Stat Analysis
Advanced analytics on player and team performance

2019 DVOA by Routes: Defenses

Seattle Seahawks LB K.J. Wright
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

After breakdowns of DVOA by route for both receivers and quarterbacks last week, we'll round out our examination of route effectiveness with defenses. These efforts are made possible by Sports Info Solutions' charting of pass routes on every play.

The numbers in the following tables represent DVOA and other passing splits against the targeted routes. As such, pass-related outcomes such as sacks, scrambles, and throwaways are excluded since they don't result in targets. We're only looking at the 14 routes that saw at least 400 targets league-wide; there were about 140 targets per team that don't fit into any of these buckets. All DVOA figures are calculated against a baseline of only pass attempts, and since this evaluation comes from the defensive perspective, negative DVOA totals are better than positive ones. These DVOA ratings are based on the same DVOA baselines as our "Defense vs. Receivers" tables on FO+, which means that a) ratings are adjusted for the quality of the offenses faced, based on receiver position, and b) interceptions and fumbles both count as negative plays in these DVOA ratings.

As a reminder, the Patriots and 49ers were clearly the best pass defenses in the league last season, while the Dolphins were clearly the worst. I was worried this article would turn into repetitive discussion of those three teams, but fear not -- there were plenty of other clubs that had wide degrees of success or failure on any given route.


Curl

This is the most common route in the NFL, and so the ability to stop it goes a long way in determining the quality of a pass defense. The league leader in this category won 14 games including the playoffs and came within one victory of playing in the Super Bowl.

Defense vs. Curl Routes, 2019
Team DVOA Tgt Yds Catch% aDOT YAC
GB -24.2% 74 6.7 65% 7.3 2.7
SF -22.1% 75 6.6 70% 7.6 2.2
BUF -22.0% 86 5.7 65% 6.8 2.2
NYJ -20.6% 102 6.3 67% 6.5 3.1
TB -20.2% 83 6.2 70% 6.2 2.6
BAL -19.8% 62 6.8 65% 6.7 4.0
DEN -18.8% 75 6.7 73% 7.2 2.9
LAC -15.2% 84 6.6 75% 6.3 2.6
OAK -11.8% 54 6.9 65% 7.5 3.8
LAR -11.6% 97 6.8 69% 7.5 2.9
KC -9.7% 69 6.7 70% 5.4 4.4
NO -9.4% 80 6.5 76% 6.6 2.6
SEA -8.5% 108 7.1 70% 6.8 3.5
NE -5.7% 49 5.9 73% 6.4 2.6
MIA -5.4% 66 6.4 68% 7.1 2.8
DET -3.5% 61 6.7 77% 7.2 2.1
CHI -2.1% 81 7.9 76% 7.7 2.5
NYG -1.9% 75 6.6 73% 7.2 2.4
CAR 3.0% 69 7.1 73% 7.2 2.8
IND 3.1% 76 6.7 83% 6.2 2.3
ATL 4.1% 72 7.3 79% 5.8 3.8
ARI 5.4% 72 8.1 81% 7.4 2.7
MIN 6.4% 76 7.3 75% 7.2 2.5
CLE 7.8% 78 7.1 69% 7.3 3.1
CIN 9.9% 60 7.3 73% 7.4 3.2
HOU 12.7% 69 8.7 78% 8.3 3.4
WAS 12.9% 80 7.4 78% 6.6 3.1
DAL 13.8% 97 5.9 76% 6.5 2.1
PIT 14.4% 56 6.8 79% 6.2 3.2
TEN 16.7% 101 8.3 77% 7.3 3.7
PHI 25.9% 78 7.1 78% 6.9 2.1
JAX 27.1% 51 7.6 84% 6.5 2.7

The top five teams are tightly clustered at the top of this table, but the Green Bay Packers were just a little bit better than anyone else, thanks largely to a league-low 65% catch rate. Of course, it helps to cover receivers when you've got multiple defensive backs all over the field -- the Packers were the only team to use dime personnel on more than half their snaps last year.

The Jacksonville Jaguars had the worst DVOA against curls, including a mind-numbing 84% catch rate. I'm speculating here, but they probably would have ranked higher if they hadn't traded Jalen Ramsey to the Rams in October.

In this case, the teams that saw the most and fewest targets are at least as intriguing as those with the best and worst DVOAs. The Seattle Seahawks had one of the most vanilla schemes in the league -- tons of zone coverage out of base 4-3 personnel -- and so offenses attacked them with the most basic route in football, throwing a league-high 108 curls. It didn't always work, however; Seattle had four interceptions against curls, tied with the Jets (who saw the second-most targets) for most in the league. The Patriots, meanwhile, mixed up three-man rushes and blitzes and kept opponents completely off-balance -- they only saw a league-low 49 curls.


Out

The Buffalo Bills had a lot of strengths last year, but success on the defensive perimeter was one of the biggest reasons they returned to the playoffs.

Defense vs. Out Routes, 2019
Team DVOA Tgt Yds Catch% aDOT YAC
BUF -71.1% 75 4.2 55% 7.1 1.9
BAL -35.1% 58 4.7 68% 6.5 1.1
SF -28.7% 45 4.6 58% 7.4 2.0
DET -26.2% 68 6.3 60% 9.0 2.2
TEN -22.3% 55 7.6 69% 8.1 2.8
PIT -22.1% 66 7.0 67% 8.4 2.2
CLE -20.8% 66 6.2 61% 8.5 1.5
JAX -10.8% 76 5.7 64% 7.5 2.2
OAK -10.5% 61 6.6 57% 8.5 4.3
NE -10.3% 64 6.2 58% 7.5 3.2
CHI -8.2% 72 6.0 64% 7.5 2.0
NO -7.1% 76 6.2 63% 8.3 2.6
SEA -7.0% 71 6.6 67% 8.2 2.3
LAC -4.6% 35 6.3 82% 7.2 1.0
HOU -4.6% 80 7.9 63% 9.8 2.9
TB -3.9% 108 6.5 65% 7.6 2.6
MIN -3.5% 73 6.7 74% 7.5 2.0
GB -2.7% 41 6.0 65% 7.9 1.8
NYJ 1.1% 71 6.5 70% 8.4 1.6
ATL 2.0% 54 7.7 68% 8.3 3.2
PHI 2.1% 45 6.5 64% 7.7 2.3
DEN 5.1% 67 6.1 76% 6.9 1.1
IND 5.3% 52 6.4 69% 7.3 2.4
CAR 5.7% 75 6.9 72% 7.9 2.1
MIA 7.7% 55 8.1 70% 9.5 1.9
KC 10.2% 63 5.8 67% 6.8 2.8
DAL 16.6% 51 6.6 78% 6.8 1.9
CIN 17.5% 41 8.0 78% 7.4 4.2
LAR 24.3% 58 7.7 66% 8.4 3.9
ARI 28.2% 82 7.6 79% 7.7 2.2
NYG 31.9% 64 7.1 73% 7.4 2.1
WAS 43.8% 45 9.5 80% 8.3 4.0

