"Last team with the ball wins" is a cliche, but sometimes cliches are the best way to get across the central narrative of an important game. If you like great quarterback play, you have to watch the NFC Championship Game.
06 Dec 2013
by J.J. Cooper
Manning simply doesn’t give up cheap sacks. In part because of his lack of mobility, Manning’s internal clock is extremely highly tuned.
With left tackle Ryan Clady missing much of the season, the Broncos offensive line has struggled to protect the NFL’s oldest starting quarterback. But even with that Manning has only been sacked 15 times, and of those sacks 14 have come because a Broncos blocker was physically beaten.
This year to get a better idea of how sacks are occurring for different teams, each sack is logged as either a blown block (a blocker is simply physically beaten by a defender), a result of confusion (a problem with determining who should block a rusher), or a coverage sack (where the quarterback held the ball for too long until solid pass protection broke down). For the table below, QB fault sacks where a quarterback simply dropped the ball or fell down untouched were lumped into the coverage sacks.
Admittedly it can be a subjective distinction at times, but most sacks are rather straightforward.
In looking at how the sacks broke down by team, it’s stunning how the Broncos sacks were almost always a result of a physical breakdown. The only other sack was one where Manning dropped the ball untouched. Denver is one of two teams who have not allowed a sack because of a confused blocking assignment this year. (San Diego is the other.) The Broncos are also one of only two teams to allow only one coverage sack. (New Orleans is the other.)
On the other end of the spectrum, a full 50 percent of the Raiders 38 sacks are coverage sacks. The Ravens, Chiefs, and Patriots are three potential playoff teams with some significant problems with their assignments: all three have allowed 10 or more sacks where they struggled to figure out how to pick up every pass rusher.
The Falcons have not had many problems with assignments in pass protection during the 2013 season. It’s one of the few things that have gone well for Atlanta. But that all seemed to fall apart against the Bills.
Buffalo rushed only two men on a third-and-2, but still managed to sack Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan as one of the two rushers, Manny Lawson, came unblocked off the edge for a 1.4-second sack. In five seasons of logging sacks, there has been only one other two-man rush that led to a sack, and that involved Joe Flacco rolling out and running out of bounds when he found no one to throw to. The Bills managed to get a free rusher while bailing out to put nine men into coverage.
This one provided the third fastest sack of the 2013 season.
You may ask how a two-man rush can get a rusher free? Well, when you’re playing the Falcons this year, anything is possible. This sack was just part of what was a disastrous day for the Falcons’ pass protection. The Bills had six sacks. Jerry Hughes picked up a pair of sacks, once with a nice stunt to the inside and another when he simply drove left tackle Lamar Holmes into Matt Ryan.
But the biggest problems were a lack of blitz recognition and cohesiveness from the Falcons offensive line. In addition to Lawson’s 1.4-second sack, defensive end Corbin Bryant was allowed to come in unblocked on a 1.8-second sack. Once again, the Falcons just couldn’t figure out who to block. At least this time it was a six-man rush, but when guard Justin Blalock blocked down to pick up a man on his inside shoulder and left tackle Holmes blocked out to pick up a man on his outside shoulder, it did all but send Bryant an Evite to sack the quarterback.
Bucs quarterback Mike Glennon and 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick shared the honors this week as each had a 6.7-second sack. Glennon’s came when he tried to backpedal away from pressure and ended up dropping the ball without being touched. Kaepernick’s long sack came when he tried to buy time with a scramble to his left, but he was eventually run down for a short sack by yardage (one yard lost) but a long one on the clock.
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