Mixed Signals

7 Nov

First off, I’d like to sincerely congratulate the homosexuals in several states who can now legally smoke pot with their spouses. Yay America!

*Please note: The Angry Who Dat’s political coverage will now cease for at least four years*

“Yay Angry Who Dat!”

Right. So, about that game. It didn’t really make a whole hell of a lot of sense, but it sure was fun to watch the defense just take over a game (at least from a scoring standpoint). It would be easy to jump up and down and proclaim my righteousness for the last several posts proclaiming that hope still existed for Spags’s squad, but don’t worry: you may read on fully assured that no fast conclusions will be presented on the basis of the relative shutdown of the Eagles.

Because, you know, they’re the Eagles.

Instead, I’d like to simply note the things that didn’t make a lick of fucking sense when viewed through the lens of the first seven games before turning my attention to the most important order of the day: Falcons week. Here we go.

1. The running game. Drew Brees attempted 27 passes; the Saints rushed 25 times. That’s bizarre in and of itself, even before considering that a 5.6 yards per rush average netted 140 total yards on the ground. That’s even more unexpected, before considering that Mark “2 yards and a cloud of dust” Ingram took seven of the carries for 44 yards, averaging 6.3 ypc with a long of 23.

Are the Eagles that bad? Well, after Monday night they’re still the 15th ranked rush defense in the NFL.

Perhaps we’ve figured out how to run the damn ball. Perhaps missing Darren Sproles and inserting Ivory and Cadet gave a spark much the same way as Jimmy Graham’s absence seemed to awaken the passing attack. Maybe a drastic rethinking was necessary to bring attention to the issue. Maybe, just maybe, it’s all a mirage. We’ll find out Sunday, won’t we?

2. The pass rush. Of course. Where the hell did that come from? Seven sacks? Really? Cam Jordan looked like an all-pro for every bit of sixty minutes out there, and Vick looked even more out of sorts than Vick usually looks always. The Eagles are, of course, the fourth most sacked team in the league. But if anyone out there – anyone – thought that what we saw Monday night could be reasonably expected, you’re more homer than I. That’s saying a lot.

In fact, I recall most of twitter theorizing that Vick would experience a Renaissance in the Dome Monday Night.

Again, it would be easy to say that the defense has figured out the Spags system. TURNED THE CORNER! But that would be lazy, disingenuous. What I will say is that the worst defense in NFL history couldn’t hold anyone to 13 points, not even the Eagles. The worst defense ever couldn’t hold anyone to six points on five trips to the red zone, not including seven going the other way (although most of us would prefer less trips to the red zone in the first place).

The worst defense ever wouldn’t allow 13 points on 12 drives.

This is not the worst defense ever. And fuck your yards. If 447 yards equals 13 points, I’ll take 447 yards every week, folks.  Yards alone remains the stupidest fucking way to “rank” a defense.  Only three teams gained more yards than the Eagles in week 9; only one team scored fewer points.  So stop it.

No, not the worst ever. Maybe not even the worst this year by the time the season ends. Keep your fingers crossed!

3. Third downs. This isn’t a change, it’s exactly what we’ve seen all season. But it still baffles the shit out of me. It seemed to me up to last week that the Saints just couldn’t get off the field on third down. That the defense would hold for two downs over and over and over and just get gashed again and again when it mattered.

Some were so convinced of this idea that they developed traditions around it. One guy told me that every time the Saints get to third down on defense at his house, one of them will look at someone else and say “So you’re telling me there’s a chance!” and the other replies “Nope.”

Besides being really, really lame, this little tradition is highly inaccurate.

Going into the Eagles game, the Saints defense was eleventh in the league in third down efficiency. Eleventh. Conversion rate of 37%. That rate jumps to 21% on third and seven or more, ranking them sixth in the league in long-yardage situations.

Of course, that’s not what one would expect from the worst defense (statistically at least) in the league. The explanation, of course, is simple: the Saints allowed the second most first downs on second down, and the most first downs on first down.

What conclusions can we draw from the fact that the defense is fucking pathetic on first and second down, yet somehow manages to get off the field consistently on third down? Math explains some of it – some drives have to end without a touchdown eventually, and if you never get to third down otherwise you naturally increase your percentages. Yet, somehow sixth in the league on third and 7 or more from a defense that allows the most first downs on first and ten still seems odd.

Anyway, the trend continued on Monday night: the Saints allowed 6 first downs on 16 third down situations for a conversion rate of right around 37% (as in the first seven games), yet allowed 17 more first downs on 61 first and second downs, a 28% combined rate which was right on par with the season so far.

I wonder if a third down situation (especially third and long) is simply triggering different, more aggressive pressure packages. I don’t have time to watch that much :gamefilm:, but I think it makes sense. As I’ve argued for weeks, a significant pass rush (or lack thereof) changes an entire defense, regardless of the skill sets of the back seven. I think it is entirely possible that Spags momentarily turns into Gregg Williams on third and long.

The prospect that a defense can go from 32nd statistically to 11th or 6th by assuming Gregg Williams’s image horrifies me more than you can know.

Pressure does matter, though, and it became obvious on Monday night. Our corners and safeties and linebackers are who they are in pass coverage – they’ll never be all-stars. But a constant pressure, a man in his face on nearly every play, somehow turned our secondary into something serviceable. The beautiful pick-six took two players being in the right position – the lucky tip was lucky, indeed, but P-Rob was comfortable enough in coverage not to have his back turned to the quarterback, and that’s progress.

Baby steps, people.

For the third time, I’d like to point out that this post does not offer the opinion that the defense has become something we can rely on to make stops in the red zone five out of five times. But damn, it sure was fun to watch for one night.

Can the same team show up on Sunday?

Goddamn, I hope so.

We’re three days late, so we have a little catching up to do. It’s Fuck the Falcons week. Enjoy it.

To begin the celebration, I give you one of the great Legitimate Media Trolls, Pete Prisco.

Fuck Pete Prisco, and Fuck the Falcons.

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  1. moosedenied » Blog Archive » Eating Crackers Like Thanksgiving - November 8, 2012

    […] goes 0-5 in the red zone and is actually outscored 7-6 on those 5 red zone trips. A season-best PTOMAC™ of 13. An actual Chris Ivory sighting! 140 offensive rushing yards at a clip of 5.6 per, […]

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