Showing posts with label splash plays. Show all posts
Showing posts with label splash plays. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Defending Kiffin: Week 12 - Gashed On The Ground

Often, in sports, after time, people don't want to hear about injuries or "excuses" as to why a team isn't playing very well in certain departments.  My response is generally simplistic, but I believe it to be true: There is a reason that different players can demand different salaries, rather than have some flat fee based on service time like some ways to make a living (military, police), and that clearly is that all players are not close to created equal.  And, if you lose enough highly compensated players, invariably, their absence should either greatly affect the product you can put on the field, or you are paying the missing players too much money.

That is why, despite the easy target that is available wearing the defensive coordinator title up in the press box, it is difficult for me to blame Monte Kiffin for what is going on against the Cowboys recently on the ground.  And, with Oakland landing in Dallas today for the Thanksgiving game, we should prepare for Oakland to attempt to do the same thing the Giants did on Sunday.

And what did the Giants do?  Well, they became the 3rd team this season to run for 200 yards in a game against the Cowboys.  From 2003-2012, the Cowboys had only allowed 7 200 yard rushing games for the entire decade in 160 games (4%), but in 2013 we have moved that to 3 out of 11 games (27%).

And yet, as we look at many of these plays, we are reminded that the Cowboys are not a team that teams run at over the years.  This has not been a festering problem.  In fact, it started getting bad last year, and had roared out of control this season.  Which is why we must consider the absences of fine run stuffers Anthony Spencer, Jay Ratliff, and Sean Lee - who are all players who have helped make the reputation what it is here - and understand the alternatives who are there in their place.

Most players in the football food chain are not "all situation" players.  They are either strong players in passing situations or running situations.  Those who are excellent in both are those who get paid a ton of cash and also who you cannot afford to lose to injury and be fine.  Because if you have players that are either strong against the pass OR strong against the run, then you get to a spot where your opponent sees what you have decided to try and stop by which players you put on the field.  Then, if they are in a standard down and distance, they simply consider who you have put on the field and then call a play accordingly.  If they see you have put little defensive ends who are good at pass rushing but not very strong anchors against the run, they simply run right at them and then you see what we saw on Sunday.

Which was a textbook example of running game carnage.

Here are the 10 Yard Runs from Sunday:

1Q -
Andre Brown middle for 14 yards
Andre Brown left tackle for 10 yards

2Q -
Andre Brown right guard for 11 yards
Brandon Jacobs right tackle for 37 yards

3Q -
Andre Brown right guard for 11 yards
Andre Brown left guard for 16 yards
Andre Brown right tackle for 12 yards

4Q -
Andre Brown left guard for 11 yards
Brandon Jacobs right guard for 12 yards

If you don't know, the league leaders in not allowing big runs usually allow 35 10-yard runs in a year.  Average is 50, and awful is 65 or so.  So, basically, if you are good you allow 2 a game, average is 3 a game, and awful is 4 a game - or 1 per quarter.

So, if you allow 9 10-yard runs in one game, you are exactly what the Cowboys are right now - a substandard defense that is just trying to survive another week.

Here are a few of those runs:


Here is a zone play to the right with a simple cutback left from Andre Brown after the Cowboys are collapsed - most notably, Everette Brown and Corvey Irvin are washed away there.  Also, the Linebackers can't get off their blocks which is a familiar theme and a reputation that Ernie Sims has had for much of his NFL Career after being a top pick.


Now, a pulling guard runs over Drake Nevis and again, the LBs are unable to get off blocks because they have OL all over them, partly because the defensive line did not occupy them at all.  This one is just a physical show of force.


Above, the Cowboys are just outnumbered to the flank, so, is there an alignment issue?  Also Claiborne ends up getting in Church's way as his man is blocking the safety.  Claiborne cannot then change direction and the LBs are no factor again.  These plays show that Sean Lee is a special player.


Just a simple FB lead play here where Nick Hayden is overpowered and the LBs behind him cannot make any difference, also George Selvie is turned out and cannot recover so you have the FB getting into Ernie Sims again which as you are seeing is a mismatch.  The Cowboys were trying to keep their safeties deep all day and not wanting to concede big pass plays, but the Giants did a nice job of taking what Dallas was giving for most of the day.


And finally, David Diehl pulls into space and runs over Sims again and there is a hole you could drive a truck through as DeMarcus Ware is washed down the line and out of the hole.  Again, I am not sure how many yards any of us could have had on Sunday on these plays, but it is clear that Andre Brown is not having to do much to get his yards aside from running through massive holes.

Here is the last decade or so, showing the Cowboys reputation of never giving up the big runs.  They just don't do it.  But, this year, they have enough retread players in their lineup, that they actually must pick their poison.

Year 10 yd + Runs NFL Rank
2003 33  3rd 
2004 34 5th
2005 36 6th
2006 35 6th
2007 40 13th
2008 36 7th
2009 39 6th
2010 43 10th
2011 41 7th
2012 53 22nd
2013 48 32nd

By the time the Raiders game is over, they likely will eclipse their awful 2012 and still have a month to play.

Let's check the Splash plays -

WEEK 11 AT New York Giants

First, a reminder of what a splash play is: 

