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The Match Game: How NFL Defenses Lost Their Way

Great, really must-read series here from our old friend Doug Farrar about how NFL defensive schemes have fallen so far behind NFL offensive schemes, and just what coaches might be able to do about it. Part I breaks down how so many passive NFL coverages are just not prepared for the schematic complexity of modern offenses. Part II looks at pattern-matching defenses run in college, especially by Nick Saban at Alabama, and how those might be applicable in the NFL to help defenses bridge some of the gap. Part III is now here, looking at some NFL defenses that use these strategies already.

Comments

9 comments, Last at 15 Dec 2018, 4:48am

1 Re: The Match Game: How NFL Defenses Lost Their Way

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Nov 09, 2018 - 9:29am

Part II looks at pattern-matching defenses run in college, especially by Nick Saban at Alabama

Saban wins because he has better players than you have at every position. There's a reason he flamed out at Michigan State and in the NFL when he didn't have superior talent across the board.

He made the football playoff using a RB as the QB.

The problem isn't defensive complexity. It's that forty years of consistently adverse rule changes have effectively banned defense. It will be an arena league until this wave crests and begins to recede.

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2 Re: The Match Game: How NFL Defenses Lost Their Way

by Will Allen // Nov 10, 2018 - 9:17am

I really like this piece, for explaining how coverage works, in a way so little football writing does, but there is definitely an element of pretending the old is new. You mean to tell me that cover two coverage is designed to keep the catch in front of the defender, and poor/inexperienced corners will make an error, and fail to do so? Who da' thunk it!?

Yep, rule changes have made better defensive backs much more valuable. How this all relates to cap management is an interesting avenue of inquiry.

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8 Re: The Match Game: How NFL Defenses Lost Their Way

by tuluse // Nov 27, 2018 - 9:31pm

Decision making in zone defense is something that almost never gets written about. I was watching some game on sunday and saw a corner pass off a receiver in what looked like cover 2, then the QB threaded the ball in before the safety could get there. Thing is there was no short route. I was thinking about the Bears with Lovie Smith and how the CB almost certainly would have recognized no short route and stayed with the receiver longer.

It's just impossible to know if the cb was coached to do what he did or just wasn't good at recognizing what he should do.

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4 Re: The Match Game: How NFL Defenses Lost Their Way

by dryheat // Nov 10, 2018 - 8:36pm

That's not entirely fair to Saban. He had Michigan St. playing probably above their talent level. Won a title at LSU, and Alabama was no great shakes before he arrived.

If he has better players than you across the board, it's largely because those players want to play for him.

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7 Re: The Match Game: How NFL Defenses Lost Their Way

by Theo // Nov 27, 2018 - 8:35pm

Your first point could be a stawman. Why cant his schemes be good, even though he has superior talent? Does one exclude the other?

Also applicable to your next point. Maybe the rule changes only emphasised the gap in schematic innovation.
Since they cant compensate being outsmarted with brute force, defenses are falling behind.

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3 Re: The Match Game: How NFL Defenses Lost Their Way

by Will Allen // Nov 10, 2018 - 9:28am

Zimmer said in his last post game presser that after the Rams game (which he also said was affected by having to travel to L.A. on a short week), they made some changes, but he wouldn't elaborate. You can't see any of this stuff by watching the network feed, so ir would be interesting to read a very knowlegeable person like Riddick do an analysis of how the Vikings have adjusted over the past monrh.

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5 Re: The Match Game: How NFL Defenses Lost Their Way

by Chuckc // Nov 12, 2018 - 3:42pm

It's a good set of articles but many of the supporting GIFs are useless to illustrate what's happening. You can't see much of the action being described because it's TV angles. They also run way too long after the play is over and can't be paused.

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6 Re: The Match Game: How NFL Defenses Lost Their Way

by BywaterBrat // Nov 13, 2018 - 2:42pm

I liek the idea of these articles but I think you guys linked to another set of articles right at the start of the season that was much more useful that actualyl explained how matchup worked at Alabama.

Actually you linked to a 2 point study (aso very good) they did and then I stumbled upon it from there https://rileykolstefootball.com/2018/04/15/nick-sabans-alabama-pass-cove...

Riley Kolste...hire this man someone!

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9 Re: The Match Game: How NFL Defenses Lost Their Way

by atworkforu // Dec 15, 2018 - 4:48am

This one lost me when they presented cover 0, blitz 6 as a sophisticated matching coverage. I mean there's a place for it in terms of destabilizing the O-line and rattling the QB, but it's not sophisticated.

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