ball right now.
It is readily apparent that some quarterback's clocks are wound differently than others. Peyton Manning's clock ensures he generally gets rid of the ball very quickly. Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco's clocks are much like the one in an old Chrysler -- it always seems to be just a little bit slow.
But determining just how much time a quarterback has is a big reason I started timing sacks in 2009. If you dig hard enough, you'll find stories that theorize that a quarterback generally has around three seconds to throw. Others say that alarm bells should be ringing around 2.7 seconds.
The point behind timing every sack is the idea that it helps us make generalities of how long a quarterback generally has to throw the ball -- obviously anytime a quarterback is sacked, he held the ball too long.
In past weeks, it has been mentioned here that the median sack time has sat at 2.7 seconds since the project began. The median time for 2011 sacks is also 2.7 seconds, and I have some more detail to explain that. As reader KK Probs requested in a comment last week, here is a look at the distribution of sacks by time in 2011.
|Figure 1: Sack distribution, 2011|
As you would expect, there's a pretty sharp climb from 1.5 to 2 seconds and a long tail. Long sacks can take up to 12 seconds, but the time limit on a short sack is generally between 1.5 and 2 seconds.
The numbers don't look very different if you take a look at the distribution from 2009 through this week.
|Figure 2: Sack distribution, 2009-2011|
If you add up the sacks from 2.0 to 3.0 seconds, you have 58 percent of all the sacks that have taken place since 2009. Nearly 39 percent of all sacks take place from 2.3 to 2.8 seconds.
In upcoming weeks, we'll take a look at the relationship between the number of pass rushers and the time of sacks.
The Patriots offensive line struggled to figure out the Jets blitz package once again on Sunday. Left tackle Matt Light seemed confused as to who to block on one sack, which left Jamaal Westerman free to pick up a relatively easy sack on Tom Brady. On another sack, right tackle Nate Solder couldn't figure out whether to block the blitzing defensive back coming to his outside or linebacker David Harris shooting the gap past his inside shoulder. He blocked neither and they wrapped up Brady for another sack.
But neither of them paid the price that rookie tackle Thomas Welch paid for his mistake. Welch was lined up at tight end, on the outside of Light, on a second-and-6 in the third quarter. At the snap he made the mistake of sliding too wide to his outside, leaving an easy lane to his inside for Westerman's second sack of the game. After the game, Welch was waived as penance for his screw-up.
The Vikings will happily trade Adrian Peterson's three touchdowns for a missed block on one pass play, but Peterson found he didn't have nearly enough time to get over to pick up a blitzing Daryl Washington on the final play of the first half.
Washington timed the snap nearly perfectly and came through the A gap untouched. Peterson tried to slide over from the other side of the formation but he barely grazed the Cardinals linebacker as he flew by for a 1.7 second sack, the quickest of the week.
There are some sacks that barely fit the name. Against the Raiders on Sunday, Matt Schaub dropped back, got plenty of protection, but found that no one was open. He decided to scramble to his right with Tommy Kelly chasing him. Schaub managed to get back to the line of scrimmage, but because he ran out of bounds less than a yard beyond the line of scrimmage, it still counts as a sack.
In Schaub's case, this was a bad stat for his offensive linemen, but nothing more, as he didn't lose yardage. In past years, Seneca Wallace has been the king of this kind of stupid sack -- he'd run out of bounds several yards behind the line of scrimmage rather than throw the ball away.
An honorable mention goes to Bucaneers' backup quarterback Josh Johnson, whose 6.9-second sack was a thing of beauty. After three seconds, Johnson left the pocket, and managed to do a full 360 that included a point where his back was to the line of scrimmage. He then cut upfield to try to run for some yardage, but was tripped up two yards behind the line by Aldon Smith.
For Smith, it was a nice day to take advantage of quarterbacks holding the ball. Smith had also sacked starter Josh Freeman after he held the ball for 3.4 seconds.
Because it was aired in prime time, the Lions incessant beating of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler got plenty of attention -- and may have finally ended Frank Omiyale's tenure as a Bears' tackle -- but if you were looking for ugly pass protection (and good pass rushers), Sunday's Giants-Seahawks game was just as fascinating. The Giants sacked the Seahawks' quarterbacks, Charlie Whitehurst and Tarvaris Jackson, six times. The Seahawks defense downed Eli Manning three times as well.
Put aside the sheer number of sacks though, because it was the speed of the sacks -- only two of those sacks took longer than 2.5 seconds -- that was really impressive. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul ducked inside of Seahawks' right tackle James Carpenter for a 1.9-second sack of Jackson. Safety Deon Grant blind-sided Whitehurst in two seconds. Seahawks defensive tackle Alan Branch ducked around guard Chris Snee for a 2.0-second sack, and Chris Clemons picked up 2.1- and 2.5-second sacks of Manning as well.
The Seahawks have spent plenty of high-round draft picks (Carpenter, Russell Okung, Max Unger and John Moffitt) on their offensive line in recent years, but right now their inexperience seems more notable than their talent.
26 comments, Last at 18 Oct 2011, 5:39pm by Jerry