What is a splash play? Well, for purposes of this blog I believe a splash play will include the following: A sack, a pressure that forces a bad throw, and big hit on the QB, and a batted ball that may lead to an interception opportunity. Again, you can see how this leads to subjectivity, but a subjective breakdown is better than no breakdown at all, I have decided. In addition, a splash play will include tackles for loss, a big hit for a short gain, or a stop which is an open field tackle where a player is pulled down on 3rd down short of the marker because of an exceptional effort from a defender. An interception is clearly a splash play, but so is a defended pass that required a great effort. A major hit in the secondary could be a splash play, but I believe that the outcome of the play will determine that. Sorry, defensive backs, but standing over a guy who just caught a 15 yard pass because you think you hit him hard will not generally pass the test on this blog. So, stop doing it. 
I am trying to be careful about handing out too many splash plays per game. I am trying to be picky, but too extreme in either direction. When I log a splash play, I will put time of the game on the chart so that if you want to review the same game and challenge my ruling, you are welcome to do so. Also, if multiple players deserve recognition on a single play, we will try to see that as well. 
Basically, we are trying to assign a value to making plays on the defense. We don't want to just see sacks and interceptions. We want to see broader definitions of splash plays to assign credit to those who help the Cowboys get off the field in important situations. These rankings will not deduct for negative plays at this point. There are simply too many occasions where we are guessing, and for now, I want to avoid that for this particular idea.  
A splash play is a play that makes a major difference in the game. And by keeping it all season long, we will see which defenders are play makers and which are simply warm bodies. We already have our thoughts on both categories, but let's see if we can dig a bit deeper and actually have numbers to back up our claims.
SPLASHES VS MINNESOTA

Q-TimeD/D/YdPlayerPlay
1-7:273/11/O11HatcherSack
1-4:331/10/O45ScandrickFumble Strip
1-4:331/10/O45Heath (2)Recovery and TD Return
1-3:362/5/O28WilberRun Stuff
1-1:242/8/D44Webb/SimsRun Stuff
2-14:551/9/D9CarrBig Tackle
2-14:112/8/D8CarterRun Stuff
2-6:491/G/D4WilberTackle For Loss
2-2:001/20/O34CarterTackle For Loss
3-13:351/10/D39ScandrickPass Defended
3-0:232/7/O23HatcherSack
4-11:013/1/O25NevisRun Stuff


2013 SEASON TOTALS

Here are the final results for 2011 and here are the final results for 2012.

To this point, just a year that DeMarcus Ware would like to forget.  Jason Hatcher has passed George Selvie into 2nd place and Orlando Scandrick is rising up the charts, too.

PlayerSplashes
LB Sean Lee22.5
DT Jason Hatcher18.5
DE George Selvie       18
CB Brandon Carr16.5
S Barry Church15
DE DeMarcus Ware12
LB Bruce Carter12
CB Orlando Scandrick11
CB Morris Claiborne 7
DE Kyle Wilber7
DT Drake Nevis  6.5
DT Nick Hayden6
LB Justin Durant4.5
S Jeff Heath4
S Will Allen 3.5
DE Jarius Wynn3.5
DE Edgar Jones3
S JJ Wilcox2
DE Everette Brown2
CB BW Webb 1.5
LB Ernie Sims1.5         
DT Ceasar Rayford1          
DT Marvin Austin       1            
Team Totals 179.5
===========

Pass Rush/Blitzing REPORT

This segment of the defensive study is simply to find out how well the Cowboys are doing at getting pressure on the opposing QB.  We have spent a good part of the offseason talking about Monte Kiffin's philosophy that, like so many of the great 4-3 schemes, is based on using blitz as a weapon, not a necessity.  If you use the blitz as an ambush weapon that is always threatened but only used at the perfect times, you can often get free runs at the QB.  If, on the other hand, you must use the blitz because your normal pressure is not getting it done, then the offense usually is waiting for you and prepared - so even 6 rushers don't accomplish much.

This week, the Cowboys got caught a few times on the blitz and then seemed to back off.

EXPLOSIVE PLAYS ALLOWED


Q-TimeD/D/YdPlayRushers
1-2:451/10/O33Manning to Randle, +215
1-0:183/13/D49Manning to Randle, +226
2-7:241/10/D41Jacobs Run, +374
3-6:191/10/O45Manning to Randle, +216
3-4:414/3/D27Manning to Myers, +274
4-6:173/8/D27Manning to Cruz, +224

SACKS AND INTERCEPTIONS


Q-TimeD/D/YdPlayRushers
1-7:273/11/O11Hatcher Sack 4
3-0:232/7/O23    Hatcher Sack     4


PASSING CHART

Red (Incomplete), Black (Interception), Blue (Complete), and Yellow (Touchdown)

As you can see, Eli Manning is playing a real mediocre brand of football right now and just never got anything going.  Outside the numbers, he had almost exclusively missed throws shown in red.  I have never seen him this erratic over the course of the game, so from this standpoint, the Cowboys did just the right thing.




Pass Rushers Against New York Giants - 32 pass rush/blitz situations:



Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 Rush
Short (0-5 Yds To Go)0000
Second Level (5-10 Yds To Go)1730
Open Field (10+ Yds To Go)0100
Totals1830




Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 Rush
Short (0-5 Yds To Go)0400
Second Level (5-10 Yds To Go)0400
Open Field (10+ Yds To Go)0100
Totals0900




Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 Rush
Short (0-5 Yds To Go)0220
Second Level (5-10 Yds To Go)0300
Open Field (10+ Yds To Go)0201
Totals0721




Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 Rush
Short (0-5 Yds To Go)0200
Second Level (5-10 Yds To Go)0000
Open Field (10+ Yds To Go)0000
Totals0200

And, here are the full season numbers to date:



Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 Rush7
Rush
1st Down7 - 3%152 - 81%25 - 13%3 - 1%0
2nd Down2 - 1%123 - 89%12 - 8%00
3rd Down5 - 4%74 - 64%17 - 14%16 - 14%2 - 1%
4th Down1 - 9% 9 - 81%1 -
9%
0
Totals15 - 3%358 - 79%55 - 12%19 - 4%
2 - 1%

The game by game pressure numbers sent by the Cowboys:

Wk 1 - NYG: 7/49 - 14%
Wk 2 - KC:   10/43 - 23%
Wk 3 - STL: 11/57 - 19%
Wk 4 - SD:  4/43 - 9%
Wk 5 - DEN: 6/42 - 14%
Wk 6 - WAS: 8/45 - 18%
Wk 7 - PHI:  10/51 - 19%
Wk 8 - DET: 8/49 - 16%
Wk 9 - MIN: 11/41 - 27%
Wk10- NO: 8/43 - 19%
Wk11 - NY: 6/33 - 18%

2013 Totals:  89/496 - 17.9%

2012 Totals:  134/551 - 24.3%

SUMMARY:  As demoralizing as 9 runs of 10 yards or more can be, it does beat the alternative of allowing 400 yards of passing to Eli Manning.  In the end, yards are yards - regardless of how you give them up.  So, Kiffin/Garrett/Marinelli had a choice to make - do we accept that we cannot stop the run and keep our safeties high all game long to keep the passing opportunities to a minimum or do we stop the run by bringing the 8th man down, but risk the pass behind him?

