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30 Jan 2012

Under Pressure: Playoff Log

by J.J. Cooper

Archie Manning taught his boys well.

Unable to make it to the Super Bowl himself -- he never led a team to a winning record -- Manning has watched sons Peyton and Eli Manning both win Super Bowls, with Eli trying on Sunday to win the third Manning Super Bowl title.

You can credit good genes, good coaching, or a lot of luck. But along the way, he appears to have instilled in his sons the need to make sure they get rid of the ball quickly.

When Archie Manning played behind some awful lines, he was sacked a lot. His 396 sacks are the 11th most in NFL history. The sins of the father have not been passed on to the sons, as both of his children are among the league’s best at avoiding sacks.

For a guy who makes a whole lot of throws behind a less-than-imposing offensive line, Eli Manning doesn’t get his jersey very dirty. His career sack rate of 4.75 percent is the 15th best in NFL history. This year, the Giants' adjusted sack rate of 5.1 percent was fifth-best in the league. Much of that can be credited to Manning, as he very rarely holds the ball long enough to pick up a long sack. Manning didn’t record a sack all year that took longer than 3.6 seconds. In the three years that Under Pressure has timed sacks, he has seven sacks of longer than 3.6 seconds. In comparison, Tom Brady had eight sacks this year that took 3.6 seconds or longer and 16 over the past three years.

Of course Eli has nothing on his brother. Peyton’s 3.10 percent sack rate is the second-best in NFL history, behind only journeyman Steve Walsh. Manning has two sacks that took longer than 3.6 seconds in his last two healthy seasons.

That doesn’t mean that the Patriots won’t have chances to put Manning on the ground though. He gets rid of the ball, but he also plays in front of a relatively porous offensive line. David Diehl was challenged in pass protection earlier this year, when he was a guard. Asked to move back to left tackle when Will Beatty was lost for the season in Week 10, Diehl is often overmatched at the more demanding position. Diehl gave up a team-high 6.5 sacks during the regular season. He gave up another two in NFC playoffs.

Regular Season Sacks Allowed, Patriots and Giants
New England Patriots New York Giants
Player Sacks Allowed Player Sacks Allowed
QB/Play Call* 13 David Diehl 6.5
Nate Solder 5.5 Kareem McKenzie 5.5
Brian Waters 4 QB/Play Call 4
Matt Light 3 Chris Snee 3.5
Sebastian Vollmer 3 Will Beatty 2.5
Logan Mankins 2.5 Kevin Boothe 2
Rob Gronkowski 1 David Baas 1.5
Thomas Welch 1 Ahmad Bradshaw 1
Dan Connolly 0.5 Mitch Petrus 1
Danny Woodhead 0.5
*If you've followed the FO game charting project, you'll see that the Under Pressure methods for determining sack responsibility are a little different. This category generally incorporates sacks which the game charting project would mark "Coverage Sack," "Rusher Untouched," or "Failed Scramble."

Unlike many struggling left tackles, speed hasn’t been Diehl’s biggest problem. Diehl is just as likely to overplay to the outside, leaving him vulnerable to being beaten to the inside. Three of his sacks have come when he has been beaten to the inside, and another one came when he was bull rushed back into the quarterback. That’s bad news for Manning, because a pass rusher beating a tackle through the B gap is both tougher to dodge (you can’t step up) and a quicker path to the quarterback.

Over on the other side of the line, right tackle Kareem McKenzie gave up 5.5 sacks himself. Like most tackles, McKenzie’s problem is usually speed rushers —- four of his sacks have come by just being too slow to beat his man to the corner.

The Patriots have a better offensive line than the Giants, but they will also be facing a much better pass rush. It’s hard to pick any one offensive lineman out as a weak link among the Patriots’ front five, although rookie Nate Solder is arguably the group’s least consistent member. Solder has given up Tom Brady’s only sack in two playoff games.

On the subject of the playoffs, here’s the rundown of all the playoff sack numbers.

Playoff Sacks
Player Team Total Sacks Median Sack Time Avg. Sack Time Sack Rate
Matthew Stafford DET 0 0 0 0.0%
Tom Brady NE 1 2.4 2.4 2.4%
Matt Ryan ATL 2 2.3 2.3 2.9%
Drew Brees NO 5 2.5 2.7 4.5%
T.J. Yates HOU 2 2.4 2.4 4.5%
Andy Dalton CIN 4 3.7 3.7 5.4%
Aaron Rodgers GB 4 3 2.9 6.0%
Eli Manning NYG 8 2.9 3 6.1%
Tim Tebow DEN 5 3.4 3.6 8.3%
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 5 3.6 3.4 9,6%
Alex Smith SF 7 3.4 3.3 14.0%
Joe Flacco BAL 8 3.1 3.4 16.3%


Ravens fans can’t complain much about how Joe Flacco played during the playoffs, but at times he seemed to forget any idea of pocket awareness. That happened a couple of times early in the Patriots’ game, but it was most obvious on a third-quarter snap against the Texans. Flacco held the ball, and held it, and kept holding it. He was eventually pulled down by Brooks Reed 6.8 seconds after the snap.