Buffalo was dominant against the out route. They allowed a league-low 55% catch rate on the play, and on the rare occasions they did allow a reception, the play didn't go anywhere -- only the Ravens allowed fewer yards per catch. Oh, did we mention that they had a half-dozen interceptions against out routes as well? That's twice as many as anyone else.

The club now known as the Washington Football Team had the worst DVOA against out routes. They allowed 80% of outs to be completed, second-worst in the league; they surrendered 9.5 yards per pass, nearly a full yard worse than anyone else; and they failed to record a single interception.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers allowed 108 out targets, which is an enormous amount -- the second-place Arizona Cardinals allowed 82, barely three-quarters of Tampa Bay's total. The L.A. Chargers only faced 35, fewest in the league and less than one-third as many as the Buccaneers.


Slant

It may seem like nothing went right in Chicago last year, but that's not technically true. The Bears were downright dominant against the slant route.

Defense vs. Slant Routes, 2019
Team DVOA Tgt Yds Catch% aDOT YAC
CHI -70.2% 34 4.0 41% 6.4 2.5
BAL -49.4% 35 4.7 56% 5.5 3.6
OAK -46.0% 27 3.7 44% 5.8 3.0
IND -41.7% 30 6.2 53% 6.8 4.6
SEA -39.3% 41 8.0 59% 7.3 6.8
KC -38.7% 30 7.3 60% 6.1 5.4
PIT -38.4% 34 6.2 67% 6.7 2.2
WAS -32.9% 35 7.9 71% 7.2 4.2
NYG -25.9% 31 6.8 65% 7.6 3.7
PHI -23.9% 44 8.1 53% 7.6 6.9
HOU -22.7% 27 7.6 56% 6.0 6.9
BUF -17.9% 37 6.1 59% 6.9 3.5
DAL -15.4% 28 4.4 52% 6.1 1.8
DET -14.3% 31 6.9 68% 6.0 4.0
GB -6.7% 53 5.6 57% 7.3 3.2
TEN -3.9% 25 6.4 58% 7.3 4.1
CAR -1.7% 29 7.7 69% 6.5 4.8
TB 0.9% 57 8.1 75% 6.4 4.4
CIN 4.4% 39 8.6 58% 7.2 7.0
SF 5.1% 29 8.5 63% 6.4 7.1
NO 10.3% 50 7.3 60% 6.4 5.3
NE 11.4% 47 7.1 63% 6.7 4.6
ATL 13.6% 33 9.5 67% 6.4 7.6
CLE 19.3% 35 9.9 63% 7.9 8.3
MIN 21.3% 48 7.5 69% 7.2 3.7
DEN 21.7% 34 8.0 69% 6.5 4.4
MIA 22.6% 33 10.2 70% 7.8 6.9
JAX 23.1% 30 6.7 73% 5.6 3.5
NYJ 26.9% 40 9.0 58% 7.4 8.3
LAR 30.0% 32 8.8 78% 7.1 3.6
ARI 49.2% 38 8.9 72% 5.9 6.6
LAC 61.5% 27 11.7 80% 7.2 7.9

Usually when the gap between one team and everyone else on any given route is this big, you can bet that they got a handful of turnovers in a small number of plays. That's not true in this case though -- the Bears only had one interception on slants. (Seattle and Washington tied for the league lead with three each.) Chicago's defenders didn't catch many passes, but they didn't let receivers catch them either -- their 41% catch rate allowed on slants was lowest in the league. The longest slant against Chicago gained only 17 yards; only five gained 10 or more, and one of those was fumbled.

The Chargers, on the other hand, were the worst defense against the slant. They allowed an 80% catch rate, highest in the NFL and nearly double that of the Bears, and 11.7 yards per throw, also the worst mark in football. Four slants against L.A. gained 20-plus yards, including a 56-yard touchdown by Hunter Renfrow. And no, they didn't get any interceptions.

For the second time in our first three routes, the Buccaneers allowed the most targets in the league, giving up 57 slant targets. The Titans gave up the fewest with 25.


Dig

The Chargers had the worst DVOA against the slant, but they had the best DVOA against the dig -- weird, since the dig is basically a deeper version of the slant, but there it is.

Defense vs. Dig Routes, 2019
Team DVOA Tgt Yds Catch% aDOT YAC
LAC -86.3% 20 8.6 60% 10.2 4.1
SF -68.7% 22 7.3 36% 11.7 8.0
DAL -41.5% 23 7.9 65% 10.2 2.5
TB -33.3% 41 6.3 43% 12.3 4.2
PHI -30.4% 31 6.6 67% 9.8 1.8
MIN -25.6% 35 8.7 69% 10.5 1.8
HOU -23.6% 43 8.1 56% 10.7 4.6
KC -20.7% 24 8.5 58% 9.1 4.9
ATL -17.2% 21 7.9 62% 11.1 1.8
CAR -13.2% 37 8.5 59% 12.3 2.5
DEN -6.9% 31 8.2 55% 10.4 4.1
GB 5.3% 43 8.9 60% 10.5 4.9
CLE 7.0% 35 10.7 57% 11.1 7.6
NE 8.9% 42 8.2 68% 9.8 2.8
CIN 11.6% 37 10.2 51% 12.2 8.2
WAS 11.7% 31 8.5 65% 10.4 2.4
NO 15.8% 56 9.6 73% 9.2 4.3
TEN 17.9% 32 11.6 69% 11.0 5.0
PIT 22.9% 61 8.6 63% 10.5 3.0
SEA 28.2% 35 8.5 63% 11.6 2.5
LAR 32.6% 33 10.2 64% 11.3 4.3
CHI 33.8% 40 8.9 70% 10.5 3.4
BUF 34.0% 34 8.0 64% 9.9 2.0
NYJ 37.7% 48 8.6 74% 9.7 2.9
DET 38.6% 40 9.9 70% 11.7 3.5
NYG 41.3% 42 9.4 64% 9.7 4.4
IND 41.8% 35 11.4 83% 10.5 3.2
OAK 42.5% 38 10.3 68% 11.6 2.6
BAL 53.1% 32 11.4 71% 10.4 5.4
ARI 57.9% 33 12.2 79% 11.3 4.1
JAX 79.2% 32 15.3 72% 11.4 10.2
MIA 79.7% 31 11.0 73% 11.7 2.9