That is a very sound decision they made that hurt in watching the game, but kept them alive.  Eli Manning has killed the Cowboys over the years, so why play with fire?  Make them beat you without huge pass plays.  The Giants had a ton of runs, but over the course of an 80-yard drive, it only takes one stop to end all momentum.  One big pass play could end up in the end zone.

Now, what keeps Oakland from running the ball the whole game?  Well, I assume the Cowboys will bring a safety down on a regular basis to deal with Matt McGloin, and risk that he won't routinely burn them over the top.

We shall see what that does to slow things down.  But, Oakland will be counting on their ability as a running team to find success in Dallas on the ground.  And we are not about to doubt them.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Kiffin Report - Week 5 - Denver Broncos

Just as you can't play the Rams every week, the NFL won't make you play the Broncos every week, either.

And we should all celebrate that because the Cowboys' defense had the opposite experience of the one they had 2 weeks ago when the Rams visited the stadium.  They were flying high in that game with sacks and pressures and the ability to batter and bruise the Rams offense into submission.  Well, in this contest, they were taught the painful lesson that Manning teaches his opponents each week.  And that lesson is simple, every decision you make is going to be incorrect.

Easy to say, seemingly difficult to execute.  But, he is a living legend for a reason.  He makes it look easy.

What are the characteristics of the Peyton Manning offense that you won't see every week?

- Almost no personnel changes.  With the exception of goal-line, short-yardage plays, they basically had the exact same personnel grouping and 11 players in every play.  The only variance is Knowshon Moreno and Ronnie Hillman swapping spots at RB (to make sure they don't kill Moreno with 75 snaps in a game that are all collision-based, either carries or blitz pickups).  Otherwise, you will see Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, and Eric Decker every single play.  It is all 11 personnel and almost all in shotgun.  This is how Peyton wants it and how he has done it forever.  75 of their 81 snaps were in this grouping.  So, the Cowboys almost never had 3 linebackers on the field on the same play, because you simply cannot get out of nickel.  Meanwhile, Orlando Scandrick and Brandon Carr played 80 snaps, and Morris Claiborne - who reportedly "lost his starting job", played 75.

- Varied snap counts.  Manning will make you stay at the line as he calls out your coverages for as many as 10 seconds on certain plays.  But, that isn't his only trick.  At least a half-dozen times on Sunday, he also went on "first sound".  I love that change-up and wish the Cowboys would do it more. Nothing is as flustering to a defense who assumes he is going to go into his full Sergio Garcia pre shot routine and then he snaps the ball the instant his side is lined up with no routine whatsoever.  It is genius and he knows how to catch you asleep.

- Ball is gone before you can get to him.  As I have written many times, nobody has managed to preserve their own health like Peyton Manning.  He is the industry-leader in avoiding sacks and big hits and you just can't punish him physically because he doesn't have the ball long enough for your pass rush to impact him.  And when you blitz him, he can get the ball to a winnable matchup in under 2 seconds.  And no matter how good your pass rushers may be, it is difficult to get to the QB in 2 seconds unless they forget to block you altogether.

- Receivers have two technical programs that work in concert or separately:  1) they spread you out and make you win your man-to-man battles with a series of option routes where your coverage (inside/outside leverage or even your depth) will dictate their actual routes.  And if you lose just one of them, Manning seems to always deliver the ball.  2) they use each-other to cause coverage confusion in pick-play scenarios.  In other words, if you man up, he has a plan that is tough to deal with.  If you zone up, he has a plan that is tough to deal with.  Just be happy you aren't in the AFC West.

So, what about the dude on his couch that want's the Cowboys to blitz more?  According to my numbers, the Cowboys only brought pressure on 6 of 42 pass plays.  14% is a low number, right?  Not if you consider what he did to you in those 6 scenarios.

Here are a few examples:

Blitz #1 -




Here, the Cowboys are going to bring 6 (although the 6th is responsible for Moreno; if Moreno stays, he is blitzing and if Moreno goes on a route, he must stay with him in what is sometimes referred to as "key blitz").  That means Church has Julius Thomas, the TE, but he wants to show "2-deep" so the gap when the play starts is huge.  JJ Wilcox will slide over and play the single-high safety, with man coverage underneath and a 6 man blitz.  This will require Manning to find something quickly.


But, look above to see how quickly he knows where he is going.  Church cannot just sprint up to Thomas, because if Thomas is taking it vertical, Church won't recover.  So, he has to measure his speed forward and Manning and Thomas are expecting this.  Therefore, Thomas takes it horizontal and Church can't close the gap.  Meanwhile, on the edges, Decker looks open across Claiborne's face on the bottom for a slant if Manning wanted it.


2.0 seconds is how long it takes Manning to let the ball go.  You can see that he has silver helmets near him, but the ball is gone and Thomas has a comfortable space on the star to catch and run.  With everyone blitzing, it is a 1-on-1 matchup with a guy who starts the play so deep that he cannot cover every route.  If Church closes fast, Thomas keeps running.  But, Church played responsibly, so the Broncos took 27 yards on a simple pitch and catch as you can see below.  


Again, how do you blitz this guy?

Blitz #2 -


Here, the Cowboys want to rectify the issue with a deep safety trying to check Julius, so they put Church right on top of him and show Peyton a single-high look at the snap.  If you go to QB school, they often teach that single high means the smart play is outside the numbers and 2-high gives you options in the middle of the field.  I imagine that when he sees this look, Manning is now thinking a blitz is coming and his target will be to his men on the outside who have to be in man coverage now that Church is so close for some sort of blitz.