Maybe it’s because these are the best teams in the NFL, or maybe it’s just a fluke, but there hasn’t been a very quick sack at any point in these playoffs. There have not been any sacks under two seconds, and only three that came in at two seconds flat. Lions’ defensive end Cliff Avril came unblocked when the Saints shifted their line the wrong way, and Saints defensive back Malcolm Jenkins was untouched on his way to 49ers quarterback Alex Smith. The most impressive of the three sacks was Osi Umenyiora’s: he beat Chad Clifton with an inside move and managed to rip the ball away from Aaron Rodgers in the process.

With 266 of the 267 games this season in the book, it’s also time to honor the sacks of the year.


In logging over 3,000 sacks over the past three years, there has never been a sack that comes close to matching the speed of Ronde Barber’s sack of Jay Cutler in Week 7. Barber timed the snap perfectly and came unblocked through an A gap. The tailback asked to block him never had a chance as Barber hit Cutler as he was backing away from center, 0.3 seconds after the snap. Barring capturing the game and timing frames, it’s hard to imagine we’ll ever see a faster sack -— it’s hard to press the plunger on the stopwatch quicker than that. The second-quickest sack of the season took a full second longer.

And in case you are wondering, none of Troy Polamalu’s timed leaps on goal-line plays came on pass plays.


Brad Smith is a wide receiver who used to play quarterback in college, so his 10-second sack on a lateral that fell apart says more about a trick play that didn’t work than anything else.

Among quarterbacks, Tim Tebow holds the award. On a fourth-and-17 against the Patriots in Week 15, Tebow kept trying to buy time to find someone open by running further and further backwards. It didn’t work, and Tebow was finally pulled down 9.1 seconds after the snap. The 28-yard loss was the most distance lost on a sack all season.

Posted by: J.J. Cooper on 30 Jan 2012

24 comments, Last at 03 Feb 2012, 7:56pm by Mercury529


by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 1:35pm

I wonder how often Wilfork will line up opposite of Diehl on obvious passing downs. With the way Justin Smith was able to just shove him backwards and disrupt Alex Smith, the Pats might have Wilfork try the same thing.

by Jravin (not verified) :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 2:19pm

You mean Eli here, not Smith.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 2:52pm

Yes, of course. Gotta stop doing ether in the morning.

by Independent George :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 2:25pm

After watching the replay on NFL Network, I'm convinced the best way to stop Wilfork is to tie a doughnut around Kevin Boothe's neck, and hope Wilfork gets distracted long enough for Eli to get a pass off. I would say they should just hold on every play, except (1) they do that anyway, and (2) it's tough to hold when you're flat on your back.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 3:00pm

I dunno. I think Wilfork looks more like a guy who would respond more strongly to a rack of baby backs, Memphis style, since keeping his hands dry would still allow for an occasional tackle. Going K.C. style results in a lot of slippery fingers. Of course, a Carolina-style vinegar-based sauce might come in handy, to apply a eye-sting to an offensive lineman who became too obvious with the holds. Tom and Padma could do the broadcast!

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 3:11pm

Great. Now I'm hungry.

by Nathan :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 4:20pm

Yeah, seems like holding wouldn't really help with bull rushes.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 5:01pm

Well, it all depends on the referee. I've seen bullrushed offensive linemen, completely domonated, simply wrap both arms around the waist of the bullrusher, as the o-linemen is getting planted on his back, and take down the rusher with him. I've also seen it go uncalled, as ridiculous as that is.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 5:36pm

The Giants got away with this no less than 5 times in the NFCCG.

by John Doe (not verified) :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 9:57pm

As a Giants fan I'd be happy if the officials started calling holding, as long as they did so evenly. The Giants D-line has been held constantly in every single one of their playoff games. I believe the opposing team has drawn a single holding call in those three games.

by justanothersteve :: Tue, 01/31/2012 - 9:52am

Considering holding is legal as long as it's not away from the body, there is going to be some holding every play. I do agree though that of the games I've seen, the refereeing has been even more inconsistent than during the regular season including holding calls. I don't think any team has been consistently helped. It's just been uniformly bad.

by Dean :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 5:58pm

I was thinking the opposite.

