Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
08 Nov 2013
by J.J. Cooper
Life’s a little easier on the inside.
There are 13 offensive linemen who have played 500 snaps or more this season without allowing a sack. All 13 are offensive guards or centers (although Louis Vasquez did spend some time on the outside this year while the Broncos suffered injuries to Ryan Clady and Orlando Franklin). It’s a little easier slowing down a big defensive tackle who spends more time stuffing the run than picking up sacks, but it’s still quite the accomplishment to get halfway through the season without giving up a sack.
One startling thing to pick out from the list below is that Matthew Stafford has not had one sack this year that can solely be blamed on his interior linemen. A lot of the preseason talk about the Lions focused on them moving Riley Reiff to left tackle and replacing Gosder Cherilus and Jeff Backus. The right tackle spot has been a mix-and-match of undrafted free agents and waiver claims, yet the Lions are currently first in Adjusted Sack Rate. Stafford naturally does a pretty good job of avoiding sacks, and the interior line has been a big boon to him this year while Reiff and the right tackle platoon get their feet wet.
|Zero Sacks Allowed Through Week 9 (2013)|
Not surprisingly, on the other end of the spectrum, the list of the players with the highest sack percentage (sacks allowed divided by offensive snaps) is dominated by tackles.
The top of the sacks allowed charts are led by a tackle who was traded for nothing (Levi Brown), both of Miami's regular tackles (Jonathan Martin and Tyson Clabo), a rookie (Luke Joeckel), and a fill-in left tackle (Kelvin Beachum).
But among a list of struggling tackles, Jets guard Brian Winters also appears. Winters has been a part-time player this year. He’s not exactly making a bid for more playing time.
|Most Sacks Allowed (through Week 9, 2013)|
To make the most sacks allowed table, a linemen had to play at least 100 snaps. But some of the worst performers, understandably, have come from backups with fewer snaps than that. Here’s a look at the bottom 10 with 200 or less snaps.
|Most Sacks Allowed, Less Than 200 Snaps (Through Week 9, 2013)|
It’s useful to mention again that blame for sacks is determined by multiple viewings of a play. Often it’s quite easy to determine, as a player will simply get beaten by the man he’s blocking. But in the case of twists, stunts and blitzes, it sometimes can be harder to determine. If there are significant questions about who is to blame, the sack is recorded as a quarterback/play-call sack. The same is true of lengthy sacks where the quarterback had plenty of time to throw. This year, roughly one-third of all sacks have not been blamed on a blocker.
Texans defensive end J.J. Watt is well short of the pace needed to match the 20.5 sacks he recorded last year. But he’s still having an excellent year. This week, Watt got one sack, but he had a significant hand in another. Colts tackle Gosder Cherilus left an open invitation for Watt to beat him to the inside. Watt took advantage to get an unblocked hit on quarterback Andrew Luck. To Luck’s credit, he managed to stay upright after a good shot from Watt, but that just bounced him right into Antonio Smith, who had beaten Hugh Thornton. While it took more than two seconds for Luck to go down, Watt’s initial hit took only 1.7 seconds, and after that Luck had no real opportunity to throw.
Maybe we should just rename this the Terrelle Pryor award, though Geno Smith has a claim to the title as well. Pryor had the longest sack of the year this week, a 10.6-second piece de resistance where Pyror scrambled backwards nearly 25 yards, managed to turn the corner on the rush and get back to the line of scrimmage, but still couldn’t find anyone open. He was finally sacked 10.6 seconds after the snap, more than a second-and-a-half longer than any other sack this season.
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