At the snap, you see that everyone is right on their man.  But, before any of the 6 Cowboys can get to Manning, he is thinking back shoulder fade to Demaryius Thomas in what is becoming the most popular throw in the league as it is so hard for a corner to defend.

Total time to throw this ball?  A staggering 1.7 seconds.  Again, I don't care how many you blitz, you aren't getting home in 1.7 seconds.  Throw and catch.  26 yard gain and a demoralized defense.


The guy is just a genius.  Could the defense play better?  Yes.  But, it takes a special defense (last year's Ravens seem to be the entire list - and they only beat him the one time they received the Torrey Smith miracle) to be able to send him home with a defeat while running this machine.  And that Ravens win didn't have to deal with Wes Welker or Julius Thomas.

WEEK 5 vs. Denver Broncos

First, a reminder of what a splash play is: 

What is a splash play? Well, for purposes of this blog I believe a splash play will include the following: A sack, a pressure that forces a bad throw, and big hit on the QB, and a batted ball that may lead to an interception opportunity. Again, you can see how this leads to subjectivity, but a subjective breakdown is better than no breakdown at all, I have decided. In addition, a splash play will include tackles for loss, a big hit for a short gain, or a stop which is an open field tackle where a player is pulled down on 3rd down short of the marker because of an exceptional effort from a defender. An interception is clearly a splash play, but so is a defended pass that required a great effort. A major hit in the secondary could be a splash play, but I believe that the outcome of the play will determine that. Sorry, defensive backs, but standing over a guy who just caught a 15 yard pass because you think you hit him hard will not generally pass the test on this blog. So, stop doing it. 
I am trying to be careful about handing out too many splash plays per game. I am trying to be picky, but too extreme in either direction. When I log a splash play, I will put time of the game on the chart so that if you want to review the same game and challenge my ruling, you are welcome to do so. Also, if multiple players deserve recognition on a single play, we will try to see that as well. 
Basically, we are trying to assign a value to making plays on the defense. We don't want to just see sacks and interceptions. We want to see broader definitions of splash plays to assign credit to those who help the Cowboys get off the field in important situations. These rankings will not deduct for negative plays at this point. There are simply too many occasions where we are guessing, and for now, I want to avoid that for this particular idea.  
A splash play is a play that makes a major difference in the game. And by keeping it all season long, we will see which defenders are play makers and which are simply warm bodies. We already have our thoughts on both categories, but let's see if we can dig a bit deeper and actually have numbers to back up our claims.

Here are the final results for 2011 and here are the final results for 2012.

Here they are for the Denver Game.  14 splashes again this week, with many in the 2nd half.  Problem?  Well, all but 3 were on 1st and 2nd Downs.  Those help, but you have to get off the field on 3rd Down, and on those rare occasions that you pushed him to 3rd Down, he seemed to be quite comfortable, going an absurd 9 of 13.

A decent number of splash plays, but most of them also coming on runs.

Q-TimeD/D/YdPlayerPlay
1-7:481/20/O10ChurchBig Hit, Pass Broken Up
1-7:053/4/O26SimsFumble Strip
1-7:053/4/O26ClaiborneFumble Recovery
2-11:582/10/O44ChurchHit Causes Fumble
2-8:491/10/D41LeeRun Stuff
2-6:061/G/D8LeeRun Stuff
3-14:252/2/O41WareRun Stuff
3-13:141/10/O45SelvieTackle For Loss
3-5:211/10/D35CarterTackle For Loss
3-4:043/7/D32Wilcox3rd Down Stop
3-0:091/10/O20ClaiborneInterception
4-9:453/5/32CarrPass Defended
4-5:521/10/D50WareRun Stuff
4-3:192/G/D7RayfordHolding Penalty Drawn


2013 SEASON TOTALS

PlayerSplashes
Lee11
Selvie       10
Church10
Ware9
Hatcher7.5
Carter6
Claiborne4
Carr4
Allen 3.5
Hayden3.5
E. Jones     3
Durant1.5        
Scandrick1
Wilber1
Wilcox 1
Sims1
Rayford1
Team Totals78

===========

Pass Rush/Blitzing REPORT

This segment of the defensive study is simply to find out how well the Cowboys are doing at getting pressure on the opposing QB.  We have spent a good part of the offseason talking about Monte Kiffin's philosophy that, like so many of the great 4-3 schemes, is based on using blitz as a weapon, not a necessity.  If you use the blitz as an ambush weapon that is always threatened but only used at the perfect times, you can often get free runs at the QB.  If, on the other hand, you must use the blitz because your normal pressure is not getting it done, then the offense usually is waiting for you and prepared - so even 6 rushers don't accomplish much.

Here, we look at the big plays for (Explosives are plays 20 yards and longer) and the big plays against each week (Sacks and Interceptions) and see what role (if any) was played by the defensive coordinator.

Check above to see why the blitz was burned and hardly used.

EXPLOSIVE PLAYS ALLOWED


Q-TimeD/D/YdPlayRushers
1-2:591/10/O39Manning to Decker, +574
3-12:342/13/O42Manning to J Thomas, +276
3-7:08  1/17/O13Manning to J Thomas, +294
4-4:471/10/O36Manning to  D Thomas, +265

SACKS AND INTERCEPTIONS
Q-TimeD/D/YdPlayRushers
3-0:091/10/O20Claiborne Interception 4


PASSING CHART

Look at the passing chart to see that although Manning beats you with his arm, it is not done with a series of bombs.  Yes, he will throw it deep to keep you honest, but his passing game is based on getting the ball out quickly and isolating your weak links for easy gains and long drives.  He is relentless and able to attack all comers.