The Chargers were so impervious to digs that they allowed the lowest DVOA and the fewest targets. Their catch rate and yards allowed per pass were merely better than average, but they only gave up five first downs on the throw, and they collected two interceptions on only 20 plays. (Dallas and Minnesota tied for the league lead with three interceptions on digs.)

DVOA says that the Dolphins had the worst defense against digs (really, it was inevitable that they would be worst at something), but their in-state competitors the Jaguars also have a strong claim to that crown, giving up a stunning 15.3 yards per throw. That includes a 68-yard touchdown to Kansas City's Sammy Watkins and a 65-yard touchdown to Tennessee's A.J. Brown.

The Pittsburgh Steelers surrendered 61 dig targets, most in the league and more than triple the amount given up by the Chargers.


Flat

The flat route is a very safe throw, and so it was intercepted only five times all year -- once each by Chicago, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, and the Jets. That's one of the reasons the Bucs had the best defense against flats.

Defense vs. Flat Routes, 2019
Team DVOA Tgt Yds Catch% aDOT YAC
TB -42.2% 31 3.9 74% 1.5 3.3
CIN -29.3% 22 4.3 64% 1.7 5.2
NYJ -27.6% 38 5.2 82% 1.4 5.0
CLE -25.8% 16 7.3 75% 0.5 9.4
DEN -23.2% 36 4.4 81% 0.8 4.4
CHI -17.8% 35 4.3 71% 1.4 4.5
BUF -17.1% 33 4.5 85% 1.2 4.1
IND -15.2% 34 4.9 79% 1.4 5.0
DAL -13.0% 38 5.6 79% 1.6 5.7
PHI -12.6% 33 6.9 82% 1.1 7.5
MIN -12.5% 41 5.0 85% 1.6 4.0
PIT -9.3% 23 5.5 70% 1.1 7.0
KC -8.1% 34 5.4 79% 0.8 6.1
BAL -7.4% 21 5.5 81% 1.7 5.8
NE -7.2% 31 5.3 74% 1.8 5.5
SF -6.2% 22 4.8 82% 1.0 4.5
LAC -1.5% 39 4.6 79% 1.0 4.5
NYG 2.9% 28 5.9 68% 1.7 6.5
GB 3.4% 24 5.0 79% 1.0 5.5
NO 5.0% 34 5.3 79% 1.1 5.7
OAK 7.4% 37 5.0 76% 1.2 5.5
WAS 8.3% 28 4.7 86% 1.2 4.2
SEA 10.7% 30 5.4 90% 1.5 4.5
TEN 14.4% 37 5.5 81% 1.0 6.2
LAR 14.4% 23 5.1 78% 1.4 4.9
MIA 14.7% 32 5.4 91% 1.4 4.4
DET 16.6% 28 4.9 86% 1.5 4.5
JAX 17.4% 25 5.8 88% 1.0 6.2
ARI 19.7% 46 5.4 89% 1.2 4.7
CAR 25.1% 20 6.5 90% 0.7 6.4
ATL 29.0% 40 5.5 88% 1.4 5.4
HOU 40.2% 43 7.1 86% 1.5 6.8

The Buccaneers limited opponents to 3.9 yards per throw on flats, the lowest figure in the NFL. Only six of the 31 flat throws against Tampa Bay resulted in first downs; only three gained 10 yards or more.

Compare that to the worst-place DVOA of the Houston Texans, who surrendered 7.1 yards per flat throw. The Texans gave up 15 first downs on flats, including 12 gains of 10 yards or more. Teams were not afraid to target this weakness in the Houston defense -- they saw 43 flat targets. Only the Arizona Cardinals (46) saw more. The Cleveland Browns faced the fewest flat targets at only 16, just one per game.


Drag

The drag is typically a low-risk, low-reward throw for offenses, resulting in a short completion that doesn't go anywhere. That's not true for every defense, however.

Defense vs. Drag Routes, 2019
Team DVOA Tgt Yds Catch% aDOT YAC
NYG -70.4% 22 4.3 55% 3.8 3.6
KC -61.7% 28 4.5 61% 3.5 3.9
CAR -60.9% 11 8.5 73% 4.0 7.8
JAX -52.9% 25 4.4 60% 4.0 4.1
NYJ -50.1% 20 1.9 40% 2.4 2.4
DEN -49.8% 26 5.7 64% 3.7 5.2
NO -44.9% 20 3.2 53% 3.6 2.7
ATL -37.9% 25 5.9 68% 3.1 5.6
SEA -37.3% 18 6.5 56% 3.9 7.3
BUF -31.5% 14 5.0 64% 2.9 5.2
NE -28.5% 42 5.0 71% 3.4 3.9
CHI -23.1% 21 7.0 86% 3.0 5.3
PIT -19.0% 27 6.3 56% 2.9 8.1
PHI -15.4% 17 6.4 65% 4.4 6.1
BAL -12.3% 35 5.7 63% 3.0 6.2
MIA -6.9% 32 5.6 75% 3.0 4.5
DAL -4.5% 20 6.1 53% 4.5 7.8
MIN -3.1% 22 7.8 77% 4.5 5.1
CIN -0.4% 16 5.9 75% 3.4 4.7
TB -0.2% 47 6.5 62% 3.7 6.4
SF 1.1% 24 5.3 71% 4.3 3.6
TEN 5.6% 22 7.4 82% 3.4 5.9
HOU 14.2% 27 6.7 74% 4.0 5.7
LAR 16.0% 14 8.4 79% 3.0 7.9
DET 21.9% 41 7.5 76% 3.2 6.6
LAC 24.0% 13 7.6 77% 4.6 5.3
IND 37.5% 14 7.8 93% 3.4 5.0
GB 37.6% 30 11.1 80% 3.4 10.4
OAK 42.1% 29 8.5 86% 3.7 6.2
CLE 43.4% 28 8.4 75% 3.5 7.0
ARI 45.0% 28 9.1 82% 3.6 8.1
WAS 72.7% 28 9.4 89% 3.1 7.6

