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26 Nov 2013

Any Given Sunday: Bucs Over Lions

by Mike Ridley

"The arm strength is there, but everything else has been up and down for Glennon, who is simply too inconsistent in his reads, and doesn't pick up things quickly enough for some evaluators."

These words about Mike Glennon came from ESPN's resident hair expert and draft guru Mel Kiper following the NFL Scouting Combine. Glennon, who was once Kiper's top quarterback in the draft, fell out of favor due to his off-and-on senior season at North Carolina State. This led to a noticeable decline from his first year as a starter, further dropping his stock. He saw drops in his touchdown and completion percentages while also seeing his interception rate increase. It's this regression, along with his slender build, that caused him to receive such a harsh Lewin Career Forecast. At -379 DYAR, Glennon's prediction was the lowest of the quarterback prospects evaluated and over 2400 DYAR below forecast leader Geno Smith.

The instability in Glennon's game showed itself early on. In his first start, he went 15-for-24 for 115 yards with a touchdown and 71 DYAR in the first half against a talented Cardinals defense. In the second half he unraveled, completing just nine of 19 passes for 78 yards with two picks and -103 DYAR. This trend continued over the next six games; Glennon would show signs of promise, such as the first three quarters against the Seahawks (158 DYAR) mixed with doses of bad decisions and poor reads.

As Glennon’s experience has grown, his play has become more consistent. During Tampa's three-game winning streak, he has fallen below -10 DYAR in a quarter just twice after having eight of his previous 21 quarters dip below the threshold. In fact, dating back to the beginning of the Seattle game, Glennon's 289 DYAR is sixth-best in the league. This can largely be attributed to Glennon's accuracy on deep balls. On throws of 15 yards or more downfield, he has completed or received a defensive pass interference penalty on 11 of his 16 passes going back to Week 9, including 6-for-6 for 265 yards over his last two games, as ESPN Stats & Information has noted.

Another facet of Glennon's game that has improved has been his decision-making. After making two costly second-half interceptions against Arizona, he has given out just two freebies since. He's also had a significant jump in his completion percentage. As the Bucs spent a lot of time trailing, Glennon completed 58.6 percent of his passes over his first four games, averaging 45 attempts per; in the four games following, he's completing an impressive 70.5 percent, including his 66.7 percent performance in the upset of the Lions on the road.

By the VOA

The Lions find themselves in the wrong row of our table for the second straight week.

Defensive Offenses
Team Off. VOA Def. VOA Special Teams VOA Total VOA
TB -25.7% -27.6% -14.3% -12.4%
DET -32.1% -17.8% -8.1% -22.4%

The Lions offense was undone by turnovers. In addition to Matthew Stafford's four interceptions, Kris Durham pulled off the rare air-caused fumble while being pushed with one hand out of bounds. Those turnovers only resulted in 10 points for Tampa Bay but killed at least two Lions scoring opportunities and another promising drive.

The special teams DVOAs are a result of each team’s various miscues, although none ended up playing a deciding factor in the outcome. Detroit's Jeremy Ross muffed a punt and Sam Martin had his second rookie moment in two weeks, having his punt blocked by Danny Gorrer. The Lions kickoff coverage also struggled, allowing Eric Page to return kickoffs for 44 and 39 yards. Not to be outdone, the Buccaneers special teams retaliated with two missed field goals by Rian Lindell that would have iced the game.

Play of the Game

Just two days after being the recipient of a 3,600 word love letter by Bill Simmons, Calvin Johnson coughed up his team's chances of tying or winning the game late. On third-and-12 from the Tampa Bay 28-yard line, Stafford appeared to have a completion to his all-world receiver at the 5-yard line. As Megatron brought the ball in, Kelcie McCray laid a shot on him, sending the ball directly into the hands of rookie corner Johnthan Banks, sealing the Bucs' victory.

Immovable Forces

Bobby Rainey entered this week's contest as the reigning NFC Offensive Player of the Week and Week 11's DYAR leader at running back. This week, he ran into the stone wall that is Detroit's front four.