Pass Rushers Against Denver Broncos - 42 pass rush/blitz situations:

Again, this has been covered, but the Cowboys did not blitz Phil Rivers or Manning because they knew what would happen.  It appears we see that they will change their views from week to week and with veteran QBs, they are ready to concede that they need as many players in coverage as possible.  Only 10 of 85 pass situations the last 2 weeks saw the Cowboys bring 5 or more rushers.  They are building a defense that must get there with 4.  But, does the NFL allow for that anymore?  The way the league has evolved, could the 2002 Buccaneers be as dominant?  Or do QBs and proper offensive design just tell you that the ball is gone in 2 seconds and arena football rules the day.  It is worth asking how the Tampa 2 and the overall concept of rushing 4 is something completely dependent on 4 beasts up front (as in the NY Giants front of years past).



Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 Rush
Short (0-5 Yds To Go)0210
Second Level (5-10 Yds To Go)01710
Open Field (10+ Yds To Go)0300
Totals02220




Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 Rush
Short (0-5 Yds To Go)0000
Second Level (5-10 Yds To Go)0701
Open Field (10+ Yds To Go)0102
Totals0803












Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 Rush
Short (0-5 Yds To Go)0400
Second Level (5-10 Yds To Go)0210
Open Field (10+ Yds To Go)0000
Totals0610



And, here are the full season numbers to date:



Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 RushTotal
1st Down5 - 4%84 - 82%10 - 9%3 - 2%102 - 43%
2nd Down1 - 1%64 - 85%4 - 5%6 - 8%75 - 32%
3rd Down3 - 5%34 - 65%9 - 17%6 - 11%52 - 22%
4th Down1 - 20% 4 - 80%005 - 2% 
Totals10 - 4%186 - 79%23 - 9%15 - 6%
234 


The game by game pressure numbers:

Wk 1 - NYG: 7/49 - 14%
Wk 2 - KC:   10/43 - 23%
Wk 3 - STL: 11/57 - 19%
Wk 4 - SD:  4/43 - 9%
Wk 5 - Den: 6/42 - 14%

2013 Totals:  38/234 - 16.2%
2012 Totals:  134/551 - 24.3%

SUMMARY:  I think everyone knows that the defense failed.  We just aren't quite sure how much to hang on them and how much we should see how the rest of the league has fared against this offense that seems to be killing every defense in the sport at historic levels.  But, clearly, the 2 week trend is disconcerting and now with the creative options that Washington, Philadelphia, and Detroit bring to the table, it is time for some retrenching.  

I am interested in what they try, because there is very little the Cowboys have put on film that would discourage future opponents from trying similar ideas to what the Chargers and Broncos have pulled off.  The good news is that those future opponents will be relying on QBs who are not near the quality of the one and only Peyton Manning.  

At least until Drew Brees walks through that door on November 10th.  

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Kiffin Report: Week 2 - Kansas City Chiefs

A look at the defense in Week 2 finds a mixed bag of results.  On one hand, they limited yardage and damaging drives to a minimum.  They found 4 sacks and did a nice job of keeping the running game from causing issues most of the day despite playing a team with a running reputation.  But, on the other hand, they caused 0 takeaways - Remember, since 2010, the Cowboys are 0-11 when getting no takeaways on the road - and most discouragingly, were absolutely demoralized with Kansas City taking the ball with 3:50 left and all 3 Dallas timeouts and running the ball down the throat of Dallas with almost no difficulty whatsoever.

The 4-minute drill is something that is not often discussed by football fans, but teams put a fair amount of emphasis on it because it can and does win games.  The 4-minute drill is the ability for a team to kill off the final 4 minutes by running the ball and moving the chains twice (assuming the opponent has its full allotment of timeouts.  It is ideally done without ever throwing a pass and therefore not risking a stop of the clock.

So, to see the Cowboys, down 17-16, pin the Chiefs in deep - only to basically never touch the ball again is very disappointing and a big reason why nobody should be saying that "the defense did its part."  They almost did.  But, they sure didn't close the deal.

Here are the details of that final drive:

Drive starts: 3:48
Charles middle +3
Dallas timeout #1 – 3:44
Charles +9 FD – Durant miss
Dallas timeout #2 – 3:38
Charles right for +16 FD
PEN Illegal shift 82      
Charles right +6
Dallas timeout #3 – 3:21
Charles +4
PEN Delay of Game -5
slant to Avery – INC – PEN 24 Pass Inf FD
Charles no gain   2:00 Minute Warning
Charles +4
Charles +5
PUNT  and it bounces to 4 yard line  0:16 left




Limit them to a 1st Down and you can still win.  Give them 3 first downs and you don't even get a chance - and that is what happened on Sunday.  With almost every play starting with the Chiefs declaring run and the Cowboys countering with 9 in the box, too.

That simply cannot happen.

Here is the 16 yard run against 9 in the box - although, it is interesting to see that the Cowboys are aligned with the extra man on the left, showing a weakness in man-power if the Chiefs run right - which they of course attacked:


The simple zone stretch right is where the Cowboys found trouble here.  It is possible you have never heard of KC fullback Anthony Sherman.  But, if the NFL allowed the save to become a stat, I might argue that he deserved a save for his lead block here that moved the chains and kept the clock moving (sort of - Charles for some reason runs out of bounds here).

Watch 42 take out Bruce Carter and Sean Lee and obstruct Jason Hatcher, too.  All 3 guys are close to the play, but the lead block frees Charles just enough to turn a few yards into 16.  Then, Bowe obstructs Scandrick on the edge and the Cowboys are pretty much finished.


This isn't Alabama the Cowboys were playing.  When the opposition declares run 8 plays with the game on the line in the NFL against 9 in the box, you can't let them gain 47 yards (basically, 6 yards a carry!).

So, if I disagree with the silly premise that "the defense played well enough to win" this week, well, that's why.

WEEK 2 vs Chiefs

In our weekly splash play study, I found 13 this week.