The New York Giants had the best DVOA against the drag, a route that ended up killing a possession (two turnovers -- one fumble, one interception) half as often as it picked up a first down. If we ignore turnovers, though, it may be the other Big Apple team, the Jets, who had the best defense against the drag; their catch rate and yards per target figures were absurd. They did give up two touchdowns on the play, but both were scored from the 5-yard line; no drag gained more than 9 yards against the Jets all year.

Compare those results to those of the WFT: four touchdowns allowed! Sixteen total first downs! Nine gains of 10 yards or more! Two gains of 30 or more! The drag is not supposed to be this productive, but against Washington, it was.

Once more, it was Tampa Bay that faced the most targets on a given route, as they saw 47 drags. (We should probably point out that the Bucs faced 664 total passes last season, 55 more than anyone else.) They were closely followed by the Patriots and the Lions; it appears that three-man pass rushes often lead to drag attempts. The Carolina Panthers saw a league-low 11 drag attempts; they were 31st in use of three-man rushes.


WR Screens

The wide receiver screen is a terrible play, one of the worst in the NFL. The Oakland Raiders were a terrible defense, also one of the worst in the NFL, but they still kicked the wide receiver screen's ass.

Defense vs. WR Screens, 2019
Team DVOA Tgt Yds Catch% aDOT YAC
OAK -119.1% 21 3.8 81% -1.9 6.2
TB -102.2% 26 3.0 96% -2.4 5.7
MIN -58.9% 35 3.4 97% -1.3 4.9
IND -54.8% 28 4.3 93% -2.0 6.6
CLE -52.0% 18 3.1 83% -1.7 5.5
LAC -48.6% 18 5.8 94% -2.1 8.2
PIT -48.3% 16 3.5 81% -2.4 6.7
NE -47.3% 16 4.6 88% -0.9 6.6
BUF -45.1% 25 3.9 92% -1.6 5.8
CHI -43.9% 24 5.0 88% -2.2 7.9
BAL -38.3% 31 5.1 90% -2.0 7.7
NYG -34.7% 24 3.9 79% -1.1 6.6
LAR -33.8% 36 4.4 78% -2.2 7.9
GB -30.4% 17 3.8 94% -2.1 6.0
WAS -29.6% 18 5.3 78% -2.2 9.1
SEA -20.2% 30 5.8 87% -2.0 8.5
NO -16.2% 21 6.5 86% -2.2 10.1
SF -15.5% 50 5.4 86% -1.2 7.6
TEN -14.7% 30 6.1 97% -2.1 8.5
NYJ -13.0% 22 6.0 86% -1.5 8.5
CAR -10.8% 31 5.8 100% -2.3 8.1
ATL -6.0% 29 6.6 97% -2.6 9.5
ARI -5.7% 32 6.7 94% -1.5 8.9
DAL -2.5% 20 5.1 95% -1.9 7.3
DEN 4.2% 19 6.4 100% -1.8 8.2
CIN 4.9% 23 7.9 91% -1.9 10.6
MIA 8.3% 10 5.2 90% -2.1 8.0
KC 10.6% 24 8.4 92% -2.5 11.4
DET 10.6% 13 5.1 92% -1.8 7.5
JAX 11.1% 23 10.2 78% -1.8 14.9
HOU 12.5% 19 7.6 95% -1.2 9.3
PHI 16.1% 18 8.2 89% -1.4 10.6

We really need to put things in context here. The Raiders were next to last in defensive DVOA last season, 30th against the pass. Officially, they gave up 8.28 yards per throw, a few decimal points more than the Bengals (8.26) for most in the league. But they gave up only 79 yards on 21 wide receiver screens, an average of 3.76 yards per play. That means they gave up 8.47 yards per play on passes that were not wide receiver screens -- which begs the question of why anyone would ever, ever call a wide receiver screen against the Raiders?! Oakland only gave up two first downs on the play all year -- or, one for every turnover they forced. Even as late as Week 14, when the Raiders' strengths and weaknesses should have been clear, Ryan Tannehill and the Titans tried three WR screens against Oakland in the first quarter in Week 14. The results: 1-yard gain on first-and-10; 2-yard gain on second-and-10; interception on third-and-8. (The Rams were the only other defense to get an interception on a wide receiver screen.) If a defense this bad can play so well against the wide receiver screen, it would be humiliating for any defense to allow a positive DVOA on the play.

Which brings us to the Philadelphia Eagles. To be fair, a lot of the "big plays" the Eagles gave up on WR screens were failed completions on third-and-long that still resulted in fourth-down punts, but not all of them. They gave up five first downs on the play, including a 14-yard gain by Seattle's DK Metcalf; a 14-yard gain by Dallas' Michael Gallup; a 16-yard gain to Demaryius Thomas of the Jets (thrown by Luke Falk!); and a 54-yard touchdown to Julio Jones. That's 97 yards on those four plays alone; there were 10 teams that didn't give up that many yards on wide receiver screens all year. The Miami Dolphins -- the worst defense in the league -- gave up 52 yards on 10 plays, both the lowest numbers all year.

In fact, the number of WR screens faced is a decent barometer for your defense as a whole, or at least your pass rush. The San Francisco 49ers saw 50 WR screens, 14 more than anyone else. That's partly because they played two games against the Arizona Cardinals, the kings of the WR screen. (San Francisco's NFC West rivals the Rams were second in this category; the Seahawks were seventh.) But it's also because opponents got the ball out of their quarterback's hands as quickly as possible to avoid death by Bosa. And it worked, relatively speaking -- the 49ers had a -15.5% DVOA against WR screens, but a -21.5% DVOA against all other throws.


