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Old 11-12-2010, 10:56 PM   #1
mesaSteeler
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Default When a 15-Yard Gain Isnít a Positive Play and How it Relates to the Steelers

When a 15-Yard Gain Isnít a Positive Play and How it Relates to the Steelers
Posted on November 12, 2010 by adam
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When is a 15-yard gain on offense not a positive play? When itís third-and-20, and youíre then forced to punt on fourth down, giving possession back to the other team. On the surface, those 15 yards look nice, but itís an empty number because it didnít result in your desired goal: a first down (or a touchdown). You lost that possession, and the more possessionís you lose in a game, the more likely it is youíre going to lose the game.

Along the same line of thinking, when are 14 points in the fourth quarter not a positive result? When youíre losing by 20. Again, an empty number that looks good but still falls short of what youíre trying to achieve: a win.

The Steelers fourth quarter defense, as well as their pass defense, has been a question mark and topic for debate for the past few weeks because they give up a lot of yards and have surrendered a large portion of their points in the fourth quarter. Problem? Perhaps. But maybe not.

Mike Tanier of Football Outsiders had an interesting article at NBC earlier this week taking a look at the Steelers defense and what makes it so tough to play against leading up to Sundayís game against New England. In his article Tanier points out the following: Teams canít run on the Steelers, the Steelers donít give up many big plays, and the Steelers cornerbacks are excellent tacklers.

These are things we already know. But he also provides us with plenty of interesting information ó and some context ó about opponents gaudy passing numbers, such as their 68 percent completion percentange and the 240 yards they average per game. But what do those numbers really mean?

Tanier explains what he calls, ďthe pain of containment:Ē ďWhen the Steelers blitz they usually assign their cornerbacks and a safety (usually Ryan Clark, so Polamalu can blitz or do something crafty) to three-deep zone coverage. That means each defender is expected to drop back and keep the receiver in front of him. Pittsburgh fans are sometimes frustrated when Ike Taylor or William Gay allows an easy 10-yard completion, but those completions are residue of the team philosophy. If they give up a few 10-yarders, so be it. Just donít allow a bomb, because the blitz will eventually get to the quarterback if he keeps dropping to throw short passes.

The containment policy has worked for the Steelers for years, and it has been business as usual this season. Opponents have thrown for 20 or more yards just 23 times this year. Even that total is inflated: it includes seven 20-yard gains in the fourth quarters of blowouts against the Titans, Browns, Bengals and Buccaneers. That leaves 16 long gains in meaningful situations ó remarkable, considering that the Steelers have faced Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, the Terrell Owens-Chad Ochocinco experience, and the bomb-hurling Joe Flacco.Ē

He continued by pointing out the large number of completions the Steelers have allowed of five-yards or less: 68. Or, in other words, almost 35 percent of the passes completed against them: ďIf you guessed that teams complete a lot of low-protein screens against the Steelers, you are correct; the Steelers have allowed 68 completions of five yards or less. Gay, Taylor, and Bryant McFadden have combined to make 24 tackles on those short completions. A list of the receivers they have held to minimal gains on quick passes ó Roddy White, Lance Moore, Marques Colston, Brandon Marshall, Terrell Owens and Derrick Mason, among others ó shows how well the three-deep principle works for the Steelers. Go ahead and throw for five yards on a screen. Weíll get you next time.Ē

Thatís pretty much what we talked about after the Week 1 game against the Falcons when Roddy White had a lot of catches, but didnít really do that much damage against the Steelers. They gave him all the five-yard passes Atlanta wanted, made sure they tackled him right away, and then finally forced Matt Ryan into a mistake late in the game running the same play they had been running the entire game.

The Steelers catch a lot of heat for ďeasing upĒ late in games theyíre winning big, but when looking back at some of the touchdown drives the Steelers have surrendered in blowouts (representing a large portion of the points theyíve given up) you see teams gaining a lot of yards and burning a lot of clock when the last thing they need to be doing is burning a lot of clock.

Look at the Tennessee game in Week 2, for example. The Titans scored one touchdown late in the contest when starting a drive, down by 16, on their own 15-yard line, with 4:59 remaining in the game. What you canít do here as a defense is give up a quick score on two or three plays. When a team is losing by 16 points that late in the game the clock is just as much your opponent as the other teamís defense is. Instead of getting one big play, it took Tennessee 17 plays and 4:01 of clock time (their longest possession of the game, by a wide margin) to score that one touchdown. The touchdown got them closer, but at what cost? Clock time. Clock time that would have been an invaluable asset to get them the second touchdown they still needed.

The next game against Tampa Bay the Steelers again gave up another clock-burning, 10-play drive against Tampa Bay when the score was 38-6 in the fourth quarter. The Buccaneers gained a lot of yardage, scored a touchdown, but again ate up over four minutes when the game was woefully out of reach. Lather, rinse repeat for Colt McCoy and the Cleveland Browns in Week 6.

These touchdowns are a larger scale version of the 15-yard gain on third-and-20.