First, a reminder of what a splash play is:

What is a splash play? Well, for purposes of this blog I believe a splash play will include the following: A sack, a pressure that forces a bad throw, and big hit on the QB, and a batted ball that may lead to an interception opportunity. Again, you can see how this leads to subjectivity, but a subjective breakdown is better than no breakdown at all, I have decided. In addition, a splash play will include tackles for loss, a big hit for a short gain, or a stop which is an open field tackle where a player is pulled down on 3rd down short of the marker because of an exceptional effort from a defender. An interception is clearly a splash play, but so is a defended pass that required a great effort. A major hit in the secondary could be a splash play, but I believe that the outcome of the play will determine that. Sorry, defensive backs, but standing over a guy who just caught a 15 yard pass because you think you hit him hard will not generally pass the test on this blog. So, stop doing it. 
I am trying to be careful about handing out too many splash plays per game. I am trying to be picky, but too extreme in either direction. When I log a splash play, I will put time of the game on the chart so that if you want to review the same game and challenge my ruling, you are welcome to do so. Also, if multiple players deserve recognition on a single play, we will try to see that as well. 
Basically, we are trying to assign a value to making plays on the defense. We don't want to just see sacks and interceptions. We want to see broader definitions of splash plays to assign credit to those who help the Cowboys get off the field in important situations. These rankings will not deduct for negative plays at this point. There are simply too many occasions where we are guessing, and for now, I want to avoid that for this particular idea.  
A splash play is a play that makes a major difference in the game. And by keeping it all season long, we will see which defenders are play makers and which are simply warm bodies. We already have our thoughts on both categories, but let's see if we can dig a bit deeper and actually have numbers to back up our claims.

Here are the final results for 2011 and here are the final results for 2012.

 Here they are for the Kansas City Game:

Q-TimeD/D/YdPlayerPlay
1-11:131/10/D30AllenPass Broken Up
1-5:021/10/O20LeeTackle for Loss
1-4:143/1/O29HatcherPass Batted Down
2-14:403/4/D47HatcherSack on stunt
2-13:061/10/D48WareSack
2-7:331/10/D45SelviePressure and stop
2-6:383/13/D44WareSack
2-0:173/10/D39CarterPass Broken Up - near INT
3-5:552/10/O31ChurchStrong tackle
3-0:381/10/D31SelvieTackle For Loss
4-11:051/15/D40HatcherTackle For Loss
4-9:523/15/D40CarterSack
4-2:281/10/50HatcherRun Stuff


And now, the 2-game 2013 season totals - showing George Selvie once again setting the pace with Jason Hatcher all over the place in KC:

PlayerSplashes
Hatcher5
Selvie 5
Church4
Carter4
Allen3
Ware3
Hayden2.5
Carr2
Lee2
Durant.5
Team Total31


===========

Pass Rush/Blitzing REPORT

This segment of the defensive study is simply to find out how well the Cowboys are doing at getting pressure on the opposing QB.  We have spent a good part of the offseason talking about Monte Kiffin's philosophy that, like so many of the great 4-3 schemes, is based on using blitz as a weapon, not a necessity.  If you use the blitz as an ambush weapon that is always threatened but only used at the perfect times, you can often get free runs at the QB.  If, on the other hand, you must use the blitz because your normal pressure is not getting it done, then the offense usually is waiting for you and prepared - so even 6 rushers don't accomplish much.

Here, we look at the big plays for (Explosives are plays 20 yards and longer) and the big plays against each week (Sacks and Interceptions) and see what role (if any) was played by the defensive coordinator.

EXPLOSIVE PLAYS ALLOWED
Q-TimeD/D/YdPlayRushers
1-0:361/10/O20Smith to Bowe, +274
2-0:582/10/O28Smith to McGrath, +224
3-5:093/9/O32Smith to Avery, +314

All 3 of the Chiefs big plays did not come from sending too many men.  Instead, it looked like Bowe beat Carr in man-coverage, McGrath got lost in Bruce Carter's zone, and Avery beat the zone again by turning the safety Will Allen around on a nice route.


SACKS AND INTERCEPTIONS
Q-TimeD/D/YdPlayRushers
2-14:403/4/D47Hatcher Sack 4
2-13:061/10/D48Ware Sack4
2-6:383/13/D44Ware Sack6
4-9:523/9/D34Carter Sack6


On the 4 sacks, we saw the Cowboys unleash 2 3rd Down blitzes that are the trademark of this defense.  Here is video of the Carter sack and as you can see, it is the dreaded Double-A-Gap blitz that Chicago, Philadelphia, and several teams have made famous over the years.  This is trouble because the 2 middle LBs show it several times a game but only run it a few times.  The rest of the time they are "sugaring" the blitz pick up and bluffing.  But, on 3rd and long, you can believe they are coming and it is a quick and powerful free run at the QB from right in his face.

On Ware's sack in the 2nd Quarter, they ran a similar blitz, but Lee peeled out and Church targeted the opposite B-Gap from Carter.  Both got free runs because it causes chaos - especially when you only unleash it at the rare time of your choosing.




Here is Alex's Smith game chart for the Full game.  The thing to look at here is that the Chiefs worked the middle of the field.  They know that the Cowboys are still uncomfortable running a full Tampa 2 and getting the proper drops from their linebackers.  In fact, it seems Bruce Carter is a particular target, but Sean Lee can be had as well.  It is a difficult process to learn the drops in game action and to patrol your area with multiple targets running through.

I have been asked about how much "Tampa 2" the Cowboys are actually running.  They opened the game with almost all man coverage.  But, like any team, they are changing coverages a lot.  I would say right now from my untrained eye that they are almost 50/50 with zones and man coverage.  And of course, some of each are actually combinations where it looks like the corners are in man and everything else is zoned underneath.

No team wants to show the same coverage all the time.  It makes it too easy on the opposition.




Pass Rushers Against Kansas City Chiefs - 43 pass rush/blitz situations:

In this game, the Cowboys brought pressure 10 times in 43 opportunities.  Again, they are using the blitz as a weapon, not a necessity.  That is a very encouraging sign if they can keep that up.  On 3rd Down, they get off the field with a timely blitz.  Otherwise, they are getting pressure with 4.  Let's see if that holds up.




Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 Rush
Short (0-5 Yds To Go)0100
Second Level (5-10 Yds To Go)01130
Open Field (10+ Yds To Go)0000
Totals01230





Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 Rush
Short (0-5 Yds To Go)0300
Second Level (5-10 Yds To Go)0611
Open Field (10+ Yds To Go)0400
Totals01311










Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 Rush
Short (0-5 Yds To Go)0410
Second Level (5-10 Yds To Go)0302
Open Field (10+ Yds To Go)0111
Totals0823


And, here are the full season numbers to date:



Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 RushTotal
1st Down3 - 7%32 - 78%5 - 12%1 - 2%41 - 44%
2nd Down1 - 3%23 - 82%3 - 10%1 - 3%28 - 30%
3rd Down1 - 4%15 - 65%4 - 17%3 - 13%23 - 25%
4th Down00000
Totals5 - 10%70 - 76%12 - 13%5 - 5%
92 - 74% 


The game by game pressure numbers:

Wk 1 - NYG: 7/49 - 14%
Wk 2 - KC:   10/43 - 23%

2013 Totals:  17/92 - 18%

2012 Totals:  134/551 - 24.3%


Mixed results, but as Anthony Spencer gets more involved, it will continue to be interesting to see what this defense can show us.  

On to St Louis.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Kiffin Report: Splash Plays - Week 1 - Giants

Every Wednesday we want to look at the defense and how things went in the previous game.  This is a work in progress, but we will try to make sure after we talk a little game theory that we always dive back into our bread and butter.  Splash plays and tracking the Cowboys use of bringing pressure.

First, this week, I thought I would cover the dangers of a good play-action team on a linebacker crew that is being trained to be aggressive maulers and to be flying around making a play.  What is the enemy of aggressive players?  Fakes.  And a veteran QB can manipulate your movement by a simple run fake.  When he does, you move.  Then, passing lanes go from small to huge and big plays happen behind you.  

Let's look at the most glaring example from Sunday:

Here is the 57 yard pitch and catch from Manning to Hakeem Nicks that caused most of you to yell at your television something along the lines of "That was way too easy!"  Because it was.  

Picture #1 shows us the 4-5 yard depth of the linebackers.  If it is a straight pass, Lee will get his drop to almost 10 yards pretty quickly and close windows across the middle.  But, with a run fake to Wilson, you will see in Picture #2 what happens.




Here is the result of a relatively half-hearted run fake.  Lee is at the 21, Durant is next to him, and Carter is engaged at the 20 and Barry Church is up there in run support, too!  8 Cowboys within 1 yard of the line of scrimmage means Nicks and Cruz have lots of room if protection holds up.  And it does, because the Cowboys aren't rushing their LBs.  They bit on the run fake and now they are trying to peel back (especially Lee).



Now, the ball is to Nicks and you can see that you could actually drive a truck through the gap in the zone and have no issues clearing the space.  Claiborne is playing so soft and with his rear to the sideline which screams that he believes he has middle help in a zone.  Allen is playing deep which a single-high safety must.  That is taking candy from babies, all off a 1st and 10 play where there was a simple run fake with a fullback and tight end in.  The Cowboys were sure it was a run and in an effort to dominate with aggressiveness, they were exposed.


57 yards later, lesson learned.  Careful on the run fakes.  

SPLASH PLAYS

Starting in 2011, we wanted to make sure the defense was covered in this space every week as well.  It, admittedly, is a far more difficult exercise, but I was interested in taking to defensive players about what they focused on as a defense.  

The same term was mentioned quite a bit inside locker-rooms, and when I heard it on the NFL Network when Davin Joseph was talking about 49ers LB Navarro Bowman, I took note of his quote:

"He's really starting to make a lot of splash plays. We don't like those on offense. But, a splash play is when you have a big hit. Big hit on a running back. Big hit on a wide receiver. Big hit on a quarterback. Or just making a tackle for a loss. Just making that impact play is what they call a splash play. He makes a lot of those."
That interested me quite a bit.  What if I kept splash plays?  What if I was the judge, jury, and executioner and tried to see who made the most "big plays" on the defense on a play by play basis?

So, I did.  



What is a splash play? Well, for purposes of this blog I believe a splash play will include the following: A sack, a pressure that forces a bad throw, and big hit on the QB, and a batted ball that may lead to an interception opportunity. Again, you can see how this leads to subjectivity, but a subjective breakdown is better than no breakdown at all, I have decided. In addition, a splash play will include tackles for loss, a big hit for a short gain, or a stop which is an open field tackle where a player is pulled down on 3rd down short of the marker because of an exceptional effort from a defender. An interception is clearly a splash play, but so is a defended pass that required a great effort. A major hit in the secondary could be a splash play, but I believe that the outcome of the play will determine that. Sorry, defensive backs, but standing over a guy who just caught a 15 yard pass because you think you hit him hard will not generally pass the test on this blog. So, stop doing it. 
I am trying to be careful about handing out too many splash plays per game. I am trying to be picky, but too extreme in either direction. When I log a splash play, I will put time of the game on the chart so that if you want to review the same game and challenge my ruling, you are welcome to do so. Also, if multiple players deserve recognition on a single play, we will try to see that as well. 
Basically, we are trying to assign a value to making plays on the defense. We don't want to just see sacks and interceptions. We want to see broader definitions of splash plays to assign credit to those who help the Cowboys get off the field in important situations. These rankings will not deduct for negative plays at this point. There are simply too many occasions where we are guessing, and for now, I want to avoid that for this particular idea.  
A splash play is a play that makes a major difference in the game. And by keeping it all season long, we will see which defenders are play makers and which are simply warm bodies. We already have our thoughts on both categories, but let's see if we can dig a bit deeper and actually have numbers to back up our claims.

Here are the final results for 2011 and here are the final results for 2012.