Deep Cross

In many ways, the deep cross is the opposite of the wide receiver screen. Instead of attacking the perimeter, it targets the middle of the field. Instead of being thrown behind the line of scrimmage, it is thrown deep down the field. Instead of sucking, it rules. And instead of a terrible defense topping coverage against the play, it was the best defense in the league.

Defense vs. Deep Cross Routes, 2019
Team DVOA Tgt Yds Catch% aDOT YAC
NE -166.7% 15 7.9 21% 14.9 16.7
CHI -61.6% 12 9.7 58% 14.5 1.3
MIN -54.5% 12 12.0 50% 15.4 6.5
MIA -47.0% 29 7.1 45% 15.4 2.7
IND -14.0% 27 8.3 44% 15.4 2.7
SEA -5.0% 17 7.8 41% 18.5 4.0
WAS 2.4% 21 11.4 70% 14.3 2.4
CIN 7.2% 24 12.3 50% 16.6 6.1
GB 9.8% 21 14.3 55% 19.1 6.9
CLE 13.1% 26 12.7 65% 15.9 5.2
LAC 21.9% 8 15.9 63% 26.6 2.4
TB 22.9% 27 15.7 56% 16.8 13.1
BUF 26.2% 13 14.1 54% 16.5 11.7
NO 27.1% 15 12.2 53% 19.3 8.5
JAX 27.3% 20 16.5 65% 15.6 8.5
LAR 27.5% 13 13.9 67% 11.8 8.0
ARI 33.8% 30 10.9 53% 14.5 5.3
HOU 38.9% 23 17.3 68% 17.1 10.0
CAR 43.5% 14 11.7 57% 13.7 7.1
DAL 45.8% 27 15.1 58% 19.9 6.9
KC 60.2% 10 11.7 60% 15.3 1.7
DET 62.3% 45 14.0 67% 15.6 5.9
ATL 70.9% 23 14.5 65% 16.5 6.5
OAK 72.7% 20 15.3 70% 14.2 7.9
BAL 78.8% 16 15.3 60% 18.8 7.9
PIT 86.3% 11 15.1 70% 15.5 4.7
TEN 87.1% 24 13.4 64% 17.0 4.4
NYJ 89.0% 6 14.3 67% 15.0 8.8
PHI 94.8% 9 13.9 78% 15.6 1.4
SF 101.8% 21 16.0 57% 18.5 10.7
NYG 111.2% 22 22.2 82% 17.4 10.1
DEN 128.0% 9 20.7 78% 17.7 8.0

Six of the deep crosses attempted against the Patriots were caught -- three by the offense, three by New England. (Washington and Miami, of all teams, also had three interceptions each.) And one of those three receptions was fumbled away, leaving the Patriots with more turnovers on deep crosses than catches allowed. There was also a DPI in there, but with these results, nobody in Foxborough is complaining.

Many people in East Rutherford are complaining, however. Technically, the Denver Broncos surrendered the worst DVOA on deep crosses, but that was on only nine plays. The Giants were nearly as bad in DVOA on more than double the amount of passes. The numbers of opposing quarterbacks on deep crosses are stunning: 18-of-22 for 488 yards, with every one of those completions picking up a first down. The only saving grace for New York was that they did return a Dwayne Haskins deep cross for a pick-six in Week 4. Another team that struggled against the deep cross -- and this is stunning -- was the 49ers. Opposing quarterbacks on deep crosses against San Francisco: 12-of-21 for 336 yards with five touchdowns. That's more than 20% of the touchdown passes caught against the 49ers all season.

The deep cross is a very effective play, and good defenses don't allow them to be thrown very often in the first place. The Detroit Lions, on the other hand, gave up 45 deep cross targets; the second-place Arizona Cardinals only gave up two-thirds as many. The New York Jets only allowed a half-dozen deep crosses all season, because A) The Jets defense was better than most people realize, and B) Gregg Williams puts his safeties here:

And speaking of Gregg Williams…


Broken Play

There's nothing more frustrating as a defensive coordinator than to see your pass rush almost get a sack, only for the quarterback to escape and find a receiver downfield for a big play. And no defense had worse results on broken plays than Gregg Williams' Jets.

Defense vs. Broken Plays, 2019
Team DVOA Tgt Yds Catch% aDOT YAC
DEN -128.1% 18 7.0 50% 13.1 1.0
TEN -115.4% 11 2.8 27% 10.6 2.3
GB -107.9% 13 2.8 31% 13.4 3.0
NE -81.3% 14 4.4 36% 13.7 0.8
LAR -67.3% 25 5.4 60% 9.8 2.1
OAK -64.9% 13 3.7 38% 14.3 2.6
PIT -58.5% 19 5.1 53% 11.7 1.9
TB -44.9% 17 5.2 53% 11.2 2.0
LAC -44.7% 12 3.6 27% 13.7 0.7
JAX -39.7% 22 5.5 52% 8.6 3.5
PHI -39.5% 20 4.7 40% 11.0 2.1
CLE -37.9% 12 5.3 42% 9.2 1.8
DET -25.5% 29 6.2 59% 10.1 2.6
NO -18.0% 27 5.7 44% 14.0 5.3
ARI -17.6% 16 6.6 50% 13.1 3.0
IND -14.4% 17 9.9 65% 11.9 3.6
ATL -9.9% 17 5.9 47% 14.1 0.4
BAL -4.3% 23 5.1 48% 11.7 2.6
MIN -3.0% 20 6.4 45% 10.9 4.2
CHI 1.0% 24 7.1 54% 11.3 4.3
WAS 11.5% 22 6.2 41% 11.9 3.1
KC 15.3% 12 9.3 82% 9.3 5.0
SF 15.9% 23 8.3 52% 14.0 2.2
HOU 36.3% 22 8.8 64% 10.8 3.6
MIA 41.8% 21 9.3 57% 14.4 5.0
CAR 42.7% 19 10.1 68% 10.1 4.5
BUF 42.9% 12 8.5 75% 8.6 2.9
NYG 44.5% 14 7.7 57% 12.6 1.4
CIN 44.7% 18 9.5 65% 13.7 1.9
SEA 63.8% 14 6.6 62% 8.9 3.0
DAL 90.3% 16 13.6 69% 15.3 3.9
NYJ 106.2% 11 14.4 73% 10.3 8.4

In Week 8 alone, Jacksonville's Gardner Minshew threw for a 70-yard touchdown to Chris Conley and an 8-yard touchdown to DJ Chark on broken plays against the Jets. Derek Carr, Andy Dalton, Dak Prescott, and Lamar Jackson also picked up first downs on broken plays against New York. The good news for Williams and company is that it didn't happen very often -- the Jets only faced 11 broken-play passes all year, tied with Tennessee for fewest in the league. Matt Patricia's Lions faced the most at 29 -- a damning number considering Detroit only collected 28 sacks.

