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Where Have You Gone, Robert Quinn?

As promised, here's a report from Monday night's game between St. Louis and San Francisco, which I got to enjoy live in the press box at the Edward Jones Dome. Often when I'm attending Patriots games, I chart the performance of one of the opposing cornerbacks on a play-by-play basis. For this game, instead, I was very curious about the disappearance of the St. Louis Rams pass rush, which has only one sack on the entire season. Yes, Chris Long is injured, but Robert Quinn was the best pass rusher in the league last season. Surely he's at least hurrying the quarterback, right?

Actually, no, not in this game. Not much, anyway. And he wasn't double-teamed much either. The 49ers moved the offense away from him on a lot of plays, and when they didn't, left tackle Joe Staley usually just maneuvered Quinn around and behind Colin Kaepernick very easily. It's almost like Quinn has only one move and can't do anything else. I went down to the locker room after the game and actually spoke to Joe Staley about it. He said he knew he had to prepare for Quinn's speed rush, and that's where his focus was. I asked him if he felt like Quinn was ever going to go inside on him; he noted that Quinn did it once or twice, and one time Staley thought it had beat him and that he maybe even got away with a little bit to keep Quinn away from Kaepernick.

Here's my play-by-play notes on the game. This comes directly out of my notes so some of the down-distances may be slightly different from the gamebook. It's also interesting to note that like many 4-3 defensive ends, Quinn only plays about 75 percent of snaps. There are only a couple who regularly play 90 percent of snaps or more; this year, that's Brian Robison and Everson Griffen of the Vikings and Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones of the Patriots.

1-10 Quick pass before pass rush matters
2-10 Double Team
3-2 Double Team

1-10 Bench
2-10 Bench
1-10 Kaepernick bootlegs to the other side of the field, fumble by Vance McDonald

1-10 Blocked by Staley
2-3 Run
1-10 I missed this play, I think because I was tweeting something. Whoops.
2-1 Run
3-1 QB Sneak
1-10 Run
2-8 Bench
3-8 Quick pass

1-10 I wrote down here that Staley could have been called for holding because he had Quinn hooked. This may have been the play that Staley referred to when speaking to me after the game.
2-3 Kaepernick rolls away from Quinn
3-3 They actually tried to block Quinn with Frank Gore here, and Quinn sort of weirdly held up when he got to Gore, and Kaepernick was passing the ball by that point.

1-10 Run
2-11 Staley pushes him around and behind Kaepernick
1-10 Double Team, though this one he almost broke
2-2 False Start by Staley
2-7 Quick shovel pass
3-7 Blocked by Staley, this is the ridiculous deep TD to Brandon Lloyd

1-10 Blocked by Staley
2-4 Run
1-10 Blocked by Staley
2-10 This time Quinn finally tried more of a bull rush, but again Staley handled it fairly easily; Kaepernick scrambled due to other perssure
1-10 This was the first time I wrote down specifically that Quinn went inside, but the pass was out before he could get past Staley
2-10 Bench
3-10 Bench
1-10 Run
2-12 Chipped by Vernon Davis really hard
3-12 Went wide and slipped on the grass
1-10 Bench
2-10 Bench
3-1 Joe Staley comes out as an eligible receiver and Quinn draws a holding flag for basically tackling him as he goes into a pass route

1-10 Bench
2-14 Bench
3-9 Again he goes inside rather than outside, Staley handles him easily but I wonder with this play if that was the point. The blitz gets to Kaepernick, and I think the idea might have been to draw Staley inside so that the blitzers could come from that side.

1-10 Smoke
2-1 Quick slant
1-10 Bench
2-13 Bench
3-6 Stunt, picked up by Daniel Kilgore and Joe Looney
1-10 Run
2-7 This time he went REALLY wide, and was easily blocked on another 49ers touchdown

1-10 Bench
2-10 Bench
3-4 Blocked by Staley

1-10 Run
2-9 Kaepernick bootlegs away from Quinn, but Staley blocks him pretty well regardless
1-10 Run, with Quinn making the tackle
2-11 Kaepernick bootlegs away from Quinn, but again, Staley has him blocked anyway
1-10 Bench
2-10 Bench
3-1 Bootleg run keeper
1-10 Staley goes out for a pass. Quinn beats... I think Joe Looney here. William Hayes beats his guy too! And earns a Horse Collar flag for his trouble.
1-2 Kaepernick bootlegs away from Quinn
2-2 Run
3-1 Run
4-2 Run

1-10 Run, with Quinn making the tackle
2-13 Run, with Quinn making the tackle
3-11 Blocked by Staley
4-1 Run

1-10 Run
2-5 Run
3-4 Run

So that's three run tackles and what the FO game charting project would consider half a hurry, shared with William Hayes. Yes, Joe Staley is one of the top left tackles in the league. But Robert Quinn is one of the best defensive ends in the league. He really should be doing more than this.


14 comments, Last at 17 Oct 2014, 10:13pm

1 Re: Where Have You Gone, Robert Quinn?

I watched this matchup and concur with everything you said. Quinn can only seem to use an outside rush move and staley was there for it every time. I didn't watch quinn enough last year to know if that was all he was doing, but man - scratching my head.

2 Re: Where Have You Gone, Robert Quinn?

So awesome you got to talk to the players and ask about stuff that's both relevant and important! Staley was unlikely to say anything remotely negative about his opponents, of course.

If Quinn's not even trying to get through a block by a RB, maybe he's hurt? Or he's got the Trent Richardson disease?

4 Re: Where Have You Gone, Robert Quinn?

Given that Quinn just signed to a huge contract extension, I'm surprised that the Rams will have him on the bench for 1st and 2nd down so often. Drives 6-10 were when the game was being decided. And Quinn sat out 12 plays!

8 Re: Where Have You Gone, Robert Quinn?

Shall I grind my axe about Robert Mathis being shut out of the DPOY last year while guys from stacked D's got all the praise? Meh, what's the point....

11 Re: Where Have You Gone, Robert Quinn?

"1-10 I missed this play, I think because I was tweeting something. Whoops."

He started a speed rush, got chipped by the fullback and when he tried to spin inside, the ball was gone already. It was a play that was messed up by the linebackers who let Boldin sit in the middle zone for an easy 9.

12 Re: Where Have You Gone, Robert Quinn?

Awesome work Aaron. Love this. I'd like to point out how much more informative a complete play breakdown seems to me than just a handful of highlights, which is what most articles/videos of this type end up being.