The Lions entered this week with the league's fourth-best defense against the run. They also claim the league's second-best Power Rank while ranking third in Adjusted Line Yards and Stuffed Percentage. Over their last five contests, the average DVOA of opposing rushing offenses is a dismal -29.4%. As Vince Verhei pointed out in Upset Watch a couple weeks ago, the defensive line truly makes their money on second downs. Through 12 weeks, Detroit is allowing only 2.4 yards per rush on second down, nearly a yard better than their nearest competitor. Their 25 percent success rate is also tops in the league by a 10 percent margin.

Ndamukong Suh and company put on another phenomenal performance against the Bucs. They limited a Tampa Bay rushing attack that had been the seventh-best in the league by DYAR over the last four weeks to -23 DYAR and a DVOA of -68.3%. Detroit's biggest success came on first downs, where they held Rainey to 0.2 yards per carry on nine attempts one week after the second-year back gashed the Falcons for 5.4 yards per carry. Detroit's dominating line forced Schiano to abandon his run game to the point that Thom Brennaman announced that Tampa Bay "wasn’t even flirting with run anymore."

Stafford’s Decisions

A common narrative in Matthew Stafford's career has been his tendency to chuck some balls up for grabs into coverage. On Sunday, his four picks fueled an Bucs upset by not only providing 10 points but also ending three Detroit drives inside the Tampa Bay 40-yard line.

The first two interceptions -- a deflection snagged by Lavonte David and pick-six by Leonard Johnson -- are products of inaccuracy likely stemming from Stafford’s inconsistent mechanics. On both throws, he failed to drive through the ball and as a result, the placement was off. On David’s interception, Johnson was able to make a break on the misplaced throw, causing the deflection. The second was a ball thrown behind Brandon Pettigrew that Johnson reacted perfectly on.

The last two interceptions are probably the most concerning. Both were results of Stafford trying to force the ball into double coverage. With rookie Johnthan Banks on Megatron, Stafford took a shot to the end zone, failing to see Keith Tandy playing over the top, which allowed the safety to easily pick off the slightly underthrown ball.

Stafford will likely avoid much criticism for his final interception, due to Johnson nearly making the catch. But by forcing the pass into double coverage, he allowed McCray, the second defender, to make the vicious hit that jarred the ball loose; something a primary defender in single coverage wouldn't be able to do. So while Johnson nearly came up with the catch, Stafford's decision to force the ball into him was still questionable.

(Ed. Note: For those wondering, we chose not to do Chargers over Chiefs for AGS because it would be difficult to analyze the game separate from the injuries to Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. -- Aaron Schatz)

Posted by: Mike Ridley on 26 Nov 2013

4 comments, Last at 27 Nov 2013, 12:31pm by Chappy


by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 11/26/2013 - 1:34pm

Stafford was clearly paying attention to his mechanics the first 9 games, only lapsing into bad habits rarely. However, the 4th quarter against Pittsburgh, and the 2nd half of this game was a "greatest hits" parade of his annoying habits: backfoot throws, sidearm throws, not stepping-in, directly facing the line of scrimmage, etc. He reminds of my 2 year old: when we take him out, he has about 40-50 minutes of good behavior in him before he starts to unravel.

I only pray that Matthew Stafford 2013 isn't a replay of Josh Freeman 2012.

by Anonymous7676767 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/26/2013 - 1:53pm

Heck, even when he angrily threw his Gatorade cup on the sideline, Stafford showed horrible mechanics.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 11/26/2013 - 3:00pm

That Gatorade cup bounced off a teammate's hands and was nearly intercepted by a Buccaneers defensive back.

by Chappy (not verified) :: Wed, 11/27/2013 - 12:31pm

How much does the blocked punt cost in terms of special teams VOA? Just curious because my sense is that, while the Lions special teams is bad this year, it is mostly due to Akers and a little bit due to Martin. Maybe I'm crazy, but Spurlock seems like a decent returner to me. He's certainly not the second coming of Devin Hester, but his returns seem solid. Maybe I should be expecting more since the comparison is the ultimate train wreck that was Stephon Logan.