The offense on Sunday was eerily similar to the 2015 game in Jokeland where we couldn’t get TDs in the redzone and eventually lost 15-12. Yes, we did score a single touchdown (unlike that game), but that doesn’t change the fact that our offense was given the chance to put the game out of reach twice in the second half and they didn’t.
We started one drive at the Faider 31 (gained 3 yards on 5 plays and kicked a 46-yd FG) and another at the Faider 15 (gained 4 yards on 7 plays and missed a 29-yd FG). After two games were were near the top of the league in red zone TD efficiency (7 TDs in 9 red zone trips). After 4 games we are middle of the league at 50% TD efficiency in the red zone with 8 TDs in 16 trips.
The good news is that we are still near the top of the league in red zone trips per game (4.0 per game is 3rd behind LAR and NE who are tied for first with 4.8). We just need to do a better job of getting TDs not FGs when we get to the red zone.
Stuffing the run on first down
As we have done in the first three games, so did we in the fourth. Our front seven did a masterful job of limiting yardage on first down runs. Jokeland had 22 first down plays against us and only chose to run on seven of them gaining 18 yards (2.57 ypc). Many of their first down plays came after they were down by double digits in the second half when teams generally elect to throw so don’t read too much into the passing skew. Remember how Tyrod Taylor was 10/10 passing the ball on first down last week, well that was fixed this week as we held the Faider’s two QBs to 8/14 on first down (they did get 163 passing yards throwing on first down - the 64-yd TD was on 1st down). It’s interesting to note that 163 of their 230 passing yards against us were gained on first down (71%).
For the season we have held opponents to 102 rushing yards on 40 first down carries (2.55 ypc). If you remove the first run of the year against us, Gordon’s 21-yd carry, we have allowed 81 yards on the remaining 39 first down carries (2.08 ypc). In four games we have 4 TFLs and 6 stops for no gain on first down runs. We are currently leading the league at stopping the run on first down (CLE is a close second allowing 2.58 ypc). Conversely JAX is allowing 6.24 ypc on first down runs.
In terms of stuffing the run overall, our defense is on a historic pace. The best value in the history of the NFL (post-merger) at stuffing the run is 2.69 ypc allowed. We are currently allowing 2.42 ypc. The lowest total rushing yards allowed by a team post-merger is 970 yards. Our D is on pace to allow a total of 812. Only two teams in the history of the league (post-merger) have allowed fewer than 1000 rushing yards in a season - the 2006 Vikings (985) and the 2000 Ravens (970). The 2000 Ravens won the super bowl with a flaccid offense and a smothering defense. The 2006 Vikings finished the season 6-10.
League-wide 44.3% of all runs have gained 2 or fewer yards this season (stufft run%). Our defense currently has a league leading value of 57.9% of all runs against us gaining 2 or fewer yards. It’s nice to note that the P*ts have a league worst stufft% of 33.3%.
Comparative Performance vs first down runs
So we’ve been great against the run on first down, best in the league. How does that look on a histogram? How does our histogram compare to another good run D (CLE) and two poor run defenses (NE and JAX)? See below.
These table does not show the long runs that NE and JAX have allowed on first down. What this plot allows us to see is that the DEN run D on first down has been amazingly consistent. While we don’t have the number of stops for 1 yard or less that the Browns have, we have not allowed the runs of 5 yards or longer that the Browns have.
The mode is the most frequently occurring number in a group of numbers. The mode is telling up to a certain point. CLE has a mode of 1. We have a mode of 2. NE has a mode of 3. JAX has a mode of 4. Yet the averages are very different, partly because they get inflated by long runs allowed (JX has allowed runs of 75 and 69 yards on first down). Here are the average ypc allowed by team so far this year on first down runs
So we’ve been able to force a good number of 3rd and long (7 or more needed to gain) situations this year. How did we do in this game?
Performance on 3rd and long
We forced the Faiders into six 3rd and long situations the results are below.
|1||5:56||16||RAI 19||Derek Carr pass complete short middle to Cordarrelle Patterson for 4 yards (tackle by Darian Stewart). Penalty on Donald Penn: Face Mask (15 Yards) (Declined)||catch but short|
|1||0:08||8||RAI 46||Derek Carr pass incomplete short left intended for Amari Cooper (defended by Will Parks)||incomplete|
|3||13:44||14||RAI 21||Derek Carr pass complete short left to Amari Cooper for 1 yard (tackle by Will Parks)||catch but short|
|3||8:03||10||RAI 17||Derek Carr sacked by Derek Wolfe for -8 yards||sack|
|3||3:09||15||RAI 29||EJ Manuel pass complete short left to Cordarrelle Patterson for 4 yards (tackle by Chris Harris)||catch but short|
|4||5:32||10||DEN 20||EJ Manuel pass incomplete deep middle intended for Jared Cook||incomplete|
We kept them from converting on all 3rd and longs although the dropped TD by Cook was on 3rd and long. We have now held opponents to 3 of 23 of 3rd and long (counting penalty conversions) - 13.0%. That is currently the 2nd best value in the league. PIT is 1st at 10.3% (3 of 29), but they have yet to face a decent offense.
For the game we held the Faiders to 2 of 12 on 3rd down conversions. For the season we have allowed conversion on 16 of 56 3rd downs (two penalty conversions included) 28.6% which is currently the best in the league. The Vikings are a close second (12 of 44 - 28.9%).
On the other end, the Bucs are allowing 50% conversion so far this year on 3rd downs - meaning that they will most likely get destroyed by T*m Br*dy and the P*ts this Thursday night. Brady has traditionally been one of the best in the league at converting on 3rd down during his career.
Onward into the bye week
The picture on defense looks very good. The picture on offense does not look quite as good. I’ll be writing up my quarterly snap count review this week (with plots) to see the trends for who is getting more snaps as the year wears on and who is getting less. There are some surprises.
We have been relatively lucky on the injury front so far this season (which sounds odd to say with 6 guys currently on the IR). Of those Shane Ray is expected to return at the end of the month and we could bring Jake Butt back off the IR as well. Carlos Henderson is not eligible as one of our two who we can bring back from the IR because he was never added to the 53-man roster. My guess is that we use one of our two IR-return slots on Ray and we save the other in case we lose a starter to a serious injury later on in the year. Another note with Carlos Henderson is that because he is on the IR, he can’t practice with the team, so there is not chance for him to develop any chemistry with one of our QBs.
The other injury situation to keep watch on is that of Paxton Lynch who, according to the team’s site, “has no timetable for return.” With an experienced (21 NFL starts) QB as a backup, there really is now reason to rush Lynch back from his injury. I can see him being kept in this injury limbo for the rest of the season so that he can still practice with the team. If we put him in the IR, he is not allowed to practice with the team.