By DVOA, the best defense against the broken play was the Denver Broncos. On 18 throws, opposing quarterbacks completed nine passes for 126 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.


Post

The strength of the Minnesota defense -- well, one of their strengths, anyway -- was their talented safety duo of Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris. That's partly why the Vikings had the best defense in football against post targets.

Defense vs. Post Routes, 2019
Team DVOA Tgt Yds Catch% aDOT YAC
MIN -138.8% 15 8.8 47% 19.8 2.4
NO -81.7% 12 12.6 42% 25.3 2.4
TEN -71.9% 14 6.5 23% 28.9 1.7
NE -57.1% 16 10.6 50% 21.3 4.5
ARI -49.2% 12 9.7 50% 17.8 2.3
SEA -43.1% 15 8.3 36% 18.7 5.4
DAL -34.9% 11 9.2 36% 18.1 8.0
CAR -30.5% 27 12.1 37% 26.9 10.3
SF -17.6% 12 5.2 18% 26.1 1.0
GB -13.2% 15 15.5 53% 23.8 4.9
HOU -12.5% 18 9.3 33% 32.6 1.7
LAR -6.7% 17 8.7 31% 23.3 4.2
CLE -3.2% 10 12.5 50% 19.5 6.6
ATL 7.6% 13 15.5 58% 17.5 4.6
DEN 17.4% 17 14.5 47% 27.2 7.1
TB 34.8% 12 15.3 36% 33.8 4.8
BAL 39.6% 19 11.7 42% 25.3 4.5
JAX 44.9% 17 12.3 53% 19.6 4.7
WAS 46.9% 20 11.3 47% 21.3 5.9
BUF 55.1% 9 13.0 56% 22.9 3.6
IND 59.2% 24 17.1 71% 20.5 4.7
NYJ 64.3% 14 13.4 62% 18.6 1.5
MIA 68.0% 19 15.3 53% 24.8 6.3
LAC 71.5% 9 14.2 44% 33.7 1.5
KC 82.2% 23 12.8 50% 23.5 2.9
DET 82.3% 12 12.0 50% 29.2 1.7
CHI 97.5% 11 17.5 64% 26.5 4.7
CIN 98.2% 16 18.8 50% 29.6 11.1
NYG 103.5% 18 18.4 69% 20.7 7.1
PHI 118.5% 18 17.6 61% 29.2 3.7
OAK 120.3% 14 25.5 62% 29.4 14.6
PIT 122.5% 17 20.2 53% 30.6 4.4

The Vikings gave up five first downs on post routes. They also forced five turnovers (three interceptions, two fumbles). That's a ratio any defense would be happy with.

Contrast their fortune with that of the Steelers, who were a better defense than Minnesota overall, but the worst unit in the NFL against post routes. In 17 throws, they allowed opponents to complete eight passes for 270 yards and two touchdowns; they also committed two pass interference fouls for 73 more yards.

The Bills and Chargers only faced nine post routes each, tied for the fewest in the league (though they were both burned badly on those plays). The Carolina Panthers faced 27 posts, most of any team (though they fared better than most defenses on those plays).


Fade

Ah, the fade. The silver medal winner behind the WR screen in the "this is a terrible play that offenses should never call" Olympics. Defenses get very happy when opponents attempt fades. Well, most defenses. Not so much in Washington.

Defense vs. Fade Routes, 2019
Team DVOA Tgt Yds Catch% aDOT YAC
LAR -120.0% 10 2.3 20% 16.0 0.0
KC -113.0% 19 6.3 21% 20.1 1.8
HOU -102.9% 19 5.9 17% 24.5 2.0
CAR -92.4% 10 3.4 20% 20.6 1.5
DAL -78.3% 15 3.7 13% 22.3 0.5
ARI -77.2% 11 3.7 9% 23.7 2.0
GB -76.5% 15 5.0 20% 19.9 0.7
CIN -75.1% 10 5.7 20% 16.7 7.5
NE -69.7% 16 7.5 19% 19.4 14.3
LAC -65.4% 8 8.9 29% 22.9 8.5
PIT -62.2% 13 2.3 8% 14.7 0.0
OAK -51.4% 11 8.4 27% 20.8 1.7
DET -44.8% 24 4.8 17% 21.7 1.8
ATL -40.9% 22 4.9 23% 19.7 0.8
NO -35.1% 8 7.9 14% 19.0 5.0
SEA -34.5% 8 11.9 29% 23.4 10.0
MIN -30.0% 18 7.4 27% 21.9 0.3
PHI -28.0% 24 6.7 22% 22.6 4.6
IND -18.4% 10 7.6 22% 25.0 3.0
DEN -10.9% 9 9.1 29% 20.1 -0.5
BAL -10.2% 22 4.9 24% 16.0 1.8
MIA -6.6% 29 7.7 29% 17.0 6.1
BUF 1.3% 14 11.7 33% 19.6 9.3
JAX 9.8% 10 11.6 30% 27.8 9.0
CHI 22.7% 14 16.6 46% 23.6 9.2
SF 28.5% 10 12.3 29% 22.9 9.5
NYG 33.2% 18 8.1 29% 21.8 0.3
NYJ 36.0% 20 10.7 33% 24.3 1.7
TB 47.4% 14 10.7 42% 20.9 0.6
TEN 60.8% 24 13.2 50% 21.1 4.0
CLE 76.4% 13 14.7 45% 24.5 1.8
WAS 231.0% 8 20.0 63% 26.4 1.6

Opposing quarterbacks on fades against Washington: 5-of-8 for 160 yards with three touchdowns. All five of those completions gained at least 23 yards, the longest a 53-yard touchdown by Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson. The saving grace for Washington is that they only faced five fades all year, tied with the Chargers, Saints, and Seahawks for fewest in the league. Their counterparts were the Dolphins, who saw 29 fades, more than three times as many.

