Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

04 Dec 2008

ESPN Numbers Crunching: Week 14

This week's Numbers Crunching is the first one of 2008 to feature information from the game charting project. Learn which team sends the most big blitzes and which team uses the most zone blitzes, and find out why the 49ers may be a surprisingly bad matchup for the New York Jets.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 04 Dec 2008

11 comments, Last at 05 Dec 2008, 5:55pm by Staubach12


by wr (not verified) :: Thu, 12/04/2008 - 7:20pm

I would say that the Steeler's O-line is the *only* reason Big Ben runs for his life; IMO the other teams blitz so much
because they know there isn't going to be good protection.

by JMM :: Fri, 12/05/2008 - 10:01am

Don't excuse Ben's role in this. He doesn't have the fastest release and he likes to wait for plays to develop (he holds the ball too long.)

I am also not willing to absolve (line and OC) coaches of a major role either.

Now that the OLine has played with the same 5 for a while, it will be interesting to see if the pressure Dallas brings is a result of individual players being beat one on one or if stunts and blitzes do the damage.

by DGL :: Fri, 12/05/2008 - 11:49am

But if there isn't good protection, wouldn't it make sense to only send four rushers -- who should be able to beat poor protection?

by Matt W (not verified) :: Thu, 12/04/2008 - 7:34pm

I find it odd that Pittsburgh gets blitzed more than anyone else -- my guess would've been that, though Roethlisberger gets sacked a lot, he also creates a lot of good plays under pressure and so would be strong against the blitz. But this is purely impressionistic. I guess this would be a mailbag question: Do you know which offenses are best and worst when facing the blitz, and how do the Steelers rank?

by black president (not verified) :: Thu, 12/04/2008 - 8:10pm

"New Orleans ranks 31st in DVOA when defending passes to running backs, worse than any team except Kansas City -- but it will be hard for Atlanta to take advantage of this when they've thrown only six passes to Michael Turner all season."

They tend to feature Norwood much more in the passing game.

by ammek :: Fri, 12/05/2008 - 4:44am

Wouldn't it make sense to move Tramon Williams (8.5 yards allowed per pass and 53 percent Success Rate according to our game charting) to safety and let Woodson (4.3 yards allowed per pass and 68 percent Success Rate) continue to cover receivers one-on-one?

Firstly, the Packers don't really have 'strong' or 'free' safeties: the two are essentially interchangeable. Nick Collins, for instance, was in run support on the play where Jonathan Stewart gashed the defense (and then fumbled), while Woodson was the deep safety.

Secondly, I don't think playing Tramon Williams at safety is a solution. He's a second-year player being groomed to replace one of the Pack's venerable corners. His main attribute is speed; he doesn't yet possess the vision or the instincts to play safety, and it would only hamper his development.

Green Bay does have a pair of safeties on its depth chart: Jarrett Bush, of whom Tony Romo has fond memories, and Charlie Peprah. These guys are replacement-level; the Packers assume that they will defend the pass better by having their best four cover guys on the field.

The question is: how will Woodson react? After all, he chose Green Bay over Tampa in free agency precisely because the Packers assured him he would not be moved to safety. If it's a couple of games, I don't think he'll grumble too much. If it's more...

Incidentally I though Woodson took a bad angle on the Panthers' first long run from scrimmage, which led to the first TD; I thought he was duped at least twice in short-yardage situations; and I think his effort to break up the last-gasp pass to Steve Smith might have had more chance of success had he played it from the CB position rather than deep safety.

I share your skepticism.

by DGL :: Fri, 12/05/2008 - 11:37am

"As Canadian fans know, second down is the most important down in any football game played at the Rogers Centre."

I think that any football game played in Canada should be required to use CFL rules.

by DGL :: Fri, 12/05/2008 - 11:44am

"The Jets have the biggest difference in the NFL between their defense against the shotgun and against regular under-center formations. They give up 2.8 yards per play more when facing an offense in shotgun. This might be why Jets opponents have used the shotgun 45 percent of offensive plays, which is the highest percentage against any defense in the NFL."

Aaron, of all people, you should know correlation != causation. Are the Jets' opponents using the shotgun so much because they know the Jets give up more yards against the shotgun, or are there other variables involved? Are their opponents in more third and long situations? Do the teams they've played use the shotgun more than average in general, or are they only using it more against the Jets? You may have tested all these hypotheses and just not had room to discuss them in a single paragraph, and you did say "might", but it'd be interesting to delve into this a little more deeply.

by are-tee :: Fri, 12/05/2008 - 1:27pm

They've also played a lot of games with sizable second-half leads, which causes opponents to abandon the run and throw out of the shotgun against soft zone coverage. That would also explain a lot.

by FourteenDays :: Fri, 12/05/2008 - 5:53pm

Kansas City has run an astonishing 57 percent of its offensive plays out of the shotgun.

Out of curiosity, is this including pistol plays as "shotgun"? Given how high the percentage is, I'd guess so.

by Staubach12 :: Fri, 12/05/2008 - 5:55pm

Last year, New England became the first team in NFL history to run more than half its offensive plays out of the shotgun.
Are you sure about this? I'm pretty sure the Staubach era Cowboys (esp. in the late 70s) or the early 60s 49-ers would have had a season with more than 50% shotgun plays.