Basically, in the last two seasons, DeMarcus Ware has led the way with 69 and Anthony Spencer has had 67.  3-5 in 2011 was Sean Lee, Jay Ratliff and Orlando Scandrick.  In 2012, all 3 of those changed to Jason Hatcher, Mo Claiborne, and Bruce Carter.  But, in both seasons, Ware and Spencer are far and away the top two playmakers on the defense.  The best season to date was Spencer's 2012 when he averaged a splash play every 22.9 snaps.

WEEK 1 vs Giants

If you had George Selvie and Nick Hayden as two of the most impact-ful defenders in Week 1, you should go live in Vegas.  They both look like keepers that were found in the discard bin.  What a start for Hayden, in particular.

Q-TimeD/D/YdPlayerPlay
1-15:001/10/O20WareInterception of Manning
1-12:242/10/D23AllenPass Broken Up
1-11:411/G/D8ChurchFumble Caused
1-11:411/G/D8SelvieFumble Recovered
1-9:481/10/O31HaydenRun Stuff
1-8:583/10/D49AllenInterception of Manning
1-4:001/G/D1Hayden/DurantRun Stuff
1-3:252/G/D2SelvieSack 
3-13:131/10/O29CarterSack
3-12:422/15/O24HaydenFumble Caused
3-12:422/15/O24Church (2)Recovery and Return for TD
3-11:522/7/O23CohenRun Stuff
3-9:153/1/O48CarterRun Stuff
3-2:031/10/D18ScandrickPass Broken Up
3-1:532/10/D18SelviePressure/Tipped Pass
4-5:383/10/O45HatcherSack
4-2:001/10/O46Carr (2)Interception and Return for TD
4-0:182/1/D4LeePass Broken Up


Here are the game totals - and thus the season totals - for 2013:

PlayerSplashes
Church3
Selvie 3
Hayden2.5
Allen2
Carter2
Carr2
Ware1
Hatcher1
Lee1
Durant.5
Team Total18


===========

Pass Rush/Blitzing REPORT

This segment of the defensive study is simply to find out how well the Cowboys are doing at getting pressure on the opposing QB.  We have spent a good part of the offseason talking about Monte Kiffin's philosophy that, like so many of the great 4-3 schemes, is based on using blitz as a weapon, not a necessity.  If you use the blitz as an ambush weapon that is always threatened but only used at the perfect times, you can often get free runs at the QB.  If, on the other hand, you must use the blitz because your normal pressure is not getting it done, then the offense usually is waiting for you and prepared - so even 6 rushers don't accomplish much.

Here, we look at the big plays for (Explosives are plays 20 yards and longer) and the big plays against each week (Sacks and Interceptions) and see what role (if any) was played by the defensive coordinator.

EXPLOSIVE PLAYS ALLOWED
Q-TimeD/D/YdPlayRushers
1-13:041/10/O20Manning to Nicks, +574
2-2:011/10/O30Manning to Cruz, TD +705
4-12:101/10/O10Manning to Randle, +204
4-10:491/10/O47Manning to Randle, +223
4-2:143/5/O22Manning to Randle, +265
4-0:482/10/D36Manning dump off to Scott, +234

Above, we visited about the effects of play action and how it led to the big Hakeem Nicks pass, but the Cowboys will have to clean that up.  Also, in the 4th Quarter, and the Cowboys were up 30-17, there clearly was an adjustment to soften up coverage (I resist the urge to use prevent), but Manning picked that apart as you see most of his passing work and the big plays came in the 4th Quarter.  There were several more over 15 yards that also were issues.

But, with the exception of the long touchdown to Cruz - which we will deconstruct tomorrow in our Xs and Os blog, it was a reasonable night for getting pressure without the blitz and the Cowboys did not get stuck with their hand in the cookie jar too much - aside from the huge play.  And as we know, that 1 70 yard Touchdown bust could lose a lot of games.

SACKS AND INTERCEPTIONS
Q-TimeD/D/YdPlayRushers
1-15:001/10/O20Ware Interception of Manning  5
1-8:583/10/D49Allen Interception of Manning4
1-1:352/G/2Selvie Sack4
3-13:131/10/O29Carter Sack on big blitz6
4-5:383/10/O45Hatcher sack4
4-2:001/10/O46Carr Interception4


Want to see something cool?  Here is what a 6-man blitz looks like - the only time they used it in the game - when almost everyone is winning their match-up.  Bruce Carter is winning the easiest (against Chris Snee), and he will be rewarded with a big sack here early in the 3rd Quarter.


As the game went along, Eli did a ton of damage - much down the seams.  In this scheme, your corners force to the safeties and the middle of the field.  All through the preseason, we saw giant gaps in the middle of the field - something that will certainly not work in the long run.

Here is Eli's game chart for the Full game:



Pass Rushers Against New York Giants - 49 pass rush/blitz situations:


Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 Rush
Short (0-5 Yds To Go)2000
Second Level (5-10 Yds To Go)11821
Open Field (10+ Yds To Go)0200
Totals32021






















Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 Rush
Short (0-5 Yds To Go)1310
Second Level (5-10 Yds To Go)0710
Open Field (10+ Yds To Go)0000
Totals11020










Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 Rush
Short (0-5 Yds To Go)1010
Second Level (5-10 Yds To Go)0110
Open Field (10+ Yds To Go)0600
Totals1720


And, here are the full season numbers to date:

Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 RushTotal
1st Down3 - 11%20 - 76%2 - 7%1 - 3%26 - 53%
2nd Down1 - 7%10 - 76%2 - 15%013 - 26%
3rd Down1 - 10%7 - 70%2 - 20%010 - 20%
4th Down00000
Totals5 - 10%37 - 75%6 - 12%1 - 2%49 


The game by game pressure numbers:

Wk 1 - NYG: 7/49 - 14%

2012 Totals:  134/551 - 24.3%

We are just learning what Monte Kiffin is all about here in Dallas.  But, there is plenty for you to chew on after Week 1.

Tomorrow, we shorten things up with some Xs and Os.  The Cruz home-run and the blitz that almost knocked Tony Romo out.