Short-yardage passing had a good year, except at the end of the Super Bowl. We look at the return of quarterback runs, the rise in pass-happy strategy, and 2014 success rates for offense and defense.
04 Nov 2011
by J.J. Cooper
These Tampa Bay Buccaneers are no longer the defense-first team that led Cigar City to four straight playoff appearances in the early part of the past decade, but when it comes to getting to the quarterback, the Bucs are the best in the NFL at one thing.
Tampa has the best short sack rate (defined as sacks taking 2.5 seconds or less) in the NFL. On over four percent of pass plays against the Bucs, the quarterback has been hauled down before he ever got a chance to get fully comfortable in the pocket. No other team comes close to the Buccaneers at picking up short sacks, and only the Steelers are even near the four percent mark.
But there’s another aspect of the Buccaneeers’ sacks that is harder to explain: This year if the Bucs haven’t gotten to the quarterback quickly, they haven’t gotten the sack at all.
It’s hard to give a good explanation for why, but of the Buccaneers 12 sacks this year, 11 have taken place in 2.5 seconds or less. Mason Foster’s 2.9 second sack of Donovan McNabb in Week 3 is the only time this year that the Bucs have had a sack that wasn’t a short sack.
|Percentage of Quick Sacks divided by Total Opponent Dropbacks, 2011|
|Team||Quick Sacks||Percentage||Team||Quick Sacks||Percentage||Team||Quick Sacks||Percentage|
Tampa Bay is the only team in the league without a long sack (defined as a sack of three seconds or longer). Five teams in the league are in double digits in long sacks, led by the Jets.
|Percentage of Long Sacks divided by Total Opponent Dropbacks, 2011|
|Team||Long Sacks||Percentage||Team||Long Sacks||Percentage||Team||Long Sacks||Percentage|
There are a couple of theories out there for why a team gets long sacks, but in the Jets’ case it does appear that the team’s excellent coverage in the secondary plays a large part in picking up long sacks. In watching those 11 long sacks, seven of them showed the quarterback with a clean pocket and time to throw initially. But the quarterback held onto the ball until eventually the pocket collapsed or the quarterback unsuccessfully tried to scramble out of the pocket when he found no one open.
On the other hand, the Ravens’ long sacks appear to be more due to initial pressure that forces a quarterback to escape the pocket to try to buy time. On six of their 11 long sacks, the Ravens had a pass rusher get free relatively early in the play, but the opposing quarterback scrambled to buy time, only to be hauled down later in the play.
On to this week’s sacks.
Coming into Sunday’s game, the Buffalo Bills has generated four sacks in 226 opponent pass plays, for a very subpar sack rate of 1.7 percent. Against the Redskins, Buffalo performed more like the ‘85 Bears.
In a Sunday that saw a lot of defenses rack up gaudy numbers of sacks, no team was more surprising than Buffalo. The Bills sacked Redskins quarterback John Beck 10 times in 43 pass plays (23.2 percent). Washington came into the game with a 6.1 percent sack rate that was a little better than league average, but the Bills destroyed that with a flurry of sacks that was most notable for its lack of a pattern.
Buffalo got sacks when it sent the house (one sack on a seven-man blitz and another on a six-man rush) and when it sent its standard four (seven sacks). There were clear breakdowns by some Redskins offensive linemen (most notably Jamaal Brown and Will Montgomery), but also several sacks where Beck bailed out of a still solid pocket (and one where he simply dropped the ball). The Redskins wide receivers did him no favors either, as there were plays where no receiver appeared to be open.
All in all, it was a complete collapse by the Redskins offense. Washington is playing without starting left tackle Trent Williams, but don’t just point the finger at the offensive line. Since Beck took over as quarterback, he’s been sacked at a significantly higher rate than Rex Grossman -- Beck had an 7.1 percent sack rate even before Sunday’s debacle and six of his 14 sacks have come on plays where he’s held the ball for three seconds or longer. In almost twice as many attempts, Grossman has only two long sacks, which explains in part why he has a significantly better 5.2 percent sack rate compared to Beck’s now awful 14.2 percent clip.
Since being cut by the Bengals, Ahmad Brooks has found a pretty good home in San Francisco. He picked up 11 sacks combined in the 2009 and 2010 seasons as a situational pass rusher, and after stepping into a starting role this year, he’s responded by putting together his most productive year as a pro. On Sunday, Brooks picked up two sacks, giving him four for the season.
None of the previous ones was as impressive as the sack that got the 49ers off to a great start on Sunday. Less than a minute into the game, Brooks set up Browns right tackle Tony Pashos with a quick two steps straight up field, which caught Pashos taking too wide of a kick step. Brooks planted his left foot, and cut back inside. Pashos had all his weight on his back foot so he was unable to counter. Brooks found a massive opening for a free run to Colt McCoy.
All of that is pretty standard stuff for a pass rusher on a good day. But as Brooks crossed in front of the still backpedaling Pashos, Pashos reached up and ripped off Brooks’ helmet. Brooks didn’t slow down at all as he went ahead and wrapped up McCoy, knocking the football out. A few plays later, San Francisco had an early 7-0 lead.
Could it be anybody but Tim Tebow? Tebow wasn’t to blame for all of the seven sacks he picked up (he had three long sacks of three seconds or more), but it’s hard to find anyone else but Tebow to blame for his sack on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Tebow dropped back, remained in the pocket, but eventually was pulled down by Lawrence Jackson 7.9 seconds after the snap. John Beck deserves special mention for having two sacks of six seconds or longer, but then when you get sacked 10 times, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll have sacks of all different types. That was proven true when Beck also had the shortest sack of the week as an unblocked Jairus Byrd wrapped up Beck just 1.5 seconds after the snap.
11 comments, Last at 06 Nov 2011, 3:38pm by MTR