Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

23 Dec 2008

Any Given Sunday: Chargers over Buccaneers

The linked article focuses on the decline of the Bucs' run defense. Their offense was reasonably effective on Sunday before a fourth quarter meltdown. This massive decline in performance by Jeff Garcia, however, is not new. He has a DVOA of 27.3% in the first quarter, 17.5% in the second quarter, and 37.2% in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, his DVOA is an abysmal -23.8%.

It is unclear if this is meaningful or random variation, but I’d like to offer at least a hypothesis. As I say in the main AGS, Garcia excels by generally working underneath and then hitting big plays to Antonio Bryant. The Bucs are an old school west coast offense with their reliance on short passing.

When Garcia has to pass in the fourth quarter, he feels pressured to make plays down the field. The defense, meanwhile, plays more two-deep zone and takes away Bryant's big plays. As a result, Garcia forces passes and fails to maintain offense.

One indicator of this trend is Garcia receivers' yards after catch. Through three quarters, his receivers average more than five yards after a catch. In the fourth, that number drops to 3.8. The average yards the passes travel generally increases by quarter throughout the game from 6.68 to 6.73 to 7.60 to 7.73. it seems that in the fourth quarter, Garcia is throwing more down field to more stationary receivers, comebacks and outs rather than the slants he prefers.

Posted by: Ned Macey on 23 Dec 2008

4 comments, Last at 24 Dec 2008, 3:22pm by CuseFanInSoCal


by jay stokes (not verified) :: Tue, 12/23/2008 - 5:10pm

Being a diehard Bolt fan, and am livid about Norv Turner, I did think his play calling was much better. I am no pro at this, but there seemed to be better variation, less predictability and a focus on the pass rather than trying, vainly, to establish the run. Not sure how much of a factor is was in that game, but it appeared to be to me.

by Jonathan (not verified) :: Tue, 12/23/2008 - 5:22pm

Jay, I'm with you on that. Norv has aggravated my family of Chargers fans with what seems to be a "run up the middle left, run up the middle right, throw long" offensive philosophy for much of the season.
I don't know if it's because he's trying to establish a run or what, but when he does establish the run he gets, dare I say it, more confident and has some fun with the offense, creating more passing plays over the middle and even throwing a screen to Gates!
Hope he and Rivera are up to the task on both sides of the ball this week, because I'm sure the players will be ripe for revenge! I'll be there and yelling ;)

by Neoplatonist Bolthead (not verified) :: Wed, 12/24/2008 - 2:42pm

Good-but-overrated team meets good-but-underrated team. The Chargers went in at 6-8, yeah, but with a 3+ point average scoring differential. The Bucs had injuries and were on a losing streak. SD was playing to avoid mathematical elimination, while TB was playing for control. Accuscore got it right.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Wed, 12/24/2008 - 3:22pm

The Chargers' offense -- especially their passing game -- has been among the league's best all season.

When I first read this, I thought this it had said...

The Chargers' offense -- essentially their passing game -- has been among the league's best all season.

... and was thinking "yeah, that's about right."

My new CuseFanInSoCal blog