The best defense against fades was the L.A. Rams, who held opponents to two completions for 23 yards in 10 attempts with one touchdown and one interception. Yes, Washington gave up as many yards on four separate fade catches as the Rams gave up on all fade plays all season.


Go/Fly

OK, these results are fascinating. You know that old cliché about how every football game comes down to a handful of plays? The go/fly appears to be among that handful of plays. There were only 473 go/fly targets all season, less than one per team per game. But for the most part, the defenses that were best against go/flies were also the best defenses against all pass plays last year.

Defense vs. Go/Fly Routes, 2019
Team DVOA Tgt Yds Catch% aDOT YAC
BUF -104.0% 11 6.1 18% 31.9 8.0
SF -99.2% 11 3.5 9% 29.4 2.0
PIT -98.6% 12 5.7 17% 36.0 2.5
NE -72.0% 25 4.6 4% 35.5 7.0
KC -69.6% 22 5.7 5% 32.5 26.0
ARI -65.9% 11 6.5 11% 28.7 0.0
BAL -61.8% 21 5.5 14% 33.4 6.0
MIN -49.9% 13 6.6 8% 32.4 25.0
WAS -40.5% 9 9.7 22% 40.3 3.5
JAX -39.8% 15 6.3 14% 36.2 5.0
CLE -31.1% 16 6.6 0% 35.6  
TEN -24.6% 18 10.6 24% 34.2 1.5
DET -12.7% 17 11.6 29% 33.2 4.8
ATL -4.6% 19 11.3 24% 29.2 6.8
CHI -0.6% 8 8.5 25% 30.4 8.5
DEN 1.9% 10 12.1 30% 34.3 10.0
DAL 5.7% 14 9.4 17% 32.4 10.0
GB 26.0% 7 11.6 29% 33.3 0.0
PHI 36.1% 28 15.1 35% 32.2 9.2
LAR 43.0% 15 17.8 40% 30.7 10.7
NYG 44.7% 17 15.1 33% 36.2 5.2
SEA 50.3% 15 16.3 36% 32.5 7.6
CAR 50.7% 21 16.9 37% 36.7 2.6
HOU 59.4% 11 17.6 33% 33.9 8.7
LAC 64.1% 9 17.6 56% 32.8 2.8
MIA 67.1% 21 12.8 33% 30.1 6.5
TB 104.8% 16 21.7 43% 32.5 9.0
IND 111.8% 17 19.6 47% 33.2 4.7
CIN 112.8% 8 23.1 57% 35.4 4.0
NO 126.0% 15 23.0 46% 37.2 3.5
OAK 142.9% 10 20.5 44% 31.5 11.0
NYJ 159.0% 11 21.7 50% 34.3 5.0

Seven of the top eight teams against the go/fly were also in the top seven for overall pass defense. Things weren't quite so uniform at the bottom of the table, but the correlation between go/fly DVOA and overall pass defense DVOA was 0.493. That's very high for most any stat in football, and especially one that's only measuring 2.6% of all passes in the league.

The best of those defenses was the Buffalo Bills, who allowed opponents to complete two of 11 go/fly throws for 67 yards. One of those completions was fumbled away, and another pass was intercepted. (We should also draw attention to the Cleveland Browns. They did not allow a single go/fly completion all year, though they did commit three DPI fouls for a total of 106 yards.) The Bills' AFC East rivals, the New York Jets, also faced 11 go/fly targets, but they gave up four completions for 130 yards and a touchdown, plus three DPIs for 109 more yards.

The Packers faced a league-low seven go/fly routes all season, while the Eagles faced a league-high 28.


Seam

Remember when we mentioned Seattle's heavy use of 4-3 personnel? That may explain why they had the league's best DVOA against seam passes. As we saw when we looked at receivers by routes, seam targets are often thrown to tight ends. Perhaps Seattle benefitted from having a third linebacker on the field to cover those tight ends instead of a nickelback or undersized safety like most teams would. Then again, we're only talking about 13 targets.

Defense vs. Seam Routes, 2019
Team DVOA Tgt Yds Catch% aDOT YAC
SEA -145.0% 13 4.2 23% 19.0 4.0
NYJ -106.2% 14 2.8 14% 21.4 1.0
DAL -101.2% 11 0.0 0% 17.8  
TEN -69.5% 12 11.6 55% 16.3 6.2
KC -61.2% 22 6.9 24% 20.0 5.0
IND -54.6% 17 10.4 47% 16.5 4.5
SF -31.3% 11 6.9 30% 15.5 5.7
PIT -21.4% 23 10.6 59% 17.0 3.2
CHI -9.0% 11 8.9 30% 21.0 2.3
CAR -0.2% 16 10.1 53% 15.8 3.4
LAR 2.8% 23 10.8 57% 15.9 2.2
NE 8.6% 8 7.8 38% 21.0 2.3
ARI 8.7% 23 12.3 52% 17.9 5.1
OAK 18.2% 14 11.1 33% 24.1 11.0
MIN 26.8% 13 8.8 38% 21.3 5.0
JAX 33.3% 10 9.7 38% 18.0 2.3
GB 39.9% 10 11.3 50% 20.1 5.6
PHI 42.9% 18 8.9 50% 18.2 2.4
ATL 46.9% 15 16.0 57% 19.7 6.8
NO 50.1% 25 12.0 52% 18.9 6.5
NYG 60.9% 19 11.9 56% 21.4 3.9
DET 74.3% 13 14.5 54% 21.6 4.1
BAL 88.3% 10 24.5 56% 24.4 21.2
HOU 88.6% 11 9.8 45% 20.9 3.6
CIN 92.3% 15 14.8 60% 21.7 2.8
BUF 100.3% 11 12.4 73% 16.8 1.4
LAC 110.7% 10 19.0 80% 21.4 3.1
DEN 115.5% 8 16.5 75% 15.3 5.8
MIA 124.1% 18 16.3 65% 19.9 5.0
CLE 137.1% 13 14.7 62% 22.6 5.5
WAS 178.0% 11 17.3 64% 24.9 3.0
TB 190.8% 9 21.3 63% 19.4 12.0

Six of the 13 seam targets against Seattle were thrown to tight ends or fullbacks. That leaves seven targets for wide receivers, including Julio Jones (twice), John Ross, and Jarvis Landry. The Seahawks only allowed three receptions for 55 yards on those 13 passes while reeling in a pair of interceptions. It's those interceptions that made the difference here -- the Dallas Cowboys didn't have any interceptions on seam route, but each of the 11 that opponents attempted was incomplete.