Line up back in a fairly traditional 3-4, let Vince play a 0 technique and shoot the A-gap to his left. He might not get a sack this way, but he can collapse the pocket and deny Eli a place to step up. Take the RILB and have him cross the LGs (Boothe) face into the other A gap to draw him inside. Send the end - Anderson wide with Deihl. This might play to Deihl's strengths, but it will open a huge alley in the B-gap that you can stunt Mayo or an ILB through. It attacks both the new guy and the guy playing a new position and attacks the Giants strength - their passing game. It's pretty straightforward stuff, but philosophically, it seems like a classic Belichick move.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 3:34pm

I think just having Brandon Jacobs do that thing where he runs up to the line, stops, turns around, and then backs into the backs of his offensive linemen and falls forward for no gain would probably slow Wilfork down a little bit. I wonder if he can be taught to do that without a football.

by John Doe (not verified) :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 10:57pm

Wilfork would just poke him in the eye again.

by DiscountDoubleCheck (not verified) :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 6:06pm

How come the sack total of the NYG equals 27.5?

I understand how one player can account for .5 of a sack, but the total should be an integer, shouldn't it?

by c0rrections (not verified) :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 6:18pm

If three players are credited with part of a sack on a play I think they all get half sacks. Therefore it is possible to get 1.5 points of credit for a sack.

by zlionsfan :: Tue, 01/31/2012 - 12:32pm

I don't think more than two players can get credit for a sack. Also, both NFL.com and ESPN.com list the Giants with 28 sacks allowed, so I think it's more likely that there's simply half a sack that didn't get charged somewhere in that list.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Tue, 01/31/2012 - 2:46am

"And in case you are wondering, none of Troy Polamalu’s timed leaps on goal-line plays came on pass plays."

But there was a non-leap off the goal line. Jan 1 against the Browns Q1:

"9:07 Cleveland Sack: Seneca Wallace sacked by Troy Polamalu for -3 yards."

That sack took 0.5 seconds (15 frames), so not the fastest of the year, but not a full second longer either. Last season Polamalu had a sub .3 second sack against Kerry Collins, so I don't have much trouble believing we'll see a faster one again.

by Jerry :: Tue, 01/31/2012 - 5:40am

If that's the play I'm thinking of, the linemen are firing out to run-block.

by Drkdstryer (not verified) :: Wed, 02/01/2012 - 7:52pm

That's what I remember too - Troy got to the QB before he could complete the handoff, but it was still classified as a run play.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Thu, 02/02/2012 - 2:22am

The plays are nearly identical, and there's obviously no way you can know what the QB intended to do without asking since the hit came before be could do much of anything other than receive the snap. So either they're both sacks or neither is. I favor the former. If you think neither is then the author is absolutely right that you will never see such a fast sack since you will never be able to determine that a play is definitively intended to be a pass that quickly.

by Charlie (not verified) :: Tue, 01/31/2012 - 6:38pm

I'd be interested in hearing a break down of situations on the sacks the Patriots took this year that were due to QB/Play Call. From watching and re-watching many of their games, it's pretty apparent that Brady will give up a sack no matter how long it takes a defense to get there if the sack won't negatively affect the team too much. Taking a sack after 6 seconds on third and 8 from the 50 doesn't hurt as much as throwing it away after 3 seconds when somebody might have uncovered after 4. You also see it commonly on 3rd down when the Patriots are in the lead late. They'll still run passing plays, but if nobody's open Brady will just eat the ball and take the sack rather than throw it away.

That might just be me mis-remembering, but I bet we'd see a pattern in the situations if we had a look. He deliberately holds the ball forever, and prefers taking the sack to throwing it away..

by Canadian (not verified) :: Wed, 02/01/2012 - 2:13pm

I can't comment on the Pats, but this is an apt point. Throwing the ball away on 3rd down (or 4th down which is even worse) is a terrible, terrible play, and is to me, worse than taking a long sack, i.e., the exact opposite situation from 1st and 2nd down. If I was an NFL coach, I would always have at least one receiver go deep on 3rd/4th down plays, and instruct my QB to just chuck it towards that receiver when his internal clock tells him to chuck the ball away. A 40-50 yard downfield interception on 3rd down is just as good as an incomplete pass followed by a punt, and it is certainly a much better outcome than a incomplete on 4th down.made

by Mercury529 (not verified) :: Fri, 02/03/2012 - 7:56pm


This project is really very interesting. I was curious, have you charted the time from snap to QB pressure? I realize that is a bit more subjective, but a good look at the amount of time QBs have before they need to adjust to pressure would be extremely valuable. When correlated with statistics like when QBs took sacks, it would give a better idea of which lines were the best at keeping pressure off QBs and which QBs were the best at buying time after those pressures.

Thank you.