Mondayís game against Cincinnati turned out to be a bit too close for comfort, but one of those touchdowns was the result of a bad series of events, including three consecutive penalties (two of which the NFL admitted were incorrect calls) totalying 45 yards, allowing the Bengals to score seven points by gaining exactly one yard, following an interception. Still, the near comeback happened and I understand why people were in a panic watching it unfold (hell, so was I). That touchdown was just as much the result of other factors (the turnover at midfield, putting the Bengals in ďplus territoryĒ Ö much like they were on their first touchdown of the game Ö being the biggest factor, along with the penalties) as the defense was. And, for the record, the Steelers defense wasnít playing the type of prevent defense people loathe: they were bringing the house at Carson Palmer all night long.

The Steelers have played a daunting schedule so far against some excellent teams and a wide variety of individual talent (among the best in the NFL at just about every position: Drew Brees, Chris Johnson, Roddy White, Brandon Marshall, T. Ocho, just to name a few). Together, their opponents are 2-6 against the Steelers (.250) and 35-23 against everybody else (.603).

The point is, itís dangerous to just look at the total number of yards gained and jump to conclusions. Thereís a lot of reasons the Steelers give up passing yards, and theyíre not all because the Steelers arenít good at stopping it: Teams have to throw the football. They canít run against the Steelers, and theyíre usually trying to play catch up.

Itís basically the Kyle Orton effect at work.

Why does the Broncos quarterback have more passing yards than Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan and Tom Brady this season? Because heís better? Absolutely not. Itís because he has to. He has to because the Broncos running game is non-existent, and because Denver is so bad itís usually losing in games ó by a lot ó and is forced to throw the football. Itís why guys like he and Tommy Maddox are able to throw for 3,000 yards.
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Old 11-13-2010, 01:58 AM   #2
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Cool Re: When a 15-Yard Gain Isnít a Positive Play and How it Relates to the Steelers

tl;dr - Statistics are bullsh!t.
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Old 11-13-2010, 09:18 AM   #3
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Default Re: When a 15-Yard Gain Isnít a Positive Play and How it Relates to the Steelers

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tl;dr - Statistics are bullsh!t.

hardly
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Old 11-13-2010, 09:47 AM   #4
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Default Re: When a 15-Yard Gain Isnít a Positive Play and How it Relates to the Steelers

The problem I have with how our defense operates, is that because our offense doesn't put up many points there is little margin for error. One mistake and we could lose the game. Like the Ravens game. Or we could have easily lost to the Bengals and Titans. While it obviously works more often than not it is certainly hard on the nerves.
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Old 11-13-2010, 05:41 PM   #5
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Default Re: When a 15-Yard Gain Isnít a Positive Play and How it Relates to the Steelers

I am tired of people busting on our defense. Sorry, but our offense is just as much to blame for the 4th quarter woes. Ben and the entire offense need to step up their game as well. Tomorrow night would be a great opportunity to get it going!
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Old 11-13-2010, 11:59 PM   #6
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Cool Re: When a 15-Yard Gain Isnít a Positive Play and How it Relates to the Steelers

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hardly
Really?

You must take fantasy football seriously as well, huh?
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Old 11-14-2010, 12:20 AM   #7
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Default Re: When a 15-Yard Gain Isnít a Positive Play and How it Relates to the Steelers

this article is way too deep for numbskull fans and wanna be gurus who would rather just blame lebeau for the "game passing him by", blame the secondary for supposedly sucking, and blame the backups like t. carter and n. eason for not playing like t. polamalu and a. smith.

oddly enough it is usually these same nimrods who think bruce arians is the shizznit, and the offensive production (including sacks, fumbles, and interceptions) is just dandy.
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Old 11-14-2010, 12:30 AM   #8
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Default Re: When a 15-Yard Gain Isnít a Positive Play and How it Relates to the Steelers

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Originally Posted by tony hipchest View Post
this article is way too deep for numbskull fans and wanna be gurus who would rather just blame lebeau for the "game passing him by", blame the secondary for supposedly sucking, and blame the backups like t. carter and n. eason for not playing like t. polamalu and a. smith.

oddly enough it is usually these same nimrods who think bruce arians is the shizznit, and the offensive production (including sacks, fumbles, and interceptions) is just dandy.



Derrrr...me likey football.

This was a great article. It just reinforces the fact that bendability is the single most important defensive stat there is. Last I checked, the Steelers D leads the league in yards per point allowed. In other words, opponents have to gain more yards against them to score a singe point than they do against any other team. And teams that win that battle, almost always win the game.

But yeah...me likey football. Why for we no get sack on every play? Me likey sacks.
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Old 11-14-2010, 01:47 AM   #9
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Cool Re: When a 15-Yard Gain Isnít a Positive Play and How it Relates to the Steelers

I just don't get why people still care about "style points".

Really. All that matters is whether or not you came out with a W.

I'm completely fine with a bend-but-not-break defense. I couldn't care less if 400 yards were gained if they hold the team to 15 points.

As long as the D is keeping more points off the board than that of which the offense scores with consistency, it's all good. (That thought brought to you by the letter "John Madden.")

Let's face it: The Steelers are not 6-2 giving up 20 points per game. Halfway through the season, they're sitting at a league-best 15.4 Pts/G.

I couldn't care less about how many yards they give up. As long as they're winning the field position game.
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Old 11-14-2010, 01:49 AM   #10
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Default Re: When a 15-Yard Gain Isnít a Positive Play and How it Relates to the Steelers

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As long as the D is keeping more points off the board than that of which the offense scores with consistency, it's all good. (That thought brought to you by the letter "John Madden.")
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