The worst defense against seams was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The nine seams attempted them resulted in five completions for 154 yards and a touchdown, plus a DPI for 38 more yards.

Given Arizona's troubles in coverage against tight ends all year, I expected them to have similar problems against seam routes. Instead their DVOA was better than average. However, they did give up 23 seam targets; only Pittsburgh (25) faced more. The Patriots and Broncos tied for the fewest seam targets with eight each.


Corner

Finally, we close with the corner route. It's sort of the opposite of the curl -- instead of turning inside and back to the quarterback, receivers break deep and to the outside -- but the same defense had the league's best DVOA against both.

Defense vs. Corner Routes, 2019
Team DVOA Tgt Yds Catch% aDOT YAC
GB -92.4% 17 7.2 24% 21.0 4.8
LAR -83.7% 6 3.7 33% 14.8 2.0
NO -69.5% 14 2.9 14% 22.0 -0.5
NE -68.1% 19 6.0 26% 21.2 2.2
CHI -44.7% 8 7.9 25% 27.6 0.0
DEN -42.4% 11 5.7 27% 27.3 0.7
KC -41.7% 19 8.8 42% 19.5 2.0
BAL -37.9% 15 8.5 47% 21.5 1.6
MIA -35.8% 15 6.7 27% 22.5 0.8
DAL -31.2% 6 4.0 33% 13.8 0.5
BUF -29.7% 11 4.6 20% 18.8 3.0
PHI -28.9% 13 6.6 46% 19.8 1.7
HOU -18.6% 19 6.4 26% 22.8 8.6
MIN -13.1% 15 15.4 40% 23.5 3.8
CLE -11.4% 7 3.3 29% 14.7 0.0
SF -8.6% 10 10.6 50% 21.0 2.8
PIT -8.0% 11 6.7 27% 19.5 3.7
TB 2.1% 24 7.7 46% 14.8 3.9
SEA 35.2% 19 11.5 58% 17.9 2.5
ARI 38.7% 18 11.2 53% 17.1 2.8
NYJ 46.9% 10 14.4 60% 23.9 1.7
CAR 50.1% 9 11.8 50% 19.8 0.8
IND 57.6% 18 9.5 47% 19.0 1.4
DET 67.4% 30 14.8 52% 23.4 5.3
JAX 67.7% 15 16.4 57% 22.2 7.3
TEN 70.2% 16 12.3 67% 20.9 0.9
NYG 70.9% 9 16.1 67% 18.7 5.2
CIN 85.2% 19 13.2 61% 18.6 5.9
ATL 93.6% 10 15.2 70% 14.7 6.4
WAS 94.8% 10 8.0 70% 12.3 0.9
OAK 111.0% 21 15.4 63% 20.3 4.7
LAC 217.0% 10 20.8 75% 20.8 8.3

Only four of the 17 corner targets against Green Bay were completed, and though they gained 123 combined yards, none of them went for touchdowns. Meanwhile, the Packers pulled in two interceptions.

Compare Green Bay's numbers of those to the L.A. Chargers, the league's worst defense against corners. Los Angeles only forced two incomplete passes on corners, while giving up a half-dozen completions for 156 yards and four, count 'em, four touchdowns. They also committed a pair of DPIs for 52 more yards.

The Detroit Lions faced 30 corner routes, 20% more than any other team. The Rams and Cowboys tied for the fewest corner targets with six each.

Comments

9 comments, Last at 01 Sep 2020, 5:46pm

1  "Matt Patricia's Lions…

 "Matt Patricia's Lions faced the most [broken plays] at 29 -- a damning number considering Detroit only collected 28 sacks."

That will happen when you have exactly one good pass rusher (Trey Flowers), who forces a lot of pressures without any teammates getting near the quarterback to collect clean-up sacks.

2 Interesting note

Seeing SF struggled so much with the deep cross on a fairly large sample of targets is surprising. 

I wonder how much that played into KC faking that cross in the SB on the 3rd and 15 play. Biting hard on the route you struggle to defend already only to have Speedy McCheetah bust a U turn behind it.

7 my guess

is that it's because it's a slow developing route and it only shows up when the pass rush isn't a factor.    Much of the 49ers pass defense last year was predicated on pressure.

3 It's interesting how many…

It's interesting how many teams who were the worst on one type of route, also faced the fewest or second-fewest targets on that sort of route. Were they falling victim only to change-up plays? Was there something in the scheme that discouraged more targets, and what did occur mostly happened when something went badly wrong for the defense (total confusion, db slips, two guys run into each other, etc)?

NE seemed to pair low completion rates with horrible YACs on those completions in a couple of deep routes. Was this tactical -- guys playing for incompletions at the risk of surrendering a huge gain? Seems weird for NE to adopt a high-risk strategy.

9 This analysis doesn't have a…

This analysis doesn't have a way of measuring the times a QB looked at a particular route and either got sacked or  chose not to try that throw, both of which will affect the number of targets associated to a particular route.

4 I thought the most…

I thought the most interesting numbers were the Go/Fly route for NE and KC.  NE had the second most targets (25 v PIT's 28) and the second lowest completion rate (4% versus CLE's 0%!), i.e. 1 completion on 25 attempts.  KC was right behind them, with the third most targets (22) and the third lowest completion rate (5%), i.e. 1 completion on 22 attempts.

It seemed like both of these squads were good at showing the opposition a look that made them think the route was there, when it really wasn't.  Trickery with the safety placement?  unrespected speed for the CB?  or just good luck?

5 Oakland Flip Side of San Diego Dig/Slant Performance

"The Chargers had the worst DVOA against the slant, but they had the best DVOA against the dig -- weird, since the dig is basically a deeper version of the slant, but there it is."

The Raiders were reverse, good against slant but bad against dig. So maybe understanding why these can flip is worth something. Or is it only in the AFC West. 

8 I blame the 49ers.

Why couldn't they have run more curls and corner routes against the Packers and run the ball less?  8^)